Parliamentary Ombudsman to invetsigate pension scheme allegations

The Parliamentary Ombudsman is to launch an investigation into whether the Government gave inaccurate information to occupational pension scheme members about risks to their pensions.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman is independent of the Government and Civil Service. It was created in 1967 to investigate complaints from members of the public, referred by MPs, alleging they had suffered injustice through maladministration by government departments or certain public bodies.

The Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has written to MPs to inform them that the investigation will focus on the actions of four government bodies – the Department for Work and Pensions, the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority, HM Treasury, and the National Insurance Contributions Office (part of the Inland Revenue).

Abraham said she had received approximately 100 complaints from members and trustees of pension schemes across the UK. These include former employees of companies that are now insolvent, and whose schemes have been wound up, and employees and former staff of companies in administration, whose schemes are in doubt.

Specifically, Abraham will be looking at allegations that:

  • Government ministers and officials ignored relevant evidence when taking decisions on whether to warn scheme members of the risks to their pensions should their scheme wind up

  •  Information and advice provided by Government bodies to scheme members and trustees was inaccurate.

The Ombudsman is not able to investigate a third allegation – that legislation affords inadequate protection to scheme members – as the content of legislation is a matter for Parliament. Nor can she look into advice and information provided by the Financial Services Authority when acting in its own right, as such actions are not within her jurisdiction.

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