Clause 20 - Duty to set targets for collective benefits

Part of Pension Schemes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 30th October 2014.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 12:00 pm, 30th October 2014

We envisage an annual valuation. Obviously, people who run pension schemes are monitoring things every day, but we envisage a formal annual valuation. We are trying to strike a balance. We all know that there are year-to-year fluctuations and we do not want to require schemes to change their fundamental features just because of short-term fluctuations. That is one reason for having a probability range. The hon. Gentleman refers to schemes being required to carry a surplus. They will be required to act in a way that satisfies a set probability of achieving the target benefits.

Some Canadian examples have quite high probability numbers at 97.5%, but in one example, more than 40% of the assets are in equities and 20% are in property and other assets of that sort. It has not followed in practice that having quite a tough probability test has required schemes to be very cautious. The two can sit together. We are trying to give people targets, annual statements and so on that mean something to them and have some credibility, without being too rigid and expecting schemes to adjust too much to short-term fluctuations.

I apologise for going on at some length, but we are getting into some fairly novel concepts in British pension schemes, and I hope that it has been helpful to set out what we mean by a target and why we want to amend the clause.