Business

MPs demand information on BHS pensions

BHS shop front by people walking past Image copyright Getty Images

MPs investigating the collapse of BHS have written to the Pensions Regulator, demanding more information about plans to restructure the pension scheme - first revealed on the BBC's Newsnight.

The plans, "Project Thor" were put forward by the company two years ago in an attempt to build up the scheme.

At the time, BHS was owned by Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group.

The plans were not implemented and BHS went into administration last month, with a £571m pension scheme hole.

BHS at that time was owned by the little-known consortium Retail Acquisitions which bought it from Sir Philip for £1.

Injection

Project Thor was a complicated set of plans, revealed for the first time on Newsnight but planned in 2014.

Among its proposals was giving holders of smaller pensions the chance to have them paid off, as well as changes to contracts with suppliers and an £80m injection from Sir Philip Green, comprised of cash and cancelled loans. Its ambition was to push the BHS scheme nearer to being 100% funded.

Newsnight understands the plans were put forward to the Pensions Regulator for approval, but this was never granted. The plans were eventually withdrawn some months before the sale to Retail Acquisitions.

The project was not mentioned when the Regulator's chief executive, Lesley Titcomb, gave evidence to a joint meeting of the Works and Pensions and Business, Innovation and Skills committees.

The chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, Frank Field, has now written to Ms Titcomb, asking for her analysis of what Project Thor was, how it was structure and why approval was not granted.

Image copyright PA

She has also been asked to provide more details of meetings between the regulator and Arcadia during the run-up to the sale of BHS.

During her evidence, Ms Titcomb said that she had first read of the company's sale "in the newspaper", leading to an angry response from Sir Philip Green and a clarification from herself.

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