An 11-year wait to distribute the £356m surplus from the UK's National Bus Company pension schemes to its members should end after court action next month. Transport minister Keith Hill said the trustees of the two pension schemes and representatives of the beneficiaries had reached a deal on the final distribution of the surplus.
He said that once the deal receives court approval, the distribution of the surplus to the 40,000 scheme members should be “largely” completed by October.
The battle for the scheme surplus started in 1990 after the winding up of the privatised National Bus Company pension scheme. The government then claimed the scheme’s surplus - which now amounts to £300m - for the National Bus Employees Superannuation Trust (BEST) and £55.7m for the National Bus Pension Fund (NBPF).
Only after a long legal and political battle – Labour deputy leader John Prescott made his views in favour of the scheme members known – was it agreed in 1999 that the surplus should return to the scheme members.
The following two-year delay in handing out the surplus was due to long negotiations into how much each member should receive and whether members who transferred out of the scheme should receive anything.
Hammond Suddards Edge partner Catherine McKenna credited the government’s role in forcing a settlement in the case.
McKenna said: “Sometimes it takes involvement of third parties to settle such disputes. Once an industry becomes privatised it is still in the providence of the government, and it is hard for the government not to be involved.”
Simmons & Simmons partner Monica Ma saw the case as underlining the need for new legislation on surpluses – an initiative proposed in the Myners’ review.
Ma said: “Some clarity is needed as there have been so many cases concerning ownership of surplus.”
By David Rowley
This week's edition of Professional Pensions is out now
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