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Tories’ fury as Purnell refuses to help victims

Minister attacked over letter to absent committee members

The Tories have made a fierce attack on the Government after pensions minister James Purnell ruled out any more help for 125,000 pension victims.

The Conservatives slammed the response to the public administration select committee’s damning assessment of the treatment of victims of occupational pension collapses.

Last week, Purnell sparked anger by writing to the comm- ittee when all its members were overseas. He said the Government had committed over £2bn to the Financial Assistance Scheme which he estimates will help 40,000 people.

Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Philip Hammond has criticised the Government for continuing to reject the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s finding of maladministration and recommendation that it should compensate the victims.

Hammond says: “It is a disgrace that the Government continues to defy the ombudsman and deny all responsibility for pensions that have been lost under its watch. We accept the ombudsman’s finding of maladministration and accept that mistakes were made. The Government should do the same.”

Pension expert Ros Altmann says the latest announcement is outrageous and compares it with the pensioners who received Government aid after the Robert Maxwell’ scandal.

Purnell gave details of a “buyback” scheme which will allow 10,000 people to be fully or partially reinstated into S2P.

He said the Government will work with The Pensions Regulator to ensure schemes should be wound up within two years to speed up the process of getting money to the victims.

Purnell said: “We have sympathy for those who have lost their occupational pensions and this is why we have put the FAS in place. However, we do not believe that the taxpayer should be expected to underwrite what were private company pension schemes.”

Comment, p39

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