The Department for Work and Pensions has hinted it may appeal the verdict of the judicial review which saw the judge rule in favour of the pensioner campaigners.
In the High Court this morning, Justice Bean ruled he agreed with the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s findings suggesting Government information on the level of security offered by occupational pension schemes was misleading, in particular regarding a leaflet published in 1996 explaining the 1995 Pensions Act.
However, a spokesman for the DWP says the ruling also endorsed “the government's decision to reject other key findings made by the Ombudsman”, and adds as both sides have the option to appeal the DWP intends to carefully consider today’s judgement.
He says: “The Court disagreed with the Ombudsman’s view that there was a causal link between the leaflets and the loss suffered by all those who have lost their occupational pensions, and it also rejected the Ombudsman’s conclusion that the Government was guilty of maladministration when it made changes to the pension scheme funding rules in 2002.”
The case for the judicial review was brought by four pensioners, representing around 125,000 people across the country who lost their pensions when their employer schemes went bust, after the government rejected the findings of the Ombudsman’s report in March 2006.
Their case, which was heard between the 7-10 February, focused on four points:
- Ministers cannot just disagree with the Ombudsman’s findings
- Government must reconsider the Ombudsman’s recommendations
- Government’s reasons for rejecting the Ombudsman’s report are irrational and, therefore, unlawful
- Government has broken Article 1 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights
But while the judge seems to have ruled in favour of the claimants on the first point, it seems he stopped short of ordering the government to pay compensation to the victims, as suggested by the reports of both the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC).
As result the DWP adds: “Both sides have been given permission to appeal against this judgement. The Government wishes to consider the implications of this complex judgement, both in relation to this specific case and more widely across Government.”
Speaking before the verdict was announced, Dr Ros Altmann, an independent consultant and former pensions adviser to the government, says she didn’t believe the government had presented a strong case.
She adds: “Let’s hope this will finally be a wake-up call for this administration to realise it must accept it has made mistakes and work out how to remedy them, rather than just trying to deny everything, while pretending to want to help.”
“It is so sad that taxpayers money needs to be spent defending this case, rather than on organising a proper compensation scheme for the victims who have been left without the pensions that the government always assured them were safe and protected by the law.”
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 7034 2681 or email [email protected]IFAonline
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