UK - The chairman of the BA pension fund trustees has failed to set a date for the restoration of discretionary pension payments as he faced scheme members' questions over cuts made to earlier increases designed to compensate for the switch to the consumer prices index (CPI).

At two meetings called ostensibly to answer questions over what could amount to a 20% cut in the value of pensions paid, Paul Spencer told members the scheme had little choice but to comply with the government's decision to change the benchmark unless it wanted to attract the attention of regulators.

The scheme had previously exercised a quirk in its rules to introduce a discretionary increase of 1.5% to bring payments closer to those pensioners might have expected under the retail prices index (RPI).

However, Spencer said this week that trustees' duty was to secure benefits they were entitled to - not necessarily those they were expecting.

He said BA was "not the strongest of companies" and suggested the alternative to a cut was greater pension insecurity if the sponsor went bankrupt.

"We are a long way off securing your pensions," he said.

A spokeswoman for the scheme said the meeting had been called to "explain the options" to scheme members.

Pressed, she acknowledged there was only one option - to keep the cuts - but added that it was the intention of the trustees to restore the discretionary increase as soon as possible.

"You have to consider the position of the scheme's sponsor, scheme funding and external factors as well," she said. "The scheme itself has been volatile. Over the past few years, it's been in deficit and in surplus."

Spencer's comments appear to have done little to reassure members of the scheme.

In a blog entry posted ahead of the meeting, Cliff Pocock, one of three trustees who resigned over the switch to CPI, wrote: "CPI may well be an appropriate index for a government that needs to understand how much the change in national economic activity is down to price increases and how much is genuinely change in the volume of activity, but it is clearly an inappropriate index for a pension scheme that purports to maintain the living standards of its pensioners throughout their lifetime."

A straw poll on Pocock's blog found 99% of more than 900 respondents in favour of restoring the RPI pension increases "with immediate effect".