Speaking after the Government defeated a Pension Bill amendment that would have offered immediate help to victims, Altmann says the extra help announced by the Government was simply political spin that will not end the suffering of many.
She says the priority must be helping those pensioners who need the money now but waiting for the results of the Young Review, committing unspecified sums and failing to move Financial Assistance Scheme administration to the Pension Protection Fund mean victims will be “strung along yet again”.
Altmann says the Government knows the money is available, after the Young Review produced its initial findings on Monday, so there is no reason not to authorise an emergency loan or commit taxpayers money upfront in the knowledge that it could be paid back from better use of scheme assets.
She says some victims are terminally ill, and some have already died, and those who need the help cannot wait for the final results of the Young Review, which could take a year, and then wait for payouts from a bureaucratic system that is failing.
The Bill now returns to the Lords and both the Tories and the LibDems have indicated they may again vote for the amendment and potentially inflict another defeat on the Government.
Altmann says: “This is the cruellest possible way of helping people. The whole tone of pension minister Mike O’Brien’s speech is just political spin and will provide no relief to those who desperately need it.
People have suffered for so long yet the Government continues to string them along. This was the chance for Peter Hain and Gordon Brown to stand up and put an immediate end to the way these people have been so dreadfully treated. They could have done the decent thing, they could have ended the spin but they chose not to.”
Tory shadow pensions minister Nigel Waterson said: “He (O’Brien) said that the lifeboat was holed and was sinking. However, it is the pension victims who are already drowning—the Minister should remember that.
“If the era of spin is at an end, why will the Government or the Prime Minister not listen?”
Labour MP and former welfare minister Frank Field said: “Can my hon. Friend imagine what the reaction in the House would be if our pension scheme went belly up and our expectations of a modest retirement were ripped away from us? Would the House be this empty, or would all the Benches be overflowing with anger?”