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Have your say on the Pension Schemes [Lords] Bill

8 October 2020

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Do you have relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the Pension Schemes [Lords] Bill 2019-21, which is currently passing through Parliament?

If so, you can submit your views in writing to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee which is going to consider this Bill.

The Public Bill Committee is now able to receive written evidence. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration.

The Public Bill Committee will scrutinise the Bill line by line. The first sitting of the Public Bill Committee will be on Tuesday 3 November and the Committee is scheduled to report by Thursday 5 November 2020. However, please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Thursday 5 November 2020. You are strongly advised to submit your written evidence as soon as possible.

Introduction

The Pension Schemes Bill started in the House of Lords and was introduced into the House of Commons on 16 July 2020. Its aims include establishing a new form of pension scheme, improving protections for pension savings and helping people plan for their retirement.

Parts 1 and 2 – Collective Money Purchase Schemes

Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill would provide for a framework for the operation and regulation of Collective Money Purchase Schemes in the UK. These are also commonly referred to as Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) Schemes.

The existing UK workplace pensions framework enables employers to offer only either:

  1. Defined Benefit (DB) pension schemes, which provide pension benefits based on salary and length of service; or
  2. Defined Contribution (DC) schemes, where individuals build up a pot of money to provide an income at retirement. Unlike DB schemes, which promise a specific income, DC incomes depend on factors such as the amount paid in, investment returns and decisions made at retirement.

These two models place all the risks and associated costs – economic, financial, and longevity – with either the sponsoring employer (DB) or the individual member (DC). The Government believes creating a third option called Collective Money Purchase Schemes (CMPS) – where risks would be entirely with the members but shared between them collectively – could be beneficial to sponsoring businesses and individuals in certain cases.

Under a CMPS both the employer and employee would contribute to a collective fund from which the employee would then draw an income at retirement. The funding risk would be borne collectively by the individuals in the scheme, whose investments make up the fund. A CMPS would offer members a target pensions level that it would be aiming to pay based, on their contributions. The scheme must have rules under which the rate or amount of the benefit is subject to periodic adjustments designed to achieve a balance between the available assets of the scheme and the amount expected to be required to provide benefits under the scheme to members collectively.

Critics of CMPS often claim that they are inherently unfair towards younger generations as older people may have first call on the pooled fund to pay their pensions and workers may have to make up any shortfall with increased contributions. The Government believes it is possible to design a model to mitigate these risks, like that proposed by Royal Mail.

At Report Stage, Peers agreed to an amendment in the name of Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Sharkey, that would require trustees to assess whether their scheme operated fairly between different groups of members.

Part 3 – The Pensions Regulator (TPR)

Part 3 would introduce measures intended to strengthen TPR’s powers and improve the information available to it, to better enable it to protect DB scheme members’ savings. They would do this by:

  • Strengthening the existing criminal and civil sanctions regime by introducing three new criminal offences and a new power to issue civil penalties of up to £1 million;
  • Strengthening the regime for Contribution Notices (one of the powers available to TPR to ‘recover any losses caused to a DB pension scheme as a result of avoidance behaviours’);
  • Enhancing corporate transaction oversight by requiring ‘persons involved in a corporate transaction to make a statement setting out information about the event and how any detriment to a DB pension scheme, as a result of this event, is to be mitigated;’ and
  • Extending information gathering powers to enable the Regulator to enter a wider range of premises and require individuals to attend an interview.

When the Bill was in the Lords, Peers expressed concern that the scope of clause 107 (sanctions for avoidance of employer debt) was too wide in terms of the people potentially caught by it. The Government responded that it was concerned not to create loopholes.

Part 4 – Pensions dashboards

The Bill would create a legislative framework for pensions dashboards – digital interfaces that enable people to see all their pension savings in one place so that individuals can make better decisions about their retirement plans.

One area of debate has been whether there should be a single dashboard provided by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) – a statutory arms-length body – or multiple dashboards provided by industry. The Work and Pensions Committee recommended the former, on the basis that consumers wanted “simple, impartial, and trustworthy information” and that multiple dashboards, hosted by “self-interested providers” would add complexity. However, the Government said that multiple dashboards would improve consumer choice and decided that they should exist alongside a non-commercial dashboard, which would offer an “impartial service to those who prefer it, or who may not be targeted by the market.”

At Report Stage, Peers agreed to amendments in the name of Labour Peer, Baroness Drake, that would: i) require the MaPS dashboard to be up and running for a year, and the Secretary of State have reported to Parliament on its operation, before other commercial dashboards could be launched; and ii) exclude facilities for engaging in financial transactions from pensions dashboards.

Part 5 – Further provisions relating to pension schemes

The Bill contains a number of other provisions:

  • Clause 123 introduces Schedule 10 which provides for amendments to the scheme funding provisions of Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004. It introduces a new requirement for schemes to have a ‘funding and investment strategy’ for providing pension benefits over the longer term and to report on its implementation to the Pensions Regulator in a new ‘statement of strategy’.
  • Clause 124 would require occupational pension schemes to manage the effects of climate change as a financial risk and to report on how they have done so.
  • Clause 125 would allow regulations to be made to stipulate the conditions which persons, including a pension scheme member, will need to meet to have a statutory right to transfer their pension savings to another scheme. The aim is to protect members from scams by helping trustees of occupational pension schemes ensure transfers are made to safe, not fraudulent, schemes.
  • Clause 126 would ensure that the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) can continue to administer the compensation scheme as intended following court rulings.

Follow the progress of the Pension Schemes [Lords] Bill

The Pension Schemes [Lords] Bill 2019–21 was introduced to the House of Commons on 16 July 2020. Second reading was held on 7 October 2020.

There will be no oral evidence sessions.

Guidance on submitting written evidence

Deadline for written evidence submissions

The Public Bill Committee is now able to receive written evidence. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration and possibly reflect it in an amendment. The order in which amendments are taken in Committee will be available in due course under Selection of Amendments on the Bill documents pages. Once the Committee has dealt with an amendment it will not revisit it.

The first sitting of the Public Bill Committee will be Tuesday 3 November and the Committee is scheduled to report by Thursday 5 November 2020. However, please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Thursday 5 November 2020. You are strongly advised to submit your written evidence as soon as possible.

Your submission should be emailed to scrutiny@parliament.uk.

Further guidance on submitting written evidence can be found here.

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