'Philip Green Charter': PM vows to protect pensions from 'irresponsible' bosses

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/pm-calls-for-crackdown-on-irresponsible-bosses-over-pensions-10857405">'Philip Green Charter': PM vows to protect pensions from 'irresponsible' bosses</a>
 

Theresa May has unveiled a plan to crack down on "irresponsible bosses" who fail to protect workers' pensions from a repeat of the BHS scandal.

In what some have dubbed the "Philip Green Charter", the Government is considering a new criminal offence for bosses who put pension schemes at risk.

The Conservative Party's General Election manifesto will contain a commitment to increase the punishments for those found mismanaging schemes.

The Prime Minister also wants to give more powers to the Pensions Regulator to block takeovers where there is a risk of insolvency to the pension scheme.

Mrs May says the plans would "ensure the pensions of ordinary working people are protected against the actions of unscrupulous company bosses".

"Safeguarding pensions to ensure dignity in retirement is about security for families, and it's another example of the choice in this election," she said.

Sir Philip faced widespread calls to be stripped of his knighthood over his alleged role in the collapse of BHS, which he owned for 15 years before selling it to Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015.

The Topshop owner came under fire for taking more than £400m in dividends from the chain, leaving it with a £571m pension deficit.

Mr Chappell, a former racing driver, had previously been bankrupt and had no retail experience.

Sir Philip has now agreed to pay £363m to help settle the BHS pension scheme.

A Government statement about the new proposals does not mention Sir Philip directly but states: "In recent years, the employees of several large, household-name companies have had their pensions put at risk by the irresponsible behaviour of bosses.

"Meanwhile, responsible companies managing their pension schemes in the right way have found their competitive position suffer as a result. This is bad for ordinary working families and bad for the market."

It comes four months after the Commons Work and Pensions Committee suggested that the regulator should have the power to impose "punitive fines" of as much as £1bn to companies.

MPs (BSE: MPSLTD.BO - news) scrutinising the collapse of the BHS pension scheme said the regulator should intervene much earlier if a scheme is in trouble.

Chair of the committee Frank Field told Sky News that he welcomed the announcement.

He said: "It won't bring back pensions savings lost but it implements the committee's proposals to stop rip-offs in the future."

"It means the era of Sir Philip Green is coming to a close."

The Government statement says regulators would also be able to impose large fines on bosses who "wilfully left a scheme under-resourced", and company directors could be struck off in more serious cases.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: "Theresa May says she will bring in an 'anti-Philip Green charter'.

"Where was she when we called for Green to be stripped of his knighthood?

"This is the Tories running very slowly to catch up with Labour."

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