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Pensions Action Group continued fight for justice
11 April 2016

The Pensions Action Group (PAG) is today launching a comprehensive but revealing document entitled ‘Nutshell’ (copy available here).

This document explains why the Group is still maintaining its fight for full recompense of the lost pensions of thousands of workers who found that their pensions and retirement plans were devastated when their schemes closed between 1997 and 2004, mostly due to company insolvencies. These losses were incurred despite these workers being told by Government that their pensions were safe and guaranteed ‘no matter what happened to their employer’.

The document explains the shortcomings of the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) which took over the assets of the failed schemes and promised to pay 90% of the lost pensions. The document explains at least four of the reasons why this is never achieved.

We have acted as a responsible group and have worked alongside previous Pensions Ministers, FAS and the Pensions Protection Fund (PPF) who now administer FAS, to ensure that fairness and equality are the top priorities in the treatment of these workers, to improve communications and service and to share ideas about saving costs. Unfortunately the current Minister’s Communications Team seem intent on blocking our recent letters to the Minister and deem our request for a meeting with her to be unnecessary.

We are simply asking for what we paid for. We were told by the previous Minister in 2014 that there would be a full review of FAS, but nothing has happened.

Our members are likely to receive nearer 50% of their expected pension, rather than the 90% claimed by Government. We would ask you to read the document closely, to publicise it and the reasons why pensioners and workers have been failed, and endeavour to bring it to the attention of the Pensions Minister and David Cameron, asking him to honour his words in the last election campaign and to stop ignoring the plight of these pensioners who feel totally ignored. This is vital to help restore confidence in pensions savings.

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Fresh Welsh Assembly push for ASW pensions campaign
12 August 2014

Former steel workers meet with successful Visteon campaigners
A fresh push to have the case of former Allied Steel & Wire workers who lost their pensions over a decade ago resolved has begun in the Welsh National Assembly. AMs from all sides of the Chamber have come together to begin a cross-party group that will look to raise the campaign’s profile and get it back onto the UK Government’s agenda.   It follows on from a meeting between former ASW steel workers from Cardiff and Visteon pensioners from Swansea, who recently won their five-year-long battle to have their pensions restored after their company went bust.   AMs are hoping that a similar all-party group will be established by MPs, and that the two can campaign together to have the 12-year-long fight brought to an end.   Bethan Jenkins AM, will chair the group when it first meets in September, supported by Byron Davies AM, Mike Hedges AM and Peter Black AM.  In a joint statement they said:   “It is nothing but a complete scandal that the ASW workers have been battling so long for what is theirs, because a pension is just wages deferred. These men have already earned this money, and while they have managed to claw back some of what is owed, it isn’t 100% and it isn’t linked to inflation, which means it is worth less and less each year. We were delighted when the Visteon case was recently and successfully concluded, so it made sense to get them together with ASW campaigners and see if the two could pool their experiences. The first outcome from this is this cross-party group, the initial step on the road to a full-blown political campaign to see this matter settled."   John Benson, one of the ASW campaigners and a member of the new cross-party group, added:   “It has been 12 long hard and stressful years, fighting for a pension you have already paid for, yet ministers are still reneging on promises they made to us when in opposition to right the terrible wrongs of the past, and pay us these pensions in full. Is it any wonder there is a crisis of trust in Westminster when it comes to pensions?"

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PAG takes DWP complaint to ASA
5 October 2012

In the absence of a substantive response to PAG's complaint about the misleading advertisements in its current campaign promoting automatic enrolment in workplace pensions (see below), we have now submitted a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, in which we ask for the campaign to be suspended until the adverts are changed to make it clear that the celebrities leading the campaign do not have an AE pension and, in some cases, are not paying in to a pension at all. We have also asked that a statement should be included indicating that a workplace pension might not be the best financial option for all workers (for instance those nearing retirement with means-tested benefits and significant credit card debt). The full text of the complaint is available here.

* * * Update * * *

The DWP have now responded to our letter of complaint, but not addressed the central concern - that the celebrity endorsements are misleading. A copy of their response can be found here and our reply here. More details are available in the press release here.

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PAG says DWP adverts are misleading
28 September 2012

The Pensions Action Group (PAG) has today sent a letter to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) asking it to amend or cancel its current advertising campaign (in which it is encouraging workers not to opt out of the forthcoming auto-enrolment (AE) workplace pension schemes) on the basis that the adverts are misleading. The DWP is spending £3.5 million on the campaign, in which a series of celebrities and business leaders appear, together with the catch phrases "I'm in" and "we're all in".

The Pensions Action Group consider this to be misleading, for the following reasons:

  • The most reasonable interpretation of the ads is that "I'm in" means that the individual concerned personally has an auto-enrolled pension. This is not however possible, as auto-enrolment doesn't start until 1 October 2012, and then only for the largest companies.
  • Furthermore many, if not all, of these people are experienced and well-paid business people. It seems most unlikely that they would take out a pension which has been specifically designed for the low-paid.
  • In particular, Nick Hewer, who is the central figure in many of the advertisements is 68 and not even eligible to join an AE pension scheme.
  • The phrase "We're all in" is also misleading. This is a DWP advertisement. Employees at the DWP are members of the civil service and have their own pension scheme which is substantially better than the schemes on offer under AE, in that they are defined-benefit and index-linked. AE pensions on the other hand are investment vehicles, with no guarantees and no protection against inflation other than the performance of the underlying funds.

It is possible that "I'm in" is meant to mean that the speaker already has a pension. But this too would be misleading, as the personal circumstances of these famous people are very different from those in the average workplace - what may be a sensible investment choice for a wealthy individual is unlikely to be equally sensible for the low paid, and in any case the financial products would be different. It would be rather like Sir Alan Sugar appearing in an advertisement for a cheap, small car saying "I've got one of those". This would be true, but only to the extent that he has a Rolls Royce and that is also a car.

