David Prosser: Dishonouring the victims of a pension purge

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The Independent Online

Outlook Oh dear. As if a string of poisonous court battles – all of which the Government lost, by the way – were not enough to upset thousands of savers whose occupational pensions were almost lost, ministers now seem determined to add insult to injury by mis-stating what compensation these mistreated folk will actually get.

Angela Eagle, a minister of state at the Department for Work and Pensions, yesterday issued a triumphant press release celebrating the launch of the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS). It will pay benefits to all those savers whose pensions looked lost when their employers went bust and shortfalls in their occupational schemes came to light.

This is indeed a happy moment, though the press release made no mention of the fact that to get here, these savers have repeatedly had to take the Government to court in order to get the verdict of the Parliamentary Ombudsman enforced.

What the FAS won't do, however, is pay out "at least 90 per cent of their pensions", as Ms Eagle claimed yesterday. In fact, 90 per cent is the most that savers will get, says Ros Altmann, whose selfless work on behalf of the 150,000 victims of this scandal should be thought of in the same way as Joanna Lumley's brave campaign for the rights of Gurkhas.

Three years ago, the Ombudsman ruled that savers who lost out in this affair ought to be refunded in full because the Government had always insisted occupational pension funds were safe. In the end, after years of fighting for justice, savers put up with a deal that saw them get most, but not all, of their pensions back (at least, those who lived long enough did). Let's not start pretending that they have been well treated, let alone properly compensated.

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