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Pension lifeboat is sunk

The Government has come under fire for using the Parliament Act to quell opposition to its treatment of victims of collapsed occupational pension schemes.

The House of Lords looked set to renew support for an amendment calling on the Government to start a lifeboat scheme using an emergency loan to help victims who have still not received support from the Financial Assistance Scheme.

The Government defeated the Pensions Bill amendment in the Commons last week.

It has now ruled that as the issue is a financial matter, the Commons has primacy on the matter under the Parliament Act 1911 and the Lords cannot reintroduce it.

Conservative Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Chris Grayling says: “This is a blatant attempt to gerrymander the Parliamentary process. The issue was becoming too politically embarrassing and it wanted to close it down.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman says: “It is the prerogative of the democratically elected house to control charges on public funds.”

Pension reform minister Mike O’Brien has promised extra support for people in the FAS to bring their payments in line with the Pension Protection Fund. This is to be done by “working the assets of collapsed pension schemes harder”.

But pension campaigner Ros Altmann says this is “the cruellest possible way” to help pension scheme victims.

She says the assets review, led by Andrew Young of the Government Actuary’s Department, found that collapsed schemes have £1.7bn in assets – £700m more than estimated – and the Treasury should issue an emergency loan against this to help those most in need.

Altmann says: “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.”

Tory Shadow pensions minister Nigel Waterson said: “O’Brien said the lifeboat was holed and was sinking but it is the pension victims who are already drowning. The minister should remember that.”

For more pension news, see www.moneymarketing.


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