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FOI reference - FOI 2016-09-12(a)
Date - 12/09/2016

Request

I am a pensioner in the Halcrow final salary scheme. On 28 May 2016, you issued an Approval Notice for a Regulated Apportionment Arrangement (RAA) in relation to this scheme. I have read your summary report dated July 2016 and it says that not all of the specific circumstances are referred to or set out in the report.

I am obviously worried by the implications of this RAA and under the Freedom of Information Act, I would request that you provide me with the information that is excluded from this summary report and a copy of the RAA itself.

Response

Information we are not able to supply

Section 44(1)(a) – restricted information under section 82 of the Pensions Act 2004

First I think it is important to make you aware that the information you have requested is ‘restricted information’ within the meaning of section 82 of the Pensions Act 2004 (“the Act”). Restricted information is defined at section 82(4) as 'information obtained by the Regulator in the exercise of its functions which relates to the business or other affairs of any person’

As we have been given strong powers to demand documents and other information from trustees, employers and others, those powers are also balanced by restrictions on how we disclose the information provided to us.

Under section 82(5) of the Act it is a criminal offence to disclose such information except as permitted under that Act.

Whilst the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) is based on the presumption of releasing information, section 44(1)(a) of the FoIA provides an absolute exemption to the requirement to disclose any information if its disclosure is prohibited by or under any enactment. In this case, section 82 of the Act prohibits disclosure and we are unable to disclose the requested information. This exemption is absolute and does not require a public interest assessment be undertaken.

In light of the above the information withheld from the section 89 report, which was material and relevant to the case, remains restricted information and is exempt from disclosure. This also applies to the RAA as the document was received in the exercise of our functions.

We firmly believe in the importance of being open about our regulatory role and where possible the use of powers. Under section 89 of the Act we publish reports on our actions, outlining what action we have taken, why we have taken the action and the way in which the legislation has been used. In the case with Halcrow Pension Scheme we have made a concerted effort to explain to the fullest extent why we felt it was necessary to use our powers and the basis that led to the decision. Any relevant and material information withheld from the report was done so on the basis that it remained restricted information, however in terms of completeness the report is not lacking in any respect and we have been able to explain our actions in full.

I appreciate that as a member you have some pressing questions about how the potential changes will affect your benefits. Whilst we are the UK regulator of work-based pension arrangements, as a risk-based regulator we formulate our strategy and allocate our resources based on an assessment of the risks to achieving our statutory objectives. Our role is not to address every issue or to eliminate all risks to workplace pension schemes, but to strategically select cases and mitigate risks where our intervention will be most effective. In light of our approach we are unable assist with every dispute or concern that members raise about their individual pensions.

A scheme’s trustees or, if they are unable to help, The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) may be able to assist with concerns about an individual pension scheme.

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