Frank Field MP, the chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, wrote to the Pension Minister earlier this month to ask for the forthcoming white paper on pensions to include a proposal to allow the complaints of AEAT Pension Scheme members to be reviewed by an Ombudsman.
AEAT was previously the commercial arm of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). When it was privatised in 1996, its 3,000 or so employees were transferred from the UKAEA’s public sector pension schemes to a private sector scheme sponsored by their new employer.
When they transferred, those employees were given a choice about whether to leave the pension they had already built up before privatisation in the UKAEA’s schemes or transfer it across to their new private sector scheme.
AEAT subsequently entered administration in November 2012 and the pension scheme entered assessment for the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). This resulted in significant losses both for pension accrued while employed by AEAT as well as for pension transferred from the UKAEA’s schemes.
Many AEAT Pension Scheme members feel that the information about transferring UKAEA pension benefits provided at the time of privatisation was misleading and resulted in significant losses. However there is currently no avenue for members of the scheme to raise their concerns and seek redress.
Frank Field MP’s suggestion is that the government expand the scope of the Pensions Ombudsman or the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman to cover the information provided to AEAT Pension Scheme members at the time of privatisation. It follows an earlier suggestion by Oliver Letwin MP, in a Westminster Hall debate, that a new public services Ombudsman be given the remit to investigate this issue.
David Luxton, the Prospect official responsible for members of the AEAT Pension Scheme commented: “Thousands of people suffered significant pension losses as a result of the privatisation of AEAT and its subsequent insolvency.
“There are legitimate concerns about the information that was provided to members at the time of privatisation. It is only right that these concerns are fully investigated by an independent body.”
Link to letter: https://library.prospect.org.uk/download/2018/00314