UPDATED: Work and Pensions Committee refuses to launch inquiry into collapse of AEAT pension scheme

Written by Talya Misiri

The Work and Pensions Committee has said that it will not be launching an inquiry into the collapse of the Atomic Energy Authority Technology (AEA Technology) pension scheme at this current point in time, Pensions Age has learnt.

The AEAT pensions campaign, which involves a group of pressure groups supported by the trade union Prospect,wrote to the Work and Pensions Select Committee urging them to detail why the AEAT scheme was allowed to fail, what compensation can be offered to members for their losses and what can be implemented to prevent other schemes experiencing the same difficulties.

The AEAT campaigners noted that they hoped the investigation, “will demonstrate that financial redress is necessary for scheme members who have been placed in the position of finding their expected financial security replaced with uncertainty and suffering”.

In a letter seen by Pensions Age, to Prospect, Work and Pensions Committee chair Frank Field stated that "While we [the Committee] currently have no plans to do so [launch a specific inquiry on the scheme], this does not preclude the possibility that we may revisit the issue at some point as part of our ongoing work on DB pension schemes, and in particular the circumstances in which liabilities are transferred and/or reduced as a result of corporate insolvency and restructuring... to the detriment of scheme members.

"While decisions on our work programme are taken by Committee members themselves, we will continue to consider company pension schemes as part of that."

Approximately 3,000 pensioners from the AEAT pension scheme lost an average of one third of their pension entitlement, which members claim is a result of business, government and regulatory failure that resulted in the scheme falling into the Pension Protection Fund in 2012.

It estimated that the total loss is around £182m of pensionable income. As a result of this, scheme members are not paid in full, with no indexation of pensions accrued before 5 April 1997, the campaigners added.

It was noted earlier this year that in an attempt to ensure that other pension scheme members do not experience a similar fate, AEAT pensioners are calling for the reform of the PPF.

Changes that the pensioners want to see implemented include the PPF compensation cap to be removed, the 10 per cent reduction in PPF compensation to be removed, a review of all privatised DB pension schemes and reassurance incorporating the Financial Assistance Scheme into the PPF will not weaken the PPF’s ability to pay compensation.

AEAT pensioners are campaigning against the PPF’s “discrimination” against older pensioners who accrued service before 1997 by cancelling all entitlement to indexation.

A PPF spokesperson told Pensions Age: "Pension schemes only transfer to the Pension Protection Fund because they are unable to pay members at least what the PPF provides. The level of the compensation we provide is set by Parliament.

"We have successfully managed the Financial Assistance Scheme on behalf of Government since July 2009. It is separately funded to the PPF and therefore doesn’t factor in the progress that the PPF is making towards its Funding Target."

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