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The Pensions Act 2004 is the most substantial change to pension law and practice since the Pensions Act 1995. The new provisions provide a statutory framework for the government's proposals for pension reform, originally outlined in the government green paper issued in December 2002, and form part of a wider package of measures for restructuring the basis of state and private pension provision. The new Act sweeps away large portions of the existing regulatory regime for pensions.
The Act comes into force in stages from April 2005 and introduces many important changes to pensions regulation, including: new scheme specific funding requirements; a new pensions regulator armed with wide powers to protect members' interests; and the introduction of a pension protection fund to meet certain benefits in the event of scheme failure. Together with the government's tax simplification proposals, contained in the Finance Act 2004, the Act will radically alter the conditions under which UK occupational pension schemes (and defined benefit schemes in particular) operate.