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SNP MP contests £1.2m pensions bill for Inverness plumber

By Neil MacPhail

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Murray Menzies has been landed with the shock bill.
Murray Menzies has been landed with the shock bill.

INVERNESS MP Drew Hendry has called for an exemption to part of the pension law which led to a retired city plumber being hit with a shock bill for £1.2 million.

And he urged the UK government to heed his calls for action against a clause that was not intended to hurt the small businessman.

Murray Menzies – who had been a partner with his father in William Menzies and Son, based in Academy Street – and his wife Jennifer have been left in fear of losing everything after being landed with the unaffordable demand from Plumbing Pensions.

Drew Hendry.
Drew Hendry.

Mr Hendry said: “As responsible business owners, Mr and Mrs Menzies paid their pension obligations in good faith, yet now face bankruptcy and losing their home as an unintended consequence of poor legislation.

“It is widely accepted that sole traders and small plumbing businesses were not the target of Section 75 measures, however the UK government have, thus far, not heeded our calls for an exemption to be put in place.

“This leaves small business owners like the Menzies’ footing the pension bill for others and it is deeply unfair.

“I have taken their case to the Pensions Regulator and to the chief executive of the Plumbing and Mechanical Services (UK) Industry Pension Scheme (Plumbing Pensions) and will continue to support the couple in any way I can.”

Back in 1975 the business started paying into the multi-employer Plumbing Pensions scheme to ensure his five or six workers had an income in retirement.

Mr Menzies (71) said: “This situation affects other businesses too, and an action group has been set up. I got a letter saying I’d triggered a Section 75 debt by retiring. Pension law is horribly complex.”

Mr Menzies explained to the Courier last week that pensions law is so complicated that his own solicitor could not help him when the matter first arose.

There are no specialist pension lawyers based in the Highlands.

Section 75 debts are not debts like unpaid bills, but were written into pensions legislation as a means of protecting staff pensions in case an employer went out of business.

Plumbing Pensions boss Kate Yates said it lobbied for an exemption to the procedure, but was unsuccessful.

Related article: Shock over £1.2m Plumbing Pensions bill

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