MPs call for criminal investigation into BSPS advisers

Hannah Godfrey reports...

Members of Parliament have called for criminal investigations to be opened into South Wales advisers whose work with BSPS members resulted in financial loss for steelworkers and their families.

Speaking in Westminster Hall on Wednesday at a debate on pension transfers and the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS), MP for Blaenau Gwent Nick Smith said the steelworkers affected by poor advice needed to see justice done in the form of police investigations.

“We need justice for the steelworkers who were ripped off… Local police forces in South Wales need to pursue what appear to be complicated cases of fraud,” Smith said.

“The losses are clear and often substantial, and those responsible are identifiable. So, I call on police forces across South Wales to open files and thoroughly investigate these cases as to whether or not they amount to fraud.”

Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham, Erdington, echoed Smith’s thoughts, claiming the powers to do so now exist. He said “an unmistakable message” has to be sent if advisers “rob workers of their pension scheme”.

‘Phoenixing has been prevented’

Several MPs at the debate made reference to pheonixing – whereby a firm shuts down to avoid liabilities to then re-establish itself later under a new name – and said greater scrutiny was required to stop rouge advisers operating in this way.

In response, John Glen, who is economic secretary to the Treasury and MP for Salisbury, claimed powers used by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have already prevented cases of this nature.

He said: “Those seeking to liquidate firms must provide information about outstanding complaints, and the assets of collapsed firms cannot be sold on or passed back to former directors without the prior consent of the regulator.

“The FCA has already used these powers to prevent several individuals and business from avoiding their liabilities, and several firms are currently under investigation. I think what it has also done is cause some individuals to withdraw their applications knowing full well that they are not going to get through.”