The Pensions Regulator (TPR) will be given powers to block certain mergers and acquisitions (M&As) to protect pensions if the Conservative Party is re-elected on 8 June.
"Unscrupulous bosses" could also face criminal prosecutions or fines where they have deliberately under-funded a defined benefit (DB) scheme or put it at risk, Theresa May announced on 29 April.
Under the prime minister's plans, TPR would be allowed to block M&As valued over a certain amount or involving an as of yet undetermined number of members if it believes there is no credible plan or determination to ensure the scheme's solvency.
In a statement, May said the proposal would provide security for DB members in retirement.
"I am setting out our plans, if elected, to ensure the pensions of ordinary working people are protected against the actions of unscrupulous company bosses," she said. "Safeguarding pensions to ensure dignity in retirement is about security for families, and it's another example of the choice in this election."
The prime minister's proposal would also make it a specific criminal offence for a company board to deliberately or recklessly put a pension scheme at risk.
TPR's chief executive Lesley Titcomb last year called for the watchdog to have the power to veto certain M&A deals, pointing to its inability to block the sale of British Home Stories (BHS).
However, in February its executive director Andrew Warwick-Thompson said during a live Q&A with PP that enforcing mandatory clearance for M&As where a scheme is in danger "would not be possible".
Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith said the prime minister's proposal could result in a higher levy for DB schemes.
"Giving TPR more powers to block takeovers if they put DB schemes at risk could be a double-edged sword," she said. "Realistically, the regulator isn't equipped to review all potential takeovers, many of which may not take place.
"To target takeovers where DB schemes are at most risk means it would have to actively monitor the corporate landscape and identity all possible scenarios. Either way the regulator would need to be ‘resourced-up', paid for by higher scheme levies."
Earlier this month, TPR committed to more "focused, faster and frequent" interventions, and said it was requesting an additional £3.5m for its annual budget from the Department for Work and Pensions. The additional funds would increase its budget to £84m.
May's proposals are an indication of the government's response to its consultation on its DB green paper, which was published in February. The paper had already suggested such a power would need to be narrowly defined.
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