House of Commons - Explanatory Note
Child Support, Pensions And Social Security Bill - continued          House of Commons

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Other provisions

Clause 41: Information for members of schemes

275. The Government intends to introduce amendments to existing regulations that require annual benefit statements to be sent to members of occupational and personal pension schemes with money purchase benefits.

276. In addition to the existing information about contributions paid and the current value of the "pot", they will be required to include an illustration of the likely value of the "pot" at retirement age, and the benefits it might provide expressed in today's prices.

277. This clause makes changes to section 113 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993.

278. Subsection (1) adds a new subparagraph (ca) to section 113(1) of the Pensions Schemes Act to permit regulations to require an annual benefit statement in a money purchase scheme to include an illustration of the future benefits that might become payable under the scheme.

279. Subsection (2) adds a new subsection (3A) to section 113 of the Pensions Schemes Act to allow the basis for calculating any forecast of future benefits to be calculated by reference to guidance notes. This will allow the Secretary of State for Social Security to delegate responsibility for deciding the method of calculation to a suitable professional body such as the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.

280. Subsection (2) also inserts a new subsection (3B) into section 113 to provide for regulations made under that section to allow Opra to extend time limits for compliance with requirements set out in regulations, in relation to cases where schemes are being wound up.

Clause 42: Investigations by the Pensions Ombudsman

281. The Social Security Act 1990 created the office of Pensions Ombudsman by inserting new provisions in the Social Security Act 1975. The functions of the Pensions Ombudsman are now contained in sections 145 to 152 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993. His jurisdiction was extended under amendments to that Act introduced by section 157 of the Pensions Act 1995. The Pensions Ombudsman can investigate complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and disputes of fact and law brought by members of occupational and personal pension schemes, and their spouses and dependants, against trustees, managers or employers of those schemes. Complaints can also be brought by the same people against the administrators of schemes. The Ombudsman is also able to investigate complaints and disputes from employers against trustees or managers in relation to the same scheme and vice versa for complaints but not disputes, and investigate complaints from trustees or managers of one scheme against trustees or managers of another.

282. As a result of a Court of Appeal judgement, under the current legislation the Pensions Ombudsman should not accept a case if the investigation of it would impact upon the interests, particularly the financial interests, of those not directly involved in the case. This is because those not directly involved in the case are currently not able to make representations to the Ombudsman and are not, therefore, bound by his determinations. This clause amends sections 148, 149 and 151 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 as amended by the Pensions Act 1995.

283. Subsection (2) inserts new paragraphs (ba) and (bb) into section 148(5). They extend the meaning of who is a party to an investigation for the purposes of staying Court proceedings. These new paragraphs allow the Pensions Ombudsman to link to a case those whose interests may be affected by the complaint or dispute or its outcome.

284. Subsection (3) replaces subsection (1) of section 149 with a new section 149(1) which lists the person to whom the Pensions Ombudsman is obliged to give the opportunity to comment, with regard to matters being investigated by him. The replacement subsection obliges the Pensions Ombudsman to give those who are being complained against, those who are responsible for the management of schemes to which the dispute relates, and those whose interests are, or may be, affected, the opportunity to put their point of view to him.

285. Subsection (3) also inserts two new subsections (1A) and (1B) into section 149. Inserted subsection (1A) ensures the Pensions Ombudsman is not required to give an opportunity to make representations from someone who (as the person making the complaint or reference) has had adequate opportunity to comment or whose interests are being represented by a person appointed to do so. Inserted subsection (1B) makes clear that if a person has been appointed to represent a group, after making initial representations on his own behalf, that person should also be given the opportunity to make comments as a representative of that group.

286. Subsection (4) inserts new paragraph (ba) in section 149(3), which lists those matters that can be covered in the Pensions Ombudsman’s procedure rules. New (ba) allows rules to be made permitting the Pensions Ombudsman to appoint a person to represent a group of those who have the same interest in a complaint, for instance, such a group as all the pensioner members. It will then be this appointed person who will make representations on behalf of that group. The precise manner in which these representative persons will be appointed will be laid out in the Personal and Occupational Pension Schemes (Pensions Ombudsman)(Procedure) Rules. The procedure for selection will ensure that those nominated as representing a particular group can satisfy the Pensions Ombudsman that they are truly representative of that group and do not have a conflict of interest in the particular case.

