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Equitable Life

Volume 703: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Kitty Ussher) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman has today published the report of her investigation into the prudential regulation of the Equitable Life Assurance Society from 1988 to the end of November 2001.

The ombudsman's investigation was launched in 2004 following the publication of Lord Penrose's independent forensic investigation into the events at Equitable Life (HC 290). He concluded that Equitable Life’s own actions ultimately precipitated its financial difficulties in the summer of 2000.

The ombudsman has looked at the application of the now replaced prudential regulatory regime under the Insurance Companies Act 1982. Her investigation has covered issues of considerable factual and technical complexity.

Against this backdrop, it was necessary for the bodies subject to the ombudsman’s investigation to make detailed representations on a number of occasions throughout the investigation. Those representations were put forward at the ombudsman’s request to assist her review of the evidence. They highlighted substantive differences of view between the bodies and the ombudsman which she has responded to in the report published today.

The Government recognise that the ombudsman’s report raises issues of concern to all interested parties. The length and complexity of the report mean that the Government will need to consider the report carefully before giving a response to the House in the autumn.