Pensions victims in protest vigil over 'double standards' on aid

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The Independent Online

Pensioners are planning an all-night protest outside Downing Street to highlight what they say are Government double standards over financial aid for victims of the company pensions scandal.

The Pensions Action Group, which will stage the vigil tonight, has accused the Government of treating them unjustly, by immediately offering protection to customers of Northern Rock, while neglecting the 125,000 who lost their pensions when their companies went bust, and who have been fighting for proper compensation for more than four years.

The latest protest takes place ahead of publication of the Young Review, set up in April this year, to examine whether an alternative treatment of the residual funds in affected pension schemes could supplement the committed government funding of the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), established in 2004 to help those affected. The FAS currently pays out up to 80 per cent of lost pensions up to a maximum of £12,000 a year. The review is considering increasing payments to 90 per cent up to a limit of around £25,000.

"The victims are holding this vigil to warn the Prime Minister not to try to get away with any more spin and deceit over this issue," said Ros Altmann, advocate for the group.

"The nation needs to know that the scandal is still dragging on, month after month, as more of the victims fall ill or die. One hundred and twenty five thousand workers were told by this Government that their pensions were secure and protected by law. That was not true. There are no more excuses that can justify the cruel treatment of these good people. All the opposition parties and some brave Labour MPs have called for a fair, fast resolution of this scandal."

The Pensions Reform minister, Mike O'Brien, said the Government has "great sympathy" for people who lost out when their pension schemes collapsed. "They did the right thing – they saved for their retirement and, through no fault of their own, all or part of their pension savings disappeared," he said. "Taxpayers have already committed £8bn in cash terms to the FAS, but the Government wants to do more to help. In order to provide more help, we set up the Young Review, and said we will match the additional funds generated by the review to increase assistance. I look forward to the review's findings, expected in a few weeks."

Nigel Waterson, Conservative pensions spokesman, said that sooner or later the Government would have to face up to giving proper compensation to the pensions victims.

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