IRELAND- The long-awaited Irish Pension Bill which will lead to the introduction of Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) is entering its last stage and should be completed before Easter. The legislation comprises two additional elements- amendments to occupational schemes and the introduction of a pensions ombudsman scheme.

The PRSAs, similar to the UK stakeholder system, will replace some existing pensions vehicles and target those not covered by occupational schemes. They will also open the market to providers other than life insurance companies. Introducing a pensions ombudsman with the power to investigate any complaints against occupational plans and the new PRSAs has been welcomed by the industry.

“It’s a pretty substantial piece of legislation and it will be a major milestone for the market once it is passed” says Anne Maher, chief executive of the Irish Pensions Board. Its passage through parliament will round off the 1998 review of the pensions industry.

Next Thursday the bill heads for the Dail, Ireland’s lower chamber, at the committee stage. After a report stage, the legislation heads for a final passing at the upper chamber, the Seanad, and should be completed before Easter.

The legislation has had numerous amendments, mostly technical, but Maher is confident it will pass as there has been no substantial opposition to it. The legislation was first announced last July and entered parliament for the first time in October; time enough, says Maher, for relevant parties to scrutinise it and have their say.