The Pensions Action Group is made up of people who lost part or all of their final salary pensions when their schemes were wound up underfunded, usually because their companies went bust. They have been fighting for adequate compensation since 2003 and, as a result, there is some assistance from Government compensation schemes but most will still get less than 90% of what they were promised, and some less than 50% in spite of the Government having promised that "your pension is safe whatever happens to your employer".

"We were misled by government information then and had to pay the price" said spokesman Peter Lapinskas, "and it looks like they are up to their old tricks again."

"There are nearly half a million workers and pensioners who are in our position, having lost a big chunk of the pensions they had paid for. They were not feckless: they took care to save for their retirement, just as the DWP is now urging, but their savings were taken away from them."

"They are hurt and angry about the way they have been treated by successive governments and will make sure that all their friends, relatives and colleagues know about it. That's why advertising, misleading or not, will make very little impact on workplace saving until they receive the pensions they were promised. Only then will trust in government pension promises be restored."

A copy of the full press release is available here and a copy of the letter to the DWP here.

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PAG Demonstrates again at the Conservative Conference
Updated 28 September 2012

Theme: TRUST BETRAYED

Date: Tuesday 9th October 2012

Where:
Birmingham International Conference Centre, Broad Sreet, B1 2EA
Outside main entrance – as in 2010 with Repertory Theatre behind us.

When:
    10 am onwards – early arrivals leafleting
    11 am onwards: assemble
    12 – 12:30 pm Stripped of our pensions

How to get there:
    by train: short walk to west from New St or Snow Hill stations
    by car: park in NIA National Indoor Arena car parks, signposted from all motorways. linked to the ICC by a footbridge. King Edward’s Rd B1 2AA
    by local bus: numerous services stopping close by

What to wear:
PAG T-shirts "ALL WE WANT IS WHAT WE PAID FOR / WHERE’S OUR INDEXATION?"

What’s provided:
Banners: "STRIPPED OF OUR PENSIONS" and "WHY TRUST NEST? - LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO US"
Placards & T-shirts (if you don’t already have one)
Boxer shorts (for new strippers)

Joining forces with:
VPAG - Visteon Pensions Action Group (already in the PPF and also in dispute with Ford)
EMAG Equitable Members Action Group – also betrayed by Government

All welcome:
Previous experience not needed! Join us and we’ll get somewhere: sit at home and we certainly won’t.

NO FAIRNESS means NO TRUST
NO TRUST means NO FUTURE PENSIONS SAVING

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PAG Demonstration at the 2011 Conservative Conference
Updated 29 September 2011

Event: Conservative Annual Conference
Venue: Manchester Central Conference Centre (formerly GMEX), Windmill St Manchester, Greater Manchester M2 3GX
Date: Monday 3 October 2011
Time: 11:00 start

The Conservatives are the major party in the coalition government and will need to be prodded to make some of the changes to the FAS which they were enthusiastic about whilst in opposition. Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is scheduled to address the conference at 10:00, finishing at 11:20, so we know that he will be in the hall during our demonstration. Let's remind him that we're not going away until we get justice.

11:00 am
Meet outside the Manchester Central conference centre in Barbirolli Square just off Lower Mosley St and opposite Windmill St (postcode M2 3GX). It's an excellent location just across from GMEX & corner of the Midland Hotel – same place as previous protests and strip. St Peter’s Square is the nearest Metrolink stop.

12:00 noon
Stripped of our Pensions demo. Noisy and colourful. Banners, placards and instruments provided. Those that have them, don’t forget to bring your T shirts.

There is an area map here and diirections here.

Barbirolli was the famous conductor of the Hallé orchestra. We can’t promise music but will make up for that in volume!

We do need a good turnout – please do your best to be there – unless you really want to lose your indexation as governments around the world keep printing money - the best recipe for more inflation.

TO PUT THINGS RIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, START WITH THE WRONGS OF THE PAST

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PAG Demonstration at the LibDem Conference
Updated 29 September 2011

Event: Liberal Democrat Annual Conference
Venue: The ICC, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2EA
Date: Tuesday 20 September 2011
Time: 11:00 - 13:00

We all had high hopes when the coalition came to power that the politicians who were supportive while they were in opposition would come to our aid once they had the power to make a difference. However, it hasn't turned out like that. In fact, with the change from RPI to CPI for our indexation, we are actually WORSE off than we were under Gordon Brown.

The Pensions Minister (Steve Webb) is still "in discussions" with the pensions industry, with a view to improving the FAS, but that has been going on for 9 months and there is still no sign that it is leading anywhere.

The time had come to remind him that we are still here and we are not going away until we get proper compensation for the pensions which we paid for and which we were told, by Government, were safe "whatever happens to your employer".

With our friends from EMAG (Equitable Members Action Group) we had a good turnout, in spite of the drizzle. Everyone going in and out of the conference was offered a leaflet and many stopped to talk. MPs though were conspicuous by their absence, and there was of course no sign of Steve Webb or his aides. However, with the aid of some enthusiastically-blown vuvuzelas he will have been aware of our presence during his speech - those things really do make a *lot* of noise!

At 12:00, four hardy souls braved the rain to perform the strip, and were duly recorded for posterity by photographers from the Telegraph and the local media.

