There is a team currently working to resolve the issue of the insolvent BHS pension scheme and deliver a better outcome than the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) can, Sir Philip Green told the business, innovation and skills (BIS) and work and pensions select committees this morning.
Sir Philip Green giving evidence to the select committees
Green told the committees investigating the collapse of BHS that the issue was “resolvable” and that a team comprising Deloitte, the Pensions Regulator and members of the Arcadia board was working on a rescue plan. Green revealed that he had received a call from the regulator in the past week to discuss re-opening negotiations.
He read aloud a letter from Deloitte that appeared to confirm current plans to “restructure the BHS pension scheme” are under way.
“Moving the issue to the PPF doesn’t solve it,” he said.
“We’re talking to the Pensions Regulator, the plan is to get everyone in the room and to work on it,” he added.
The Pensions Regulator blocked “Project Thor” – the initial plan to restructure the insolvent pension defined-benefit pension scheme in March 2015. But Green said the new plan was a “Thor-based solution” that Deloitte, the Pensions Regulator and BHS pension scheme trustee chairman Chris Martin are working on together.
“We are currently working on an updated Project Thor,” he continued. “I called Chris Martin in the past 24 hours and talks are current and ongoing.”
Pensions dominated the first two and a half hours of the session, and Green claimed the issue of the BHS pension deficit, which first emerged in 2005, “wasn’t on my table” until 2012. In a series of sometimes terse exchanges Green repeatedly insisted that no one from the board of pension trustees brought the growing deficit to his attention until seven years later.
“If I wanted to pass the blame I could blame a lot of other people,” he said. “But I am here, I’m happy to be accountable and I’m not a liar … but you’re asking me questions that it’s impossible to answer.”