HC Deb 09 June 2004 vol 422 cc477-8W
Mr. Willetts

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many schemes with insufficient assets to secure their guaranteed minimum pensions have expressed an interest to(a) his Department and (b) other Government bodies in having their state pension fully reinstated; how many schemes have been treated as qualifying for this; how many schemes have had their state benefits reinstated; and how many members of these schemes have received their reinstated benefits. [177559]

Malcolm Wicks

A member of a contracted-out defined benefit occupational pension scheme that winds up with insufficient resources to secure accrued benefits in full may have their state scheme rights restored by a process known as "deemed buyback", operated by the Inland Revenue. In order to qualify both the scheme and the member must meet certain conditions.

To date, the Inland Revenue have had 59 schemes express an interest in "deemed buyback". Of these schemes, 33 have formally requested calculations and the Inland Revenue have agreed that all 33 schemes meet the qualifying conditions. Eight of these have been issued with the calculations necessary to allow the scheme to determine whether each member meets the criteria. The Inland Revenue are working with the remaining 25 schemes to finalise the required details before calculations can be issued.

It is individual scheme members who qualify for "deemed buyback" and it is the decision of the member whether to have their state scheme rights re-instated.

Trustees use the calculations issued by the Inland Revenue as part of the process to determine whether individuals can apply for "deemed buyback". As yet no-one is receiving reinstated benefits.

Mr. Leigh

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority expects to have in place a fully developed risk model that targets schemes where funds may be at risk as recommended by the Committee of Public Accounts in its 15th Report of 2002–03. [177254]

Malcolm Wicks

In the light of the recommendations of the Committee of Public Accounts, the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (Opra) has been seeking, within the framework of its statutory powers and obligations, to refocus its resources on issues that present a real risk to members' benefits. In October 2003, Opra published revised guidance to scheme professionals on the reporting of breaches: statutory whistleblowers (scheme auditors and actuaries) are now expected to consider the nature and impact of any breach they identify before deciding whether or not to make a report to the authority. In May 2004, Opra also issued revised guidance to non-statutory whistleblowers. Copies of Opra's latest guidance to both statutory and non-statutory whistleblowers (Opra Note 1 and Opra Note 6, respectively) are available in the Library.

On 11 February, the Government published the Pensions Bill 2004, which proposes to replace Opra with a new regulatory body—The Pensions Regulator—from April 2005.

The Bill provides that the Pensions Regulator, in accordance with the recommendations of the 15th Report of 2002—03 of the Committee of Public Accounts will have statutory objectives to protect the benefits of members of work-based pension schemes and to promote, and improve the understanding of, the good administration of such schemes. The proposals contained within the Pensions Bill will enable the Pensions Regulator to target its resources on the areas that pose the greatest risk to members' benefits.

The new Pensions Regulator will begin operating its risk model from the organisation's inception, and will develop it as its information base improves. To prepare the ground, the Department is currently working with Opra to identify the information and analysis needed to give effect to a fully risk-focused approach as quickly as possible.