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Sharon Bowles: Disappointment for shareholders over Equitable Life vote

October 23, 2009 4:26 PM

Sharon Bowles has expressed strong disappointment that a Liberal Democrat motion in the House of Commons on compensating Equitable Life shareholders was defeated by 25 votes on Wednesday.

The motion, which called for the government to accept the findings of the Parliamentary Ombudsman to compensate shareholders of the Buckinghamshire-based Equitable Life Assurance Society, had in advance secured the support of 335 MPs from across all parties. However it was ultimately defeated by 294 votes against 269.

Bowles, who chairs the powerful Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in Brussels, has been helping to steer through new legislation in Europe reforming insurance rules with the aim of making sure a repeat of the Equitable Life fiasco does not happen again.

In 2007 Bowles helped to set up an independent inquiry into the disaster in the European Parliament. The inquiry found significant failings in the government's implementation of EU law designed to protect against failures like that which happened at Equitable Life.

Sharon Bowles said: "It looks like the government whips have done their job, and 294 Labour MPs voted to withhold compensation from Equitable's shareholders. This will have been a big disappointment for those who have been waiting years for the compensation they are owed.

"The case for compensation remains clear cut, as has been shown by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The government has been stalling for years. It has a moral obligation to pay up."