Scheme funder of last resort

Part of Pension Schemes Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 7 February 2017.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions) 11:15, 7 February 2017

Yes, it is the responsibility of the regulator to ensure that whatever trusts are set up are stable and ready to go. My point is that, as we have seen, whether we are talking about defined-benefit schemes just looking at the failure of the banks in recent years, there is always an opportunity for catastrophic failure in our master trusts, with perhaps 1 million or 2 million members. I am not convinced that there is provision to protect their interests. Lord Freud referred to this clause as a sledgehammer to crack a nut, considering all the mitigations against the risk that are already in the Bill, but what if those mitigations are not enough?

Again, will the Minister provide the Committee, and people all over this country, with a 100% assurance that the Bill without this clause is enough to protect members? Will he guarantee that no master trust will be in a situation whereby it has failed and has insufficient resources to meet costs? I believe—he has already said it, and I have said it as well—that he cannot guarantee that 100%, which is why the clause needs to stand part of the Bill. By seeking to remove it, the Government continue to go back to the argument that there are enough conditions in the Bill without the clause, such as the Pensions Regulator needing to be satisfied that the master trust has sufficient financial resources to comply with its continuity strategy. There are too many unknown factors out there in master trust world for us to know that for certain.

How can we encourage ordinary, hard-working people to save for retirement and put their trust in a scheme that their company bosses have picked for them when the Government are consciously acting against the clause that could be the safety net? We have seen all manner of pension schemes get into trouble and pensioners have been the losers, so we need systems to be much more robust. Workers need to be confident and assured that the money they have faithfully put aside is given the greatest possible protection.

Another mitigation in the Bill that the Government use to support their argument that the clause is not needed is the regulation of our record management, which will be regularly monitored.