Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 25 June 2007
Mr J Dallat
Mr T Lunn
Mr D McClarty
Mrs M O’Neill
Mr Jim Wells
In the Chair:
Mr D McClarty
Mr G Ballantine (Government Actuary’s Department)
Mr T Evans, Mr E Hobson, Mr J Gibson, Ms A Whitaker, Mrs L Anderson and Mr H Clarke
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Mr Evans welcomed the Trustees and congratulated them on their appointment as Trustees of the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Pensions Scheme (NIAMPS). The Trustees were introduced to the Pensions Administration staff and Mr Grant Ballantine from the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD).
ELECTION OF CHAIRPERSON
Mr Wells nominated Mr McClarty as Chairperson. The nominee was seconded by Mr Lunn.
Mr McClarty elected as Chairperson
INTRODUCTION TO TRUSTEESHIP
Mr McClarty introduced Mr Ballantine and explained he was in attendance to provide an overview of the roles and responsibilities of a Pension Trustee. Mr Ballantine congratulated the Trustees on their recent election success and welcomed them as Trustees of the NIAMPS,
He then provided a background to the role of a Pension Trustee.
Mr Ballantine encouraged the Trustees to consult the Pensions Regulator website http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/ for information on the responsibilities of a Trustee and the guidance on knowledge and understanding required of a Trustee.
It was agreed that a paper outlining various options for the provision of more formal training on their role and responsibilities, be provided to the Trustees at the next meeting.
The Trustees agreed the minutes of the meetings held on 24 January 2007 and 22 March 2007 including Mr Carrick’s proposed amendments .
Optional Changes to the Scheme following 2004 Finance Act and Pensions Act
Mr McClarty confirmed that the compulsory amendments agreed at the previous Trustee meetings had been implemented and that the “Scheme Rules” and “Pension Benefits Explained” booklet had been reprinted and issued to all members after the election on 7 March 2007.
Mr Ballantine briefly explained the legislative background to the scheme changes made in the past and those that were now proposed for consideration. Due to time constraints only sections 3, 4 and 5 were discussed.
Section 3 - Benefit Limits and Retained Benefits – the Trustees considered the recommendations and agreed to make a decision at a later meeting.
Section 4 – Scope for Commutation - The Trustees agreed that the Scheme rules be amended to take advantage of the greater scope for commutation, with an overall limit of 4 times the member’s rate of pension.
Section 5 – Flexible Retirement – It was agreed that allowing members to draw their pension while working part time would not be in the best interests of the Assembly. The Trustees agreed to investigate further the option of voluntary early retirement for Members following Mr Wells’ comment that many MLA’s felt if they not be re-elected in their 50’s they would have no avenue for alternative employment. Mr Dallat agreed and the Trustees agreed to discuss the matter and make a decision at a later meeting.
Mr Wells raised the issue of increasing the flexibility of Members Voluntary Contributions and the Trustees agreed to examine the paper provided by GAD and discuss this and all other remaining optional changes at the next Trustee meeting.
Mr Lunn left the meeting at 10.50am
Early Retirement Options – Removal of the ‘rule of 80’
Mr Ballantine provided a brief explanation of the GAD paper dated 19 February 2007. The Trustees wish to consider this option in conjunction with offering voluntary early retirement on a cost neutral basis, and it was agreed that the Trustees will re-visit this issue at the next meeting. It was also agreed that the Pensions Administration Section will contact other legislatures to establish how they have dealt with this issue, for consideration by the Trustees at the next meeting.
Mr Dallat joined the meeting 11.05am
Tender for Investment Manager
Mr McClarty informed the Trustees that Baillie Gifford’s contract expires on the 31 October 2007 and introduced Mr John Gibson, Head of the Assembly Procurement Office, who then provided a procurement timetable and recommended a course of action to ensure that the tender is conducted within the required time-frame. It was agreed that Mr Gibson’s proposal and timeframe be accepted and that the Trustees agree the procurement specification and Statement of Investment Principles before the end of July 2007.
Mr Gibson left the meeting 11.35am.
The Trustees agreed to revisit and discuss the updated risk register at the next meeting once items pertaining specifically to suspension of the Assembly had been reconsidered and redrafted as required.
Annual Report and Accounts
The content of the combined draft annual report and accounts for 2006/07 was agreed by the Trustees .It was agreed that the annual report and accounts should now be forwarded to the Northern Ireland Audit Office.
Internal Dispute Resolution Procedures
A draft version of an Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure was presented to the Trustees. The Trustees agreed to adopt the proposed procedures.
Opt-in of previously opted-out members
- Mr Gerry Adams;
- Mr Pat Doherty;
- Mr Alex Maskey;
- Mr Fra McCann;
- Mr Martin McGuinness;
- Mr Mitchel McLaughlin; and
- Ms Sue Ramsey
The Trustees agreed to accept an application from the above MLAs to join the Assembly Members Pension Scheme from 13 March 07.
Potential challenge to the Scheme regarding early retirement.
Mr Evans outlined the background to the case including the points raised in the most recent correspondence from the member’s legal representatives and outlined the advice and draft reply provided by the Assembly’s Legal Services. The Trustees cleared the draft and agreed that it should issue under the Chairman’s signature. A meeting will be arranged over recess to allow the Trustees time to further consider the information and make a final decision in line with the new Internal Dispute Resolution procedures
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Death of George Dawson
The Trustees conveyed their sympathy to George Dawson’s family at this sad time, and approved the payment of the death gratuity, spouse’s pension and children’s pension, payable from 8 May 07.
Payment of Pension
The Trustees approved the payment of pensions in respect of the following members:
- Mr Michael Murphy, pension payable from 6 February 2007
- Mr Jim Wilson, pension payable from 14 February 2007
- Dr Sean Farren, pension payable from 14 February 2007
- Mr Robert McCartney, pension payable from 14 February 2007
- Mr Billy Bell, pension payable from 14 February 2007
- Mr Wilson Clyde, pension payable from 14 February 2007
- Mr John Taylor, pension payable from 14 February 2007
- Mrs Pauline Armitage, pension payable from 26 July 2007
Mr Wells proposed that a seminar for new Members should be arranged to explain the benefits of investing in the AVC Scheme as only 3 Members are currently making use of this option. It was agreed that Clerical Medical would be contacted to investigate the possibility of setting up a seminar following any change in the Scheme rules.
DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The Trustees will be notified with the date and venue for the next meeting. It was agreed that the meeting should take place during recess, to be organised around the holiday commitments of the Trustees.