Pensions Action Group

Press Release from Dr. Ros Altmann
21st March 2007
The Chancellor's announcement of yet another extension to the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) may sound good, but as has been the case every time so far, in reality it is nowhere near enough. Why is he being so stubborn in refusing to acknowledge the legal and moral responsibility to sort out this problem properly? How long do these people have to keep waiting for justice? Instead of offering a fair rescue package, he has announced a small improvement in the FAS. Today's announcement does nothing for most of those who are struggling without their pensions today. There are already 10,000 people past pension age who should be receiving money from the FAS, yet only about 900 have had any money at all. These 10,000 are the ones who need help, but today's announcement does nothing for most of them.
This is a classic example of the Government fiddling figures, trying to pretend it is being generous, but not actually sorting out the problem. Don't be fooled by the headline figures, it is smoke and mirrors.
The announcement today will mean that people currently in their 20's and 30's will eventually receive some of their pension back when they retire. It is welcome news that everyone will now be included in the FAS, and it is also welcome that the cap has been lifted to £26,000 a year and that those entitled to less than £10 per week will still be helped.
However, these measures will not help the people who are suffering now.
What have the victims of this scandal still lost after today's announcement?

- The FAS still only pays from age 65, but those who should have retired at age 60 lose 5 whole years of pension

- The FAS still excludes solvent employer scheme members , they have been totally abandoned

- The FAS still pays no inflation linking

- There is no tax free lump sum

- Widows' benefits in the FAS are far less than scheme benefits

- 80% of core pension is not 80% of "expected pension" - it is worth around 60%.
There is political consensus around paying all those who have lost their pensions at least the Pension Protection Fund level of benefits (i.e. 90% of their pension at retirement with at least some inflation linking) but general agreement that the Financial Assistance Scheme is inadequate. Yet all we have now is some tweaking to the scheme that even the DWP has admitted is not fit for purpose!
MPs need to hold their nerve and impose a just and fair solution on the Government.
Wouldn't it have been great if Gordon Brown had used this - his last budget, to rectify this dreadful injustice, instead of prolonging it!

The fight goes on. MPs will be asked to support amendments to the Pensions Bill to force the Chancellor to address this issue fairly and properly. So far it has refused to admit that it is actually responsible for what has happened here, yet it has had four guilty verdicts. It is now appealing to the Court of Appeal. How long will it keep trying to defend the indefensible? It will lose again in the Court of Appeal but meanwhile those affected are still suffering and dying in destitution, when they saved all their lives for a pension they were assured the Government had protected.

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