A group from PAG managed to infiltrate a fringe meeting after the demo which had been organised by the National Association of Pension Funds, where Steve Webb was the main speaker. They were able to ask three questions afterwards but, whilst Webb accepted that the FAS and PPF would not exist without PAG's long-running campaign, he was not prepared to move beyond stock answers. Nonetheless, the presence of PAG in the audience and the continual raising of uncomfortable truths must make it clear that this issue will have to be addressed sooner or later.

All we want is what we paid for - and were promised.

Four brave souls face the elements

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6th Annual Leadership of Pensions Summit
15th September 2011

This conference, organised by the Financial Times and held in London, was attended by Adrian Segundo on behalf of PAG.

The principal speaker was Steve Webb, Pensions Minister and Adrian was chosen to ask the first question: Given his comment on 2nd September on the Need for Fairness with public sector pensions on ITV Tonight, what was his view about the UNFairness when it comes to FAS/PPF? He didn’t answer the question (not of the first time), talking instead about his support for PAG when in opposition, explaining about FAS now being nearly as good as PPF (wrong: PPF’s worse!), and moving on to say how fair he thought auto-enrolment from next year will be. As questions were taken in groups of 3, Adrian was unable to press the point further.

Next up was Rachel Reeves, Labour's shadow Pensions Minister. This time Adrian got the second slot and asked "What is the Opposition policy regarding unfair treatment of those in FAS/PPF especially when it came to lost indexation?" She took this to mean change from RPI to CPI, but agreed to speak to Adrian afterwards, when he was able to elaborate and arranged to write to explain our plight.

The organisers were friendly and sympathetic and invited PAG to consider whether we would like to consider topics and speakers for a panel session next year. Adrian found that the microphone always seeemed ready to move in his direction and there was quite a bit of head nodding in the audience when the issue FAS/PPF unfairness came up. Adrian also distributed leaflets which were well circulated and not just discarded, as often happens.

It is clear from this that there is a groundswell of sympathy in the pensions industry for our situation. If we keep up the pressure, sooner or later the Government will have to improve what's on offer if they want the next generation to invest in pensions.

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Exchange of Letters with Minister
6th August 2011

PAG have been in repeated contact with the Pensions Minister Steve Webb since he took office. Here is a copy of PAG's latest letter, and of the Minister's reply.

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PAG Response to the WRIC Report
Press release 4th August 2011

The Pensions Action Group submitted written and oral evidence to the Workplace Retirement Income Commission, and has studied the report which was published on 1st August 2011. (A copy of the written submission is available here.)

Lord McFall and his colleagues have done well to produce such a comprehensive report on such a complicated subject within a tight timescale, and we welcome many of the recommendations.

PAG members had, however, taken many of the actions now recommended by Lord McFall to secure a relatively comfortable retirement, only to lose most, if not all, of their savings when their scheme closed, mostly due to company insolvencies, government maladministration and inadequate protection measures.

The PAG gave evidence of the extreme distress that the loss of these pensions had caused, and continues to cause, due to the lack of original scheme level indexation and other punitive clauses within the Financial Assistance Scheme.

A key part of the success of any workplace pension involves trust and confidence, as stated many times in the WRIC Report. PAG members know first hand about the inadequacies of previous pension regulations, and the slowness and unwillingness of government to remedy their mistakes. Mis-leading statements from government are still being made about the FAS and PPF protection funds paying 90% of member’s lost pensions, while the small print in the regulations dilutes the figure in many cases to nearer 50%.

The PAG also suggested in their evidence that to encourage pensions savings politics should be kept out of pensions, and that any regulatory mistakes must be immediately corrected and those affected must be fully compensated without delay.

Lord McFall quite rightly noted our comment that ‘to put things right for the future, start with the wrongs of the past’.

Finally, to encourage enrolment in a new national pensions scheme, the PAG recommended that all MPs and senior civil servants pensions should be included in any new scheme. Only then will the public be sure that their savings are safe!

(Copy of original press release available here.)

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PAG news update
8th June 2011

Although the Pensiontheft site has been quiet of late it does not mean there is nothing going on. In fact a lot is still happening BUT we need your help to move things along.

Having received positive noises from the (now not so new) Pensions Minister Steve Webb we had been hopeful that, as he was sympathetic to our cause, we would see some movement consistent with his comments whilst in opposition.

We are producing a document shortly comparing what Ministers said in opposition as opposed to what they are doing now. Through the efforts of some members of the group, papers have been submitted regarding cost saving ideas (Peter Laspinkas and Kenneth Molloy) and, through Peter again, some ideas around the National Insurance Fund. All suggestions were gratefully received but received negative final responses, although we are told that some investigations are still ongoing. We are in the process of chasing for some movement.

A number of members have responded to the request for submissions from the Workplace Retirement Income Commission and Richard Nicholl is to shortly give oral evidence to the Commission.

A number of people have written to the Parliamentary Ombudsman and have involved their MP's in complaining that the Govt are not fully implementing her recommendations.

A small number of members continue to be very active with their own MP but not enough of you.

John Benson continues to be very active in south Wales and has had meetings with the Minister supported by Ros.

We have written to all members of the Government committee who debate issues affecting FAS.

We have visited PPF (FAS) to work with them on member communications and member queries.

We are in discussion with legal advisors regarding the level of benefits being paid.

We are planning demonstrations at the party conferences and we are compiling a list of statements made by current Ministers when in opposition.

You can do your part by contacting your own MP telling them the issue is not solved and tell (ask) them to raise the issue with Steve Webb as we are not getting 90%. You can also write to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Let them all know we are not satisfied with the current situation and we will not go away until we see a FAIR settlement. Let us know if you need any help with drafting letters and finally is there anyone who has Liam Byrne as their MP?

