Bindmans wins landmark ruling to save 75,000 pensions

Bindman & Partners has won a High Court victory likely to save 75,000 pensions.

Judge David Bean yesterday condemned Work and Pensions minister John Hutton’s rejection of a Parliamentary Ombudsman report into occupational pensions as “irrational” and outside his powers, and said that the decision not to restore money lost in the scheme should be reconsidered.

In a statement, Bindmans partner John Halford commented: “The Government had been caught red-handed in an act of constitutional vandalism intended to deprive thousands of working people of justice.

“Mr Hutton sought to take a sledgehammer to one of the most important checks and balances on government power: the independent Ombudsman’s ability to reach a definitive view on whether any citizen has suffered the effects of government maladministration. That this case has to be brought at all is an absolute scandal.”

The Ombudsman’ report found that the DWP leaflets that had encouraged the public to join and stay in company pensions schemes were maladministrative, as they had failed to mention the most important risk: that non-pensioner members would lose money if the schemes were wound up voluntarily or as a result of insolvency.

When hundreds of schemes closed in the 1990s, up to 125,000 people were left with a fraction of their pension, only then discovering that their money was unprotected. The Ombudsman recommended that the Government should restore the lost benefits.

Mr Hutton rejected both her report and recommendations in March 2006. In the first test case of its kind, that decision was challenged by four of the affected scheme members: Henry Bradley, Rob Duncan, Andrew Parr, and Tom Waugh.

The Treasury Solicitor’s Office advised the DWP.