Funnily enough though, I don't recall much effort on the part of the self-regulating industry to sort out the problem of what happens to underfunded pension schemes when the employer goes belly up. Unions, and a few other enlightened campaigners, argues for years for the establishment of (if I remember right) what used to be called a central discontinuance fund. Labour did something about it - they set up the Pension Protection Fund, and as the story below from Professional Pensions shows it is starting to play a very effective role in ensuring that people who contributed for years towards their pension get a decent retirement income.
PPF protection extends to 41 schemes
MORE than 12,100 people are now receiving Pension Protection Fund compensation or will receive it in the future, the lifeboat fund says.
The PPF – which has just celebrated its third anniversary – said, as at March 31 this year, 41 pension schemes whose sponsoring employers have gone bust had transferred into the fund after completing the assessment period.
This means that the PPF is paying out £1.4m a month in compensation to those members who have already retired.
PPF chief executive Partha Dasgupta said: "We believe this announcement clearly demonstrates that we are doing what we were set up to do in April 2005.
"As we mark our third year of operations, we are not only providing compensation to an increasing number of people – but we are also sending out a message to the 12 million people still in final salary schemes that they can be confident of our protection now and in the future."
The PPF said that, of the 59 schemes that have completed the PPF assessment period so far, 41 have transferred in, 12 were rescued by a new employer that agreed to support the scheme and six did not enter because they could pay more than PPF levels of compensation and have proceeded to buy out instead.
Of the 12,131 members in the lifeboat fund, 3525 are already receiving compensation, and 8606 will receive payments when they retire.
A further 225 schemes, with a total of 118,000 members, are presently in the assessment process.
It's a shame that the industry collectively forgets that it was doing nothing to address this problem before the Government stepped in. Incredibly, some of those who had done nothing to solve this problem then started making a lot of noise about the - entirely legitimate - campaign to restore the pensions of those whose schemes tanked prior to the PPF. Labour hadn't done enough they argued. But again the Government acted - it introduced the Financial Assistance Scheme.
If I take my red rose-tinted specs off I can see that Labour's record on pensions is not without blemishes. However on the specific issue of protecting pensions where employers have become insolvent it has a very good story to tell.