Beaton v Board of the Pension Protection Fund [2017] EWHC 2623 (Ch) was an appeal from Anthony Arter, acting in his capacity as PPF Ombudsman. In it, the High Court overruled him to hold that the phrase “benefits attributable to… pensionable service” in the Pensions Act 2004 provisions dealing with PPF compensation referred to benefits (i) earned by a member; (ii) as a result of service to an employer; and (iii) while a member of a scheme under which he was a future pensioner. This meant that benefits accrued under one occupational scheme and then transferred to another one were not attributable to pensionable service with the new employer and were not to be aggregated for PPF compensation cap purposes following the new employer going into administration. 

The court explained that whilst the PPF Ombudsman had sought to interpret “attributable” by its dictionary definition, words with an accepted technical meaning should be given that meaning unless a contrary intention appeared. 

The judge acknowledged that the result may not have been Parliament’s intention, observing: “It may be that that means that those in the position of Mr Beaton… have obtained from the way in which the legislation is drafted a windfall which went beyond the mischief which the legislation was enacted to address. That does not, it seems to me, enable me to displace the ordinary meaning of the phrase… so as to give it what I regard as a very artificial and unconventional interpretation.”

The case has, we understand, gone to appeal.

Comment: Before the court, the PPF itself sought to defend the PPF Ombudsman’s decision on policy grounds. It is therefore possible that Parliament could legislate to avoid the implications of the High Court judgment (if any appeal fails).