New bodies will strengthen governance and give consumers greater say
The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, has today (6th March 2014) announced key appointments to the Pensions Authority and Pensions Council, the new bodies which will strengthen governance of occupational pensions and give consumers greater input into pensions policy.
Ms Jane Williams, the current chair of the Pensions Board, will chair the newly formed Pensions Authority.
Mr Jim Murray, former Director of the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC), will chair the Pensions Council.
Under the strengthened arrangements, the Pensions Board is being renamed the Pensions Authority to better reflect its key role of safeguarding the pensions of occupational pension scheme members and also the provision of information on occupational pensions.
Oversight of the Pensions Authority will be provided by a separate three-person board, comprising:
Ms Williams as Authority chair, Dr Orlaigh Quinn, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Social Protection, who will represent Minister Burton; and Ms Ann Nolan, Second Secretary in the Department of Finance, who will represent Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
The separate unpaid Pensions Council is being created to operate as a pensions advisory panel and report to the Minister for Social Protection on matters of pensions policy. Mr Murray will chair the Council, and members will be recruited though the Public Appointments Service.
Minister Burton said: “I am pleased to announce that Jane Williams, the current chair of the Pensions Board, will now chair the Pensions Authority. Jane, who has been an excellent chair, will bring an assured hand to the Authority.
“I am also happy to announce that Jim Murray will be the chair of the Pensions Council. As a former Director of the European Consumers Organisation, Jim has a strong background in championing consumer interests.
“These key changes are in line with expert recommendations and will achieve a number of objectives. Firstly, the separation between regulatory oversight and policy development will ensure there is no perception of regulatory ‘capture’ by the industry.
“Secondly, the changes will ensure the system has a far stronger consumer focus, with the Pensions Council there to represent and protect the consumer. As its first task, I will be asking the Council to monitor the implementation of the recommendations in the Report on Pension Charges to tackle excessive fees, and advise me if further actions are needed.
“Lastly, we need to improve awareness of the private and occupational pensions system – both to ensure that those with pensions know exactly how their pensions will work for them, and to increase pensions coverage amongst those who currently have none.”
The Minister said that less than 51% of people in employment aged 20 to 69 have pension coverage and this number is decreasing.
“I will therefore publish a road-map in the coming months for the introduction of a new and comprehensive scheme to drive up pensions coverage for workers, with a go-live date that will depend on certain criteria of economic recovery and stability.
“While I have protected the State pension in successive Budgets because of its critical importance in preventing poverty amongst older people, for many people at work right now, and the 1,000-plus people who are returning to work every week, they will want more than the State pension in retirement.
“That is why a scheme to improve occupational pension coverage is essential, and the Pensions Authority will provide crucial input in that regard.”
The CEO of the Pensions Board is now being renamed as the Pensions Regulator, with Mr Brendan Kennedy continuing in that role. These changes take effect from the 7th March.
Minister Burton concluded: “I would like to thank the outgoing members of the Pensions Board for their efforts, commitment and public service. I will, of course, welcome the continued representation from various stakeholders, including representatives of older people, consumers, the pensions industry and employer and employee representative groups.
“These structural governance changes provide a clearer landscape and correspond with the longer-term changes which I will be bringing forward in relation to pensions policy in Ireland.”