IRELAND- The long-awaited Irish Pension Bill which will lead to the introduction of Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) has been passed by Ireland’s upper chamber, the Seanad. The legislation comprises two additional elements- amendments to occupational schemes and the introduction of a pensions ombudsman scheme. The Bill also introduces, as of June, a number of amendments to the 1990 Pensions Act including improved vesting and benefits for early leavers.

The legislation was passed by the Dail, Ireland’s lower chamber, last night and was sent to the upper chamber this afternoon where it was endorsed after a short hearing.

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.

Says Anne Maher, the Board’s chief executive: “we have worked closely with the Minister and Department in an advisory role and feel that the new Act will provide Ireland with a good structure for private pensions. Now Irish people can plan for their future retirement provision with confidence.

“In terms of our role, the Board looks forward to its regulatory role for PRSAs and is currently preparing its procedures and processes for approval of these products.”

Its passage through parliament will round off the 1998 review of the pensions industry. There were a few small amendments in the Dail last night but according to the Pensions Board, it was never likely to face any major opposition.

The legislation was first announced last July and entered parliament for the first time in October; time enough, says Maher, for relevant parties to go over it and have their say.