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14 July 2010 : Column 9P


Wednesday 14 July 2010



Equitable Life (Portsmouth North)

The Petition of residents of the constituency of Portsmouth North in the Hampshire region of the U.K. regarding the Government's response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman's reports on Equitable Life,

Declares that the Petitioners either are or they represent or support members, former members or personal representatives of deceased members of the Equitable Life Assurance Society who have suffered maladministration leading to injustice, as found by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in her report upon Equitable Life, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 16 July 2008 and bearing reference number HC 815; and further declares that the Petitioners or those whom they represent or support have suffered regulatory failure on the part of the public bodies responsible from the year 1992 onwards, but have not received compensation for the resulting losses and outrage.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to uphold the constitutional standing of the Parliamentary Ombudsman by complying in full with the findings and recommendations of her Report upon Equitable Life.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. -[Presented by Penny Mordaunt , Official Report, 9 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 434.]


Observations from the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

The Government have pledged to implement the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman's recommendation to make fair and transparent payments to Equitable
14 July 2010 : Column 10P
Life policyholders, through an independent payment scheme, for their relative loss as a consequence of regulatory failure. The Government will, as the Ombudsman noted it was appropriate to do, consider the potential impact on the public purse of any scheme.

As a sign of the commitment to that pledge, the Government will introduce a Bill in the first session of Parliament that will enable HM Treasury to make payments.

One of the Government's main aims is to ensure that the approach to resolving this issue is thorough, transparent and fair while keeping in mind the need to act quickly. In the light of this, the Government feel that the best approach is to allow Sir John Chadwick to continue under his current Terms of Reference.

Sir John has been working for a considerable amount of time under his current Terms of Reference and is close to the completion of his work. He is due to submit his final report by mid-July. Allowing him to complete his work in its current form will allow the Government to focus on the next steps in the process; in particular delivering on the Government's pledge of an independently designed payment scheme. Reopening Sir John's work at this stage would lead to severe delays in making payments to policyholders. That scenario would not be beneficial for anybody.

One of the key elements of the Ombudsman's recommendations was that any scheme should be independent of Government. In the light of this, the Government plan to establish an Independent Commission to decide on the allocation of payments and scheme design issues.

Sir John's work, which is based on the findings of the Ombudsman, is one of the building blocks, not the foundation of the Government's approach.

For almost a decade, policyholders have fought for a just resolution in relation to losses suffered as a result of regulatory failure. The Government are confident that a resolution can be reached using the approach that we have outlined.

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