Nick Herbert intervenes in Commons debate on Equitable Life

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert intervened in a Commons debate this week (19 May) to support local people fighting for compensation after the near collapse of Equitable Life nine years ago.

Mr Herbert has received dozens of letters and e-mails from constituents whose pensions have been decimated as a result of the events.

The debate followed the publication earlier this month (6 May) of a second report by Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham who launched a scathing attack on the Government for their treatment of more than one million policy holders who saw the value of their pensions plummet.

In July last year, Ms Abraham found evidence of "serial regulatory failure" by the Government departments and regulators that should have protected Equitable Life's customers. 

Ms Abraham said the Government should apologise and create a compensation scheme for policy holders, but Ministers have refused to set out a clear timetable for a scheme and indicated that not all policy holders will receive compensation.

Lending his support to Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis, who called the Commons debate, Mr Herbert said: "Does he agree that the Ombudsman's position is at stake?  What is the point of having an independent Ombudsman if the Government can so easily ignore and sweep aside her reports?  

"Is not the Ombudsman's role to protect people, such as my constituent, Mr Peter Ricket [of Henfield], whose two Equitable Life pensions lost more than half and two thirds of their value, and at the age of 78 he still has to work?"

After the debate, Nick Herbert commented: "It's an absolute disgrace that people like Mr Ricket, who worked hard, saved and planned for his family's future, now have to postpone their retirement or sell their home while the Government drags its feet over compensation. 

"People are understandably very upset and angry about the way they have been treated.  While this uncertainty over compensation continues, thousands of policy holders are dying before they have received a penny.  I was pleased to have an opportunity to intervene during the latest Commons debate and I sincerely hope the Government will at long last do the right thing."

Responding to the debate, Shadow Treasury Minister Mark Hoban said that a Conservative government would accept the Ombudsman's recommendations and, whilst recognising the cost to the public purse, provide justice for policy holders.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For a transcript of the Westminster Hall debate, visit http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090519/halltext/90519h0004.htm#09051961000002.

2. For a copy of the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report of 6 May, entitled ‘Injustice Unremedied: the Government's Response on Equitable Life', visit http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/news/hot_topics/equitable_life.html.

3. Earlier this month, Equitable Life Chairman Vanni Treves called for the Parliamentary Ombudsman to resign in protest if the Government continued to reject her findings and said the Government's response to her report was "scandalous".

4. For the website of the Equitable Members Action Group, visit http://www.emag.org.uk/.

Ed Barker