Frank Field warns Sir Philip Green over agreement with pensions regulator
Mr Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, wants the deal to be used as an example to prevent another BHS-style collapse.
Labour MP Frank Field has warned Sir Philip Green his settlement deal with the pensions regulator will be scrutinised to ensure the Government’s pension laws are fit for purpose.
Mr Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said the details of the £363 million agreement struck between the billionaire and the Pensions Regulator (TPR) must be revealed so the Government can shore up regulation and prevent another BHS-style collapse.
In a letter to Sir Philip, the veteran MP welcomed the out-of-court settlement, but said the committee had been frustrated by the “reluctance” of TPR to reveal the finer points of the negotiations, and called on the Topshop boss to publish the regulator’s warning notice against him.
He wrote: “The fact remains that, incorporating indexation, the pension scheme members can expect to receive on average 88% of the benefits they were promised by you. Many will receive less.
“As you are aware, the committee has expressed concern about the capabilities of TPR and has made recommendations for changes to pensions law and regulation which may help it better perform its functions.
“BHS was its largest avoidance case. It is incumbent on the committee to examine not just whether that was a good settlement, based on evidence they had, which might act as both a template for other cases and a deterrent to avoidance occurring in future.”
The veteran MP reignited his war of words with the retail tycoon after telling the Press Association at the weekend that Sir Philip had not done enough to keep his knighthood and remained “on the hook” for the failure of BHS.
Sir Philip said on Tuesday that he was being used as a “political football” and accused Mr Field of being “disingenuous” for calling into question his agreement with the TPR.
The department store chain plunged into administration a year ago on Tuesday, impacting 11,000 jobs and around 19,000 pension holders.
Sir Philip agreed to pay £363 million to settle the BHS pension scheme in February, less than the £571 million deficit the firm was left with when it went bust.
He 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.
Mr Field said when the settlement was announced that it was ”not justice, but it is a milestone”, while Lesley Titcomb, chief executive of TPR, said the deal was a ”strong outcome for the members of the BHS pension schemes”.
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.