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Altmann accuses the ABI of misleading MPs

High profile pensions consultant Ros Altmann has attacked the ABI suggesting it is misleading MPs over the unclaimed assets amendments to the Pensions Bill that returns to the Commons this week.

Altmann says the ABI is carrying out a campaign to misrepresent the intentions of the amendments as its members are worried about having to identify how much unclaimed assets they hold.

She says the amendments look to ensure the Government investigates whether unclaimed assets across the industry could be used for this purpose, but do not specify any particular source of unclaimed assets to be used.

She says there is no specific mention of taking money out of pension funds or with-profits funds.

“Perhaps the ABI members have not actually read what the amendments say, but it is vital the media and MPs are not misled into believing that there is any intention to take money away from pensions or life companies,” she says.

She suggests insurance companies “are so frightened of even being asked to identify what unclaimed assets they hold, that they are using false arguments to interfere with the Parliamentary process”.

The explanatory note to the amendment states the Government should: “obtain information about unclaimed assets, to provide this information to the Secretary of State and to administer a scheme to transfer unclaimed assets to the Lifeboat Fund. The specifics about the information to be obtained and provided and the classes of unclaimed assets to which the requirement will apply would be prescribed in regulations.”

The ABI says it is simply making MPs aware of the nature of inherited estates, the fact they are different to general unclaimed assets and that it is not the Government’s money to redistribute.

The Young Review has warned the Government today that unclaimed assets from life assurance and personal pension policies raise a number of complex legal and operational issues and “at present there is little evidence that they might provide much additional funding”.

It also suggests defined benefit occupational pensions and orphan pension assets are not suitable for providing further assistance.

The Assets Review, led by Andrew Young of the Government’s Actuary’s Department, reported that there are £1.7bn of assets in occupational pension schemes that qualify for help from the Financial Assistance Scheme.

ABI director general Stephen Haddrill says: “The ABI has consistently argued that unclaimed pension assets are not an appropriate source of funding for the FAS. Their use would take funds away from one group of pensioners to pay another. We are therefore pleased that the Review rules out the use of orphan insurance assets, that the potential income from ‘unclaimed’ life and pensions policies is uncertain, and that the practical difficulties in obtaining such assets are ‘substantial’.

“The ABI opposed the ‘lifeboat fund’ amendment to the Pensions Bill and continues to do so. The debates around it, and Andrew Young’s report, have now shown a better way forward, and the amendment can be withdrawn.”


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