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Altmann warns outcome is double-edged sword

Pension consultant Ros Altmann warns that the European Court of Justice ruling could make it more difficult to force the Government to compensate fully the thousands of pensioners who lost all or some of their final-salary schemes.

Unions have hailed the ruling as a victory but Altmann says she is unsure whether it bodes well for the Pensions Action Group which is fighting for £3bn compensation.

She says: “In a way, it is good but in another way it makes our lives more difficult. The bottom line is that the Government has broken the 1983 EU insolvency directive and has to improve protection to comply with EU law.

“In another way, it is more confusing. The ruling says clearly that the Government does not have to fully compensate pensioners.” Altmann says it will take years for this to be decided in the UK High Court.

The PAG will go head to head with the Government through a judicial review on on February 7-8.

The Government is accused of wrongly ignoring the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report which found it guilty of maladministration by sending out misleading assurances to pensioners that their final-salary schemes were safe.

Altmann hopes that public and cross-party pressure, including an anticipated rebellion from Labour MPs, will force the Government to reach a “realistic settlement” with the pensioners and increase the level of protection. She says a number of MPs are working on amendments to the Pensions Bill designed to force through reforms.

She says: “The next step is our judicial review which will establish the Government has broken UK law and was unreasonable, unlawful and irrational to ignore the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report.”

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