A committee of MPs has warned the UK government that it risks a constitutional crisis if it continues to reject the findings of an independent report that makes it responsible for paying compensation for lost pensions.
The dispute centers on the case of more than 80,000 workers who lost their pensions despite alleged reassurances from government that they would be protected should their companies go bust.
Ann Abraham, the independent parliamentary ombudsman, said in a report late last year that the government was guilty of ‘maladministration’ for its part in publishing inaccurate advice on the safety of company pension schemes.
Ms Abraham has now followed up her report with a memo blasting the government’s response since. The memo was seen by the public administration committee, and cited by the Guardian newspaper.
I am concerned that the government’s response to my report, together with what appears to me to be an emerging attitude amongst government officials and ministers in relation to my findings of maladministration, has serious implications for the constitutional position of my office, she wrote.
The committee of MPs is now also worried that the ongoing battle between the ombudsman and the department for work and pensions could lead to a full scale constitutional crisis.
Meanwhile, some 1,000 workers from the collapsed group Allied Steel & Wire (ASW), who are unhappy with the government’s refusal to accept responsibility for their lost savings, have taken their case to the European Court of Justice.
Now the Daily Mail newspaper reports that the government is apparently seeking to use a legal technicality to prevent other victims following the ASW group’s lead should the government lose in Strasbourg. The legal clause would effectively impose a time limit on repeat actions that would kick in the same day as the verdict is delivered, the report claims.