Our major concerns are ;

  • We are not getting what we paid for
  • We are not even getting 90%
  • We have virtually no inflation protection
  • The Government are not paying through meanness benefits that were due to be paid prior to May 2004
  • They are denying access for those who cannot get work over the age of 55 because their pension age is 65 whereas if it were 60 they would get access

We're not going away just yet!

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FAS payments now indexed by CPI
5th April 2011

The DWP has released a short statement confirming that FAS payments will be indexed on the basis of CPI rather than RPI as from 1st April 2011. The statement, and a copy of the regulations as approved by Parliament, can be found on the FAS website.

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Cardiff Demonstration at the Welsh Assembly
22nd March 2011

Cardiff demonstration March 2011

40 - 50 people joined us in the sunshine of Cardiff Bay for a successful protest outside the National Assembly of Wales today. We performed the tradional "stripped of our pensions" and had lots of photographs taken and not a goosebump in sight. John Benson, who organised the meeting, gave a heartfelt address and was warmly applauded by the AM's who came out to meet us, including John Griffiths, Jane Hutt and Chris Chapman from the Labour Party and Chris Franks and Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru, several of whom also addressed the gathering. They all priased our on-going efforts to achieve justice and expressed admiration for our courage in continuing to campaign. They all offered their support and encouragement. Jo Thornhill from the Mail on Sunday covered the protest as did a photographer and journalist from our local newspaper.

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Government to Reduce Indexation on FAS & PPF
3 March 2011

The Government has published its response to the consultation on the change in indexation from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for both the FAS and the PPF. Copies are available here

A measure of the impact of this change is that the PPF will be able to reduce its levy by £120 million per year as a direct result and the savings from the FAS will be similar. This is money which will come directly out of the pensions of members, who are already receiving inadequate compensation for their losses.

PAG and its members made vigorous representations about the impact of this change and we have also been putting our case directly to the Pensions Minister Steve Webb, but he has hardened his heart. His response has been merely that he considers it to be a "... more appropriate measure of the inflation faced by pensioners." We disagree, for a number of reasons. For instance, the CPI ignores Council Tax - the average PPF pension in payment is £3,823 and the average council tax is £1,440, i.e. about 35%. CPI doesn't sound much like an appropriate measure of pensioner inflation to us.

He also points out that it is a "... more stable measure than RPI". This is true, but it means that when there is a sudden change in, say, fuel prices, the CPI moves up less than the old RPI and hence the increase in the PPF and FAS payments are less. That also doesn't sound like a good thing from our perspective.

We are not the only ones who think Mr Webb is wrong on this In a recent letter, the Vice President of the Royal Statistical Society wrote to the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority that the CPI is not a "sufficiently good measure of price inflation as experienced by households" and it does not meet the Code of Practice when used to measure household prices.

However all objections have been swept aside and the regulations have been laid before parliament. Indeed, this was done before the response to the consultation was published, which perhaps gives an indication of how much consideration was given to the responses.

The fact of the matter is that the CPI has been designed so that, over the long term, it will give a lower estimate of inflation than the RPI. It seems clear to us that this change is driven by the desire to save money by the Government, for itself and for its friends in industry, at the expense of vulnerable people who have already been damaged by Government maladministration. If it wasn't, the savings would be passed back to members in other benefits.

It's not surprising that the coalition parties kept quiet about their intentions in their manifestoes, but their day of reckoning will come.

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Workplace Retirement Income Commission Seeking Views
2 February 2011

A new independent commission has been established by the National Associations of Pension Funds to review the provision of workplace retirement income in the private sector and to advise government. It is headed by Lord McFall (who was previously chair of the Treasury Select Committee in the House of Commons) and he is actively seeking views from all quarters as to how pensions should be provided in future.

A submission has already been made on behalf of PAG, pointing out that pension savings depend on trust, and that few people will trust in pensions unless they see that we are compensated properly for our losses which resulted from following Government advice.

However, much more is needed. If each of us writes to tell our story, and how the pensions debacle has affected us personally, it will amount to a body of evidence which would be very hard to ignore.

Details of their terms of reference and their approach to the problem can be found here.

Send your response to Shiona Charlery at wric@wricommission.org.uk or you can send a letter to:

Shiona Charlery
Workplace Retirement Income Commission
6th floor
138 Cheapside
London
EC2V 6AE

You can also leave a comment (and read other comments) on the site here.

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PAG March at Conservative Party Conference
5th October 2010

Birmingham demonstration October 2010

In opposition, the Coalition parties pressed for improvements to the compensation schemes for workers who have lost their pensions but now that they are in Government they are planning to cut back the payments.

We had hoped that there would be no need in the future for our trademark "Stripped of our Pensions" protest but it would seem this is not to be. We therefore, yet again, performed our striptease, this time at the Consevative Party Conference in Birmingham on a bright sunny October day.

We assembled at the Council House in Chamberlain Square and marched noisily to the International Conference Centre where the conference was being held. We were joined there by union members, members of the Equitable Members Action Group and the Visteon Pensions Action Group, all of whom have lost pensions through the failures of Government.

Outside the conference we handed out leaflets to delegates as they came and went, made lots of noise, took it in turns to use the megaphone to explain to those in the conference hall why we were there, and finished off with the ever-popular strip. Competition to join the line-up is intense, so the chosen few wear their joke shorts with pride.

The PAG will continue to protest until the Coalition turns their fine words into social justice. All we want is what we paid for and we are not going away until we get it.

(See Documents page for full press release)
 

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Coalition to reduce FAS & PPF payments
1st October 2010

The indexation on the FAS and PPF payments is pitiful enough as it is (a maximum of 2.5% pa in respect of post-1997 contributions only), but the Coalition is planning to reduce it further. by moving the basis of calculating inflation from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

There are a number of reasons given for this but the essential point is that the CPI gives an estimate of inflation which is about 0.5% lower than RPI. Given that FAS & PPF indexation is capped at 2.5%, that means that we will lose at least 20% of our indexation - and an even higher proportion when inflation is lower. And each year the loss will be cumulative - we will never get it back.

