James Phillips writes
The Conservative Party has unveiled its manifesto for the General Election 2017. Here are the pension pledges in full …
The Conservative Party has promised to expand The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) and pension schemes’ ability to scrutinise and, in some cases, block mergers and acquisitions.
In the party’s manifesto published 18 May, it reaffirmed its intention to allow action to be taken where a deal might “threaten the solvency of the scheme”, as well as introduce a new criminal offence where company boards are seen to have deliberately or recklessly underfunded a scheme.
The document states: “The current powers of regulators and the Pension Protection Fund are insufficient to ensure that pension savers, pensioners and prudent company directors are protected from unscrupulous business owners.
“A Conservative government will act to tighten the rules against such abuse, and increase the punishment for those caught mismanaging pension schemes.”
TPR will also be given new powers to issue “punitive fines” for companies which “wilfully” leave a scheme under-resourced, and equalise its powers with the Insolvency Service to disqualify company directors.”
The party added it would review the takeover regime, and “require bidders to be clear about their intentions from the outset of the bid process”.
The Tories also announced it would reduce the triple lock protection on the state pension – which guarantees annual increases at the higher of 2.5%, average earnings, or the consumer price index (CPI) – to a ‘double lock’ from 2020, using just earnings and inflation.
The manifesto said: “A decade ago, pensions were in crisis and poverty blighted the retirement of many older people. It was wrong and it has been a Conservative government that has helped to put it right.
‘New double lock’
“The triple lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course. So we will keep our promise to maintain the triple lock until 2020, and when it expires we will introduce a new double lock.”
The policy sets the party apart from Labour, which has committed to retain the protection until at least 2025, and the Lib Dems, which said the lock would stay in place until the end of the next parliament in 2022.
The party added it would increase the state pension age so that it “reflects increases in life expectancy, while protecting each generation fairly”, but gave no fixed timetable or further detail.
Theresa May’s party said it would continue work on delivering auto-enrolment (AE) to smaller employers, as well as expand it to the self-employed, although it did not state how it would do this.
A Conservative government would also introduce sovereign wealth funds, known as “Future Britain Funds”, to invest in infrastructure and the economy. These would be created out of revenues from shale gas extraction, dormant assets, and the receipts of sale of some public assets. The party would “encourage pension funds with an interest in joining Future Britain funds to do so”.
Finally, the party said it would “promote long-term savings and pensions products, including the Lifetime ISA”.