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Harman says Government was wrong to reject pension verdict

Potential future deputy prime minister Harriet Harman has distanced herself from the Government’s handling of the occupational pension crisis and admitted it was wrong to reject the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report.

Harman, who is minister for constitutional affairs, is the first member of the Government to question the Department for Work and Pensions’ handling of the debacle.

Harman was questioned at a North-west Norfolk constituency Labour party meeting recently by 11 members of the Pensions Action Group who lost their pensions when the Albert Fisher Group went into liquidation. Victim Alan Gosling asked Harman why the Government had rejected the Parliamentary Ombudsman and public administration committee’s reports and whether she agreed with the rejection.

Harman initially said she would take up the matter with the minister but, when pressed, said it was wrong to reject the ombudsman’s report.

Harman is a front-runner to replace John Prescott as deputy prime minister after announcing her intention in the autumn to run for the job. She was briefly Social Security Secretary between 1997 and 1998.

Gosling says: “This is the first time that a member of the Government has admitted it is in the wrong over this. More of her colleagues should follow her lead and stand up for those who have lost so much.”

Pension campaigner Ros Altmann says: “All deputy leadership contenders should state where they stand on Parliamentary democracy. Gordon Brown said he will stand up for Parliamentary democracy as leader but how can he when the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s findings have been so firmly rejected?”

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