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By Gemma Westacott | Published Mar 19, 2009

MPs slam govt plans to compensate Equitable victims as "shabby"

The comments from the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) are included in a report published today (19 March), entitled 'Justice Denied?', that slams the government's response to a report by Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham.

The PASC has accused the government of choosing "to act as judge on its own behalf", and all "for reasons which are not well explained".

Earlier this year the government formally issued an apology to Equitable Life policyholders for the maladministration and poor regulation that has seen over a million people lose out on their savings.

However, it also said it would only set up a compensation payment scheme for those policyholders hardest hit by the problems at the beleaguered life company, arguing that it was not generally appropriate for taxpayers to pay compensation.

The PASC warned that this process "looks set to be complex" and therefore probably "slow and onerous" for policyholders in difficult personal circumstances.

Committee chairman Tony Wright MP added: "I give credit to the government for apologising, for producing a considered response, and for accepting the need for some kind of payments scheme.

"But the government has produced an essentially political response to a quasi-judicial investigative report from the Ombudsman, and as a result has ended up satisfying nobody.

"We have never argued that the taxpayer should have bottomless pockets, but there is a very clear case for defined compensation where the state itself has caused injustice.

"The government’s arguments seem to me to leave a gaping black hole in the way our regulators are held accountable, and this needs addressing."

Policyholder groups are said to now be considering asking for a judicial review of the Government’s decision.

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