The independent action group for current and ex Equitable Life policyholders, funded by contributions.

Equitable Members Action Group

Equitable Members Action Group Limited, a company limited by guarantee, number 5471535 registered in the UK

Documents: 12/10/2006 - A member’s report on EQUI rapporteur and MEP Diana Wallis speech to EMAG’s AGM, held in London on 12th October, 2006

A member’s report on EQUI rapporteur and MEP Diana Wallis speech to EMAG’s AGM, held in London on 12th October, 2006

Yorkshire common sense, a passion for democracy, praise for EMAG’s efforts and a transparent mission to see the institutions of the European Community working on behalf of people – these were the impressions that Diana Wallis MEP’s address gave Equitable Members Action Group’s AGM.

We learned that the European Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry is hot on the trail, meeting a bevy of the players in the Equitable affair in the coming days. There are no findings as yet of course but if the Inquiry should find in favour of EMAG’s points, and if the UK’s Parliamentary inquiry should also have censures to make, then we can hope that the impact will be weighty on a government that may be eyeing up the prospects for the next election.

Diana Wallis has a clear strong voice and she did not need notes to recount in some detail what the European Parliament is doing, and what it might in future do, to represent the citizen in consumer issues like ours. Her credentials are solid as the Lib-Dem MEP for Yorkshire & The Humber, actively involved in environment, commercial contract and civil law issues. Through her membership of the Parliament's Petitions Committee, she dealt with EMAG's initial petitions on Equitable, and first suggested that a Committee of Inquiry be formed on the specific issue.

On Thursday 12.10.06, she addressed a well-filled hall at the National Liberal Club to explain what help the Inquiry’s powers and ambitions could bring to EMAG’s long fight with the darkness of ELAS and the financial authorities. It is early days for the European Parliament’s Committee, and it will seek to report after the results of the UK’s own inquiry under the Parliamentary Ombudsman are known, so we should not yet expect the dawn.

The Petitions Committee is looking at three principal questions;

  • whether the European Directives on Life Insurance were sufficiently policed by the European Commission;
  • whether the UK Govt implemented the Directive as it was intended;
  • how far and how adequately, consumers’ rights are protected by these regulations.

From EMAG’s point of view, aspirations for justice must be attached to the second of these questions. If the UK government’s implementation – taking place under the previous Conservative regime, described as “light in touch” and salted about into some previous legislative measures – fell short of what the EC intended, then the European Inquiry will no doubt condemn this in its recommendations. If those calls come hard on the heels of any censure that may be made by the UK’s own Parliamentary Ombudsman’s inquiry, then pressure will indeed be heavy on the administration to put its house in order and even to think about compensating the victims.

But the battle is not yet won. Apart from the questions of substance – whether fault can be laid at the administration’s door – it is also open to the government to deploy delaying tactics. It may start by delaying the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report, and in doing so it will present the European Inquiry with a dilemma, whether to publish before the UK or to wait for the hope of added effect. By delay, government can also hope to obfuscate issues – we can only wait and see.

In coming to talk to the AGM, Diana Wallis paid tribute to EMAG’s aim to fight on behalf of Equitable’s customers. She praises the Group for bringing the matter to Europe, and she gives heart to the fight with her words. It is clear from her stance that consumers will be better protected in the future, as a result of the action being brought. We in EMAG must hope that the two inquiries are also effective in protecting us from past failings of the financial authorities.