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Volume 400: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what inquiries he has instituted into (a) the collapse of ASW and (b) the effect of the collapse upon the pension schemes of the Company's employees; and if he will make a statement on the Government's response to the situation. [94897]

[holding answer 31 January 2003]: As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, stated in a written answer given to the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) on 7 January 2003, Official Report, columns 144–45W, the Minister of State for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions looked at ASW's difficulties in July last year when he tried to find a way to resolve them and enable the company to continue to trade.Ministers have also met members of the Allied Steel and Wire (ASW) Action Groups' and their constituency MPs, to discuss the Groups' concerns about the Cardiff and Sheerness pension schemes.On 15 October 2002, the Minister for Pensions and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury met with hon. Members for Sittingbourne and Sheppey and Cardiff, West, and members of the ASW Pensions Action Group. A number of practical ways forward were identified, including an undertaking by the Minister for Pensions to discuss the issues raised with colleagues across Government. Also, a number of technical pension issues were raised on the process of winding up, which the Minister subsequently resolved with the group.Following an adjournment debate about ASW on 16 October, the Minister for Pensions arranged a meeting between the hon. Members for Sittingbourne and Sheppey and Cardiff West, the Occupational Regulatory Authority (Opra) and one of his officials to discuss the MPs' concerns about the length of time it can take to wind up a pension scheme and other pensions issues.