MP briefing explaining proposed amendments to Pensions Bill

by Dr. Ros Altmann

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This is about fairness and restoring confidence.  These amendments would provide a realistic end to this scandal.  It is in your power to end the misery and achieve a fair solution we can all sign up to as being just.  You could end the spin and shambles of this Financial Assistance Scheme that is not actually providing assistance! The FAS has paid out just £4m since 2004 and has cost over £8m to administer.  It is not working.  That is not fair on those waiting for their money.  What are they supposed to live on?

How would you feel if it was your pension?  Or your dad’s?  Decent hard-working people, who trusted their Government and did what they were told and what we are trying to get others to do in this Pensions Bill have been left languishing without their pensions.  There are 10,000 or more already past pension age.  About 90% of them have not had a penny of assistance.  These reforms would allow trustees to pay them the PPF level of benefit now – no waiting for bureaucrats to sign off.  Members of schemes in the PPF do not even wait one month without their pensions, they are paid on time as normal at PPF levels.  Those in the FAS are waiting years without any money.

This issue is so important that we need to set aside party differences and wipe away this blot on the Parliamentary record.  The Parliamentary Ombudsman, the PASC, the ECJ and the High Court Judicial Review all say this is Government’s responsibility.  Yet still these people are left begging and struggling with vague promises but no money.

I have been working on a genuinely cross party basis to correct this wrong.  I want to stress that this is NOT a piece of political hijacking by the Tories.

I’m asking you just to vote for the decent, honest, principled position.  Your constituents will be watching, the local press and media will be watching.   You have seen the stories, people are suffering every single day and every single night.  There is no end for them.  They have had all the verdicts in their favour but are still being left dangling with piecemeal, bit by bit improvements but no real solution now.

These amendments represent practical, workable proposals that can deliver a fair solution and force the Government to act in the interests of social justice for your constituents and their families.  The Government should have done this itself, but has failed.  The time for reviews and proposals is long past.  Action is required now.

Julie’s amendments do not quite go far enough.  They will still leave out members of solvent employer schemes.  They will not ensure money is paid from scheme pension age – people still have to wait till age 65 (even women whose state pension age is 60!)  They will not ensure money gets through to those who need it straight away.  So they will leave thousands without any help at all and force thousands more to keep waiting for the FAS to speed up. 

Vote for:  Cross-party amendment New Clause 47

JUDICIAL REVIEW RULING

‘No reasonable Secretary of State could rationally disagree’

Para 64 and 65 of the judgment clearly point to Government’s culpability.

The judge says about the May 2002 PM3 Guide to Occupational Pensions:

‘On one page there is a heading “How do I know my money is safe?”  This is answered obliquely with two columns of information about the duties of trustees and the laws about eligibility to be a trustee and like matters but nothing is said to warn members that despite these legal precautions their money may not be safe after all.’

Para 70
If the First Finding – that maladministration caused injustice – had been limited to the causation of injustice to any scheme member who had read the offending leaflets or who relied on advice from colleagues or others who in turn relied on the leaflets it would not be open to challenge.

Para 85
The Secretary of State must first accept that maladministration did occur and then reconsider what to do.  He has not accepted that maladministration occurred.


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