Updated 17th July 2015
EMAG exists to campaign for full government compensation. Will members of EMAG please note that because of pressure of work we regret it is not possible to answer individual written enquiries.
The new Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin MP (second from right), met with EMAG's executive committee, Betty McCann (chair), Paul Weir and Paul Braithwaite on 1 July.
Latest important press article
“Equitable Life compensation could double.
The Equitable Life Payment Scheme will close to new claims on 31 December 2015 under measures announced in the summer Budget.
A note in the 123-page Budget document said the government planned to make further efforts to find remaining policyholders due £50 or more, while with-profits annuitants would continue to receive yearly payments for their lifetimes.
The scheme, which began making payments in 2011, has paid out about £1bn to some 87 per cent of eligible policyholders.
The government also announced that eligible policyholders in receipt of pension credit who received 22.4 per cent of their relative loss would see their lump sum payment doubled, with payments made in early 2016.
Chancellor George Osborne said: 'We are going to use the remaining funds available in our Equitable Life Payment Scheme, as it closes, to double the support we give to those policyholders on pension credit who most need this extra help.'
The latest changes to the Equitable Life compensation scheme come after last month the government made yet another appeal for policyholders to come forward, stating that there are about 136,000 people who are still due a payment.
In a statement, the payment scheme confirmed that all policyholders who could be traced have been.”
A concession in the Budget on Equitable Life
The Chancellor's 8 July budget had a small bone for some of Equitable Life's victims - but this is not new money. It simply diverts money due to as yet untraced policyholders. The intention is to distribute £50m of funds left, due to untraced victims, to with-profits policyholders (note NOT with-profits annuitants) who currently receive (or are eligible for) Pension Credit. This hardship fund pay-out will be forthcoming early in 2016 and will be a second and equal payment to the 22.4% already given to those victims in greatest need.
If you believe you may be eligible for the State Pension Credit, ring: 0800 99 1234.
If you believe you may be eligible for compensation but have not been contacted, ring ELPS in Glasgow, with your policy number to hand, on: 0300 0200 150.
This IS a concession in that when the then-Minister the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP was asked back in June 2013 what would become of potentially tens of millions of undistributed money (because of untraced recipients), he said that it would be retained by the Treasury!
EMAG met the new Treasury minister
The new Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriet Baldwin MP (West Worcestershire), is well versed in the Equitable victims' plight. She has met many constituent policyholders and she was previously a member of the APPG. EMAG wrote to her requesting an early meeting on 5 June which you can read here.
That request prompted a meeting with EMAG on 1 July. We're pleased to report that it was constructive and we know that concessions that we had pushed for were immediately taken on board and the Chancellor's Budget incorporated a last minute change in the Treasury's plan.
The Treasury had intended to close down the ELPS compensation scheme within days, despite 136,000 untraced policyholders still being due compensation. The Scheme closure date has now been extended to 31 December 2015. Note that this closure will not affect the annual payments that are made to with-profits annuitants.
EMAG complained to Ms Baldwin that the use of DWP records to trace current addresses through individuals' NI numbers had only been used for those due more than £250 (i.e, losses actually accepted as having been more than £1,100). At EMAG's suggestion, the Minister committed to extending the NI tracing scheme to all policyholders due £50 or more (i.e. acknowledged losses of over £220). Further, she graciously accepted the suggestion that she make an early appearance before the APPG.
EMAG believes that we have made an encouraging start to our relationship with the new minister responsible. This was reflected in EMAG's press reaction statement to the budget which can be read here.
The APPG held its formal meeting
On 17 June the Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was formally re-formed. MPs Bob Blackman and Fabian Hamilton were reappointed as the joint chairs. The vice-chairs elected were Baroness Kramer (LibDems) and Sir Peter Bottomley. Letters have been sent to all MPs in the new Parliament either reminding them of their membership or inviting newly elected MPs to join. Many have already done so.
Commons debate on Equitable compensation
On 26 February the Backbench Business Committee dedicated one of its privileged debates to Equitable Life, and the Motion demanded that there be a commitment in the next Parliament to pay out the compensation in full, as the economy recovers. 37 MPs spoke and only the Minister responsible, Andrea Leadsom MP, maintained the government's position. At the end of the debate there was a unanimous vote to adopt the motion, which read:
“That this House congratulates the Government on providing a scheme to compensate victims of the Equitable Life scandal; welcomes the Government's acceptance of the Parliamentary Ombudsman's findings in full; notes that the Parliamentary Ombudsman recommended that policyholders should be put back in the position they would have been had maladministration not occurred; further notes that most victims have only received partial compensation compared to the confirmed losses; and calls on the Government to make a commitment to provide full compensation during the lifetime of the next Parliament as the economy and public finances continue to recover.”
You can watch the debate (start at 12.53) here.
You can download a digest of the press coverage so far here.
All in all, a triumph! And great credit to the three-man APPG Executive officers, all of whom spoke well in our favour.
The Treasury's dissembling
On 12 February EMAG wrote to all 217 MPs on the APPG to provide them with a detailed explanation as to why they should not trust the Treasury's replies to Equitable Life questions. It may be an eye-opener for you too!