Pensions horror

NOBODY fully appreciated the disaster waiting to happen when the last Conservative Government passed the Pensions Act in 1995.

The Pensions Minister at that time was one William Hague, soon to become Welsh Secretary and then Tory Party leader.

It is extraordinary how in the last eight years things have changed.
When Hague won the leadership he had at first pledged his support to Michael Howard.

Then Ann Widdecombe drove a stake through Howard's heart with her "something of the night" comment, and William Hague was able to take advantage.

Like comedy, politics is often about timing. Hague's punchline came too early, and by blocking Howard in '97, he allowed him to resurrect himself in 2003.

But William Hague's Pension record is returning to haunt him, as Howard returns to haunt his party.

I went to the Department of Work and Pensions this week with representatives of the unions at Allied Steel and Wire.

We were there to deliver a letter to inform the government that the unions are going to court over the loss of the ASW workers' pensions.

The next day I spoke to a seminar of 140 people from across the UK who have suffered the same fate.

At that meeting pensions expert Frank Field MP said the ASW Campaign was the most important ha had seen in the last 20 years in parliament.

But this is a tough one to win. No government wants to pay out compensation retrospectively.

Nevertheless there is widespread support of organisations from the Trades Union Congress to the Institute of Directors.

They recognise that there has been an injustice, and that confidence in occupational pensions will be wrecked if ASW workers lose their pensions.

The ASW workers have already succeeded in changing the law to protect workers in the future. Now they deserve justice for themselves.