Minutes of proceedings - 30 November 1999

Present:
Mr D Watson 
Mr D McClarty
Mr G Campbell
Mr J Dallat (replacement for Mr E McGrady)

In the Chair:Mr D Watson

In Attendance:Mr T Evans, Mr J Hamilton, Mr D Millar & Mr E Hobson

Apologies:Mr C Murphy

1. MINUTES OF THE THIRD MEETING

1.1 The Trustees agreed the minutes of the third meeting.

2. PRESENTATION OF REPORT

2.1 Mr Hamilton outlined the contents of a draft report to be presented by the Shadow Trustees to the Shadow Assembly Commission at their next meeting, on the proposals for a Pensions Bill to make provision for the payment of pensions and gratuities to, or in respect of, persons who have been members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The draft report outlined some of the initial work carried out by the Trustees in preparation for the administration of the Scheme once it comes into operation.

2.2 The draft report also outlined a number of recommendations for changes to the previous draft (October) and these were discussed in detail by the Trustees. The recommendations put forward in the report were generally accepted by the Trustees, although there were a number of exceptions. These are detailed as follows:

2.3 Option to cover service back to July 1998:-

A question arose about whether a refund of NI Contributions to Members would be appropriate, with effect from July 1998, following Assembly Members becoming contracted-out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS).

Action: Mr Hamilton to investigate with the Inland Revenue.

2.4 Pensions For Children

The question of whether it would be appropriate to include in the proposed Pensions Bill a paragraph relating to the placing of a limit of one year between the death of a Member and the birth of his/her child, for that child to be considered eligible in respect of a pension. It was pointed out that such a provision was not in any of the other Assembly/Parliamentary schemes. Following lengthy debate the Trustees decided that such a provision should not be included in the Pensions Bill.

2.5 Vesting period

It was recommended in the report that should a Member leave the pension scheme without having had 2 years reckonable service, he/she should have the option of either taking a refund of their contributions or to transfer their service to another pension scheme within a year of leaving. If the Member does not make the transfer within this deadline, their contributions would be automatically refunded. Having discussed this recommendation at length the Trustees decided not to accept the 2-year time limit.

2.6 Amendments to the Scheme

Provision is made for the Trustees to be consulted before any amendment to the Scheme is made.

2.7 Part A of the Scheme

The existing part A of the Scheme is replaced by this revised version:

  • to provide pension cover automatically for members from the date they took their seats (unless they inform the Trustees to the contrary) and to pay minimum additional retrospective contributions of 9% unless some other arrangement is made with the Trustees;
  • to clarify the definition of salaries to tie in with the proposed salaries determination.

2.8 Members who leave the Scheme with less than two years' service should have the option to take a refund of their contributions, to transfer their service to another scheme or to leave their service in the Scheme with a view to taking a pension (albeit a small one) when they reach age 65.

2.9 The Trustees are removed from any involvement in setting the Assembly's contribution rate to the fund.'

3. RELATED MATTERS

Mr Campbell proposed that Assembly Members be circulated regarding the options put forward for the method by which they would be asked to pay back contributions with effect from 1 July 1998. It was also suggested that reference to the benefits of the Pension Scheme would be included in this circulation.

3.1 Mr Evans referred to a booklet issued to Members of the Scottish Parliament regarding their Pension Scheme and suggested that sight of this might be useful.

Action: Mr Evans to contact Scottish Parliament to enquire whether Members found the booklet helpful and if so to see if he could acquire a copy.

3.2 Mr McClarty proposed that a reminder to Members, regarding the need for them to make provision for the deduction from salary of the 6% pension contribution, be included with December salaries.

Action: Mr Hobson to arrange for insert in December salaries.

3.3 Mr Watson suggested that consideration be given to the presentation of a lunchtime seminar to Members outlining the benefits etc of the proposed Pension Scheme.

Mr Campbell proposed the acceptance of this suggestion. Mr Dallat seconded the suggestion.

Action: Mr Evans to consider content and practicalities of running lunchtime seminars for Members.

4. DATES FOR FUTURE MEETINGS

4.1 No arrangements were made at this stage for a future meeting of the Pension Trustees. To be arranged following the Christmas recess.

EVAN HOBSON

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