Worse than this, the CPI will be used in a number of other calculations, which means that our initial payments will be lower as well. So, when we retire, we will start with less and it will grow more slowly than before. And those with the longest wait until retirement will lose the most.

The DWP itself puts it like this: "The Government considers that the CPI will on average provide a lower rate of inflation than the RPI. This means that payments to FAS and PPF members are expected to be lower over time than if inflation continued to be measured on the RPI basis. Other things being equal, this suggests a reduction in the levy the Board of the Pension Protection Fund would otherwise be required to set and a reduction in the cost to the taxpayer of the FAS."

We encourage our members to respond and defend their payments. The consultation document can be downloaded from here

It gives full details of how to respond. The closing date is 3 November.

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Liberal Democrat Conference
Liverpool
21st September 2010

In view of the support which we had received from the Libdems in opposition, and the ongoing dialogue with Steve Webb, we did not plan a high-profile demonstration for their conference, but they did not escape our attentions entirely. Willlie Riggans and his colleagues were there in Liverpool on 21 September under the Unite banner with placards and leaflets.

Over 900 leaflets were handed out and it was explained to delegates how supportive Steve Webb had been in opposition but now he was planning to cut our FAS payments. Many delegates were under the impression that CPI would be better for us than RPI, so it was good to be able to give them the correct information. On the whole, the action was well received and it sent the clear message that we are not going to lie down quietly and go away.

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Pensions and the General Election

Party leaders respond to Pensions Action Group
30 April 2010
(Pensions Action Group Press Release) 

The Pensions Action Group wrote to each of the main party leaders on the 15th March expressing serious concerns at the damage that had been done to the UK pensions system and the severe impact on the retirement expectations of millions of workers.

More specifically, we raised the shortcomings of the Government’s Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) which will affect over 140,000 people who lost some or all of their pensions before 2005.  This loss was as a result of the closure of their occupational schemes, usually when their employer went bankrupt.  The Government had encouraged people to join these schemes and told them that “your pension will be safe whatever happens to your employer”.  But whilst the savers in Icelandic banks, and the pension funds of the rescued banks have been 100% protected, these pensioners may get as little as 50% of the pensions they saved for.

Among the most serious concerns with the FAS that still need addressing are:

  • An almost complete lack of inflation protection, which should reflect what each scheme would have provided.
  • The lack of any compensation at all prior to May 2004 for those who retired before that date.

The responses from the politicians have been disappointing:

Nick Clegg:

The reply from his response team did not specifically answer our concerns, although we know they have been supportive in committee.
David Cameron:
No direct response but a PAG member has received a reply from Theresa May which was very supportive, but without any commitment and, ominously, referred to the state of public finances.
Gordon Brown
Deafening Silence

Given the crisis facing future private sector pension provision, and in particular the suffering of those still not receiving adequate FAS compensation for the full pensions they expected (and had paid for) we are very concerned not to have received adequate proposals from the party leaders and, in particular, no response at all from Labour.

Pensions are based on trust.  Why should anyone save in a pension scheme when they can see how easily an earlier generation has had their pensions taken from them?

If they are at all serious about restoring confidence in pensions they MUST resolve the few remaining issues surrounding the FAS, which simply does not deliver anywhere near the 90% headline claimed both by the Pensions Minister and the Prime Minister.

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ASW Pensions Protest
Welsh Assembly, Cardiff Bay
07:45 to 10:30, 20th April 2010

(Pensions Action Group Press Release)

Ex-employees of ASW who lost the majority of their pension when ASW went into receivership will be protesting and handing out leaflets outside the Welsh Assembly from 07:45am to 10:30am on Tuesday 20th April.

The theme of the protest will be the hypocrisy of Labour's Election slogan:
   "A Future Fair for All" 
when in reality it is only fair for the pension funds of the failed banks, fair for the savers with offshore Icelandic banks but is most certainly NOT fair for the employees of ASW, and other companies, who lost a large part of their pensions when their companies went into receivership.

In his keynote speech at the 2009 Labour Party conference Gordon Brown claimed (exact words, our emphasis):
"Our choice was clear; we nationalised Northern Rock and took shares in British banks, and as a result not one British saver has lost a single penny."
As the protestors have all lost many pennies from their pensions savings they view this speech with some anger.

"We thought it was all over, why are you demonstrating again?"

It has become quite clear that MPs believe that the December 2007 announcement by the Government was the end of our campaign, and that our pensions had been restored. This is not the case.

We paid for, expected, and were told by the government that we were guaranteed 100% of what we had saved for, but not only are we not getting 100% we are not even getting the 90% promised by the Prime Minister! In some cases people are getting less than 50% of their pension entitlement.

So far we have seen our pensions eroded by:

  • Almost no post retirement protection against inflation 
  • Unfair treatment for seriously ill members
  • Failure to backdate the benefits before May 2004 
  • A restrictive CAP on our benefits which penalises members with long service
  • Regulations that fail to recognise the benefits members have sacrificed
  • Unfair treatment of contracted-out benefits
  • Restrictions on members’ rights to draw benefits

Summary

All we ever fought for has been justice, which needed the combined strength of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, a Select Committee and the High Court to make the Government realise they HAD to respect the law of the courts and the views of the Ombudsman! 

We still feel that justice has not been delivered, and given the attitude to some banks’ pension liabilities we again feel second-class citizens as far as our pensions and justice are concerned.

