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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 June, 2003, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Field anger at pension 'gag'
Frank Field, MP
Field wants all workers to be compensated
Labour MP Frank Field has criticised the government for "stifling" the debate on whether to compensate people whose company pensions have been wound up.

From 2005, a new insurance system will protect people - but only for pension schemes that go bust after that date.

The government has made it clear that it will not help thousands of people whose pension is already in trouble or is wound up before then.

Birkenhead MP Frank Field presented his ideas on solving the problem with a Private Members Bill, but is angry that it was blocked by the government from getting a reading in parliament.

People were made to join occupational pension schemes by the government
Frank Field, MP

"The government are quite clear in blocking the reforms that I'm trying to bring forward," the former pensions minister told BBC Radio 4's Money Box.

"They are clear in their intent of not having a serious debate on how we manage a growing problem of winding up pensions."

Mr Field's Bill proposes waging a levy on unclaimed assets in banks and building societies to help pay for compensation.

Schemes 'not voluntary'

It would also allow the insurance fund to borrow money, ensure that compensation is distributed more fairly and cap the costs of lawyers and accountants who wind up the schemes.

Mr Field also attacked Baroness Hollis of Heigham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, who told Money Box last week that retrospective payments would not be made because people entered schemes voluntarily.

"Patricia Hollis was totally wrong in saying this was a voluntary contract," he said.

My suspicion is that the total deficit is probably 50m
John Ralfe

"For the vast majority of the time that the occupational schemes have been built up, people had to take that scheme if they were to take that job.

"People were made to join them, and they were made to join them by the government. I would go back (with retrospective compensation) until we meet all the obligations."

Independent consultant John Ralfe, who formerly ran the Boots pension scheme, believes that the cost of compensating people might no be very high.

"Various figures have been bandied about, but I find it difficult to believe that it is more than 5-10,000 individuals," he said.

"My suspicion is that the total deficit is probably 50m. That is a mangeable by a government. But the insurance scheme isn't to be funded by the government, but it is to be funded by other companies."

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