Pensions Action Group
 

PAG News

You can also keep up to date with news from PAG by subscribing to our Yahoo Email Group (just send a blank email to pensionstheft-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Pensions Transfers should be faster" says regulator
8 July 2019

Ten weeks should be the maximum time limit for defined benefit transfers, said industry-wide guidelines published on Monday by the Pensions Administration Standards Association.

Pensions minister Guy Opperman welcomed the guidelines, but warned that administrators must accelerate further. He told the launch: “Ten weeks is great, but be under no illusions: government, of some shape and format, will want you to go faster in the future."

Mr Opperman said he wanted the pensions industry to be more like other UK industries – such as banking, electricity or telecommunications – in embracing simplicity and flexibility for the consumer.

“The idea that this is just too complicated for us to do any quicker... is not acceptable on a long-term basis. So I welcome where you are, but trust me you will be required to go faster at some stage.”

We are encouraged by the Ministers comments and hope that the same approach applies when resolving the PPF/FAS payments following the “Hampshire” case. We are assured interim top up payments will continue pending the Judicial Review and the “Baeur” case but need the final arrangements to be implemented as soon as possible for this rapidly aging group who have been fighting for compensation for 16 years - 80 times as long!

Full story from Pensions Expert here (requires free registration).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

PPF response to JR delay
13th June 2019

The Pension Protection Fund have released an update describing their response to the delay in the Hampshire Judicial Review judgement. They plan to continue to assess and process increases to those capped members likely to be most significantly affected by the Hampshire judgment, but will not pay arrears until they have the court's decision. This is because they believe it would be wrong to risk having to recover overpayments if the court decides they must take a different approach. We will add a link to the full announcement when it appears on the PPF website.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hampshire Judicial Review judgement postponed
8th May 2019

Judgement on the Hughes judicial review had been expected in July this year but this has now been deferred following a surprise development in a case at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). In EU case law to date, the level of compensation for people who have lost all or part of their pension through insolvency of their employer has been set at a minimum of at least 50% but there has no judgement as to whether the minimum should in fact be higher than this. In the Bauer case, Advocate General Hogan has provided advice to the court that the level should now be formally established. He states that:

"For all of these reasons, therefore, I consider that Article 8 imposes an obligation on Member States to protect all of the old-age benefits affected by an employer’s insolvency and not just part or a designated percentage of these benefits." (AG's emphasis).

He goes on to say:

"If the Union legislature had wished to dilute the extent of the obligation of Member States to protect pensioners ... in this potentially far-reaching manner, then I consider that very clear language to this effect would have been used.".

He recommends:

"a full re-appraisal of the case-law to date",

says that:

"there is no special magic in the 50%",

and recommends that:

"the reasoning of the Court in [the past] cannot be supported and should not now be followed".

The court is not obliged to follow the advice of the AG, but often does. More information can be found on our Documents page.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Judicial Review Papers registered with the High Court
11th March 2019

On behalf of some Paul Hughes and other PPF members and following the ECJ decision in September 2018, papers have now been submitted to the High Court for Judicial Review in order to clarify how the PPF (and we hope FAS) should interpret the ECJ decision and pay the correct backdated benefits to members.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

New information of PPF actions following ECJ judgement
14 February 2019

According to their website, the PPF is being challenged in court over their proposed method of calculating the increases due to some members following the decision of the CJEU (see below) and they have now posted a document which describes their response, which you can find here. They have also provided more information in the form of a series of questions and answers here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Welsh Assembly unanimous support for ASW workers
23 January 2019

In a motion proposed today by Bethan Sayed (Plaid Cymru), the Welsh Assemby unanimously called on the governement to review the terms of the FAS and PPF schemes in respect of the former Allied Steel and Wire employees, particularly in respect to the lack of pre-1997 indexation and the restriction to 90%. The detailed motion is available here and you can watch the debate here. Thank you to all of the Welsh Assembly members who supported our campaign - we really appreciate it!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Andrew Parr R.I.P
22 January 2019

It is with great sadness that we report the death of one of the key founding members and leaders of the Pensions Action Group, and much-loved friend, Andrew Parr. Our full obituary appears here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Update on PPF/ECJ Progress
21 December 2018

The PPF have continued to work on their methodology for implementing the ECJ decision (see below), including how they will handle any missing data, and future inflation and mortality assumptions. The full article is on the PPF website here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Details of PPF Plan to Implement ECJ Decision
5 November 2018

The PPF have now released a more detailed plan of how they intend to implement the ECJ decision (see below), including examples. Full details are available from the PPF here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Further PPF Response to ECJ decision
15 October 2018

The Pension Protection Fund (who administer both the PPF and FAS schemes) have given further details on the approach that they intend to take in meeting the new requirements arising from the ECJ decision described below. In essence, they intend to value the benefits which a member would have received had his scheme not wound up (by getting an actuarial valuation of how much it would cost to provide similar benefits) and compare that with the cost of the benefits which they will receive from the PPF or FAS under current rules, using the same methodology. If the FAS/PPF value is less than half of the scheme value, they will increase the payments until the value is equal to half of the scheme value (ignoring the cap). In this way they intend to comply with the judgement without having to redesign their benefits framework. The main side-effect will be for the payments to qualifying members to be front-loaded because the PPF/FAS indexation is likely to be less generous than the scheme, and so higher initial payments will be needed to offset this.

