Pensions Regulator  

MPs demand pension regulator checks Arcadia sale

MPs demand pension regulator checks Arcadia sale

MPs have asked Sir Philip Green to seek clearance from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) ahead of any sale of the Arcadia Group.

In a letter to Sir Philip, dated yesterday (19 February), the Work & Pensions select committee chairman, Frank Field (pictured), asked for a commitment from the business tycoon that he would apply for regulatory clearance before any sale as well as publish the details of the application.

The Arcadia group currently carries a pension deficit at buyout value of about £1bn and reports have claimed a sale of parts of the group to Chinese textile group Shandong Ruyi were in the works.

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Mr Field wrote: "I have heard from Arcadia scheme members concerned about their pensions becoming detached from your family’s resources, especially given the experience of the BHS scheme following your disposal of that company.

"Those members should continue to expect that pension promises made to them during your tenure will be honoured in full by any future owner. The sale of the company should not be materially detrimental to the ability of the schemes to meet those promises."

Both men have clashed in the past over the failure of BHS, with Sir Philip accusing Mr Field of making a personal attack and using him as "political football".

BHS went into administration in April 2016, putting workers' retirement nest eggs at risk and The Pensions Regulator has been investigating the case since.

In the end, a £363m settlement with Sir Philip was reached to fund a new independent pension scheme for 19,000 former BHS workers.

The new scheme would pay members the same starting pension that they were originally promised by BHS, with greater ongoing benefits than they would have received from the Pension Protection Fund.

Mr Field said he had welcomed Sir Philip's decision in April last year to double his contributions to £50m per year over the space of 10 years in order to reduce the pension deficit at the Arcadia group.

He explained The Pensions Regulator operated a voluntary clearance system for major corporate transactions and advised him to "err on the side of caution" and enter that process to spare him "another moral hazard investigation".

Mr Field wrote: "It would also, importantly, reassure pensions scheme members that they were not being hung out to dry."

The chair said he would also be writing to The Pensions Regulator directly.

carmen.reichman@ft.com