287. Subsection (5) inserts new paragraph (d) which adds an additional item in the list of items that can be included in the rules. This will enable the procedure rules to include provisions to allow the Pensions Ombudsman to order that the cost of legal expenses in a particular case can be met from the funds of the scheme. It is envisaged that such orders will be made when the case is particularly complex and involves the interests of several groups. The procedure rules may state that the order should cover only certain expenses up to a certain limit.

288. Subsection (6) inserts subsection (8) into section 149. This is intended to ensure that those whose interests may be affected by any determination, or any directions the Pensions Ombudsman may give in relation to the dispute, will also have the opportunity to make representations rather than only giving the opportunity to those with a direct interest in the complaint or dispute itself.

289. Subsection (7) inserts new paragraph (c) into subsection (1) of section 151. Section 151(1) specifies who should be given notice of the Pensions Ombudsman's determination in a particular case. The additional provision requires the Pensions Ombudsman to issue a copy of his determination in a particular case to all those who could have commented on the allegations. Therefore determinations will be sent to those against whom the allegations are made and to those who could have made representations to the Pensions Ombudsman. These would be either those identified by the Pensions Ombudsman as able to make representations directly to him on their own behalf or those who are representing groups of individuals who have the same interest.

290. Subsection (8) replaces part of subsection (3) of section 151. Subsection (3) specifies who will be bound by the Pensions Ombudsman’s determination. This ensures that those who have had the opportunity to comment or make representations – either individually or via an appointed person – will be bound by the Pensions Ombudsman’s determination. Those who are bound by the determination can appeal against it on a point of law to the High Court (see section 151(4)).

291. Subsection (9) ensures that these changes to the Pensions Ombudsman's remit will not apply to any cases that are referred to him before the provisions come into force.

Clause 43: Miscellaneous amendments and alternative to anti-franking rules

292. This clause brings into force Schedule 4 (see below) which makes various amendments to the Pension Schemes Act 1993 and the Pensions Act 1995.

Schedule 4

Part I: Miscellaneous Amendments

Paragraph 1: Guaranteed minimum for widows and widowers

293. These provisions amend section 17 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 and are consequential upon the introduction of new bereavement benefits under the *Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999. The relevant provisions in the 1999 Act are expected to be brought into force from 5 April 2001. Sub-paragraph (1) inserts new subsection (4A) in section 17.

    New subsection (4A)(a) provides that the scheme must provide a Guaranteed Minimum Pension (GMP) for the widow or widower for any period for which a Category B pension is payable by virtue of the earner’s contributions, or would have been so payable but for the overlapping benefit provisions in section 43(1) of the SSC and BA 1992. This restates the existing law.

    New subsection (4A)(b) ensures that a GMP is payable for any period for which Widowed Parents Allowance (WPA) or Bereavement Allowance (BA) is payable to the widow or widower by virtue of the earner’s contributions.

    New subsection (4A)(c) ensures that where a person ceases to be entitled to WPA or BA when over 45 that person will still continue to receive a GMP, provided that he or she is not cohabiting with a person of the opposite sex and provided that he or she has not remarried. Currently, a person entitled to bereavement benefits (widowed mother’s allowance or widow’s pension) when over the age of 45 continues to receive those benefits, and accordingly a GMP, until state pension age, unless he or she remarries or cohabits with a person of the opposite sex. New subsection 4A(c) thus preserves the current position as regards GMPs despite the fact that the position as regards entitlement to bereavement benefits is to change.

294. Sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) make minor amendments designed to ensure that people whose entitlement to bereavement benefits continues under the existing law also continue to be entitled to GMPs under the existing law.

Paragraph 2: Transfer of rights to overseas personal pension schemes

295. Section 1 of the Pensions Schemes Act 1993 provides a definition of a personal pension scheme the scope of which is limited to schemes providing benefits to or in respect of persons employed in Great Britain. The effect of this is to prevent the transfer of protected rights or Guaranteed Minimum Pension rights to a personal pension scheme set up and administered wholly or primarily overseas. This paragraph amends sections 20 and 28 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 in order to permit such rights to be transferred to overseas arrangements.

Paragraph 3: Protected rights

296. Protected rights are (subject to rare exceptions) that part of a member’s fund within a personal pension or occupational money purchase scheme that is derived from the National Insurance contribution rebate.

297. Section 28 of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 provides that effect may only be given to protected rights in the way specified in that section. Section 28 permits effect to be given to protected rights by way of a lump sum only in limited circumstances and in particular not before the member has reached age 60.