See our website www.pensionstheft.org for details of our campaign.

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Notes for Editors

1) The Pensions Action Group is a non political organisation representing people who lost most, in some cases all, of their occupational pensions when their pension scheme was wound up, either because their employer became insolvent or the employer, (perfectly legally), decided to close the scheme. The steelmaker ASW failed in July 2002.

Such members now receive some payment from either the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) or the Pensions Protection Fund (PPF) depending on the date of the wind-up, but MPs and the public are being misled about the level of protection these schemes provide.

2) Under the FAS, only pensionable service between April 1997 and the start of scheme wind up qualifies for very limited increases. All schemes in the FAS by their very nature will only ever have a very limited post 1997 qualifying period even though the majority of schemes actually provided escalation on all service, both before and after 1997.

Under the PPF again it is only post 1997 service that increases in payment, but as each year passes the proportion of post 1997 service increases and in 2009 it is already potentially 12 years more than the first FAS scheme failures.

3) Unlike the Consumer Price Index and Retail Price Index pensioner inflation is greater due to their higher proportion of income being spent on energy, utility bills and council tax, and they do not benefit from the reductions that apply to some of the other components in the indices.

4) The income (pension) cap that applies to FAS penalises long service employees, and without indexation the cap reduces in value as does the FAS pension, whereas the Government told us that the cap will retain its value!

5) At a time of high unemployment it is almost impossible for the elderly (over 55) to gain employment and they are being denied access to albeit reduced pension benefits

6) The main reason that the government gives for not paying 100% is that the tax-payer cannot afford it. They have, though, paid at a stroke to restore bank pensions in full. The cost of the banks' pension was much much greater than the retoration of our pensions so this argument is plainly false.

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Visteon London demonstration
31 March 2010

Congratulations to the Visteon Pension Action Group on their successfull denonstration. In the sort of financial smoke and mirrors which are becoming all too familiar, their original employer (Ford) hived their jobs off into a new company which went bankrupt and they now refuse to take any responsibility for the deficit in the pension fund. About 500 supporters gathered in Holborn and then marched to Downing Street to hand in their petition to Gordon Brown, and then on to Parliament Square where they were addressed by a range of speakers. This was an excellent turnout on a drizzly day with a bitter wind blowing, and it shows that working people will stand and fight for their pensions. It was also good to see such solid support from their union, Unite, who helped to organise the event.

A number of PAG members joined the march and PAG is supporting the VPAG in their battle to avoid being tipped into the PPF - more power to your elbow!

There is a full account of the event on Indymedia

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Labour Party Conference
29 September 2009


Over 200 people from all over the UK turned up at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton to protest about lost occupational pensions. The protest started with a march from the pier to the conference centre where the group stood for about 30 minutes chanting.
 
Eleven people then took part in the traditional "Stripped of our Pensions" which attracted the usual media interest. The strip was intensely filmed by Channel 4 for their Dispatches programme on pensions and by Sky for a programme scheduled for November
 
There was a very peculiar quiet atmosphere at the conference. Normally conferences are buzzing with reporters, protests & spectators but this year everything seemed very subdued. Many Labour MPs did not attend. We only saw one other protest group (post office workers who had a 24hr strike on the Tuesday) and the largest group of individuals around the conference were children from a local school who were doing a mapping exercise with trigonometry on the beach! All very weird.
 
As usual the weather was beautiful. In the seven years we have been protesting we have never had to do it in rain. It was so hot that several of the stripped protestors went for a swim in the sea afterwards.
 
In his keynote speech at the conference Gordon Brown claimed (exact words, our emphasis)
 "Our choice was clear; we nationalised Northern Rock and took shares in British banks, and as a result not one British saver has lost a single penny."
 
As the protestors had all lost many pennies from their pensions savings they viewed this speech with some anger. Contray to popular belief the pensions have not been fully restored and there are many outstanding issues such as protection against inflation.
 
The group have already met with Lib Dem spokesman Steve Webb MP at their conference in Bournemouth and with Tory spokesman Nigel Waterstone MP at the Tory party conference in Manchester .

Thanks as ever to Willie Riggans and Alan Marnes who did the difficult but important behind the scenes work liaising with the police.

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New Secretary of State and New Pensions Minister
5 June 2009

Following the cabinet reshuffle Yvette Cooper replaces James Purnell as Secretary of State and Angela Eagle replaces Rosie Winterton as Pensions Minister (who was only in the office for just over six months). This makes 15 cabinet changes at the DWP in the 12 years of labour rule, including several months when there was no pensions minister at all. As Peter Lapinskas says: “I love pensions ministers - I love the whooshing sound they make as they speed through on their way to other jobs”.

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Pensions Protest at Westminster
3 June 2009


Over 100 people turned out for a protest on Parliament Square. The protest, originally planned for early May but postponed because of police problems with illegal Tamil protests, was arranged because of omissions in the proposed changes for the FAS/PPF following the recent government consultation. Given that the protest was midweek (to coincide with PMQs and take place when MPs were present) the attendance was very good with people coming from as far afield as Aberdeen, Glasgow and Wales; Kenneth Malloy, even flew over from Spain for the day!)

The main points of the protest were:
- Unfair treatment for seriously ill members
- Almost no post retirement protection against inflation
- Failure to apply the benefits before May 2004 (when the FAS started)
- A restrictive cap on our benefits (which penalises members with long service)
- Regulations that fail to recognise the benefits members have sacrificed
- Fair treatment of contracted-out benefits
- Restrictions on some members’ rights to draw benefits
- No apology from the government

John Bull (Ray Egan) attended and we performed the traditional "Stripped of our Pensions" photoshoot which drew the usual crowds of reporters, photographers, TV cameras and inquisitive tourists. We got good coverage in the press and on local & SKY TV.

