The Pension Schemes Bill 2019-21 ("the Bill") is now well on its way to becoming law. As discussed in our previous blog, the Bill passed through the House of Lords during the summer, with four major amendments made at the report stage. On the 16th of November, the Bill was passed at third reading in the House of Commons, with several amendments made at committee stage effectively removing the amendments made at the report stage in the House of Lords. With the Bill now reaching the latter stages of the legislative process, we discuss what the latest developments from the House of Commons mean for the Bill.
Collective money purchase/ defined contribution schemes ("CDCs")
Although the legal framework for CDCs was generally approved by the House of Commons, the House of Lords amendment which would require trustees to assess, and report on, "the extent to which the scheme is operating in a manner fair to all members" was removed by a Government amendment during the committee stage on the basis that it would be inappropriate and that the Government instead intends to make regulations setting out 'clear principles and processes that schemes must follow to ensure that different types of members are treated the same where justified'.
Cross-party support was evident in the House of Commons for pension dashboards, which will be introduced by the Bill, offering people the opportunity to access pensions information and view all their savings from multiple pensions, online and in one place. Two amendments made at report stage in the House of Lords, one excluding financial transactions from the dashboard and the other restricting the roll-out of commercial dashboards for at least one year after the public dashboard service is launched, were both removed by Government amendments at the committee stage in the House of Commons.
Treatment of open defined benefit ("DB") schemes
The House of Lords amendment relating to the regulation of open DB schemes as compared to closed DB schemes, which included the requirement for the Secretary of State to treat open DB schemes differently to closed DB schemes when making new regulations regarding scheme funding, was also removed by a Government amendment at the committee stage in the House of Commons.
Additional amendments at committee stage and report stage
Several other amendments were tabled at both committee and report stage in the House of Commons, including an amendment intended to protect pension advisers from criminal liability for routinely carrying out their role in relation to the controversial criminal sanctions introduced by the Bill and an amendment seeking to increase the uptake of impartial pensions guidance by 'auto-enrolling' savers into an appointment with Pension Wise. Ultimately, all amendments tabled, other than those discussed above, were either withdrawn or unsuccessful.
Having progressed through both houses, the Bill will now be sent back to the House of Lords, where the amendments made in the House of Commons will be considered. If the House of Lords disagrees with the amendments, the Bill will go back and forth between both houses (known as ping pong) until there is a final agreement on the exact wording of the Bill. Once agreement is reached, the Bill can receive Royal Assent and become law.
We will continue to monitor the progress of the Bill and report on any further significant developments which arise. If you would like to discuss anything raised in this blog, please get in touch with your usual contact at Brodies.