Industry lobbies for 'get-out' clauses in Pensions Bill

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The Independent Online

A group of leading business trade bodies, led by the National Association of Pension Funds and British Venture Capital Association, is to work towards securing a House of Lords amendment to the Pensions Bill, after it spotted several clauses which could leave shareholders and directors responsible for under-funded company pension schemes.

A group of leading business trade bodies, led by the National Association of Pension Funds and British Venture Capital Association, is to work towards securing a House of Lords amendment to the Pensions Bill, after it spotted several clauses which could leave shareholders and directors responsible for under-funded company pension schemes.

Business leaders were alerted to the clauses during the Bill's second reading in the Commons this week, warning that they could have disastrous consequences for confidence in UK companies. The private equity industry believes it could be hardest hit. Next month, the NAPF is meeting Baroness Hollis of Heigham, the Lords minister for the Department of Work and Pensions, shortly before the Bill is to be debated in the Lords at report stage on 10 June. It will then be returned to the House of Commons for its third and final reading before it is officially passed.

The CBI, the UK's largest employers' association, said its director general, Digby Jones, has written to Andrew Smith, the DWP minister, to ask for him to clarify or remove the clauses. The BVCA has been refused a meeting with Mr Smith. The industry has been particularly concerned by the DWP's so far disinterested response to its concerns.

On Wednesday, the department simply said that "those people involved in legitimate company restructuring have nothing to be worried about".

A spokesman for the BVCA said the association wanted to "assist the debate in the Lords in a vigorous fashion" to ensure that the interests of shareholders and directors are protected.

The Government says it has inserted the clauses to ensure that directors and company owners can be held to account.

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