Goode Report: An opportunity missed, say report's critics: Reaction

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PROFESSIONAL advisers yesterday condemned the Goode report as a missed opportunity to make fundamental changes to pension law.

Pointing out that the widely predicted flight from occupational pension schemes was unlikely to materialise, many in the industry said the report had generally erred in favour of the employer.

Alan Jenkinson, of the pension and employee benefits consultancy Sedgwick Noble Lowndes, said it was 'a great disappointment', adding that the recommendations merely tinkered with the existing framework without introducing significant reforms.

In particular, critics of the report suggested that the proposed minimum solvency standard was not as tough as was thought. Not only was it open to misinterpretation, it could lead to investment policies that were not in the best interests of members or employers.

Ken Trench, chairman of the Maxwell Pensioners Action Group, said the recommendations were likely to shut some of the loopholes, but without a fundamental overhaul there was a danger of creating a fresh set.

Since it was impossible to legislate completely against fraud, the most important feature was the establishment of a compensation fund. He would press Peter Lilley, Social Services Secretary, for Maxwell pensioners to be included in whatever scheme was set up.

However, the limited reforms reflecting the committee's view that any changes should echo existing best practice won the support of employers and their advisers.

The Confederation of British Industry agreed with the Pensions Management Institute in saying the report had tried to strike the right balance between improving the position of scheme members and the security of benefits on the one hand and the interests of employers on the other.

Dick Price, deputy director- general, said it promised to be good news 'for all those looking to occupational pensions to provide a secure income in retirement'.

Peter Ward, chairman of the national pension fund sector group at Coopers & Lybrand, the accountants that audited the Maxwell funds, was pleased the committee had resisted 'the temptation to revolutionise the situation'. He hoped the legislation would stick to the report's policy of concentrating on clarity and principle rather than detailed regulations.

He and other accountants were also happy with the proposed requirement for auditors to report problems to the new regulator. It made sense to bring the pensions industry into line with financial institutions, where a similar provision was in force, said Martyn Jones, national audit technical partner at Touche Ross.