Sajid Javid says Tata pension chiefs asked for controversial changes

 
Jessica Morris
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The reforms would reduce pension benefits (Source: Getty)

The government was asked to consider controversial changes to Tata's pensions by the scheme's own trustees, the business secretary has said.

Sajid Javid said that the British Steel Pension Scheme has asked for changes that "[they"] believe ... will move the scheme into surplus and make it stable."

"This is very much about this scheme, and this scheme only, in this very unique set of circumstances," he said when asked whether the move could set a dangerous precedent by which firms could abdicate on their responsibilities.

Read more: Tata Steel still considering bids for its UK assets

It comes after the government launched a four-week consultation on the pension scheme's future today. Tata's pension liabilities of almost £15bn, as well as a deficit of £700m, are regarded as a major impediment to the sale of its UK business.

The consultation includes proposed changes to the 1995 Pension Act which prevents it from benchmarking pensions against the consumer price index (CPI) rather than the retail price index (RPI).

Javid dodged a question from Labour MP Stephen Kinnock about what will happen if Tata keeps its UK business with help from the UK government, as a number of reports have suggested.

Commentators have warned the changes could create a dangerous precedent which would allow firms to reduce their pension payouts.

Read more: Pensions lifeboat must not be abused

The steel trade unions Community, Unite and GMB welcomed the consultation which could stop the scheme falling into the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). They believe that such a move would be an "unmitigated disaster".

The trustees of the pension scheme behind Tata Steel also endorsed the plans earlier today.

"The Trustee of the British Steel Pension Scheme ('the Scheme') welcomes the Government’s decision to consult on changes to the law applying to the Scheme," Allan Johnston, chairman of the board of Trustees of the British Steel Pension Scheme, said.‚Äč

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