Thank you for contacting me about Arcadia Group.
The news about Arcadia and Debenhams is deeply worrying, and I am concerned for the Group’s employees and their families.
I understand that the Secretary of State wrote to the Insolvency Service asking them to look at the conduct of the Arcadia directors, and asking that it expedites consideration of the administrators’ report.
The appointed administrators are assessing all options available to the Group, and I understand that orders made over the black Friday weekend will still be honoured, and that existing sales channels will continue to operate while administrators evaluate the options.
Whilst it would not be appropriate for me to comment directly on the group’s pension scheme, I welcome the introduction of new criminal offences to prevent and penalise mismanagement of pension schemes.
These measures are in the Pension Schemes Bill. The Bill focuses on measures dealing with corporate transactions, The Pension Regulator’s (TPR) anti-avoidance powers, and the introduction of new criminal offences and civil penalties.
New measures will target individuals who wilfully or recklessly mishandle pension schemes, endangering workers’ pensions, by such things as chronic mismanagement of a business. There will be a new custodial sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment or a large fine for this offence. This brings the punishment in line with similar offences in financial services.
Further measures will target individuals who fail to comply with a Contribution Notice, which is issued by TPR requiring a specified amount of money to be paid into the pension scheme by that individual. A new civil penalty of up to £1 million will also be introduced for this offence.
These changes will build on the robust system that is already in place to protect Defined Benefit pension schemes, further protecting individuals’ pensions and ensure greater clarity for employers.
Thank you again for writing to me.