Catching up after annual leave last week. Just read Janice's important letter on pensions published in the Guardian on 25 July.
"Phillip Inman's welcome report on the dire state of private sector pensions (No wonder ministers are panicking over pensions, 23 July) nevertheless omits one major reason for the horrendous deficits of defined benefit (ie final salary and career average) pension schemes: a couple of clauses buried in the 2005 Pension Regulations. The clauses force defined benefit schemes to conduct valuations using methods derived from free market theory: basing scheme projections, decades into the future, on the state of the markets on one day. If the markets are fine, the pension fund is fine. If not, schemes are in trouble. These rules have caused wild volatility: no one has a clue about how big their deficit will become. Last year the Pension Protection Fund reported DB schemes' combined deficits as £8.3bn. A few weeks ago they passed £300bn.
The Association of Member Nominated Trustees, whose members are trustees of pension schemes with collective assets of about £200bn, says DB schemes must be enabled to ride out short-term market volatility by smoothing the valuation – taking an average of asset values and gilt yields over several years. The PPF has adopted this method for itself. What's good enough for the PPF is good enough for the schemes that fund it. The AMNT has submitted rule changes to the Department for Work and Pensions, and our views are shared by organisations such as the CBI and the National Association of Pension Funds.
This may sound like a dusty technical issue. But what's at stake are the pensions of more than 2 million working people, and the chance for the millions coming after them of having a decent pension.