Sat, 8 August, 2020

Lobby for Equitable justice

Posted: December 9th, 2014

THE word around Westminster is that MPs don’t have enough to occupy them until the current Parliament ends next May, writes Tom Brown. One MP was even caught playing the Candy Crush computer game during a Commons pensions committee session!

The AMP is giving idle MPs something to think about instead of child’s play: the shabby treatment of pensioners who have lost heavily in the Equitable Life scandal.

We are asking AMP members, especially those directly affected, to ask their constituency MPs to take action in the five months left of the current Parliament. If they are seeking re-election next May, it will be a test of their attitude to pensioner issues.

We have also urged the Commons Committee of Public Accounts to look at what will happen to an unpaid £500 million lying in the so-called Equitable Life Payments Fund. Instead of being returned to the Treasury, it should be used to top up the miserly 22 per cent payments to those who lost cash in the Equitable Life collapse.

A year ago, the Public Accounts Committee investigated our complaint about the treatment being meted out to a number of our pensioners whose AVCs were paid by the company into a “with profits” benefits scheme with Equitable Life, and who made claims for compensation.

Combined with pressure from others, one result was that the deadline for closure of the Scheme was extended to June 30, 2015. A number of our members who had been overlooked have been able to lodge claims with varying success.

We have now told Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee: “With only a few months of the present Parliament remaining, it is time for a review of performance and the necessity to keep the Scheme open after June 2015 until the final disposal of its funds is decided.

“We feel most strongly that the Scheme’s undistributed funds should not be returned to the Treasury but used to top up the derisory payments which have been made to those who lodged claims.”

The £1.5billion Equitable Life Payment Scheme was set up to compensate victims because the Treasury and the Government have a moral duty to recognise their failure properly to oversee Equitable Life during the 1990s.

More than 100,000 people remain untraced, with the result that some £500 million remains in the fund. Sadly, the likelihood is that the majority of these have died and no further claims will be forthcoming.

We have told Parliament: “The case for using that money to top-up the niggardly payments to deserving pensioners is overwhelming. This was hard-earned money meant to make provision for their retirement but the result has been hardship and distress.

“Typical is one lady who wrote to tell us that her husband is now a severe Alzheimer’s case and the money that was ‘robbed’ (her word) is desperately needed to help with his care at home.”

Several members have already questioned their local MPs and one reported: “To be fair, she gave me a good hearing and appeared to be very surprised at the low levels of payments being made from the fund. She has promised to write to the Treasury and will communicate their comments to me in due course.”

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