298. Paragraph 3 amends section 28 to insert a new subsection (4A) and (4B).

    New section 28(4A) provides for effect to be given to a member’s protected rights in an occupational pension scheme by way of a lump sum where the trustees or managers of the scheme are satisfied that the member, whatever his age, is terminally ill and likely to die within a year.

    New section 28(4B) restricts the amount payable under subsection 4A where the member is a married person on the date on which the lump sum becomes payable. The balance of the protected rights will then go to provide for survivors’ benefits. The amount payable under this subsection is restricted to no more than a half of the member’s protected rights.

Paragraph 4: Review and alteration of rates of contribution

299. This paragraph amends sections 42(1)(a)(i) and (3) of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 so that the cross-references to section 41 in these sections take account of the changes made to that section by paragraph 127 of Schedule 7 to the Social Security Act 1998.

Paragraph 5: Contributions equivalent premiums

300. Paragraph 5(1) substitutes subsection (4) and introduces a new subsection (4A) in section 58 in the Pension Schemes Act 1993 to ensure that Contributions Equivalent Premiums (CEP), continue to be equivalent to the National Insurance contribution (NIC) rebate. The CEP is the amount that a contracted-out salary related scheme is required to pay in order for someone with less than two years' qualifying service in the scheme to be reinstated into the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS).

301. At present, section 58(4) provides for the CEP to be the difference between the amount of Class 1 contributions payable in respect of the earner's contracted-out employment and the amount of those contributions that would have been payable had the employment not been contracted-out. This method of calculation ensures that CEPS relating to periods prior to April 1999 are equivalent to the contracted-out rebate. Following the introduction of a new Earnings Threshold (the level of earnings at which an employer becomes liable to pay Class 1 contributions) on 6 April 1999, the existing method of calculation no longer ensures that the CEP is equivalent to the rebate in every case. In some cases, the CEP may now be lower than the rebate.

    New section 58(4) and 58(4A) ensure that the CEP will be equal to the amount of the NIC rebate payable in respect of contracting-out for periods after 6 April 1999 (as it is already for periods before 6 April 1999).

    New section 58(4A) provides that where trivial or fractional amounts were not included in the calculation of the rebate they are not included in the calculation of the CEP.

302. Paragraph 5(2) amends subsection (2) of section 61 of the Pensions Schemes Act 1993 to ensure that the employee’s share of the CEP continues to be equal to the actual reduction in his primary Class 1 contributions paid throughout the period of contracting-out.

303. At present, section 61(2) provides for the employee’s share of the CEP to be based on the contracted-out rebate, which is currently equal to the actual reduction in the primary Class 1 contribution. When a new Primary Threshold (the level of earnings at which an employee will become liable to pay Class 1 contributions) is introduced on 6 April 2000, section 61(2) will permit schemes to recover from employees more than that actual reduction in certain cases.

304. Paragraph 5(3) substitutes a new paragraph (b) in section 63(1) of the Pensions Schemes Act 1993 so that the reference to section 58 in that paragraph takes account of the changes being made by paragraph 5 above.

305. Paragraph 5(4) ensures that the amendments made by paragraphs 5(1), 5(2) and 5(3) have effect in relation to any CEP payable on or after 6 April 1999.

Paragraph 6: Contribution equivalent premiums: Northern Ireland

306. This paragraph makes corresponding provision relating to the CEP for Northern Ireland.

Paragraph 7: Use of cash equivalent for annuity

307. Where a member of a contracted-out money purchase occupational pension scheme exercises his right to take a cash equivalent transfer value of his accrued rights, section 95(4) of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 prohibits the purchase of an annuity. A member may ask for the cash equivalent transfer value to be transferred to another suitable occupational pension scheme or an appropriate personal pension. This paragraph removes the prohibition on annuity purchase and gives the member a further option for the use of his cash equivalent transfer value.

Paragraph 8: Transfer values where pension in payment

308. Subject to limited exemptions, members of occupational pension schemes are prohibited from taking their pension before they actually retire or leave service. Inland Revenue has proposed to use their discretion so that occupational pension scheme members may receive all or part of their accrued pension while still continuing in pensionable employment. Scheme members taking up this option would lose their right to a cash equivalent transfer value, since section 98(7) of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 removes this right if any part of a pension is in payment.

309. This paragraph amends section 98(7) so that a member will be able to take a transfer of his rights which have not come into payment. It also amends section 97(2) to allow regulations to take account of the amount of pension already in payment when calculating a cash equivalent transfer value. The definition of pensioner member in section 124(1) of the Pensions Act 1995 is amended so as to exclude a person with pension rights accruing as an active member of a scheme.

