The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is expecting to get extended powers from the government in the future defined benefit (DB) white paper, the watchdog's chief executive said.
Speaking today (25 January) at a conference in London, Lesley Titcomb said: "We at TPR have already indicated some areas where we think our powers could be improved, which is based on [our] 10 years’ experience.
“An example of this is provisions to add information gathering powers.”
The Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) has been working on its white paper on DB schemes, which was first expected to be published in 2017, and then delayed to February 2018, and is now expected in the spring.
The paper, which follows a consultation launched in February into what needed to be done to ensure confidence and secure the future of these schemes, will consider the need to adapt the regulatory regime.
Esther McVey, the new secretary of state for work and pensions, revealed earlier this week that the regulator will be allowed to be more proactive in its investigations.
Ms McVey said: “Following the publication of the white paper, we will introduce new regulation to ensure that the regulator gets the information it requires to conduct investigations and casework effectively and efficiently.”
Ms Titcomb also referred to the government’s manifesto, where the Conservative party made a commitment to give new powers to TPR.
She said: “I have no doubt that in the white paper they will explore how to take those forward. So
“I'm waiting with interest, we do see areas where our powers can be improved, but these have been identified in advance of Carillion.”
After unsuccessful talks with its lenders and the UK government, Carillion, one of the UK government's largest contractors, entered administration on 15 January.
The accountancy firm PwC has been appointed as administrator.
Carillion has 13 final salary schemes in the UK with more than 28,500 members, and a deficit of £587m at the end of July, which will enter the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).
Seven pension funds have already entered a period of assessment at the pensions lifeboat, which have around 5,900 members, a spokesperson at the PPF said.
Carillion, which employs about 43,000 people, has been struggling for several months, issuing a profit warning last year that sank its share price – which has fallen from more than £2 a year ago to about 14.2p on 15 January, the last day of trading.
Ms Titcomb said that the regulator was “closely engaged with the trustees and the company” in this case, and that “engagement increased in July at the time of the first profit warning being issued”.
She added: “There is lots and lots of work going on to establish what happened, in terms of what lead to the collapse of Carillion, and about the various roles of various people in that, and it's not really my place to comment on what went wrong.”