Pensioners fight for their savings

PEOPLE left out of pocket after the near collapse of a pension fund have called on their MPs to back their campaign for compensation.

Elliot Furniss

PEOPLE left out of pocket after the near collapse of a pension fund have called on their MPs to back their campaign for compensation.

More than 200 victims of the Equitable Life “scandal” from Suffolk attended a meeting at the Elizabeth Hotel in Copdock yesterday organised by EMAG, the Equitable Members Action Group.

Suffolk MPs Tim Yeo and Sir Michael Lord were urged by a succession of frustrated policy holders to lobby the Government on their behalf.

More than one million people are thought to have been affected by Equitable Life's near collapse in 2000, leaving them about �4billion out of pocket.

The Government was criticised for its response to a report by the Parliamentary Ombudsman that identified “serial regulatory failures” in the way the company had been supervised.

Most Read

It accepted, on a limited basis, four of nine instances of injustice but rejected and qualified many of the Ombudsman's central findings.

The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) said it was “deeply disappointed” with the response.

Barrie Smith, EMAG meeting coordinator, said the group now wanted to send its message “loud and clear”.

He said: “Thousands of people in Suffolk have had their retirement dreams shattered by this scandal and it is time that the Government respected the recommendation of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.”

At the meeting was Barbara Milligan, from Long Melford, who lost �21,000 when she moved her savings from a personal investment plan in fear of the company's collapse.

She said: “I could have lost everything - my pension and my life savings. What I'm receiving now is a fraction of what I started off receiving when I retired nine years ago.”

Having listened to many impassioned pleas for support, Mr Yeo, MP for South Suffolk, said the high turnout was a tribute to the strength of feeling of those affected.

He said: “I have already been inquiring and trying to get the Government to respond more quickly and constructively.”

When the Government responded to the Ombudsman's report in January, chief secretary to the Treasury Yvette Cooper said she was concerned that some policy-holders had been “disproportionately affected” by the events at Equitable.

She said: “It is on that basis that we intend to set up an ex-gratia payment scheme to help. We need to consider the fairest way to respond to policy holders and this is what we have asked Sir John Chadwick to advise us on.”

Last night a Treasury spokesman said Lord Chadwick's first interim report was due back later in the spring.

A spokesman for Equitable Life said: “We regard the Government's response to the Ombudsman as wholly unsatisfactory and we're working with parliamentarians to encourage them to seek to influence the Government's reaction.”