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Bringing the PIA problem to a wider audience

The arguments raised by Christopher Mellor (Money Marketing, November 1) need to be addressed to a wider stage than ourselves to gain public approval for reforms.

Contrary to the general view, some folk in the media understand the ombudsman problem.

Paul Foot (Private Eye, October 5) comments on the departure of Julian Farrand, QC, the Pensions Ombudsman – applauding his success in returning £300m to the National Bus Company pension trustees misappropriated by the Govern-ment when the company was privatised.

Julian Farrand&#39s successor, David Laverick (appointed by the Government) fulfils a specification under which”an understanding of the law relating to occupational pensions and personal pensions” is merely “desirable” and not essential.

Mr Laverick, a solicitor, previously worked in the office of the North of England local government ombudsman and is not obviously a pension expert.

One might suspect the politics of this is that the Government wants to tip the balance away from Julian Farrand&#39s successes in returning Maxwell-type company misappropriations of pension funds back to pensioners. A tax angle, perhaps?

The Office of the PIA Ombudsman needs similar public exposure and to be subject to appeal in the highest courts – like the pensions ombudsman, who has suffered occasional reverses in the House of Lords.

There is a real danger that centuries of progress towards civil rights can be undermined by regulators substituting the due process of law.

On a more hopeful note, FSA research shows one-third of all clients are confident of making their own decisions and so do not need shadowing by regulators or ombudspeople.

Andrew Nichols, writing in the Financial Times (October 13), commenting on his decision to buy an Equitable Life pension says: “It was not my wisest or most profitable decision but it was my decision. When I look round for someone to blame, I start with myself.”

That is surely the best redundancy notice to the FSA I have ever read.

Roy Bennett

Retired IFA, Hackbridge,Surrey

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