Continuity options

Part of Pension Schemes Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 7 February 2017.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 3:15, 7 February 2017

The clause sets out the two continuity options that must be pursued by the trustees when there has been a triggering event. Option 1 requires the scheme to transfer out all members’ accrued rights and benefits and then wind up. Option 2 is for the scheme to resolve the triggering event to the satisfaction of the Pensions Regulator. Trustees will have a choice under the regulator’s authority, and once the regulator has decided to withdraw authorisation, that is final, or there is a notification that the scheme is not authorised and then they have to pursue continuity option 1.

Our aim is that members should continue to save despite the master trust of which they are a member experiencing a triggering event. Therefore, where the scheme is able to resolve its issues, it should do so. However, where the issue could lead to the failure and closure of the scheme, the members should be transferred out, under the auspices of the regulator, hopefully to continue to save with as little disruption as possible.

If authorisation is withdrawn or refused by the regulator, or there is a notification that the scheme is not authorised, members will have to be transferred out and the scheme wound up. Irrespective of the option, we want the process to be as smooth and as managed as possible. The mismanagement of an issue or an unmanaged closure of a scheme would be bad for members and could be detrimental to confidence and lead to members opting out of pension saving, which is the last thing we all want.

Where a master trust experiences an event that could lead to its failure, there needs to be greater planning and control and more safeguards for members and employers. It is important that the scheme has done detailed planning so that what happens following a triggering event is thought through and organised and the process is orderly and managed. That should help to ensure ongoing automatic enrolment without disruption.

If a master trust has experienced a triggering event and is in a more risky position, that has implications for the members saving in it and the employers using it. The clause therefore requires the trustees, where they have an option, to decide which continuity option they will follow. That is important for dealing with the situation that the scheme finds itself in, and moving the situation forward for the benefit of the members and employers.