The Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) has announced an inquiry into proposals within the government's white paper on defined benefit (DB) schemes.
The inquiry, which will seek to inform and influence various consultations throughout the year, is initially seeking evidence on the powers, effectiveness and culture of The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and how the corporate clearance regime can be strengthened.
Also, it is asking whether the proposal for a new criminal offence, where company directors wilfully or recklessly put a DB scheme at risk, will act as a "meaningful deterrent", and how the regulator should define its expectations of ‘prudent' and ‘appropriate'.
Other questions cover how consolidation can be achieved and if the white paper's legislative timetable is fast enough.
The white paper, published last month, set out proposed reforms in many areas, subject to consultation, but said they were unlikely to be enacted before the 2019/20 parliamentary session.
The committee is accepting written commentary from interested parties until 18 May, and will then likely hold oral evidence sessions before feeding back to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Hargreaves Lansdown head of policy Tom McPhail said the inquiry will not worry the DWP too much, but will highlight some implied criticisms of the regulator.
"The government's white paper set out a measured approach to address concerns on governance, funding and regulation," he said. "However, it also has to work within the constraints of the existing system and the government's capacity for primary legislation.
"The committee's scrutiny of these processes are unlikely to cause the DWP any great discomfort. However, the questions asked about TPR's use of resources and its culture suggest the committee already has some suspicions about where shortcomings in the systems may lie."
A spokesperson for TPR said: "We look forward to contributing to the WPC's inquiry into the DB pensions white paper. The white paper's proposals will support TPR's ongoing drive to be clearer, quicker and tougher in the way it regulates.
"Through our TPR Future programme, we have taken stock of the changes faced by the pensions industry and we have already started implementing a wholesale review of our approach to regulation so that we are ready to meet the challenges of the future."
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