Govt outlines package of measures to strengthen TPR’s powers

The government has outlined its plans to strengthen regulatory framework of The Pensions Regulator (TPR), in a package of measures that will allow it to better protect scheme members.

Publishing the Government Response to the Consultation on Protecting Defined Benefit Pension Schemes – A Stronger Pensions Regulator, today (11 February), plans include improving TPR’s ability to monitor corporate events, updating its information gathering powers and improving its anti-avoidance powers.

The new proposals sit alongside The Department for Work And Pensions headline policies announced by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, yesterday, including a seven year jail-term for the “wilful or reckless behaviour” of company directors as well as an “unlimited fine” for those who fail to comply with a contribution notices.

Regarding the watchdog’s new information gathering powers, TPR will receive a standalone interview and inspection power, which will allow an inspector appointed by the regulator to enter certain premises where members of the scheme are employed.

New fixed and escalating penalties will also be introduced for non-compliance with section 72 information requests.

Commenting on the measures, TPR executive director for frontline regulation, Nicola Parish, said: “We welcome the proposed new powers which, as a package, would allow us to identify potential problems earlier and take more effective action.

“The vast majority of scheme sponsors and trustees already do the right thing and we will be helping them further by delivering clearer funding standards and a revised DB Code of practice.”

Regarding TPR’s ability to monitor events, the government outlined changes to the notifiable events framework, ensuring an early warning system is in place “so TPR can consider whether to intervene early”.

“Our new powers will act as a powerful deterrent against the poor treatment of pension schemes and help us in protecting members,” Parish added.

Furthermore, the government said it will also introduce an “unlimited fine” for those who fail to comply with a contribution notices, a notice issued by TPR which requires a specific amount of money to be paid into a pension scheme, as well as a new civil penalty of up to £1m.

The DWP said it will bring forward legislation "as soon as parliamentary time allows" and that it will continue to engage with stakeholders.

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