Equitable Life response: too little, too late

Labour government has treated both savers and parliaments with contempt

Strasbourg, 14th January 2009 — Conservative MEP Sir Robert Atkins, who instigated the European Parliament’s special committee of inquiry into the collapse of Equitable Life in 2006, has said the government’s decision to heed the calls of MEPs and the UK’s Parliamentary Ombudsman by providing compensation is ‘too little, too late’.

In an announcement later this week, the government is expected to agree that some compensation will be made available. It will set up an independent tribunal to calculate how much savers should receive - leaving concerns of more delays and that only a small portion of the money savers lost will be repaid.

The European Parliament’s committee was established on behalf of the one million policyholders who lost savings. Its report blamed regulators who were lamentably deficient in supervising, investigating and regulating the company’s operation. MEPs have yet to receive even an acknowledgement by the government of their report. Sir Robert has urged the House of Commons to hold government ministers to account and demand immediate action on behalf of those who have suffered financial and emotional distress.

Sir Robert said:

“The European Parliament’s report was highly critical of the undeniable failures of supervision and regulation in Equitable Life. Despite sending our report to the government almost two years ago, we never had the courtesy of a response.

“The way this government has treated Equitable savers just goes to highlight once again that it does not value those responsible people who put money away for their retirements. Chancellor - and now Prime Minister - Gordon Brown has fought tooth and nail to avoid any responsibility for the gross regulatory incompetence that has characterised this financial scandal, and now he wants to set up yet another inquiry to investigate the scale of compensation.

“Many families will have to fall back on savings as the recession bites, but for around a million policyholders at Equitable Life, that may not be possible. Savers have waited the best part of a decade now for proper redress and while the government is right to be offering some compensation, this will be seen by many savers as too little, too late.”

ENDS

Notes: For more information on the EP’s temporary committee of inquiry into Equitable Life, go to: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/comparl/tempcom/equi/default_en.htm

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