It has been a long and tortuous process, but the pension schemes bill has finally completed its passage through parliament and we just await the formality of Royal Assent before we have the Pension Schemes Act 2021 (the Act). Well done to Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, for (almost) achieving his goal to pass this legislation in 2020 – not an easy task when parliament has been diverted by COVID-19 and Brexit.
I will start with a few comments on the most publicised aspects of the Act, i.e. the new powers given to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) to impose criminal penalties and fines, and anticipated requirements relating to notifications about corporate sales and debt security.
Lawyers like certainty, but the Act will be less than certain in a number of key areas. Much is left to TPR’s discretion. We all want the interests of scheme members to be protected and we all want criminal activity (or sharp practice) to be curtailed, but we do not want reasonable corporate activity to be stifled merely due to the presence of a defined benefit (DB) scheme within a corporate group. Common sense must be allowed to prevail. I urge all interested parties to engage with TPR’s consultations on how the new powers and obligations should be exercised to ensure that we have a workable and balanced regime.
Here are my thoughts on some specific points. Continue Reading