National Ombudsmen
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Injustice Unremedied: The Government’s response on Equitable Life

 Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has laid before both Houses of Parliament a further report concerning Equitable Life. 

This relates to the Government’s response to her July 2008 report,Equitable Life: a decade of regulatory failure.

The Ombudsman’s further report, Injustice unremedied: the Government’s response on Equitable Life (HC 435), has been laid before Parliament under section 10(3) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.

The Ombudsman said:

The Government’s response to my report was deeply disappointing. It provided insufficient support for the rejection of my findings of maladministration and injustice. It also begged a rather larger question as to what the purpose of regulation was supposed to be.

I am also concerned by aspects of the Government’s decision to ask Sir John Chadwick to advise them on an alternative ex gratia scheme. There is no detailed timetable for this work; the link between maladministration, injustice and the remedy to be provided has been broken; and there is no definition of the concept of “disproportionate impact” which is to govern eligibility for a payment.

Whatever the outcome of the work to be done by Sir John, it is clear that not everyone who has suffered injustice will be eligible for a payment and that not all of the injustice suffered will be put right. The injustice I identified in my report will not therefore be remedied as a result of the Government’s response.


Notes to editors:

  1. Ann Abraham holds the post of UK Parliamentary Ombudsman and is also Health Service Ombudsman for England. She is appointed by the Crown and is independent of Government and the NHS. Her role is to provide a service to the public by undertaking independent investigations into complaints that government departments, a range of other public bodies in the UK, and the NHS in England, have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service. (There is no charge for using the Ombudsman’s services.)
  2. The Ombudsman will not be undertaking interviews in relation to this report. For other media enquiries please contact the PHSO Press Office on 0300 061 3924.
  3. If you would like an advance, embargoed copy of the report (or further copies once the embargo has expired), please contact PHSO on 0300 061 3904 or send your request by email The report will also be available from 6 May 2009 on the Ombudsman’s website:
  4. The July 2008 report of the Ombudsman’s investigation into the prudential regulation of Equitable Life during the period prior to 1 December 2001 can also be accessed on the Ombudsman’s website. The press release for that report, which contains a summary of its findings, is available here
  5. The Government’s response to the Ombudsman’s report was provided in January 2009 by Treasury Ministers. The published response is available on the Treasury website at: 
  6. The House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee has produced two reports concerning the Ombudsman’s report and the Government’s response to it. Those are available at the Committee’s website: Open in new window
  7. The Ombudsman derives her powers from the provisions of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967. This report has been laid pursuant to section 10(3) of that Act, which provides that:
  8. If, after conducting an investigation… it appears to the [Ombudsman] that injustice has been caused to the person aggrieved in consequence of maladministration and that the injustice has not been, or will not be, remedied, [she] may, if [she] thinks fit, lay before each House of Parliament a special report upon the case.
  9. This report is only the fifth such ‘unremedied injustice’ or ‘special’ report ever produced by the Ombudsman since the creation of the office in 1967. The other four reports were:
    • Rochester Way, Bexley – Refusal to meet late claims for compensation, HC 598 (1977-78) –laid before Parliament on 25 July 1978;
    • The Channel Tunnel Rail Link and Blight: Complaints against the Department of Transport, HC 193 (1994-95) – laid before Parliament on 8 February 1995;
    • A Debt of Honour’: The ex gratia scheme for British groups interned by the Japanese during the Second World War, HC 324 (2004-05) – laid before Parliament on 12 July 2005; and
    • Trusting in the Pensions Promise: Government bodies and the security of final salary occupational pensions, HC 984 (2005-06) – laid before Parliament on 14 March 2006
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