UK - Lawyers have voiced "serious" concerns over proposed changes to the pensions ombudsman's office but claim they are powerless to act on any of the measures.
Changes to the ombudsman’s office were discussed at an Association of Pensions Lawyers litigation committee meeting where many attendees saw the government proposals for the first time.
The 13-page document – issued by the department for work and pensions to a select number of people – listed a number of changes to legislation “in keeping with the action plan theme of simplification”.
But CMS Cameron McKenna partner Mark Grant (pictured) fears some of the proposals are flawed.
“There is a serious danger that a set of proposals intended to simplify the ombudsman’s jurisdiction will lead to far more uncertainty, complication and work for his office.”
He said the committee’s main concern was that an ombudsman “may be able to impose any remedy that he thinks is ‘fair and reasonable’.”“If they give him that sort of jurisdiction it puts advisers and trustees in a very difficult position.
“The whole point of having law is you can say whether someone is on the right or wrong side of it.”
Lawyers were also dumfounded to hear that there would be no official consultation on the proposals.
A select group of industry figures were party to a closed consultation meeting, where the proposals were discussed (PP, November 13). Lawyers claim there should have been an industry-wide debate on any legislative changes.
Proposed changes at the pensions ombudsman’s office include:
- Expanding on the terms of appointment of the pensions ombudsman and creating a post of a deputy.- Altering procedures which need to be followed during an investigation.- Requiring court permission before an appeal can be lodged against the ombudsman’s determination.
The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) has reignited the debate on the introduction of flat-rate pensions tax relief - saying a 30% flat rate would be progressive, cost-neutral and leave three-quarters of earners better off.
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