Pension campaigners have won the right to a judicial review of the government's decision to reject the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report into occupational pension schemes.
The application for the review was lodged in June, but has been delayed initially for the publication of the Public Administration Select Committee’s (PASC) report, and later by the government’s failure to provide a defence within the specified timetable.
However, the review has now been granted and the case will be heard in the High Court on 7th February, with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now having just 35 days to prepare and file their defence.
Campaigners lodged an appeal for a Judicial Review after the DWP rejected the findings of the Ombudsman’s report which outlined the findings of her inquiry into the actions of government bodies in relation to the security of final salary occupational pensions.
The report, which was published in March, found the government guilty of maladministration and suggested compensation should be provided for around 85,000 people who had lost their pensions following the collapse of their pension scheme or employer.
But the government rejected the findings of the report and refused to pay compensation to those affected, a circumstance which led the PASC to conduct their own inquiry into the issue which resulted in it confirming the Ombudsman’s findings and declaring the government had been either “naïve or misleading” in its actions.
Dr Ros Altmann, an independent consultant helping the Pension Action Group (PAG) with their campaign, says the hearing is a real test case as no other government has ever tried to snub its own Ombudsman in this cavalier fashion.
She says: “We are supposed to have a democracy with checks and balances to prevent government from wronging innocent civilians, but this government is making a mockery of these safeguards by deciding to be its own judge and jury and dismissing any independent verdicts it does not like.”
Altmann says the campaigners hope the government will see sense before the case goes to court, but warns there is little sign of this yet, while she points out the situation for the people affected is getting worse and worse.
Meanwhile, PAG is already planning another demonstration on 5 November including a march to Downing Street to hand in a petition calling for the Chancellor to behave ‘properly’ as Altmann says “we are always told it is he who refuses to make any money available to organise any rescue package”.
Peter Humphrey, from the PAG, adds: “This government has created a scandal far worse than Maxwell itself. Maxwell pensioners were rescued within weeks, but here are tens of thousands of us left without our pensions for years, despite two independent verdicts in our favour.”
The review has been submitted on behalf of PAG members and claims the government’s reaction to the Ombudsman’s report is “unlawful, irrational and unreasonable”, while John Halford, from Bindman and Partners the PAG’s solicitor, points out “that this case has to be brought at all is an absolute scandal”.
Nigel Waterson, Shadow Pensions Minister for the Conservatives, also adds: “I welcome the fact the High Court is going to hear this Application. It is just a shame the government's intransigence over the Ombudsman's recommendations has made this necessary.”
If you have any comments you would like to add to this story or would like to speak to its author about a similar subject, telephone Nyree Stewart on 020 7968 4558 or email [email protected]IFAonline
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