Several MPs came out after PMQs to show support including (in no particular order) Sandra Osborne, Mike Penning, Paul Burstow, Bill Cash & Stewart Hosie. Apologies for any omissions, it was quite crowded. We also had many apologies from MPs who were away campaigning in their constituencies for the elections on the following day.

We should make a special mention of Alan Marne's part in the protest. For all our protests in recent years Alan has had the unenviable and unrecognised behind the scenes job of liaising with the police.
 
Any protest in London requires a mountain of paperwork, forms, risk assessments, interviews and planning meetings with the police and persuading them to allow events such as the Stripped of our Pension photo-shoot.
 
This event was complicated by the ongoing Tamil and other protests in Parliament Square. Originally the protest was organised by Alan for early May but this was moved at police request because the Tamil protestors were threatening violence. As a result Alan had to do the job twice.
 
It takes a lot of work, a lot of time and repeated trips to London before the event. We should thank Alan for his work.

Thanks also to Peter Wheeler and Brian Mealing who supplied the leaflets and placards, Peter Lapinskas & Adrian Segundo for the organisation on the day & the very striking yellow T-shirts and the Metropolitan police who controlled events with their usual good humour.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Welsh Labour Party Conference
25 April
Report by John Benson


14 former ASW workers arrived at the Conference Centre in four cars about 8:00 am with a big banner and placards, and to give out leaflets to the politicians, their staff, delegates, and union officials.  In all, we gave out over 300 leaflets.

Spoke with ministers, MPs and AMs before they went in to the Conference, telling all of them that our campaign for full compensation will continue. I spoke at great length with, and gave a letter to, Paul Murphy (Welsh Secretary) together with a letter for him to give to Gordon Brown, outlining our case and asking for Gordon Brown for once to personally reply (but we won’t hold our breath on that one ) 

Jane Hutt (Labour AM), when told we were not going away till we get Justice, answered: “We know that.”

Glennis Kinnock was asked to give Neil our love but we continue our campaign.

Rhodri Morgan (First Minister) this time had no choice to take a leaflet from us.  It was a pleasure to see his grumpy face - it was like a ripped dap. His wife Julie did find time to speak to us

Community General Secretary Michael Leahy came to speak with us.  He told us we have come a long way, but he did not think we would get full compensation. He also was told that we are not going away, and he replied that he was meeting James Purnell soon. 
They would not let us near the Conference entrance, but Chris Bryant (Labour MP) told me  that Harriet Harman was arriving later and asked a Senior Officer if we could speak with her as she was going straight to the entrance when arriving.   He said that only one person could speak with her so I spoke to her for three or four minutes, told her about how the Government could find hundreds of billions of pounds of taxpayers money to bail out irresponsible Banks, pay millions of pounds of taxpayers money to Bankers for failure etc, yet refuse to pay us our Pensions in full.   I mentioned the average ASW workers Pension was £7,000. 

She agreed with our anger, and then stated she was trying to sort out Equitable Life.   I asked her if she could arrange a meeting with the Prime Minister, or even herself, and also whether she considered what the Prime Minister and the Government had so cruelly done to us regarding our promised pensions was morally right and fair. I would call off the Protest's here in Wales in which replied, I will see, with that she hurriedly went inside the Centre.

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Protest at National Assembly of Wales
17 March 2009
Report by John Benson

A great protest here in Cardiff with good coverage on BBC Wales Radio, BBC Wales Television, our local paper, and our good friend and supporter, Jeff Prestridge from the Mail on Sunday sent Toby Walne along to cover the protest.

We had good support from Assembly Members and their staff, with the Conservative and Liberal Democat leaders coming out to speak, also Plaid AMs.  Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood made a statement in the Assembly  saying that he UK Government must uphold the Parliamentary Ombudsman's recommendations.

Nick Bourne, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, and Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, want me to draft a letter with all the bullet points we want brought up to support our fight for full compensation, they will then get Assembly member's to sign the letter, and then take our cause further.

Once again Rhodri Morgan and his gang declined to come out and speak with us.

Kirsty Williams is hopefully going to arrange a short meeting with Nick Clegg when he comes to Wales.

Many thanks to all who attended the protest, especially those from the South East, who must have travelled hundreds of miles.

Also many thanks to John Bull (Ray Regan), who turned up to support us, and Peter Wheeler and Brian Mealing who supplied the leaflets and placards.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Government publishes pension consultation document
11 February 2009

The Government has just issued the consultation document which will lead to the finalisation of their proposals to compensate us for the losses we have suffered through their maladministration of final salary pensions.  There have been some substantial improvements but they still fall a long way short of full compensation.  We have until 25th March to send them our views.

In December 2007, the Government announced a series of improvements to the Financial Assistance Scheme and over the last  14 months they have organised a number of public consultations and introduced various regulations to bring these into effect. However, up until now, these processes covered only the relatively uncontroversial issues – the more ‘difficult’ issues were delayed until the final round of the consultation, and this is the round which has now started.

If you have been affected by a loss to your pension resulting from the insolvency of your employer, this is what you need to do.

* Download a copy of the consultation document which is available at: 
 http://tinyurl.com/bktnlk

* Read it carefully, especially insofar as it affects your own position.

* If you feel that the payments on offer fall short of what you feel would be sufficient compensation, or that you will be treated unfairly relative to others, or you have other relevant points to make, write to the address below and briefly state your case.  Your response will carry much more weight if you use your own words (rather than copying from other documents) and can relate your comments to your own situation.

