Plea to Gordon Brown to remember social justice

by Dr. Ros Altmann

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At the Labour Party Conference this week, we heard about social justice, moral compasses and encouraging people to save for their pensions.  Listening to Ministers’ speeches, it was hard to believe this is the same Government which has steadfastly refused to compensate tens of thousands of people - mostly Labour supporters – who have been ‘robbed’ of their pensions by Government rules.  How can society trust Government words on pensions, if this huge social injustice is not fully rectified?

These people saved in company pension schemes, often for 40 years, many being compelled to join.  They did what Governments told them to do and, after Maxwell, they were assured new laws protected their pensions properly. 

Yet, despite encouraging them to join their company schemes and forbidding them from having any other pension, Government never warned them that, actually, their pensions were not really safe.  When their pension schemes wound up, the law used these people’s money to pay for other people’s pensions, leaving them with no pension.  This is not just when employers went bust, the law even allowed solvent employers to wind up pension schemes, without paying promised pensions.

This national scandal has destroyed thousands of families’ lives.  In reality, official  funding standards for pensions were totally inadequate and scheme members were denied any chance to protect themselves.  Now, in their 50's and 60's, they can do nothing about it.  In Brighton this week,  for the third year, they took off their clothes to protest about being 'stripped' of their pensions and begged for the pensions Government said were guaranteed.

So far, all Government has offered is a Financial ‘Assistance’ Scheme, which has not paid out a penny and, even when it does, is not designed to help over 80% of those affected.

So I call on Ministers to honour their words from the Party Conference.  If Government truly cares about social justice, it must pay these people their pensions.  Perhaps then we can start restoring trust and confidence in pensions again.


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