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MPs back watchdog verdict on pensions

Select committee chairman says Government is being ‘at best naive and at worst misleading’

A cross-party group of MPs say the Government’s response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report on pension maladministration is “at best naive and at worst misleading”.

The public administration select committee report backs Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham’s verdict of maladministration and calls on the Government to do more to compensate victims.

The report says the Government’s defence – that the pension leaflets came with caveats pointing out the information was not exhaustive and advice may be required – is not valid.

It says by not mentioning the limitations of the minimum funding requirement, which “goes to the heart” of legal pension protection at the time, it failed to highlight major risks and can be clearly viewed as maladministration.

Committee chairman Dr Tony Wright says the Government has been too ready to question the ombudsman’s findings and its behaviour is a threat to the constitution.

He says: ‘This was clearly maladministration and the ombudsman was right to say so. We believe the Government is being at best naive and at worst misleading.”

He says the committee will continue to monitor the Government’s responses to Parliamentary Commissioner reports and may seek a Parliamentary debate to re-establish the commissioner’s role.

Independent consultant Dr Ros Altmann says her Pensions Action Group will proceed with its judicial review and hopes the report will strengthen its case against the Department for Work and Pensions.

She says: “This is another unequivocal indictment of the Government’s handling of the occupational pension scandal. The committee is clearly outraged by what has happened.”

Conservative Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Philip Hammond says: “This report is further embarrassment for the Government in its shameful attempt to avoid the responsibility that the ombudsman has laid firmly at its door.”

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