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MPs take a hard line on softly softly Opra

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are accusing Opra of dodging its stakeholder responsibilities by failing to prosecute the 14,000 firms which have yet to designate a scheme.

The opposition parties are warning that the Government&#39s endorsement of Opra&#39s softly softly approach to stakeholder could spread employer apathy over the initiative.

The deadline for employers designating stakeholder schemes passed in October 2001 but Opra is yet to exercise its power of fining firms which flout the law by up to £50,000.

LibDem work and pensions spokesman Steve Webb says: “It is time for the Government to get tough on firms avoiding their stakeholder responsibilities. This is not an onerous requirement on employers to set up a scheme – one or two high-profile penalties would shake it up.”

Conservative work and pensions spokesman David Willetts says: “Ministers are waking up to the sad truth that stakeholder has not achieved its objectives.

“It is absurd that for 300,000 of the schemes, not an extra £1 has been saved but whatever we think of stakeholder, the law has to be obeyed.”

Standard Life senior technical manager John Lawson says: “If 90 per cent of all stakeholder designations are empty shells, it is probable that this remaining 14,000 firms&#39 schemes would be 99.9 per cent empty shells so we aren&#39t that bothered about it. But if you put laws in force, you should back them up with the resources to enforce them.”

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman says: “We are aware that a further 14,000 firms are yet to designate. Opra&#39s approach is to persuade and educate rather than to fine and we see this as a good thing. Opra is being proactive in certain areas such as the hotel and restaurant trade.”

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