Updated 2nd October 2014
“Many of us entrust pension companies with our financial futures and a serious error on their part can result in not just inconvenience, but turmoil for a family's long-term prospects When so much is at stake, there is no place for savers being misinformed about the size of their pension pot or income prospects to the tune of thousands of pounds.
As a constituency MP, I have come across cases of people being given seriously misleading information about their pension position and making life-changing decisions on the basis of that information.When this happens they should get proper compensation, not just a token payment
While it is important that we have systems of redress and compensation schemes, they are no substitute for companies treating their consumers fairly in the first place
Amazingly, the average Briton has 11 different jobs in their lifetime. Even a financial expert would have trouble keeping track of 11 different pensions and understanding the retirement income they could expect from them, so what hope for the rest of us?
It's my strong view that for decades we have allowed pensions to become far too complicated. The basic idea that you put money aside when you are working so that you can draw on it when you are not working is not a difficult one to graspWe need a new culture in the pensions industry that puts the consumer first.
And when things go wrong, the Mail is right to say that firms should be swift to resolve matters and offer proper compensation. Only in this way will we restore much-needed confidence in saving for retirement through a pension.”Steve Webb MP, Pensions Minister in the Daily Mail 1st October, 2014
Invitees to speak at EMAG's Westminster Rally 22nd October
EMAG has invited the following MPs to speak to our Rally to be held at Central Hall Westminster:
- Cheryl Gillan (Tory) for Amersham & Chesham
- Tim Farron (Lib Dem) Party president
- Natascha Engel (Labour) chair of Commons backbench business committee
- Douglas Carswell (UKIP parliamentary candidate for Clacton)
Plus EMAG president, Honor Blackman, and the three MP executive members of the APPG.
An exchange with the minister
On 24th July EMAG wrote to invite the Treasury's new minister responsible for Equitable Life, Andrea Leadsom MP, to speak to members at EMAG's October Rally. In a letter of 16th August she declined and regurgitated much of the Treasury's tired old script
October 9th by-elections: the UKIP factor?
On 9th October UKIP, which is proving popular with many disillusioned members, is expected to win its first seat in the UK Parliament with Douglas Carswell in Clacton. The Labour stronghold in Heywood & Middleton is expected to be an indicator of whether UKIP can also steal votes in depth from Labour.
Commons Backbench Business Committee
Since 2010 the Commons' new Backbench Business committee has the prerogative to determine the subject of debate in the chamber on a minimum of 27 days per year. The chair of that committee is Natascha Engel, Labour MP for North East Derbyshire.
On Friday 1st August Natascha met with 70+ EMAG members (plus Paul Braithwaite) in Eckington Community Centre. Members were told that the MP would seek to schedule a debate on Equitable Life.
The AGM of EMAG will be held in London on Wednesday 19th November. The keynote speaker will by Chris Wiscarson, chief executive of Equitable Life. The EMAG annual report and accounts (now at the printers) should be received by EMAG's current paid-up members in mid-October.
EMAG Regional roadshows
Since summer 2013 EMAG's regional co-ordinator, Chris Harlow, and his team have completed three dozen regional meetings with thousands of EMAG members up and down the country.
The workshops have set up hundreds of EMAG constituency groups of volunteer committees and activists. Each group has the goal to engage their particular MP in a dialogue, by post or face-to-face, and to make sure the MPs understand that they each have hundreds of dissatisfied Equitable Life constituents.
Many EMAG members have been frustrated to find their MP acting as ‘postman’, writing on their behalf to the Treasury and then forwarding the carefully crafted standard ‘cookie cutter’ responses back to them, thinking the job is done.
But EMAG members should be persistent and convey that if the MP fails to seek to persuade the Treasury to pay the balance of the £3 billion unpaid debt for maladministration, they risk losing the support of thousands of victims and their families at the May 2015 general election.
They should also point out that the Government's only reason for paying us just 23p in the pound was the state of the economy in October 2010. Now that the economy is improving, that argument no longer stands up.
And why should we be treated differently from savers with Northern Rock, Icesave, Bradford and Bingley, Halifax or RBS who all got 100% of their savings protected or reimbursed? The flimsy ‘systemic risk’ argument used by the Treasury is wafer thin.
But nobody is going to write a cheque if EMAG members don't make their anger felt. 2014 is the year when we could turn a little effort into a lot of money.
If YOU want the rest of your money back – DO something about it! Contact your MP and let him/her know what you think!
If you would like to join your local EMAG group, please contact email@example.com
Does this help unravel the calculations?
On 23rd July, the Treasury quietly published on its website two example calculations designed to help policyholders gain a better understanding of the payment calculation the Equitable Life Payment Scheme has carried out. EMAG is currently working with a sample of members to ‘test drive’ to see if they are actually helpful. This is an extremely slow response to the Public Accounts Committee recommendations of July 2013.
EMAG's recent survey of members
EMAG recently conducted an online survey of our members' attitudes. Nearly two and a half thousand members responded. It showed that 85% are dissatisfied with their 22% compensation payment and 99% want to campaign for the missing 78%.
- Non–WPA (getting 22%) – 85% dissatisfied with their payment.
- Post 92 WPAs – 62% dissatisfied with their payment.
- Pre 92 WPAs – 72% dissatisfied with their payment.
This demonstrates graphically the profound dissatisfaction of the vast majority of Equitable Life policyholders with the paltry payout to non WPAs, which was set in the dark days of October 2010 at just 22%. It's time for the government to put this right. It could even be a vote winner for them!
The APPG and the PAC
The Equitable Life APPG met on 29th April. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had an interesting dialogue with MPs and EMAG, following her committee's report on Equitable Life in July 2013.
The direct consequence was that the PAC called back the Treasury and NS&I witnesses before the committee on 12th May. EMAG's Paul Braithwaite attended. Read the minutes and observe how the Inland Revenue's director of business and international tax, Mike Williams, answered.
EMAG found Williams' testimony incomplete and wrote again to Margaret Hodge pointing out these deficiencies, on 30th May. EMAG has had a subsequent dialogue with the PAC and a further report is to be published.