Paragraph 9: Information about contracting-out

310. This paragraph substitutes a new section 156 in the Pension Schemes Act 1993 to make further provision for the information which may be supplied to pension scheme administrators in the light of changes made to contracting-out arrangements by the Pensions Act 1995. At present, section 156 allows the Secretary of State or the Inland Revenue to provide information to pension scheme administrators in connection with any Guaranteed Minimum Pension (GMP) or its calculation. As currently in force, section 156 does not apply to appropriate personal pension schemes (APPS) and specifically excludes occupational money purchase schemes (COMPS).

New section 156: Information for purposes of contracting-out

    New section 156(1) enables the Secretary of State or the Inland Revenue to provide trustees or managers of any occupational pension scheme or APPS with the information they are likely to need to enable them to discharge their obligations under the contracting-out arrangements in Part III of the Pension Schemes Act 1993. This will include, for instance, the information which scheme administrators need to help them determine the correct level of contracting-out benefit.

    New section 156(2) enables the Secretary of State or the Inland Revenue to provide the same information to other persons in categories specified in regulations and is currently provided for by section 156(b).

Paragraph 10: Register of disqualified trustees

311. Section 29(3) and (4) of the Pensions Act 1995 specifies the circumstances in which Opra may disqualify a person from being a trustee of an occupational pension scheme. Section 30(7) of the Act requires Opra to keep a register of all persons it disqualifies (the register does not cover automatic disqualifications under section 29(1)). Opra must, where it receives a request to do so, disclose whether a person named in the request is included in the register as being disqualified in respect of the particular scheme named in the request. This means that Opra may only answer “yes” or “no” to the enquiry and cannot volunteer other information which may be relevant. There is also no requirement for the register to be open to public inspection.

312. This paragraph requires Opra to make the register available for inspection in person by the public. It expands on the requirement for Opra to respond to requests. Opra still cannot volunteer information, but, if requested to do so, it must disclose whether a person named in the request is disqualified in respect of all schemes. It also allows Opra to publish, in a medium of its choosing, a list of those whose names appear on the register, and the fact that they are disqualified from being a trustee of all schemes, some schemes or a single scheme. The full name (including initials and titles) and date of birth must be listed, if the Authority has a record of them, even if those matters are not recorded in the register itself. The schemes themselves will not be named.

313. This will provide easier access to the register for those responsible for appointing trustees and will thus reduce the risk of disqualified people being appointed as trustees. A person's name will not be published in respect of any particular disqualification until either time limits for appeals and for applications to review that disqualification decision are passed, or (where the time limit has not passed) it is unlikely that there will be an appeal or application for review, or where an appeal or review is pending.

Paragraph 11: Conditions of payment of surplus to an employee

314. This paragraph makes technical changes to section 37(4)(d) of the Pensions Act 1995 and will allow occupational pension schemes that are making payments from surplus funds to an employer to use their own scheme rules to make increases to pensioner members from the surplus. Occupational pension schemes which have pension funds which are surplus to liabilities are required to take steps to reduce the surplus. If the employer wants to take a refund the scheme must first award increases to pensioner members' pensions. These amendments will allow schemes to avoid recalculating increases which have already been granted, under scheme rules. Pensioner members will not suffer any financial loss as a result of the proposed changes.

Paragraph 12: Duties relating to statements of contributions

315. The trustees or managers of every occupational pension scheme are required to appoint an auditor to obtain audited accounts and a statement about the prompt payment of contributions under the scheme during the preceding scheme year. In an “earmarked scheme” (which is a money purchase occupational scheme under which all the benefits provided are secured by one or more contracts of insurance or by annuity contracts which are specifically allocated to the provision of benefits to or in respect of individual members) the auditor is only under a statutory obligation to produce a statement about contributions.

316. This paragraph replaces section 41(5) of the Pensions Act 1995 to enable regulations to be made permitting ear-marked schemes to obtain a statement about contributions from a prescribed person or body as an alternative to the scheme appointing an auditor for this purpose. The existing section 41(5)(a) provides for regulations to prescribe the persons who may act as auditors or actuaries. The substituted paragraph will have the same effect. The new sub-section (5A) enables regulations to be made which impose a duty on the trustees or managers of ear-marked schemes to provide the person making the statement about contributions with sufficient information to enable them to do so. The new sub-section (5B) allows for the imposition of civil penalties by Opra on any trustee or manager of an earmarked scheme who fails to provide the information which they are required to provide by regulations made under sub-section (5A).

