A small step towards justice for pensioners

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The only surprise about the Government's decision to set up a fund to help 60,000 workers who lost their pensions when their employers went bankrupt is that it was so long in coming. The alternative was to leave retired workers who had expected company pensions relying on state benefits. These people had paid into company schemes precisely in order not to depend on state benefits. Failure by ministers to act would also have sent the opposite message to the one the Government wants to convey, which is that people should make provision for their own retirement. This is what these workers did, at a time when the choice was between the company scheme or nothing.

The only surprise about the Government's decision to set up a fund to help 60,000 workers who lost their pensions when their employers went bankrupt is that it was so long in coming. The alternative was to leave retired workers who had expected company pensions relying on state benefits. These people had paid into company schemes precisely in order not to depend on state benefits. Failure by ministers to act would also have sent the opposite message to the one the Government wants to convey, which is that people should make provision for their own retirement. This is what these workers did, at a time when the choice was between the company scheme or nothing.

It is easy to be cynical and argue that the decision was announced in time for the local elections . Of course, there is politics here as well as justice. It can also be objected that the money earmarked by the Government is not enough to replace what the retired workers have lost. Nor will it be retrospective, which is clearly unjust. The pensioners of bankrupt companies may have to settle for less than the amounts to which their company schemes entitled them.

But it is still more than they would have got without the Government's change of heart, and, at a time whenmany workers will have to rely on private provision, with all the risks that entails, it is still proportionately more than the next generation of pensioners is likely to receive.

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