EUROPE - European pension reform is meant to ensure occupational pension schemes thrive and is not intended to damage the industry, a senior official at the European Commission told UK members of parliament.

Karel van Hulle, head of the European Commission's insurance and pensions unit, said: "The objective of the reform is not to damage the pensions industry. On the contrary, it is there to make sure occupational pension schemes can thrive, because the Commission believes occupational pension schemes are an essential feature of pension provision."

He was responding to a request from one MP to confirm the Commission would ensure it did not put forward a scheme that would damage the UK pensions industry.

Van Hulle was answering questions from MPs on the House of Commons work and pensions select committee related to the White Paper on pensions reform published by the Commission earlier this year.

"It can never be the objective to have a system that is to the detriment of the pension funds in an individual member state," Van Hulle said.

He also said suggestions that the proposed European pensions reform would cost UK pension funds as much as £600bn (€733bn) were wide of the mark.

"I would be surprised if the statements that I read about this £600bn in extra capital would materialise," he said.

He refused to be drawn on a timescale for setting the technical specifications, which are to be given to the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) to allow it to move on with more detailed requirements for pension funds.

"The Commission is very conscious that this is a topic that is both technically difficult, but also politically very sensitive," he said.

"That's why the Commission wants to do a very careful preparation. We haven't yet made our minds up for the technical specifications we will give to EIOPA to do the first tests."