Britvic cleared to adopt lower rate for pension indexation
In the Britvic vs. Britvic Pensions and another judgment yesterday (June 10), the master of the rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos, alongside Lord Justice Coulson and Lord Justice Nugee, disagreed with a previous judgment of the High Court which had ruled on an exact interpretation of the rules.
The case concerned the question of whether the words “or any other rate decided by the principal employer” permitted the use of a lower rate than that specified in the rules.
As stated in the trust deed and rules, the rate of increase of pensions above GMP is expected to increase by a maximum of 5% for benefits accrued up to June 30, 2008, and by 2.5% for subsequent benefits – but with the additional condition that “any other rate” could be decided by the employer.
In a judgment delivered last January, however, High Court Judge Hodge ruled that the meaning of the words could only be interpreted to permit the passage of a higher rate, stating that the draftsman had “l ‘intention’ that it be interpreted that way, with a ‘perfectly clear’ legislative and documentary context.
This had the effect of blocking a modification of the indexation of the scheme based on the retail price index.
Yet in the Court of Appeal case, which was heard last month, it was agreed that the rule could not, on its face, be viewed as a drafting error, and that a “corrective interpretation Could not be applied.
While members had already been told that there was a minimum rate of 5% for benefits before June 2008, the rules were carried over to previous plans, where this clause was included.
Thus, according to a judge, it was not possible to determine whether there had been an error on the part of the person who drafted the communication to the members – or whether the drafter of the merged rules was aware of the communication.
In essence, the court concluded that there was no way to identify whether there was in fact an error in the rules and therefore it was not possible to infer the “superior” interpretation. Exact suggested by the High Court.
Ian Gordon, Gowling WLG’s pension partner, who acted on behalf of the plan’s trustees, said the case joins a “long line” of similar judgments that have helped shed light on where potential drafting errors could go. be rectified.
“It emerges from the decision of the Court of Appeal that the corrective interpretation is likely to be limited to cases where there is an obvious error on the face of the document or where the application of the natural reading of the document would lead to an irrational result.
“Other than that, the document will receive its natural meaning and the parts will be left to other remedies such as rectification.”