Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green has told MPs he is committed to finding a solution to the £571m BHS pension deficit that will be superior to that offered by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).
But he has given no details on what that solution would be, or whether it would come out of his own pocket, that of his wife Lady Tina Green, or from his family’s company, Arcadia.
Speaking at a Work and Pensions Select Committee hearing on 15 June, Sir Philip said he wanted “to give an assurance to the 20,000 pensioners” in the scheme that he was “there to sort this in the correct way”.
He added: “We want to find a solution for 20,000 pensioners. We still believe the PPF is not an adequate solution. From what I’ve seen, it’s resolvable, sortable.”
However, when asked what this help would consist of, the billionaire businessman said a team in his company was “working up a plan. When they’ve got the plan they’ll present it”. He gave no further details.
If the BHS pension scheme were to meet its obligations to members in full, it would need to make up a deficit of £571m.
Sir Philip, who sold BHS in March 2015, has come under fire for paying himself or family members a comparable sum in BHS dividends and interest on loans, at the same time that the pension deficit was growing.
The PPF rescue package promises an inferior result for members, and has been estimated to cost £275m.
Sir Philip said when he sold BHS to Retail Acquisitions Limited (RAL) in 2015, it was on the understanding that Arcadia “would make a contribution towards the pension scheme” on an ongoing basis, as part of the 23-year recovery plan agreed with The Pensions Regulator in 2012.
He was vague on the details of this agreement.
Sir Philip denied he had hidden the pension deficit from RAL owner Dominic Chappell, or that he had prevented Mr Chappell from talking to the scheme’s trustees or The Pension Regulator (TPR).
“It is inconceivable or impossible that I could stop anybody going to the regulator. We ourselves couldn’t get a meeting with the regulator,” he said.
Sir Philip was highly critical of TPR, saying it had made very little effort to contact him.
He also said he tried to set up a meeting with pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann, but was told her team had told her “not to interfere”.
Bill Marshall, a financial planner with Lamb and Associates Lifestyle Financial Planning, said he expected Sir Philip would avoid paying off the deficit immediatetly, opting for a piecemeal recovery plan.
He said this approach might be better for all parties, particularly those employed in Arcadia’s other businesses.
“If you put too much in at once, you’d risk losing yet more jobs,” he said.