The full statement is available on the PPF website here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Important Decision at the European Court of Justice
6 September 2018

The case before the European Court of Justice referred to below has now been decided and the full judgement released today. The judges have ruled in two important areas:

  1. where a company pension fund is wound up in deficit and the scheme is eligible for the FAS or PPF, each individual member must receive at least 50% of his promised benefits in each year of retirement; and
  2. individual members may take action against the government if this does not happen.
At present, the members most likely to benefit immediately are those who are affected by the cap. However, the ECJ made clear that by 'benefits' they meant all benefits allocated to the member, including indexation and survivor pension, rather than just the core benefits which the FAS and PPF currently take into account. Thus those people who had many years of service prior to 1997 or had indexation provisions greater than the legal minimum will be provided with some protection against inflation. In particular, the following provisions must now be included, where they were specified in the original scheme rules:
  • indexation in respect of service prior to 1997
  • indexation at a rate greater than 2%
  • minimum indexation levels
  • use of RPI rather than CPI
These provisions will not kick in until the level of payments is reduced to below 50% of the promised pension but should then be applied so that the payments do not fall further.

This is a stunning success and we offer our congratulations to the brave plaintiff who was prepared to risk so much in taking on the UK government in the highest courts.

The full judgement may be seen here, there is a description of its provisions here and the initial PPF response is on their website here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Developments at the European Court of Justice
28 April 2018

In a case being heard before the European Court of Justice, the Advocate General last week published an Opinion (a statement given in advance of a later court judgement) which is supportive of the plaintiff, who is someone currently receiving substantially less from the PPF than his total expected pension. If this Opinion is adopted in the final verdict to be announced later this summer it could possibly result in increased payments for the plaintiff and some other members receiving the PPF (and, potentially by extension, the FAS). This is because the Advocate General in her Opinion believes that each individual member has rights to a certain level of payment, based on all his or her pension benefits rather than just the 'core' pension currently used in calculations by the DWP and PPF. In this case the plaintiff is hit by both the cap and the loss of his full expected inflation provisions, including pre-1997 indexation.

The full opinion can be found here and a legal interpretation here.

We watch this case with interest, and will assess the impact and any action needed to be taken if the eventual Court verdict is in favour of the PPF member.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FAS admin to be taken in-house by PPF
18 April 2018

If you are a member of the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) then you should shortly be receiving a letter from the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), who administer the FAS, to notify you that they plan to stop out-sourcing the FAS administration and to bring it in-house by Autumn 2018, using their own staff. This is good news for FAS members, because the PPF office is run efficiently and they did the same thing, successfully, with the PPF administration services in 2015. PAG has always had good relationships with the PPF organisation and we believe that this change will work to the benefit of our members.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Statement of Opinion tabled in Welsh Assembly
8 February 2018

A new Statement of Opinion has been tabled by Bethan Jenkins (Plaid Cymru) in the National Assembly of Wales (OPIN-2018-0073) titled "Guaranteed pensions for former Allied Steel and Wire workers". The text of the opinion reads:

This Assembly:

  1. Acknowledges the promise the UK Government made to the Allied Steel and Wire steelworkers to guarantee compensation for the pensions taken from them at the time their firm went under.
  2. Recognises that in decades of work, the workers paid for 100 per cent of their pensions, but that in 2007 they agreed to accept only 90 per cent.
  3. Further acknowledges that inflation since 2007 will have wiped out 25 per cent of the value of a pension issued in 2007.
  4. Is concerned that the UK Government has now refused to grant the ASW pensioners inflation-protected pensions.
You can track the progress of the SOP here (external link).

Thank you to Bethan and all AMs who are supporting this initiative.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Early Day Motion launched in Parliamnent
8 February 2018

MP Jonathan Edwards has sponsored a new Early Day Motion (number 927) in the House of Commons in support of ASW workers who lost their pensions and, by implication, all workers who are covered by the FAS and PPF schemes. It reads:

"That this House: notes the promise made to the ASW steelworkers to guarantee compensation for pensions that were lost at the time their firm went bust;
Recognises that in decades of work they paid for 100 per cent of their pensions;
Further notes that in 2007, those workers agreed to accept only 90 per cent of their pension;
Further recognises that the Government guaranteed that it would deliver to those workers 90 per cent of the pension for which they paid;
Acknowledges that inflation since 2007 will have wiped out 25 per cent of the value of a pension issued in 2007;
Is concerned that the Government has now refused to grant the ASW pensions inflation protected pensions, thereby breaching the guarantee of 90 per cent of a pension, the whole of which should have been theirs in the first place."


The EDM is also sponsored by MPs Liz Saville Roberts, Hywel Williams, Ben Lake, Jim Cunningham and Kelvin Hopkins. Please encourage your MP to sign it in support, even if you were not an ASW employee. You can keep track of the number of signatures here (external link).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Older news items, going back to the start of our campaign in 2002, together with a link to our newsletter archive, can be found here

 
©PAG 2003-2019 (CC BY-SA)