To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Pensions Regulator has allowed the owners of Arcadia Group to phase their contribution to address that company’s pension deficit over a period of time instead of a single up-front payment; whether the Pensions Regulator is using financial advisers to determine whether Arcadia’s business plan will eventually cover the deficit; and if so, who are those advisers.
The pensions framework established by Parliament in the Pensions Act 2004 sets out that ongoing employers may address the funding of their scheme deficits over a reasonable period of time. This responsibility falls on the company rather than its owners, other than where The Pensions Regulator has used its anti-avoidance powers. This approach of spreading funding of deficits was established to balance the needs of schemes with those of their sponsoring employers.
The Arcadia trustees and the Arcadia group took an approach which was similar to many other schemes and employers in establishing recovery plans to address their schemes’ deficits over a number of years. In response to a request to vary those recovery plan payments, made in conjunction with the Arcadia Group’s Company Voluntary Arrangements proposals, The Pensions Regulator, working alongside the trustees and the Pension Protection Fund, has negotiated robustly to secure an enhanced package of support for the pension schemes in connection with a successful Company Voluntary Arrangement, worth significantly more than would be received if the Company Voluntary Arrangement is not successful and Arcadia Group Ltd becomes insolvent. This represents appropriate protection, in challenging circumstances, and is equitable in the context of the wider Company Voluntary Arrangements process.
In assessing the turnaround plan presented by Arcadia, The Pensions Regulator has been informed by the analysis carried out by professional advisers to the trustees. The Pensions Regulator has considerable expertise in restructuring situations and this includes people in its regulatory teams with a background working in big chartered accountancy firms and restructuring operations in banks.