317. The paragraph also amends section 88 of the Pensions Act 1995. The new subsection (5) places a duty on the person providing the statement to report to Opra if contributions have not been paid on time during the course of the scheme year. The new sub-section (6) provides that Opra may impose a civil sanction on any person who fails to make such a report within the time limit set out in regulations.

Part II Alternative to anti-franking rules

318. Paragraphs 14 to 17 of Schedule 4 introduce a new minimum benefits test which replaces the anti-franking provisions set out in sections 87 to 92 of the Pension Schemes Act (PSA) 1993. The existing anti-franking legislation prohibits occupational pension schemes from funding increases to Guaranteed Minimum Pensions (GMPs) from other scheme benefits. This principle is reflected in the alternative rules in paragraphs 14 to 17 and the protection is extended to rights built up on after 6 April 1997 (which replaced GMPs). Rights accrued after the end of a period of contracted-out service and late retirement enhancements will no longer be protected. The new provisions prevent schemes from offsetting their pre-6 April 1997 pensions against their post-6 April 1997 pensions, however schemes will be allowed, as at present, to fund the first increase to the GMP, required in the tax year after the one in which it comes into payment, from the scheme pension.

Paragraph 14: Cases in which alternative applies

319. The new provisions apply to all occupational pension schemes that hold GMP rights, subject to exceptions to be prescribed in regulations. All members who left pensionable service (or died) after the legislation comes into force and whose pensions (or survivors’ pensions) become payable after that date will have their benefits calculated under the new arrangements. However, the scheme managers or trustees will be able to elect in a manner to be prescribed to operate the new rules for members who left pensionable service before these provisions come into force. Where a scheme elects to calculate early leavers’ preserved pensions by reference to the new arrangements that election must apply to all such deferred members and is a once and for all choice.

Paragraph 15: Alternative rules

320. The minimum benefit rules underpin a scheme’s own benefit formula. To check whether the level of pension payable to a scheme member meets the statutory minimum, the scheme administrator will undertake a notional calculation as follows:

    Step 1: Calculate the member’s GMP entitlement. For the purpose of this calculation, the amount of GMP would include increases in deferment required under section 15 of the PSA, statutory revaluation under section 16 of the PSA and increases in payment under section 109 of the PSA.

    Step 2: Calculate the amount of GMP at the termination of salary-related pensionable service excluding any increases required under sections 15 or 109 of the PSA, but including any revaluation under section 16(1) of the PSA up to the date of that termination.

    Step 3: Determine whether there are any benefits in excess of the GMP which derive from pre-April 1997 rights. This can be done by deducting the amount in step 2 from the benefits that are attributable to all the pre-April 1997 rights.

    Step 4: Calculate the amount of any such benefits in excess of the GMP. The level of earnings used must not be lower than that those used to calculate the post-April 1997 benefits under step 6.

    Step 5: Revalue the pre-April 1997 excess over the GMP, in accordance with the rules in chapter II of Part IV of the PSA (Revaluation of Accrued Benefits (excluding Guaranteed Minimum Pensions).

    Step 6: Calculate any benefits accruing in the scheme after 6 April 1997.

    Step 7: Revalue post-6 April 1997 benefits, in accordance with the rules on revaluation set out in chapter II of Part IV of the PSA (Revaluation of Accrued Benefits (excluding GMPs) and index them as required by section 51 (Indexation) of the Pensions Act 1995.

    Step 8: Add together the GMP in step 1 plus the revalued excess over the GMP calculated under step 5 and the post-April 1997 rights as calculated under step 7. This is the minimum pension payable.

Paragraph 16: Relationship between alternative rules and other rules

321. The minimum benefits rule does not directly apply to the calculation of alternatives to Short Service Benefits provided under section 73(2)(b) of the PSA. However, the Short Service Benefit on which the alternative is based must itself be calculated in compliance with the minimum benefits test. The new test overrides scheme rules, where the two conflict. For the purposes of calculating transfer values schemes will be treated as having these provisions within their rules. The test must be undertaken before the level of a member’s pension is adjusted to take account of commutation, forfeiture, suspension, charges, liens or set-offs. The remainder of the paragraph sets out the definitions of phrases used.

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Prepared: 2 December 1999