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Equitable Life payouts for Irish policyholders

THE 6,500 Irish policyholders of Equitable Life could receive part-compensation from the British government by the summer, it has emerged.

The UK is to pay out €1.8bn to more than one million affected policyholders, including the Irish ones. Total losses for those who had policies with the firm have been estimated at €6bn.

Equitable Life, one of the UK's leading private pension companies, closed to new business in 2000 and subsequently came close to collapse.

Savers and those with pensions who lost money in Equitable Life could start receiving compensation payments in the middle of this year, according to Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness, Ireland East MEP and chairwoman of the European Parliament's inquiry into the debacle.

Ms McGuinness sought clarification from the UK treasury on the position of overseas policyholders, asking for confirmation they would be treated equally to those within Britain.

Financial secretary to the treasury Mark Hoban responded: "I can confirm that as far as the [UK] government is concerned, there are no substantive differences between policyholders who live in the UK and those who live abroad, or between those who purchased their policies in the UK and those that purchased them abroad. Their losses are included in the calculation for relative losses."

Ms McGuinness said: "While I would have preferred an entirely unconditional res-ponse, nonetheless it is a step in the right direction."

The design of the payment scheme is being finalised and will then be reviewed by the UK parliament. The European Parliament's inquiry recommended full compensation by the UK government for victims.

Irish Independent