The government was today criticised over its failure to compensate policyholders of Equitable Life in a special report from the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Ann Abraham said she was “deeply disappointed” by the government’s response to her earlier report on its regulation of the society and its refusal to set up an independent tribunal to calculate redress for policyholders.
As a result she said she had produced a special report, Injustice unremedied: the Government’s response on Equitable Life, to draw the matter to the attention of MPs and peers.
It is only the fifth time since the post of Parliamentary Ombudsman was created more than 40 years ago that such a report has been produced, with two of the previous reports also published since this government came to power.
Ms Abraham said: “The government’s response to my report was deeply disappointing. It provided insufficient support for the rejection of my findings of maladministration and injustice.
“It also begged a rather larger question as to what the purpose of regulation was supposed to be.”
Ms Abraham had called on the government to apologise to policyholders and set up an independent tribunal to calculate compensation for them, after finding 10 instances of maladministration by regulators and Whitehall officials in the period leading up to December 2001.
But the government rejected all or part of five of her findings of maladministration, and instead of following her recommendations for compensation, it has appointed former Appeal Court judge Sir John Chadwick to advise it on making ex-gratia payments to policyholders who had been “disproportionately affected”.
Ms Abraham said: “Whatever the outcome of the work to be done by Sir John, it is clear that not everyone who has suffered injustice will be eligible for a payment and that not all of the injustice suffered will be put right. The injustice I identified in my report will not therefore be remedied."
The Ombudsman also said she was “entirely unpersuaded” by the basis upon which the government had rejected some of her findings of maladministration.
She said it was now up to Parliament to consider and debate whether the government’s response to her report was “adequate or whether instead it constitutes an inappropriate attempt to act as judge and jury in its own cause”.