The Pensions Minister has confirmed that the new Pensions Regulator’s powers introduced by the Pension Schemes Bill will not apply retrospectively.

The long-awaited Pension Schemes Bill (the “Bill”) has passed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords and will likely come into force later this year once it receives royal assent. The Bill contains significant changes which anyone working in the pensions sphere or doing business with any company with a defined benefit scheme should be aware of. For a closer look at the provisions of the Bill, please see this article: The Pension Schemes Bill 2020 – “revolutionary” - Macfarlanes.

Guy Opperman, the Pensions Minister, has confirmed that the provisions in Part 3 of the Bill will not be retrospective. The new criminal sanctions and information gathering powers will only apply to schemes where the act, or series of acts, occur after the powers come into force.

Part 3 of the Bill includes the following new powers:

  • New grounds to issue contribution notices;
  • A new criminal offence and financial penalties for failing to comply with a contribution notice;
  • New criminal offences and financial penalties for avoiding an employer debt or risking accrued scheme benefits;
  • New information gathering powers;
  • A strengthened notifiable events regime; and
  • A new financial penalty for providing false or misleading information to the Pensions Regulator.

The Pensions Regulator will be releasing guidance on the use of the new criminal sanctions following a consultation with the industry later this year. The aim is for the Pensions Regulator to have use of its new powers from Autumn 2021.

This will be good news for many in the pensions industry amid concern that the powers could be used retrospectively, and actions and decisions from as far back as 2015 at risk of being re-examined.