Vince: Equitable Life defeat a blow to policyholders who lost half their pensions

by Stephen Tall on October 21, 2009

A few months ago, Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable tabled an Early Day Motion in the Commons to attempt to pressure the Government to treat fairly the Equitable Life policyholders who lost their pensions due to “serial maladministration” by the, erm, Government. Rather remarkably, the EDM attracted 331 signatures, a recent record, and over half the MPs in the Commons.

With such support, the Lib Dems decided to put the issue to the vote (the first time it’s been voted on by the Commons), giving over one of their oppositon debates to the subject. Surely Labour would either give in, and at last accept the independent Parliamentary ombudsman’s judgement that the Government was liable for compensation; or, if they didn’t, enough MPs would ensure they backed up their EDM signature with their Parliamentary vote?

Neither event happened. Labour squeaked through with a majority of 25, the whips’ job done. Equitable Life policyholders remain uncompensated for the incompetence of their Goverment. As Vince commented after the vote:

This was a disappointing result and a further blow to the millions of policyholders who have lost up to half their pensions. It is especially disappointing given that more than 300 MPs from all sides of the House, including 113 Labour MPs, have backed an Early Day Motion that is virtually identical to the motion defeated today.

“The failure to organise a system of compensation nine years after the event and two-and-a-half years after the Ombudsman completed her report identifying maladministration is a cynical victory for Treasury foot-dragging at the expense of large numbers of pensioners.”

Here’s the EDM the 331 MPs signed:

That this House notes the Parliamentary Ombudsman has taken the unusual step of using powers under the 1967 Act to present Parliament with a further and final report on Equitable Life; also notes that the Public Administration Select Committee’s second report on Equitable Life, Justice denied? concluded that the Government response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report was inadequate as a remedy for injustice; recognises the vital role the Ombudsman plays in public life; reaffirms the duty of Parliament to support the office of the Ombudsman; believes the Government should accept the recommendations of the Ombudsman on compensating policyholders who have suffered loss; welcomes the formation of the All-Party Group on Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders; and notes with regret its necessary formation and the fact that over 30,000 people have already died waiting for a just resolution to this saga.

And here’s the motion the Government defeated today:

That this House notes the Parliamentary Ombudsman has taken the unusual step of using powers under the 1967 Act to present Parliament with a further and final report on Equitable Life; also notes that the Public Administration Select Committee’s Sixth Report, Justice denied? The Government’s response to the Ombudsman’s report on Equitable Life, concluded that the Government response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report was inadequate as a remedy for injustice; recognises the vital role the Ombudsman plays in public life; reaffirms the duty of Parliament to support the office of the Ombudsman; believes the Government should accept the recommendations of the Ombudsman on compensating policyholders who have suffered loss; notes the outcome of the Judicial Review announced on 15th October extending the period for compensation claims back to 1991; welcomes the formation of the All-Party Group on Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders; and notes with regret its necessary formation and the fact that over 30,000 people have already died waiting for a just resolution to this saga.

See if you can spot the difference.

You cna read Lib Dem Voice’s previous coverage of the Equitable Life issue here.