UK - Opposition MPs have hit out at the government after it admitted that a report into the near collapse of Equitable Life would be delayed.
MPs claimed that as the Penrose inquiry – set up to investigate the insurer – had only just started to interview witnesses, it was highly unlikely the report would be published before parliament’s summer recess, the original aim.
The only timescale given for the inquiry’s findings so far is that the report will be produced some time this year.
The delay comes as further bad news for the Equitable’s 6000 group personal pension and AVC schemes representing more than 500,000 members and holding around £4bn – nearly 20% – of the society’s funds of £21bn.
Conservative Treasury spokesman Stephen O’Brien – venting the anger of thousands of policyholders – said: “My question has revealed that there has already been slippage, so that target is unlikely to be met.
“The answer by the financial secretary to the Treasury, Ruth Kelly, is simply not good enough.”
The delay will bring greater focus on the actions of a group of 10 former investors in Equitable.
They are due to ask the High Court on January 31 to set a trial date and rule that their cases should proceed as a group.
They will be the first group of claimants to have their cases reviewed by a judge.
The lawyer co-ordinating the action believes the court’s decision could create a lifeline for thousands of other policyholders who were poorly advised to invest in Equitable Life’s with-profits fund.
Clarke Willmott & Clarke solicitor Robert Morfee said: “Although each case is different, there are so many similarities that it makes sense for those common issues to be considered together before a judge.”
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