[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 13:57 GMT
Pensioners court costs to be paid
Protesting BUSM pensioners
Pensioners protesting in London last year
Four men who won a court case over their lost pensions will now have their legal costs paid by the government.

The Work & Pensions Secretary John Hutton told MPs that he would pay the costs of the men's claim so far, plus any appeal costs.

But he said the government itself might go to appeal over the case.

The High Court has ordered the government to reconsider its rejection of findings made by the parliamentary ombudsman in a report on lost pensions.

Last year the ombudsman, Ann Abraham, found that the government was guilty of maladministration, and had caused injustice, by publishing inaccurate and misleading information about the security of occupational pension schemes.

She had called on the government to arrange higher levels of compensation for about 85,000 people.

They had lost all or part of their pension entitlements when their pension schemes were wound up with a deficit, between 1997 and 2005.

Judicial review

The government's refusal to abide with the ombudsman's ruling was challenged by four men, whose claims were heard as test cases in a judicial review at the High Court.

On Wednesday Mr Justice Bean sided with the men, and the ombudsman, and ordered the government to rethink its attitude.

He said it would not be reasonable or rational for ministers to disagree with the ombudsman's main conclusions over maladministration.

However he rejected the idea that the losses suffered by all the tens of thousands of pensioners involved had been caused by the government's misinformation.

Parliamentary statement

Mr Hutton adopted a much more conciliatory attitude than before when he addressed MPs in Parliament.

He said the government had acted in good faith and sympathised with the plight of the pension scheme members.

But he pointed out that the government had not yet decided if it would appeal against the High Court ruling on the one point on which it had lost.

"We have not yet decided the precise grounds for such an appeal," said Mr Hutton.

"It is absolutely right and proper that we take the time to study this judgment and consider its implications in detail."

He also noted that the government was also in the process of reviewing the level of protection offered by the Financial Assistance Scheme.

It has been obliged to do this following an earlier ruling by the European Court of Justice, which had said that up until 2005 the UK's system for protecting pension schemes against insolvency had been inadequate.


SEE ALSO
High Court victory for pensioners
21 Feb 07 |  Business
EU rules on bust pension schemes
25 Jan 07 |  Business
MPs urging pensions compensation
30 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Ombudsman angry with government
13 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Government rejects pension payout
06 Jun 06 |  Business
Government rejects pension ruling
15 Mar 06 |  Business



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific