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: 09/11/2009 - Vince Cable speech to EMAG Rally Central Hall Westminster 4 November 2009

Vince Cable speech to EMAG Rally Central Hall Westminster 4 November 2009

Iíd like to congratulate the EMAG and Paul in particular. (applause)

It really has been a remarkable struggle and the fact that you have stayed with it, it is a David Goliath battle. Goliath in this case consists of the best minds of the British Civil Service who have spent a decade of their lives keeping you at bay. Every conceivable subterfuge, procrastination, delay has been used by Her Majestyís Treasury to try to block this justice that you are rightfully seeking.

I believe that you are close to winning this battle and thatís why you must stay with it and it is in large part due to the courage and tenacity that you have shown.

I think all the MPs here are not here on a party political quest - we are here on a joint basis.

There are 2 things which motivate me. The first is we have hundreds of constituents, some of whom are here, who have been caused great hardship. Many of them have lost up to half their pensions. And it is not as a result of recklessness. Of course there are people who put their money in high risk investments and some even put money into Icelandic BanksÖbelieve it or not the Government rescued them but you did not do that. You invested in what you thought were safe and reliable investments which were being properly regulated and supervised by the regulators, the Government. You used sound prudence reasons and nobody in this hall had any reason whatever to think the company was in the process of massive overbonussing for one thing and making no preparations for the fact that its guaranteed annuities did not have sufficient reserves - technical problems which it was the regulators job to oversee. And you have been caused hardship and you should be compensated. That is the first point.

The second point relates to our work across the road. Over the past few months the Parliament has been brought into considerable disrepute. The whole idea of parliamentary democracy has been undermined. But we do have a very powerful and invaluable part of our constitution, which is the Parliamentary Ombudsman. And the Parliamentary Ombudsman exists for one very powerful reason, for whatever frustration you might have with your MPs, you will have a body independent of government to whom you can go if there is an injustice, a maladministration and you can obtain compensation from that body. It is an absolutely fundamental British right. And why this case is so important is that this is the most important case that the Ombudsman has ever taken on. And it is the Governmentís intention to completely undermine the authority of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. So whatever we feel about the rights and wrongs of individuals, we are not just fighting here for you, important though that is, we are fighting for an absolutely fundamental constitutional principle - that the authority of the Ombudsman should be upheld. (applause)

I will not take too much time, we have each been given 5 minutes. I will just invest some time to explaining why I am pursuing the Ombudsmanís (cause?)

I first raised the issue of the Equitable Life in a debate in Parliament almost a decade ago and reminded ministers that when another group of investors, with Barlow Clowes, lost their money because of bad regulation and they were being compensated. And the politician who made his reputation fighting for those investors was Gordon Brown. And the answer given by Ministers was that you in Equitable will be treated in the same way provided that there is an Ombudsman recommendation in your favour. That is what we were told 9 years ago.

Events moved forward over 4 years to get to the Ombudsman investigation because of the obstructions of (?)

When the Ombudsmanís report was finished it took another 18 months to clear the Treasury processes. And finally, finally at the end of last year we got the full presentation of the Ombudsmanís report. At the beginning of this year we had one of the most disgraceful episodes in this whole sorry saga. We had a Minister who came to Parliament and apologised, she apologised profoundly for the wrongs that had been done to you and then separately a report was published which more or less said the opposite and said Governmentís effectively was washing its hands of 90% of you and it does not consider itself bound by the Ombudsman reports to provide compensation.

And it set up this very complex process under Sir John Chadwick, which means that not only you will not be compensated as a right but will also be subject to a means-test. That was inherently what the Government is suggesting. And it is not independent or the subject of appropriate control.