A substantial step forward

February 23, 2005 ,

THIS week there was an important announcement in Parliament affecting former Allied Steel and Wire workers.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Alan Johnson, announced the first payments to be made out of the Financial Assistance Scheme.
This is the fund set up after the campaign by the steelworkers and their unions, which was taken up by myself and others in Parliament, with strong support from the Echo.

This week Alan Johnson announced that those closest to retirement would be helped first, and for the first time put a figure on the “substantial” help that had been promised.

He announced that 15,000 workers across Britain within 3 years of retirement would get 80% of their expected pension.
Not long ago many were anticipating only 15% or even less. So this is a substantial step forward.

Just as important however, is what happens to the next group as they approach retirement. In Parliament this week I called for the same assistance to be given to them.

This is where the second part of the announcement becomes important. For the first time the Government has opened the door for more money to go into the £400m fund.

It as agreed that the 3 year review of the scheme, which was promised when it was set up, will include a review of the finances, as part of the government spending plans.

I believe that the government in that review will want to ensure that the next group approaching retirement is also supported in a substantial way.
I will certainly carry on pressing for that commitment.

The Financial Assistance Scheme was an extraordinary victory for the ASW workers and their Trade Unions, and credit should be given to the Government for responding to the campaign.