Bindman & Partners has sealed a Court of Appeal victory that deals a major blow to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The DWP was appealing a February 2007 decision made in a case brought by Bindman partner John Halford on behalf of pensions campaigners Henry Bradley, Andrew Parr and Rob Duncan.
The trio had complained to the Parliamentary Ombuds-man about then pensions minister John Hutton, who had rejected the ombudsman’s ruling that the DWP had acted maladministratively when it did not warn members of occupational pension schemes that they would have only a 50 per cent chance of recovering their pensions if the sponsoring company became insolvent or the scheme wound up before they retired.
In February 2007 Mr Justice Bean found in favour of the campaigners, stating that “no reasonable secretary of state could rationally disagree” with the ombudsman’s conclusion that the DWP’s information had been inaccurate and misleading.
The DWP’s appeal, which was heard before three judges in July last year, saw Philip Sales QC of 11 KBW, instructed by the DWP’s in-house solicitor, portray the ombudsman as irrational and unfair.
But Dinah Rose QC of Blackstone Chambers, instructed by Bindman, argued that Hutton had no power to act as judge in his own case and that he was legally bound to accept the ombudsman’s ruling.
In rejecting the DWP’s appeal, Lord Justice Wall said: “Nobody reading the papers in this case could have anything but the utmost sympathy for the plight of the complainants, all of whom were decent hardworking people who, through no fault of their own, had been – or were at serious risk of being – deprived of that for which they had worked throughout their lives, namely a modestly comfortable retirement.”
Hutton is expected to seek permission to appeal to the House of Lords.