Equitable Life (Payments) Bill

Part of Apprenticeships and Skills (Public Procurement Contracts) – in the House of Commons at 7:21 pm on 14th September 2010.

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Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Labour, Llanelli 7:21 pm, 14th September 2010

I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate today, and I certainly want to support the Bill, because we do not want to do anything to delay the payments. The important thing now is to get those payments made as quickly as possible to the many ordinary hard-working people who made sacrifices in order to put money away in a scheme that they trusted to provide for them in later life. Those people were thinking ahead; they were the responsible citizens who had no intention of having to rely on the state. They continue to worry, however, and to suffer hardship, because they fear that there will be still more delays. They are also worried by the mention of a cap being placed on the funding of the payments. Most importantly, those people do not want smokescreens, spurious justifications or complicated explanations. They simply want the Government to take notice of the ombudsman's letter of 26 July and move as swiftly as possible to making proper payments. They want those payments to be realistic, not just a sop; they want them to be made in the spirit of the ombudsman's report.

I am very concerned by the fact that the Minister spoke today of linking the amount to be paid out to Equitable Life victims with the comprehensive spending review. That would be totally unacceptable. We know that the issue of Equitable Life has gone on for some years now, and it should not be arbitrarily subject to a review that is to take place in a few weeks' time. Opposition Members are committed to seeing Equitable Life victims receive proper payments that reflect their losses. Anyone listening to what both the coalition parties said before the election would have thought that they too were committed to making proper payments. Indeed, they were vying with us to say that they would be more generous than we would. To state that the payments will now be subject to spending review cuts of perhaps 25% is absolutely disgraceful. What would have been a £100 payment could now be only £75. Frankly, that seems to me next to dishonest. Equitable Life victims were not responsible for the banking crisis, and they certainly do not deserve to be penalised by the slash and burn policies of the present Government, which respected economists are now suggesting might send us into a double-dip recession.

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