Equitable Life

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th January 2001.

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Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo Conservative, Kensington and Chelsea 12:00 am, 25th January 2001

Many millions of people are living in anxiety over this question. Will they not be shocked that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not get up and take responsibility for his part in the matter? Will the right hon. Gentleman, through the Economic Secretary, take responsibility for the letter written by the Treasury in December 1998 which approved Equitable Life's decision to reduce the bonuses payable to those people who had guaranteed annuities?

Is it not the case that the fact that the Treasury ventured into an opinion on the law—an opinion that turned out to be wrong—was the reason why Equitable Life did not seek a sale of the company at that time? Therefore, are Ministers not responsible for the fact that the company is now unable to meet the expectations of millions of people? Will the Government take their responsibility seriously, and will the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognise that the fate of millions of people has been affected by what has been done in his name?