AN MP who is campaigning to save the pensions of 500 former factory workers is seeking Government assurances that the Pensions Regulator has the resources to protect the public.
Barnsley Central Labour MP Dan Jarvis has raised repeated concerns about the length of time it is taking the Pensions Regulator to complete its investigation into the fate of the pension scheme at Carrington Wire.
Concerns have been raised that former staff at Carrington Wire, based in Elland, West Yorkshire, are facing “serious hardship” because the regulator’s investigation has dragged on for almost four years.
Around 500 members of the Carrington Wire pension scheme want the Pensions Regulator to take action to save their pensions. Carrington Wire closed with the loss of more than 80 jobs in 2010. Russian parent company Severstal said the decision was due to a contraction in the steel wire market.
In 2010, Craig Whittaker, the Conservative MP for Calder Valley, wrote to the Pensions Regulator, calling for an investigation into the position of the company’s pension scheme after Carrington Wire was sold out of the Severstal group.
Last week, Mr Jarvis asked Pensions Minister Steve Webb when he expected the Pensions Regulator would conclude its investigation into Carrington Wire.
Mr Webb replied that it was a matter for the Pensions Regulator, which has operational independence. Mr Webb added: “Inevitably, in complex cases involving foreign companies where it appears that scheme abandonment may have taken place, it can take some time for the regulator to complete the thorough investigations needed to establish whether the legal tests in relation to its ‘anti-avoidance’ powers, including the power to issue contribution notices, are met.”
A spokesman for the Pensions Regulator confirmed that the investigation was still ongoing.
Mr Jarvis said yesterday: “This case is significant because it represents the way in which UK Government protects the interests and rights of UK pension holders in a complex, interdependent, global market.
“I believe it is our responsibility as UK public policy makers in Parliament to ensure that our laws and regulations are fit for purpose and protect the public. The longer this case takes to resolve, the less likely it looks as if this is the case.
“I remain doggedly determined to resolve this case and ensure that the Yorkshire Carrington Wire pension holders are treated in the most fair and reasonable way that is possible. The fight continues to ensure justice for all the people affected by this.
“Despite the personal attention of the Pensions Minister, the chief executive of the Pensions Regulator and myself, I remain concerned at the rate at which this case has progressed.
“We must make sure that justice delayed does not become justice denied. I will again be raising this matter in Parliament at the earliest opportunity, and will be requesting that the Pensions Minister guarantees that the Pensions regulator has the adequate resources to do the job.”
A Severstal spokesman said: “Throughout Severstal’s ownership of Carrington Wire, Severstal complied with all of its funding obligations in respect of the Carrington Wire pension scheme.
“Since Severstal sold the business in 2010 we understand that there have been funding issues which are the subject of an investigation by the Pension Regulators which we cannot comment on.”