Finally, the government does a u-turn:
Campaigners have welcomed a £2.9bn rescue package for 140,000 workers who lost their pensions when their companies went bust.
Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain has set out plans to restore 90% of the value of their pensions.
That brings them in line with other workers covered by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).
The boost follows a sustained campaign from workers, and criticism from MPs, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and others.
Peter Hain said the money would deliver justice to workers “cruelly robbed” of their pensions “through no fault of their own”.
As yesterday’s Morning Star editorial has it, the government was forced to do right:
The leaders of Unite and Community, plus the workers themselves, have every right to hail their victory – the announcement has lightened the load for many of them – but one wonders why Mr Hain feels comfortable joining in the celebrations. The agreement is one that has only been reached because the unions refused to let the issue go. At every step, they have had to cajole and shame this new Labour government into providing pensions justice for what should be its core constituents. Most of the blame for this lies at the feet of Gordon Brown who, as chancellor, dragged his feet over the compensation plan. Mr Hain has had to apply severe pressure to the Treasury to resolve this issue, painfully aware that those unions who have supported him throughout his career were looking on.
Contrast the Treasury’s foot-dragging when it came to saving 140,000 workers from penury with its alacrity in the case of the Northern Rock bank. There was no hesitation here – the bankers squealed and the government rushed to their rescue, generously flinging over £25 billion of our money in their direction. The Blair and Brown governments have become notorious for their parsimony towards those whom the Labour Party was created to represent, while showing unbridled generosity to the rich and powerful.
Now that New Labour is behind in the polls, there may be more capitulations – but no one will be fooled. Brown could’ve done this years ago and everyone knows it’s happening now because the government is desparate for some good headlines.
I find it interesting that Cameron’s New Tories aren’t that comfortable in their Thactheresque opinion poll lead over Labour. This weekend’s proposed alliance with the Greens and Liberals – turned down by both parties – may come back to haunt Dave the Chameleon…