Selected quotes from Parliamentary Ombudsman report
by Dr. Ros Altmann
(All material on this page is subject to copyright and must not be reproduced without the author’s permission.)
Alistair Darling quotes from 2001:
The public rely on Government information and they are entitled to be reassured that leaflets are accurate and comprehensive.
As a matter of principle, when someone loses out because they were given the wrong information by a Department, they are entitled to expect the Government to put it right.
It is important that Governments should be honest about what they do and, if they make changes to pensions, they should tell the public. Whatever else they do, they should not put people in a position in which they do not have adequate pension cover.
Political responsibility must lie with the Government in office at the time. I accept responsibility for anything that happens during the term of this Labour Government, including the time I have been Secretary of State.
January 2000: DSS officials comment on Actuarial Profession recommendation to strengthen MFR: ‘if we introduce these changes to the MFR we are likely to come under pressure to similarly change the assumptions used in the calculations of (contracting-out) rebates which would make them more expensive to government. We do not have Treasury agreement to this’.
April 2000: Malcolm Wicks said ‘we are aware of the importance of protecting members’ rights. If we cannot do that, they have no-one else to look to’.
May 2000: Officials said to Pensions Minister: telling the public will require careful handling, since disclosure to members would highlight the fact that the objectives of the MFR mean that non-pensioners only have a ‘reasonable expectation’ of receiving their benefits.
March 2002: DWP legal advice confirmed earlier advice which said ‘where we choose to give information, it is incumbent on us to ensure it is accurate, complete and can be relied on’
18 March 2002: Malcolm Wicks to Colin Pickthall MPs question on how Government would stop wind-ups and increase member protection, Wicks said ‘the legislation that is in place is to ensure that the pension rights that individuals have already built up in schemes are protected’.
May 2002: DWP published leaflet ‘occupational pensions: your guide’ said ‘this guide tells you how occupational pensions work. It looks at some of the questions you may need to think about and it tells you where you can find more information…’ contains section ‘how do I know my money is safe?’ which said ‘although your employer pays into the scheme and may be a trustee, the assets of the pension scheme belong to the scheme and not to your employer. As a scheme member, you are protected by a number of laws’
September 2002: DSS Executive Team agreed a departmental objective on accuracy ‘all information provided to customers by any part of the DSS, by any method, should be accurate and up-to-date, with no significant omissions’.
October 2002: DWP evidence to Parliamentary Select committee ‘The Department is actively promoting a pension education publicity campaign that is supported by a range of simple, impartial guides.’