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Presbyterian savers may get most of their money

All investors in the ill-fated Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS) would get the vast majority of their money back under a Government rescue package.

Under the plan, Stormont, the UK Treasury and Presbyterian Church would stump up to help the 10,000 PMS investors hit when the society went under in 2008.

The deal was tabled by First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, but must get Treasury approval before being implemented.

But the PMS Savers lobby group said members still demand “full and immediate” compensation.

Presbyterian Moderator Stafford Carson gave the initiative a guarded welcome — if 100% of the lost monies is to be restored.

In the first attempt by a regional administration to intervene in a local crisis arising from the recession, the First Ministers are due to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown to finalise the details.

It is understood the mechanism — which still requires formal approval by the Executive and Assembly legislation — would give the administrator more time to realise the assets of the Society while allowing for interim payments.

But Isobel Whyte, of the PMS Savers group, said: “The provisions do not address the fact that PMS members, even those with savings of less than £20,000 in the society, are due full and immediate compensation.

“Many will see these proposals for what they really are: a face-saving exercise. They constitute an attempt to appear pro-active after 18 months of apathy towards the plight of PMS members.

“The Prime Minister should not be seen to condone such behaviour. The PMS Savers Lobby Group therefore urges Mr Brown not to accept any proposals that will not enable PMS members to enjoy the benefit of guarantees accorded to their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom over 18 months ago.”

Dr Carson said: “It's encouraging to know that a solution may be possible but we are disappointed that everyone's preferred option of a commercial solution does not now seem possible.

“However, if the Northern Ireland Executive, in consultation with the Treasury, has been able to devise a scheme that restores 100% of all savings then that will be an excellent outcome.”

Mr McGuinness said: “We are determined to move forward quickly and with more clarity to avoid any further delays.”

Mr Robinson said: “It would be inappropriate for me to detail it in public until such times as the Treasury have had time to look at it.”

He said the package was good news for depositors, whether small savers or larger lenders.

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