* Send your comments (to arrive by 25th March) to:
Financial Assistance Scheme Consultation
Department for Works & Pensions
Private Pensions Policy
Adelphi  3rd Floor
1-11 John Adams Street
London WC2N 6HT

* Email a copy of your letter to PAG (contact-us@pensionstheft.org), so that we can incorporate your views into the PAG position

* Watch out for the next newsletter which will give details of the PAG position and forthcoming PAG actions.

We have fought long and hard to achieve justice and have come much further than anyone thought possible at the outset, in the teeth of determined Government opposition at every stage.  Now is the time to finish the job!

Summary of the Government Proposals

(The following document has been prepared to help you to identify the key areas in the new consultation document and respond accordingly.)

PLEASE READ, UNDERSTAND AND WHERE APPROPRIATE MAKE INDIVIDUAL REPLIES. THE MORE PEOPLE THAT MAKE KNOWN THEIR  VIEWS THE BETTER CHANCE WE HAVE OF OBTAINING ADDITIONAL CHANGES

Ill health and early retirement
There has been a vast improvement in both the ill heath and serious ill health terms but PAG still wish the Government to go further and to allow ill health payments within 10 years and not 5 years of scheme retirement age with a minimum of say age 55

Further we feel that, particularly in the current economic climate, voluntary early retirement on any grounds should be allowed after age 55, albeit with an actuarial reduction

PPF allows reduced voluntary early retirement pensions

Pre May 2004 service
There are no signs of movement and we are studying some figures produced by FAS comparing benefits that if paid before May 2004 would lose the revaluation up to the date of payment, and therefore people would not be any better off in the long term.

Costs
There is a statement about tax payer costs which is wrong as they are guilty and in any event the Young review generated £1.7bn and would have been more if they had listened to Ros

Revaluation pre retirement
We have been seeking scheme basis of revaluation rather that RPI with a 5% maximum but there are no signs of movement. We have pointed out that those further away from retirement may not get 90% of their accrued pension because of this.

Partners
This looks like good news and something we have fought for but we ask anyone affected to study the terms closely and let us have their comments on the proposals

People with different retirement ages in the same scheme
The approach is wrong and if a scheme had benefits payable at different ages they should be paid without reduction at that age and this is I believe where it suits FAS to act differently to PPF. There are some outstanding legal issues around this including the Foster Wheeler case ruling which for some schemes gave a right to all benefits at the earliest age

If anyone thinks they are in a position affected by this they should respond with details to FAS

Annuity Rates
We will comment here on not using the actual reduced pension for people who took tax free cash if that actual figure was available and we would also comment on the changing annuity rate market and are FAS reflecting this in their factors?

The Cap
The cap hits long-service members. It is an argument we have had but not won. But we would add that on one hand they are revaluing the cap for all the pension (subject to the cap) but not doing the same with the actual pension where only post-97 bit gets re-valued and at a lower rate than the cap

Post Retirement indexation
This has to be our main thrust and we will argue strongly with threats about resolving this. We have all seen and felt the effects of inflation and in particular the impact for pensioners

There are some aspects of the detail around the interplay between FAS post-97 service indexation and any residual scheme benefits that may carry some indexation (GMP for example )

We must fight for protection of indexation on any residual benefits and for full indexation of all service if the scheme provided it

Tax free cash
Although not ideal, following pressure from PAG we have least got FAS to allow the GMP (Contracted out benefits) to be commuted which was not the case when we started the consultation process

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This is only a brief summary - you must read the document yourself and send in your own comments.

We are considering what further action we need to take which includes meeting the Minister and the opposition spokesmen.

Please keep us informed and also copy in your MP with any responses you send.

Severe Ill-Health
Notes by Dr Ros Altmann

The regulations which were designed to give a much fairer payment system to those in severe ill-health have been laid in Parliament today.

The aim is to have them debated by March ready for payments to start in April.

This is long, long overdue and, sadly, some very ill people have died before getting the money they should have had.

After very long, tortuous negotiation, these regulations are designed to offer unreduced pensions to people with serious illnesses and severely shortened life expectancy.  The regulations cater for two types of such people.

Firstly, they will help those who have already been ill for some time and who are obviously the most seriously affected by the loss of the pension they would have had from their scheme.  The Government has finally agreed to backdate the pension to the date when the serious illness started (subject of course to some medical confirmation of this) after May 2004.  The members who qualify under this category will receive the full FAS payment (without reduction for early payment) and the first payments will include a lump sum to reflect those payments which relate to past years not yet paid.

Secondly, the DWP has agreed that widows of those who have died will receive the payments their husbands would have had if they had lived, rather than the normal half of the FAS payment from their date of death, so again these widows will receive some lump sum back payments.

Thirdly, there will be special provisions for those who are already getting money from the FAS under the ill health scheme already in place, but whose payments have been reduced.  If you are under the ill health provisions with a reduced FAS payment, then you should get back pay for the period from when you became seriously ill with severely shortened life expectancy.

Fourthly, anyone who becomes seriously ill from now on and whose medical condition leads to a severely shortened life expectancy such that they may not live more than another 5 years, will be able to claim early full FAS payments.  This is far better than the existing arrangements which would only pay reduced payments to reflect taking the pension early and which would be so unfair.

All of this applies to those over age 55 as far as I can tell.

It is now important to get these regulations debated and passed in the Lords and Commons as soon as possible.

If you think these regulations apply to you, please let us know and also please write to the FAS to ensure that they have the information they need in order to assess your claim and start payments as soon as possible after the Regulations are passed by Parliament.  You will need medical evidence and you will need to have contacted your trustees to let them know you are seriously ill.

The DWP response to the ill health consultation is available here.

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News items from earlier years can be found in the archive.


 
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