Press Notice 04, Session 2006-07

     4 December 2006

House of Commons to debate Occupational Pensions

PASC - the Public Administration Select Committee - has secured a debate in the House of Commons on its report "The Ombudsman in Question: The Ombudsman's report on pensions and its constitutional implications" and the Financial Assistance Scheme for those who have lost their occupational pensions. The debate will begin at about 3pm on Thursday 7 December.

As many as 125,000 people lost part or all of their defined benefit occupational pensions when schemes wound up between April 1997 and March 2004 without sufficient funds to pay the benefits promised.

The debate follows reports by both the Parliamentary Ombudsman and PASC on the matter. PASC's report criticised the Government for not making the limits of the regulatory requirements in place clear and so denying pensioners the chance to make a true assessment of the risks they faced. It also criticised the adequacy of the Financial Assistance Scheme for those who suffered losses. 

The Committee concluded that:

1) Once the Government had chosen to give information about the pensions system, that information should have been complete and accurate. Instead, they failed to mention one of the greatest risks. The Ombudsman’s finding of maladministration was correct.

2) The Government cannot simply abandon people who have lost significant sums of money. It should work with others who share responsibility to find a solution.

3) The Government has become far too ready to question the Ombudsman’s findings of maladministration. She is Parliament’s Ombudsman, and Government must respect her.

The Committee said: "The Government's response to our questions suggests there is little chance of recompense for those who lost significant pension entitlements when their scheme was wound up by a solvent employer. The Government cannot simply abandon such people; if it impossible to make employers take responsibility, then it should do so itself."

This debate will offer Parliament an opportunity to discuss PASC's report and the options available to help those who have lost their pensions savings.

Notes for editors:

1. The debate will take place on Thursday 7 December at 3pm in the House of Commons. It will also be broadcast live on www.parliamentlive.tv

2. The Public Administration Select Committee Report that is relevant to the debate is The Ombudsman in Question: The Ombudsman's report on pensions and its constitutional implications, HC 1081, July 2006.

3. The Government's response to the Report was published in November 2006 as Cm 6961.

4. The Report and the Government's response, along with the oral evidence heard, are available on the Committee's website at

http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/public_administration_select_committee/pasc_wk_of_ombudsman.cfm

FURTHER INFORMATION:

The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005.  Its terms of reference are to examine the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, and to consider matters relating to the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, and other matters relating to the Civil Service. The Membership of the Committee is as follows:

Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Paul Rowen (Lib Dem) (Rochdale), Grant Shapps (Con) (Welwyn Hatfield), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

Media Enquiries: Jessica Bridges Palmer, 020 7219 0724/07917 488 447, email - [email protected]

Chairman: Dr Tony Wright may be contacted for press inquiries on 020 7219 5583

Watch committees and parliamentary debates online: www.parliamentlive.tv

House of Commons Committee Information Line: Tel 020 7219 2033 for information regarding forthcoming meetings including venues and times (updated daily).

Publications/Reports/Reference Material: Copies of all select committee reports are available from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge St, Westminster, 020 7219 3890) or the Stationery Office (0845 702 3474).Committee reports, press releases, evidence transcripts, Bills; research papers, a directory of MPs, plus Hansard (from 8am daily) and much more, can be found on www.parliament.uk