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British PM Pledges to Protect Workers in ‘Irresponsible’ Practices over Pensions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at an election campaign rally near Aberdeen in Scotland, Britain April 29, 2017. (Reuters)

British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed on Sunday to introduce new regulations on how schemes are handled during corporate takeovers. She made her pledge as part of an effort to protect workers against irresponsible practices over pensions.

May’s Conservative party will give regulators power to examine takeover proposals that threaten the solvency of a company pension scheme, and the regulator could be empowered to block takeovers if it is not satisfied with the arrangements.

May set out the policy ahead of an election June 8. So far her pitch to voters has been based around trusting her to deliver Brexit, with parties yet to publish detailed policy plans.

“Today I am setting out our plans, if elected, to ensure the pensions of ordinary working people are protected against the actions of unscrupulous company bosses,” May said in a statement. “Safeguarding pensions to ensure dignity in retirement is about security for families.”

The pledge comes after high profile cases such as that of BHS, a retailer which was sold by billionaire Philip Green for one pound to a man who had been bankrupt before with no retail experience.

Green plugged a pension hole in the now-collapsed group with $451 million earlier this year, following severe criticism over his conduct and calls for his knighthood to be removed.

The Conservative’s plans could also see regulators block unsustainable dividend payments that threaten a pension scheme’s solvency, and directors who are found to have willfully left a scheme under-funded could be fined or even suspended for a period of time.

Three polls on Saturday showed a rise in support for the opposition Labor party, although the governing Conservative party maintained a commanding lead.

The polls showed May’s party remained between 11 and 17 points ahead of Labor, still enough to deliver a clear victory as she seeks a mandate ahead of negotiations over Brexit, due to begin in the summer.

However, the polls showed the gap had closed from leads of up to 25 points reported last weekend.
One poll by YouGov showed the Conservative lead over the Labor had fallen to 13 points, compared to the 23 points that the same polling firm found last week.

The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found that 44 percent were set to back the Conservatives, down from 48 percent last weekend. Support for Labor climbed to 31 percent from 25 percent.

Her secure lead in the polls meant sterling rose on the prospect of an election. She has sought to portray her Conservative party as the stable option as Britain prepares to start negotiations with the EU over the terms of its departure.

A further tightening in poll ratings might generate more uncertainty over what Britain’s position will be when it sits down in June to begin negotiations in earnest.

However, despite the narrowing gap, pollsters were divided over whether support for the Conservatives was actually falling.

An earlier poll by Opinium showed support for the Conservatives had actually risen two points, but the gap between the biggest parties narrowed nevertheless as Labor boosted their support by four points. Smaller parties saw their share of the vote drop.

The smallest gap between the parties was 11 points in a poll by ORB for the Sunday Telegraph. It showed support for the Conservatives at 42 percent, while support for Labor was 31 percent.