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Anger as Govt refuses to pay workers’ legal costs

Altmann says legal precedent has been broken as 75,000 fight for £3bn in compensation

The Government has provoked fresh outrage by refusing to pay the legal costs of 75,000 workers who lost some or all of their final-salary schemes when their employers went bankrupt.

The Pensions Action Group, acting on behalf of the workers, has secured a High Court challenge in February against the Government, which is refusing demands for £3bn compensation.

The PAG says the Government has broken the law by ignoring Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham’s findings. She found the Government guilty of “maladmin- istration” and providing misleading assurances to workers that their pensions were safe.

PAG head Ros Altmann says the Government has also broken from a legal precedent which dictates that it should pay legal costs in public interest cases even if it wins.

The Government believes the precedent does not apply in this case.

PAG lawyers have also failed to secure a commitment from the Government to provide an upper limit on costs for the workers.

Altmann says: “This is virtually an abuse of power – asking people who have lost almost everything to give more just because they have the temerity to challenge it. They have already gone through the Parliamentary process and now have to go to court because of the Government’s unprecedented rejection of its own Ombudsman’s findings.”

Terry Monk, who lost his final-salary pension, says: “The Government is putting up every barrier it can to avoid paying compensation.”

A DWP spokesman says: “The Department was asked to waive the right to seek costs in advance – it is not our long- established practice to do this. We deal with each matter on a case-by-case basis. We do not wish to make an open-ended commitment on taxpayers’ money at this stage. We will, of course, consider our position at the end of proceedings.”

Comment, p45

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