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MEPs’ fears at delays into Equitable probe

The revelation that the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report into the Equitable Life crisis faces further delays has been branded “disturbing” by the group of MEPs involved in a separate inquiry into the firm.

Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham has written to MPs saying that her report will be delayed until at least May next year, taking the total length of the inquiry to nearly three years.

Abraham says the further delay has been caused by her team uncovering the fact that potentially vital information was missing from the evidence that has been given to it.

She says the evidence was received in July and August and since then, the team has been working to analyse the significant number of files and documents.

The letter states that Abraham has seen nothing to suggest this was “anything other than as a result of a misun- derstanding”.

Chair of the European Parliament committee looking into the firm’s collapse Mairead McGuinness says the delay is unfortunate as the committee was relying on Abraham’s evidence as part of its own inquiry, due in April 2007.

McGuinness says she accepts comments from the Ombudsman that the provision of this missing evidence arose from a misunderstanding but that it does require questions to be answered as to exactly how the misunderstanding arose.

Diana Wallis MEP, who is preparing the committee’s report, says: “I am surprised that such extensive and potentially critical information has until now been withheld by the Government. This so-called ‘misunderstanding’ is unfortunate to say the least.

“The European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry will consider the implications of this delay at its next meeting in November and will con-tinue to carry out its man- date, regardless of this dev-elopment.”

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