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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 13:17 GMT
Pensions Bill is 'welcome step'
By Malcolm McLean
Chief executive, Pensions Advisory Service

Malcolm Mclean
Malcolm McLean has reservations

A pensions expert welcomes the new bill which moves to secure company schemes, but tells BBC News Online that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

The pensions bill announced in the Queen's speech is the government's attempt to restore confidence in saving for retirement.

The intention is to make pension schemes easier to understand and run, to offer better quality information on the choices that are available and to provide greater security and protect pension rights.

The horror stories of loyal workers who have lost all their pensions in the wake of company insolvencies...has severely tainted the image of the occupational pension system

This all sounds very good but, as always, the devil will be in the detail.

It will be how the bill is applied and the regulatory regime which follows that will make it a success or failure.

Above all, it is expected that the new legislation will cut back on the red tape that attaches itself to pensions - and that is welcome news for companies and employees alike.

Horror stories

The importance of workplace pensions has been become abundantly clear to all in recent times.

If people are to be persuaded or, even worse, compelled to join pension schemes, they must have a guarantee that their investment will not be in vain.

The horror stories of loyal workers who have lost all their pensions in the wake of company insolvencies - sometimes after 20 or 30 years of contributing into the scheme - have severely tainted the image of the occupational pension system.

Much will depend on the ability of the pension protection fund to deliver what it promises.

The pension protection fund aims to guarantee that workers will receive at least 90% of their pension pot even if their company goes bust.

Questions

Similarly, the establishment of a new pensions regulator to safeguard consumer interests will help to reassure people about the running of these schemes.

But the government may have to accept it will take a little while yet for confidence to be fully restored.

Much will depend on the ability of the pension protection fund to deliver what it promises.

What will happen if a major company goes bust?

Will the fund be able to cope, and in the final analysis, will the Government step in if it can't?

These are important questions which may need to be answered sooner rather than later.




SEE ALSO:
Company pensions to be protected
26 Nov 03  |  Business



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