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UPDATED POSITION OF SOLVENT COMPANY SCHEMES IN WIND UP

Richard Nicholl
24th April 2005

Despite being assured by Malcolm Wicks and others that they were not going to give false hope to any victims of scheme wind ups, we have been given precisely just that.

The Government seem to delight in spinning out bold headlines which will pacify the majority, including most MP’s, while leaving the soul destroying detail in the small print for the actual victims.

As well as an inadequate Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), there were various groups of deferred pensioners that have been totally excluded from eligibility for the Scheme. This includes members of schemes where the sponsoring employer is still solvent. One small allowance is that if a company has become insolvent since commencement of wind up, then it will be included in the FAS.

All the rest of us, and we know of 8,400 people from 18 schemes, are denied any help at all. We are not eligible for the new PPF either. We are left out in the cold, but have exactly the same problems and hardships as our colleagues from insolvent companies.

The Government wants it both ways. It has not, and will not, provide any legislation that would make a sponsoring company legally responsible for it's full pension liabilities, but at the same time excludes the victims from any assistance. Mr Blair, in his election pledges, has spoken of ‘Labour values of security and opportunity for all Britain’s hardworking families and pensioners’. It is time that he put words into action.

The ‘solvent group’ has continued to join the pensionstheft’s protests, and has also carried out a vigorous campaign of letter writing to, and meetings with, various Government officials at the DWP, including Alan Johnson, Malcolm Wicks and the FAS Team lead by Mike Le Brun.

From a political point of view, the Conservatives have promised to pay us full compensation using orphaned assets, while the Liberals have openly declared to use taxpayers’ money to help us. Both of these parties have stated that they would not discriminate between solvent and insolvent groups. Labour, meanwhile, continue to deny us any help, despite some encouraging and welcome support from individual Labour MP’s.

The unions are now becoming more supportive, on a local basis, following the closure of the APW and Henlys schemes. Both these companies have a high number of union members, and their representatives have been vocal in supporting us.

We attended the Pensions Summit, organised by Sandra Osborne, at Portcullis House on 21st March 2005, and were able to present our views to the gathered audience. Support was voiced by Nigel Waterson, Conservative spokesman for Pensions, Steve Webb, Liberal spokesman and John Denham, the Labour MP who has APW in his consituency.
We had arranged a meeting with Alan Johnson and Malcolm Wicks for 19th April, specifically to argue our case, but this has been postponed until after the election.

Our arguments for inclusion in the FAS are basically:

  • Our Companies are mostly only still solvent because of compromise agreements made to allow the company to continue trading.
  • There is no effective legislation forcing companies to make up any deficit in the funds.
  • The members and trustees of these schemes were all assured by Government that their funds were totally safe and guaranteed.
  • Even the Guaranteed Minimum Pension is not guaranteed!
  • Any assistance given would be given to the members, not the company involved, so no European anti competition laws would be broken.
  • Our suffering and uncertainty is just as devastating as those members from insolvent companies.
We will continue to campaign very strongly. We have had assurance from the DWP that our meeting with the Secretary of State for Pensions will be re-scheduled as soon as the new Parliament is convened. We will continue to highlight our case to the media.

We are in solidarity with other members of the pensionstheft group, our fight is to achieve the same result, the restoration of 100% of what we have paid for!

The complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman is also being progressed, and she has details of several solvent company schemes. Her indication is that solvent companies will be included in any recommendations she makes to the Government about compensation. Her report is expected in July 2005.

For further information contact: Richard Nicholl

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