Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has challenged the Pensions Minister to help people whose company pension schemes have gone bankrupt, by using unclaimed assets in banks and building societies to boost the fund set up to support ailing pension schemes.

    Peter Lilley said: “Whilst I welcome the Minister?s decision to set up the pension protection fund and the financial assistance scheme, I told him that it is untenable to set them up without sufficient funds to cover all the potential victims of collapsed pensions. It is therefore essential that he make use of so-called ?orphan funds? to ensure the scheme is fully funded. The Minister claimed that it is impossible to use these funds. Yet the Chancellor has already said that he is going to use some of them to give to charity. If these orphan funds are available for charity, they are available to the Minister to help the victims of failed pension schemes.?

    “Regrettably, the Minister refused to do so.?


    Note to Editors:

    Extract from Hansard attached

    11. Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): If he will use unclaimed assets to boost the funding of the financial assistance scheme. [196326]
    The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Alan Johnson): I refer hon. and right hon. Members to the reply by my hon. Friend the Minister for Pensions on 4 July 2004. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor made clear in the March Budget, we want as much as possible to reunite unclaimed assets with their rightful owners. Where the assets cannot be so reunited, they should be

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    reinvested to benefit the whole of society. There are no plans to use such assets to provide assistance for people who have lost pensions.
    Mr. Lilley : I welcome the Secretary of State‘s decision to set up the financial assistance scheme, but does he not realise that it is untenable to do so on a basis that is not fully funded and does not cover all the potential victims of collapsed pension funds? Is it not therefore essential that he make use of the funds, rather than ridiculing the Chancellor‘s policy of making use of orphan funds for other purposes? If they are available for charity, they are available to the Secretary of State.
    Alan Johnson: That is the last thing I was doing; I was quoting the Building Societies Association ridiculing the policy of the Opposition?
    Mr. Lilley: That is the same thing.
    Alan Johnson: No, it is not. Government Members believe that, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said in this year‘s Budget speech, we should invest those moneys for the good of society as a whole. As for the money that we have available for the financial assistance scheme, for the reasons set out by my hon. Friend the

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    Minister for Pensions in late June, we believe that there we do have the opportunity to provide assistance. This is not compensation, and we do not accept any liability as a Government, but we are giving some assistance?not to the level that we are providing for the future, with the pension protection fund, but for the first time some help will be provided for those who have suffered in the past. The question is: should it come from the source that has been mentioned? We say no, it should not?and an awful lot of people who are politically neutral say the same thing.