Altmann standing up for Pensions

I read this account of the Pension Minister’s rebuff to Lord Myners with some pride. Well done on Ollie Smith of Citywire for picking up on it.

What Ros Altmann was saying is crucially important. The Pensions Regulator is there to regulate occupational pension schemes. It cannot be shunted out the way when Lord Myners considers a matter of sufficient importance for his intervention.

Thankfully, Ros Altmann is more than a match for Myners and the reports of her comments confirm what I have long suspected, that under Lesley Titcombe, tPR is quite able to fight its own fights

TPR regulates work-based pension schemes, including trust-based schemes. In accordance with parliament’s wishes, it has operational independence so it would be entirely inappropriate for ministers to intervene in its decisions or on-going investigations,’

I imagine that the Pensions Regulator will be regarding Monday May 9th as “red-letter” as it appear sin front of the beak- Frank Field -and the DWP Select committee (3.50pm onwards).

While Altmann may have bloodied Myner’s nose, he’s not gone away and we heard later in the week that he has been appointed by Field to “assist” this committee.

Field said Myners would lead a “panel of financial assessors to assist” his committee and the Business, Innovations and Skills committee, who will hold their first joint session into the collapse of BHS on Monday.

They will hear from Alan Rubenstein, chief executive of the Pension Protection Fund and Lesley Titcomb, chief executive, and Nicola Parish, director of case management at the Pensions Regulator.

Field said:

“A major aim of the Work and Pensions Committee representatives on Monday will be to test how adequately both organisations have carried out their duties to help protect members’ pensions under the existing law, whether the existing law is inadequate and if so how should it be strengthened, or whether existing powers are adequate but were not fully exercised.”

Perhaps this is behind this tweet

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 10.09.54

If so, then good may come out of the BHS business.

A Pensions Bill is devoutly to be hoped for. Maybe some good will come out of the BHS pension deficit.

Good out of evil?

I’ve made it clear that in my opinion Philip Green is no different from Robert Maxwell (other than he has three yachts to Maxwell’s one). Green’s undoing will be his vanity, he cannot but defend himself, he has to be loved. If the price of being loved is £570m , I’ll love him the moment the money returns to the Pension Scheme.

To be fair, the £570m deficit has been calculated on a “buy-out” basis and could be  a little misleading. There are a number of solutions to the BHS deal that would not have to involve the scheme going into the PPF and the PPF assessment period – which presumably we are entering, will allow those options to be considered.

We underestimate just how well the Pension Regulator has done in recent years, enabling radical solutions (such as that employed at Kodak) to protect pensioners and prospective pensioners. But the compromise deal which was agreed by the members, the Trustees and the Kodak administrators could not have been reached without some skilled negotiation, agile thinking and some very tough talking from the Regulator.

I am not on any inside track, I cannot comment on the best course of action for tomorrow. But like Altmann, I am confident in tPR to do its stuff and to stand up for the interests of the BHS scheme members in what looks a very complicated situation.

There have been plenty of blogs on here criticising tPR and I’ve had some vigorous discussions with them about DC governance and the promotion of choice of workplace pensions.

But that doesn’t stop me seeing the Pension Regulator as a blessing. It is never more a blessing than when it is acting – as it will tomorrow – for the interests of occupational scheme members.

I couldn’t have put things as well as Ros Altmann did in the House of Lords last week- so I’ll leave the last word to her.

Parliament gave [TPR] independence in how it operates. It is for the regulator to determine how it wishes to undertake any investigation into matters relating to the BHS pension scheme,’


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to Altmann standing up for Pensions

  1. ancientllm says:

    After all Lord Myners has done, frankly I wouldn’t let him near his own State Pension, let alone ANYTHING that might impinge on other people’s pensions. I don’t believe he has a clue, neither about business nor about pensions. As to Baroness Altmann, I won’t tell you what one senior pensions professional described her as, but it indicated they thought her drivers were what was best for Baroness Altmann, and if that coincided with what was good for pensions, that was lucky! If the government really were concerned about pensions, rather than brushing them under the Treasury’s carpet, then I don’t believe they would have appointed the last two Pensions Ministers and neither would they have allowed the Treasury and the DWP have any controls or vetoes over the Pension Ministers job! Regards, Robin

  2. Steve Beetle says:

    Paul Myners didn’t cover himself in glory when he allowed the RBS bank to agree Fred Goodwin’s fat pension – which, eventually, Fred graciously decided to accept an actuarial reduction (and lose his ‘Sir’ status), but he has had to make do with circa £200k a year, and have his weekly fresh fruit dropped off via Waitrose!

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