Pensions Regulator  

BHS pensioners may wait months for Sir Philip to pay

BHS pensioners may wait months for Sir Philip to pay

It will be months before ex-BHS employees know whether or not Sir Philip Green will be forced to rescue the pension scheme that he allowed to run into a deficit of hundreds of millions, the regulator has stated.

On Friday (16 December), The Pensions Regulator confirmed that the outcome of a Warning Notice issued to Sir Philip in November - which could force the billionaire businessman to put funds into the scheme - would not be known for several months.

TPR's statement came a day after the Work and Pensions select committee renewed its call for Sir Philip to follow through on his promise to "sort" the problem.

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In April, BHS collapsed and the pension scheme fell into the Pension Protection Fund, a year after Sir Philip sold the company to Dominic Chappell's Retail Acquisitions for a pound.

Members of schemes that fall into the PPF must take a 10 per cent cut to their pension payments. 

However, they scheme could come out of the PPF if the former owners agree to contribute enough to guarantee an income above the level offered by the PPF.

While the select committee has no formal power to demand Sir Philip, Mr Chappell and their respective companies make payments into the scheme, The Pensions Regulator does have that power.

However, a spokesperson for TPR said it must go through a lengthy process before it can exercise that power.

"Those who have received the Warning Notices (WNs) have the right to make representations to us, which we will consider and respond to," the spokesperson stated.

"Recipients of a WN are given a specified period of time to respond by TPR’s case team, which is required to be reasonable. This has been a long and complex investigation in which we have examined tens of thousands of documents. The WNs are also complicated and rely on a large number of case documents."

The spokesperson would not specify the exact timescale, but said it would be months rather than weeks from the date when the WNs were issued on 3 November.

The spokesperson went on: "We remain in discussion with Sir Philip’s advisers. Any settlement offer we accept has to be robust enough to stand the test of time and mean that members and the PPF are not left in a worse position further down the road."

In June, Sir Philip told MPs on the select committee 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.