It has taken years for this government to receive a blistering Report from the Ombudsman making it quite clear there was regulatory failure as well as business error at Equitable Life.
When I was the regulatory Minister for Insurance and much of the City in the days when that post was held in the DTI, I received reports on the failure of Barlow Clowes. As soon as I read them I saw how people had suffered, and did not hesitate to compensate once regulatory failure had been established.
I want this government to do the same in this case. Many MPs have been pressing this cause with the government on behalf of constituents. Now the Ombudsman is so strong and clear, what further excuse could there be for delay?
It also leads one to ask more about the nature and purpose of financial regulation. This government seems to see regulation as a good way of bashing private business. The government is very reluctant to conclude regulation has let people down when things like Equitable Life or Northern Rock happen, yet what is the point of it unless it can prevent such events? And if things do go wrong with regulators, as sometimes they will, why is there so much hesitation or denial, when people want an apology and compensation for the mistakes?