Equitable Life

Over the last few weeks I have received a large number of e-mails and letters from my constituents about the insurance firm Equitable Life.

It's now nearly eight years since the company was forced to close its doors to new customers, and the value of many people's pensions has plummeted.

Many of the stories of personal loss are upsetting.  One constituent told me how his anticipated income had almost halved.  Others have had to work on far beyond their planned retirement or even sell their homes.

This is a bitter blow for people who believed that they had followed a prudent course by trusting an insurance firm that was founded in the 1760s.

In July, Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, published a devastating report on the sorry affair.  She found evidence of "serial regulatory failure" by the government departments and regulators that should have protected Equitable Life's customers.

She also recommended that the Government should apologise for the debacle, as well as creating a compensation scheme for those who had lost out.

The cost of this scheme has been estimated at a hefty £4.5 billion.  While this reveals the scale of the losses suffered by individuals, I think most policy holders would accept that when the Government has left the cupboard bare, and there are pressing claims on all fronts, for instance to help people with rising fuel bills, it won't be possible for them to receive 100 per cent compensation.

But they are absolutely right to expect reasonable compensation for maladministration and the failure of proper regulation which was a public responsibility.

The Government have said that they will respond in full to the report when Parliament returns in the autumn.  In their response, they must do three things: admit their responsibility, issue an apology and create the compensation scheme.

And as the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne has said: if this Government doesn't act, the next Conservative Government will.