Maxwell pensioners dismayed

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MAXWELL pensioners are dismayed that the Government has rejected calls from a parliamentary committee to toughen controls on liquidators and others tracking down the missing pounds 440m pension fund assets, writes John Willcock.

The Government was responding to a Social Security Select Committee report on fees charged by the Maxwell liquidators and their solicitors, which have passed pounds 50m and will top pounds 100m. In July 1993 Frank Field's committee said the fees 'cannot be justified'.

The committee's demand for new controls of liquidator's fees and an insolvency ombudsman was turned down as the Government said the Maxwell case was 'exceptional'. It also turned down proposals that pensioners be given preferential status among creditors.

However William Hague, parliamentary secretary for Social Security, accepted the recommendation for a pension fund regulator, but said that this would be within an overall review of the pensions industry.

Ken Trench, chairman of the Maxwell Pensioners Action Group, said: 'The Government is not only sidestepping away from its responsibilities to Maxwell pensioners who are now in acute despair; it is also failing to give all pension scheme members reassurance that pensions are a safe investment under a self-regulatory system that any determined fraudster laughs at. The Government's policy appears to be that the Maxwell pension problem will fade away as pensioners die.'

Maxwell liquidators welcomed the Government statement but warned that the Government's view that the job of tracking down the missing assets has been largely completed was premature.