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Allied Steel and Wire

Volume 470: debated on Monday 7 January 2008

On 17 December, I announced a package to make payments to 140,000 individuals so cruelly deprived of their pensions, and I am pleased that unions and campaigners welcome this.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on achieving the 90 per cent. figure as the guarantee for pensioners. I thank him and previous Ministers for the many meetings that we have had on the long journey towards a settlement, which seemed impossible at the outset. Will he join me in congratulating the Community trade union on its persistence in fighting for its members’ interests? I remind hon. Members that the problem arose as a result of a commercial failure. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that in future people will not experience the pain that ASW workers and others in the same position suffered for some time?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments and pay tribute to the way in which he campaigned so diligently on behalf of ASW workers, as did many other Cardiff Members and Members throughout the country—140,000 people were affected. Community, formerly the steelworkers’ union, played a leading role and deserves tremendous credit for ensuring that the pressure was kept up. As a result, the Government have not only brought justice to the affected workers, but established the Pension Protection Fund, which will stop that sort of thing happening again and ensure that pensioners can feel secure, when they have contributed and saved, as we are all urging them to do, that they will realise in retirement the fruits of those investments.

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the reasons that the compensation has been paid, after five years, to the 140,000 pensioners who had their pensions stolen was the work of Ros Altmann, who campaigned for five years with, in my constituency, the teams of former Dexion workers led by Peter and Jackie Humphrey? Without five years of action, the compensation that the pensioners deserve would not have happened. Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in congratulating Ros Altmann and others?

I happily do so. Ros Altmann played an important part, as did the hon. Gentleman’s two constituents, whom I have met. The Dexion workers, like the others, deserve justice. I know that they would have liked it earlier, but we had Andrew Young’s report, which identified £1.7 billion of residual assets. We needed to ensure that we acted on that and maximised the best return to protect the pensioners and provide good value for taxpayers’ money. We have now achieved the settlement for which the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, joined by so many others, rightly campaigned.