Belfast Telegraph

Sir Philip Green should put more into BHS scheme if £15m moved back to him - MP

MP Frank Field has demanded Sir Philip Green ploughs more money into the BHS pension scheme if £15 million is shifted back to the billionaire as part of his £ 363 million settlement agreement.

The Labour veteran, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said the agreement struck between The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and the retail tycoon would see £15 million returned to Sir Philip if 90% of eligible pension fund members take a winding-up lump sum instead of buying an annuity.

Analysis by the committee suggests the Arcadia boss could receive as much as £13 million even if as many as 20% decide against taking the lump sum.

Its findings also show that 16 BHS executives with the largest pensions will benefit the most from the out-of-court settlement because they will not see their benefits capped, which would have occurred if the scheme had fallen into the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

It comes after Sir Philip made a voluntary personal cash payment of £343 million towards improved benefits to the pension scheme members, and made available an additional £20 million towards implementation costs.

It follows the collapse of BHS, which impacted 11,000 jobs and around 19,000 pension holders.

Mr Field said: "I hope Sir Philip will recycle any refund back into the scheme as BHS pensioners will still be facing cuts in the benefits for which they paid.

"It is also clear that Sir Philip prioritised his loyal senior managers, who have had the PPF cap on high pension benefits completely removed.

"That measure was designed to encourage those in positions of influence to urge prudence and responsibility; I would be worried if TPR was content to see it jettisoned as a matter of course.

"Those who do far less well out of the settlement are the ordinary staff of working age, many of whom will have lost their jobs as well.

"HMRC will not tell us what the tax implications of this settlement are but I fervently hope the public purse will not be missing out in the same way it does by the Greens' complex offshore business arrangements."

Sir Philip said last month the agreement amount, less than the £571 million deficit the firm was left with when it went bust in April last year, represents a ''significantly better'' outcome than if the scheme entered the PPF.

The settlement will allow pensioners the option to receive entitlements at the level they were promised by the BHS scheme.

Current pensioners who have received lower pension benefits since March 2016, because of the PPF level of compensation being paid, will now have the opportunity to receive lump sums.

The Topshop owner was grilled by MPs over the sale of the chain, which he owned for 15 years before offloading it for £1 to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell in 2015.

The fallout from the chain's collapse sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left both its high-profile former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.

Alan John Hannett, general secretary of the shop workers' union Usdaw, said: "After a long-running campaign by Usdaw to get justice for BHS pensioners, we were initially pleased that Sir Philip had finally put his hand in his pocket, having promised to 'sort' the pension scheme last June.

"However, we needed to see the details of the settlement to be reassured that the offer would give BHS pensioners a better deal than they would have got through the Pension Protection Fund. Only a few weeks after the announcement it appears to be unravelling.

"Whilst he seems to have done enough to cover the liabilities of the Pension Protection Fund, Sir Philip hasn't gone anywhere near providing the BHS pensioners with all the benefits they accrued and are entitled to.

"He told the select committee hearing that he would secure a better deal for the pensioners than they would get under the lifeboat scheme. That now appears not to be the case for those who worked on the shop floor, although the former senior managers seem to have done very well out of the deal.

"Through no fault of their own, 11,000 loyal BHS staff lost their jobs after people at the top of the business seemingly played a wild game of corporate monopoly with their livelihoods.

"They were put out of work last summer and put into a long period of uncertainty about the future of their income in retirement. The BHS pension scheme members deserve a deal that guarantees no loss of benefits they accrued."

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