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Equitable Members Action Group

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

Documents: 17/11/2009 - Transcript of Tony Wright's speech at EMAG Nov 4th Demo

Tony Wright speech to EMAG Rally Central Hall Westminster 4 November 2009

Thank you very much for that. Thank you all for coming here.

There is a remarkable quote attributed to Richard Burton on his wedding night to Elisabeth Taylor when he is alleged to have said 'What on earth can I do that others that have come before me have failed to do?'

One confession is I that wasnít always in the past persuaded of your case unlike Vince who kicked-off.

The second confession is when years ago Paul used to pursue me relentlessly I did not always want to be pursued relentlessly. He is a formidable campaigner as indeed are all of you.

What I do want to do because I do chair the committee that oversees the work of the Ombudsman. †Iím a great believer in the Ombudsman system. I wanted to see quite simply what the Ombudsman reported in your case after she had undertaken her investigation stretching over 4 years , It was that report, her work that persuaded me that YES you did have a case. Her job was to be, and this is the crucial thing. It was the Labour Government in the 1960s that did it.† It was a very big business to set up a Parliamentary Ombudsman system because the system which said that when there are allegations that government departments or possibly bodies have been engaged in so-called maladministration, we will have an independent person to investigate the case. So we that wonít judge we will have an independent person who will judge. And if there is injustice been caused that injustice she will recommend should be remedied. Something lost that her recommendations would be followed. And on the whole this worked well over the years - there have been some moments when there were difficulties but on the whole itís worked well.

And when she reported and she did show and in her words that there had been serial† regulatory failure in the Equitable Life case† and it has caused injustice to large numbers of people, and that that injustice has remained unremedied. She made - incidentally there are† only 4 previous occasions since 1967 when the Ombudsman system was established† when the Ombudsman has had to make a special report to parliament that said she had found that there was a maladministration, she has had found the maladministration had led to an injustice and that this injustice has not been remedied.† And she handed it over to Parliament and said `What are you going to do about it?í

And that what she has done.

Now the problem really of course is that then that it gets of sort processed through the normal Party political machinery and it is formidably difficult for members of the Government Party, I am not saying it is easier for members of Opposition politicians Ė but it is easier! It is formidably difficult for members of the Governing party to vote against their own government on a three line whip. Itís the sin against the Holy Ghost in the House of Commons to do that. So I pay tribute to those of my colleagues, a goodly number who stood up and were counted on this issue. (applause).

I made a statement to the effect that I think that it is completely wrong that when on these rare occasions when the Ombudsman brings a report of this kind to the House, the House should decide on a free vote whether it wants go to the Ombudsman or whether it wants to go with the Government. †I really do. (applause).

Just picking up on a point Vince made at the beginning: there are two causes here for me: - there is the cause of remedying the injustice to you, and there is the cause of upholding the integrity of the Ombudsman system. These are two big causes, it is necessary for both of them to prevail and it is necessary for the coalition that has been put together in support of those two causes to prevail. Thank you very much.