The Tories have accused Chancellor Gordon Brown of hypocrisy over his handling of the occupational pension schemes crisis after it emerged that he previously attacked the Conservative Government for rejecting a similar Parliamentary Ombudsman judgment.
Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham found the Government guilty of maladministration over schemes that went bust affecting 125,000 workers and her findings were backed up by the cross-party public accounts select committee.
The Government has so far refused to accept responsibility for the losses and has only pledged funding to help 40,000 of those affected.
But in a Parliamentary debate in 1989, when the Parliamentary Ombudsman found the DTI guilty of maladministration leading to pension los-ses through the Barlow Clowes affair, Brown attacked the Conservative Government for rejecting the ombudsman’s findings, denying responsibility, not apologising and for delays in offering payments that led to some people dying before receiving anything.
Brown, then shadow Treasury chief secretary, said: “I must ask why we have to rely on the ombudsman to confirm the mismanagement, maladministration and incompetence that was widely known more than a year ago. Does the Secretary of State agree the House will find it strange he is prepared to pay out at least 150m but continues to deny responsibility for mistakes and does not even apologise?”
Brown slammed the “fecklessness, gullibility and incompetence” of the Government over the maladministration.
Following Barlow Clowes, the Tory administration agreed to pay substantial compensation “out of respect for the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner” to all investors.
Pensions minister James Purnell told Parliament last week that although other funding sources will be kept under review the Government could not provide the “significant” money required – “enough to pay 8,000 nurses, 6,000 teachers or 3,000 doctors”.
Tory Shadow pensions minister Nigel Waterston says: “There is a strong element of hypocrisy about all this looking back at what members of the Government have said. The problem is they are in denial about the whole thing. It is tragic this running sore is continuing to undermine long-term savings just as the Government publishes its White Paper on personal accounts.”