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NAPF critical of White Paper publication alongside IORP review

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  • NAPF critical of White Paper publication alongside IORP review

UK - The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) has raised concerns over the European Commission's approach to pension policy, criticising the planned forthcoming publication of the While Paper on Pensions occurring at the same time as a review of the IORP Directive.

Discussing the leaked draft of the White Paper seen by IPE, the NAPF's head of policy Darren Philp echoed the sentiment expressed by a number of national pension organisations - that the European Union (EU) should focus on the larger issues facing the industry and leave the "specific details" to member states.

Philp praised as "sensible" the holistic approach adopted in both the white and green papers, but warned that this stood at odds with the work of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA).

"One of the things that concerns us about what is happening with pensions in the EU at the moment is that you have the White Paper taking a holistic approach - looking at adequate, safe and sustainable pensions - but where we seem to have the EIOPA work on the review of the IORP Directive on a separate track."

He instead suggested focusing on the reforms proposed in the White Paper, before "jumping off" and examining the IORP Directive.

Philp cited the growing challenge of longevity and encouraging saving as areas the Commission should instead focus on - with the White Paper noting the EU would "closely monitor and encourage pension reforms" to allow for later pension take-up and expressing continued interest in an automatic link between retirement ages and growing longevity.

Philp did not see the phrasing as a threat to national pension oversight. "I think 'monitoring and encouraging pension reform' could mean a lot of things," he said, noting it could simply extend to sharing best practice and experience, as most member states were facing similar challenges. "The EU clearly has a role to play there."

Asked if he anticipated EIOPA assuming some of the responsibilities of member states' individual pension regulators, he stressed that the While Paper was only a draft and that there was nothing conclusive to indicate such proposals would be made.

Philp noted that the UK was already implementing a number of policy suggestions made in the White Paper - including the equalisation of state pension ages, as well as the introduction of auto-enrolment to increase membership of supplementary pension funds.

However, he admitted that work was far from over, pointing to the country's state pension system as "one of the most complicated" in Europe and referenced the organisation's proposals for a foundation pension - similar to those under consideration by the government for a single-tier state pension - as a way forward.

Philp cited the UK's scheme-specific funding regime for defined benefit funds, as well as the Pension Protection Fund as reasons the country's pension regime was "fit for purpose".

"A lot of the issues the Commission say they are worried about - in terms of protecting pensions and sustainability - we already have a framework for dealing with in the UK."

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