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Government set to defend itself in pensions judicial review appeal

The Government will face the Court of Appeal tomorrow in an attempt to defend its decision to ignore the Parliamentary Ombudsman over the 125,000 who lost out when their occupational schemes collapsed.

Pensions consultant Ros Altmann says the Government will argue that ministers are not accountable to the Parliamentary Ombudsman or the courts and are answerable only to their own MPs.

Victims of the collapses, some of whom have already entered retirement, will demonstrate outside the Court of Appeal before the hearing.

Altmann says the government will stoop to new lows in its attempt to defend the indefensible.

She says: “In a breathtaking display of political arrogance, the Government’s lawyers will spell out their contempt for the Parliamentary Ombudsman and her investigation. The Ombudsman is being forced to defend herself against an unprecedented attack on her position.

“Her lawyers will be asking the Court of Appeal what the point of her office would be if ministers can, without even knowing the facts, simply decide that they are right and she is wrong.”

DWP spokesperson says: “Our reconsideration of the Ombudsman’s recommendation is on the basis that there had been maladministration, as directed by the court.”

He adds: “We have come forward with an £8bn assistance package, with £1.9bn in net present value, so all 125,000 who lost their pension when their employer went bust will get 80 per cent of their expected core pension. This represents a significant increase in funding from the taxpayer.

“Furthermore, we will match additional funds generated by the review of the assets in the collapsed pension schemes with the goal of moving assistance towards 90 per cent of core expected pension.”

Altmann says in reality only 1,300 of the 125,000 victims have received any money at all and the Government is not paying 80 per cent of the pension they would have received from their scheme.

She says: “The Government has used political spin to placate its own backbenchers by inventing a term called ‘core pension’ which is not the members’ expected pension at all and then taken 80 per cent of that.”

Alltmann says the Government’s argument that only the House of Commons can decide whether ministers are right or wrong is a dangerous challenge to democracy.

She says: “Somebody needs to show this Government that it cannot behave as a dictatorship. We have recently heard much about moving away from political spin and listening to Parliament and the people, but when it comes to matters that it finds uncomfortable, the Government seems to want the power to do exactly as it pleases.”

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