Press Release about Judicial Review and European Challenges

by Dr. Ros Altmann

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UK GOVERNMENT FACING JUDICIAL REVIEW AND EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT CHALLENGE BY 85,000 ROBBED OF THEIR PENSIONS

Following Ministers’ refusal to accept the unequivocal, independent verdict of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Government will now have to fight major challenges in the UK Courts and in European Parliament.  The Parliamentary Ombudsman concluded that Government maladministration, policy decisions and lax oversight of pension protection caused over 100,000 UK citizens to lose some or all of the pensions they were relying on for their retirement security.  Many of them have lost their entire life savings and even their state pensions too.   They will not simply allow Ministers to flout our Parliamentary democracy in this cavalier fashion and the victims are being forced to fight on for justice.

Ros Altmann, independent pensions expert and advocate for the victims says ‘It is so dreadfully sad that we are now being forced to pursue legal and European remedies.  Many of those affected just do not have much time.  Some are terminally ill and in despair.  The reason we appealed to the Parliamentary Ombudsman in the first place was to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation.  Having waited 16 months and obtained clear, independent evidence of Government’s responsibility for this scandal, having seen many people die before the verdict without getting their pensions back, we are still facing more fighting.  No other European country allows such pension theft to occur.  It contravenes European law!  What do we have to do to make our Government behave properly?’ 

  1. Legal action in the UK -  Judicial Review and other remedies

Leading lawyers, outraged by the Government’s behaviour on this issue, have offered free legal advice to help launch a judicial review of the Government’s wholly unreasonable and inconsistent attempts to pretend that it is not responsible for the injustices of this scandal.  An urgent meeting with counsel has been arranged in the next few days to decide how best to launch a judicial review and also to explore the various other legal options open to the 100,000 or more people who have been so shamefully let down by their Government.

  1. Appeal to European Parliament Petitions Committee – Article 226 of EC Treaty

In addition, on 25th April, Dr. Ros Altmann will be travelling to Brussels with Mr. Maurice Jones to appeal to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions.  Mr. Jones is 66 years old and has lost his entire company pension after saving for 38 years in his company pension scheme.   He should be receiving a £34,000 pension, but his employer failed in 1997 and he has lost his entire occupational pension,  He has also lost some of his state pension rights (his so-called ‘guaranteed minimum pension’ that was supposed to replace his state earnings related national insurance pension.)  These pension losses clearly breach European law – both Article 8 of the EU Insolvency Directive and also Article 1 of the First Protocol of the Human Rights Act, since Government rules have deprived these people of their property in the form of their pensions. 

Mr. Jones has been fighting for 9 years for his pension to be restored and Dr. Altmann will be appealing on his behalf and on behalf of all those who have had their pensions taken away from them – by law – without warning.  They will ask the Petitions committee of the European Parliament to invoke Article 226 of the EC Treaty to ensure that the UK Government complies with the European laws which it has signed up to. 

Since the UK Government is defying its own Ombudsman and is treating its hard-working citizens in such an irresponsible fashion, they are having to appeal to the European Parliament for help.  The appeal is urgent and is supported by Members of the European Parliament who are horrified that such a scandal can be left unremedied in 21st Century Europe.  There are supposed to be laws to prevent such things happening, but our Government seems to think it is above the law.  It has merely paid lip service to its obligations, but has not actually implemented them.  Even when faced with the devastating evidence of the consequences of its own carelessness and maladministration, Ministers area trying to deny responsibility and blame everyone else but themselves. 

It is clear that the Government carelessly misled these people into believing their retirement income was secure, endorsed their employers’ pension promises, allowed their state pension rights to be transferred into these ‘approved’ employer schemes, did not allow them to have any other pension and yet deliberately decided not to warn them that these pensions were not properly protected.   Any private company which carelessly misled people in this way – promoting the benefits of an investment without mentioning the risks – would be forced by Government rules to compensate in full.  The same rules must apply to the Government itself.

Ros Altmann added: ‘This scandal is far worse than Maxwell.  Maxwells 32,000 pensioners were rescued, but here over 100,000 people are being denied their pensions because Government won’t admit its mistakes.  It would cost about £100-£150million a year to remedy the biggest social injustice of our time and even unclaimed life and pension fund assets could be used, not just taxpayers’ money.  To put this figure in context, the official mistakes on pension credit payments cost the taxpayer £130million last year and the recent ‘A-Day’ pension tax simplification reforms, giving top earners higher tax free cash and larger annual pension contributions, will cost all taxpayers at least £250million a year.  Since 1997, the Chancellor has taken billions of pounds out of these pension schemes every year, yet for some reason, this Labour Government refuses to accept the need to restore these people’s pensions and is trying to pretend it has no responsibility.  It is a desperately sad time for our democracy to see this Government treating hard-working citizens and the Parliamentary process in this cavalier fashion.’  

ENDS


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