Saga article about victory in Judicial Review Court of Appeal case
by Dr. Ros Altmann
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On 7th February, three Court of Appeal judges delivered another crushing verdict against the Government on behalf of the 125,000 pension wind-up victims. The Secretary of State’s appeal was dismissed and, in fact, this verdict is even stronger than the original High Court ruling. The three judges not only confirmed that the Government’s unprecedented rejection of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s findings was irrational and unlawful, but also ruled he must accept that his Department’s maladministration caused non-financial injustices too, such as distress, anxiety and uncertainty and denied members any chance to take remedial action to protect their pensions.
The Pensions Action Group, on behalf of all the victims of this scandal, warmly welcomes this judgment but is astonished, however, that the Government has refused to accept the verdict and that the Secretary of State, James Purnell, has asked for leave to appeal to the House of Lords. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money and would just further prolong the suffering. It is now 6 – nil against the DWP. How many verdicts will it take to make the Government see sense?
For the past few years, the Government has tried, unsuccessfully, to wear the victims down and even tried to bully them into abandoning their legal action, by threatening to bankrupt them if they lost the case. Saga has magnificently supported this cause for the past few years and we are enormously grateful for that.
After Peter Hain’s welcome pre-Christmas announcement that the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) payments will be increased in line with the Pension Protection Fund level for all victims, the Government has already offered fair treatment to most of the victims. Which makes it even harder to understand the logic for a further Appeal. Surely, the sensible thing now would be to face up to reality and draw a line under this scandal. At the very least it would mean a great deal to many of the victims to receive an apology from the Government for what they have been through.
There is much work to be done in ensuring that the regulations and legislation are put in place to enable the Government to get the improved FAS payments started as quickly as possible. Instead of officials mounting a challenge against these legal verdicts and denying any wrongdoing, they should be working on speeding up the resolution of the problems that they caused!
Let’s hope that the Secretary of State will finally face facts, apologise to all the victims and ensure that the Government does not mislead people like this again in future.