British Steel Pension Scheme: Transfers — [Mr George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:30 am, 10th April 2019

The advice is there. The difficulty is that for many people it is too technical and complicated; working through it is really very hard.

Transfers were talked up, and pension sharks soon began circling around the key steelworking sites across south Wales and the rest of the UK. They were often facilitated by unregulated introducers, through word of mouth. For example, constituents of mine were approached by a rogue financial adviser at their caravan while they were on a family holiday. Wider possibilities were common currency: a place in the sun, a conservatory and a deposit for a son’s or daughter’s new home were all said to be within reach.

The pension changes meant that it was easier to transfer from a stable fund into investments that were far riskier, on the promise of better returns. Unfortunately, it meant that a safe bet could turn into a bad bet, and a high fee was often part of the deal too. It was the case that 7,800 steelworkers transferred out altogether, of whom 872 had transfers arranged by firms that were eventually ordered—ordered—to stop advising by the FCA. One steelworker lost £200,000. Many others lost tens of thousands of pounds. Many suffered incredible stress and anxiety. I heard yesterday that £1.8 million has been paid out in compensation to steelworkers so far. I emphasise the words “so far”. Because that might not grasp the full scale of the issue, the FCA has now reviewed the files of 2% of the nearly 8,000 steelworkers who transferred out. It found that 58% of the advice was not suitable, which means that the tally of those who lost out could run to several thousands. To deal with that possibility, the FCA now needs to set out a clear programme of how it will identify the steelworkers affected, how it will let them know and what practical support it will provide to help to get them through this process.