Jo Swinson MP has lambasted the government for refusing to consider a compensation scheme despite admitting failure.
In July 2008, the Parliamentary Ombudsman judged that the Government should apologise to policyholders and set up a compensation fund for those who lost out when the life assurance company reached near-collapse in 2000. Despite admitting its failure the government remains adamant that compensation will not be paid to the majority of those who suffered. Instead payments have been promised only to those who have been disproportionately affected rather than those to whom it is rightfully owed.
In a Parliamentary debate this week, Jo expressed serious concerns about the body set up to advise the government about these payments. The office, chaired by Sir John Chadwick, has refused to meet with a group of 140 MPs fighting for justice for Equitable Life policy holders and has set no timescales for any payouts.
The Government’s refusal to implement the independent recommendations has prompted a formal indictment by the Ombudsman herself. The Equitable Members Action Group have taken action into their own hands and have recently been granted a judicial review of the Government’s decision which is expected to reach the High Court in October.
Commenting, Jo Swinson said:
“It is disgraceful that this Government has still failed to find a satisfactory solution to the Equitable Life saga, which has been going on for 9 years now. Although its apology to policyholders was welcome it is simply not good enough to admit serious failings yet do nothing to remedy the injustice suffered by so many people.
“A sense of urgency is needed here – already more than 30,000 policyholders have died without seeing justice and this number is increasing by 15 a day. Yet once again the Government finds itself on the wrong side of the moral debate as it stubbornly refuses to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations in full.
“As it has been unable to provide strong reasons for this decision the door has been left open for a legal challenge which will hopefully provide policyholders with the justice they deserve.”
The full text of Jo Swinson’s intervention in the Westminster Hall debate on Equitable Life can be read below:
Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, nearly a year on, the recommendations are not being dealt with? Indeed, I understand that Sir John Chadwick has refused to meet 140 members of the all-party group on justice for Equitable Life policyholders. Does he not think it is absolutely shocking that somebody whom the Government have appointed to deal with the recommendations will not even listen to a large group of MPs who have constituents with concerns?