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Bourne: Labour's pensions betrayal of Welsh workers

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I appreciate that it is a reserved area, but, like the police, it impacts on everyday life in Wales, particularly for the ASW workers. Like Owen John, I was astounded that only a very small part of your statement dealt with the ombudsman's report.

Presumably, it was the ombudsman's report that led to the statement, because it has been published, as has the Government's reaction to it. Therefore, it was disappointing to see it buried away in the hope perhaps that we would not concentrate on that issue. However, it is an important issue—let us be honest about it. I have also acted with the ASW workers and I have been to London with some of them to meet DWP officials to see what can be done under the current legal framework.

We are now looking seriously at an ombudsman's report. The ombudsman, Ann Abraham, said in a very carefully worded and researched report—and I hope that the Minister agrees with this and will perhaps indicate whether he has faith in the ombudsman, and, if so, why his Westminster colleagues have been unable, in a way that is unprecedented, to accept the major recommendation in the report of reimbursement of the shortfall—that the Labour Government's action in reducing the minimum funding requirement against advice in 2002, and ignoring actuarial warnings in 2000, was severely criticised.

Official information provided by the Government was described as 'inaccurate', 'incomplete', 'unclear' and 'inconsistent', and it was against that background that this recommendation was made. Why is it that any Government feels able to cherry-pick on ombudsmen's reports when they are made independently of Government? That is why the ombudsman was introduced by a Labour Government, so why does a Labour Government feel unable to accept this main recommendation? Have you been in contact with the ombudsman's office to say that you have faith in her, Minister?

Given that the Government failed to take notice of the warnings on the minimum funding requirement in 2002, have you been in touch with John Hutton—and I will pause while you take advice—to ask why actuarial warnings were ignored in 2000 and why that part of the ombudsman report has not been accepted? I notice that, in your statement you said the following.

'There will be much further discussion on this matter, and, as a Government, we will consider the ombudsman's report fully.'

If you have not yet considered it fully, why has that key recommendation—the central recommendation for these workers—already been rejected? I can see that the First Minister is surprised, but I am reading this from the statement. If it says that in the statement and it has not yet been considered fully, how can that key recommendation be ignored? This goes to the core of the matter.

How can you reject the independent recommendations of the ombudsman on these central matters relating to the payment of these workers in Wales and elsewhere who have lost out because of your Government's inaction—or 'maladministration', as it was described by the ombudsman?"

"Deallaf mai mater a gadwyd yn ôl ydyw, ond, fel yr heddlu, mae'n effeithio ar fywyd pob dydd yng Nghymru, yn enwedig ar weithwyr ASW. Fel Owen John, yr oeddwn innau yn synnu mai dim ond rhan fach iawn o'ch datganiad a ymdriniodd ag adroddiad yr ombwdsmon.

Tybiaf mai adroddiad yr ombwdsmon a barodd i chi wneud y datganiad, am iddo gael ei gyhoeddi, fel y cyhoeddwyd ymateb y Llywodraeth iddo. Felly, yr oedd yn siomedig ei weld yn cael ei gladdu yn y gobaith na fyddem o bosibl yn canolbwyntio ar y mater hwnnw. Fodd bynnag, mae'n fater pwysig—gadewch inni fod yn onest ynglyn â hyn. Yr wyf innau hefyd wedi gweithredu gyda gweithwyr ASW ac yr wyf wedi bod i Lundain gyda rhai ohonynt i gyfarfod â swyddogion yr Adran Gwaith a Phensiynau i weld beth y gellir ei wneud o dan y fframwaith cyfreithiol cyfredol.

Dywedodd Ann Abraham, yr ombwdsmon, mewn adroddiad sydd wedi'i eirio'n ofalus iawn ac sydd ag ôl ymchwil gofalus iawn arno—a gobeithiaf fod y Gweinidog yn cytuno â hyn ac y bydd o bosibl yn dweud wrthym pa un a oes ganddo ffydd yn yr ombwdsmon, ac os felly, pam y mae ei gyd-aelodau yn San Steffan, wedi methu â derbyn prif argymhelliad yr adroddiad sef ad-dalu'r diffyg, rhywbeth nad yw erioed wedi digwydd o'r blaen—bod penderfyniad y Llywodraeth Lafur i leihau'r gofyniad ariannu lleiaf yn 2002 a hynny'n groes i'r cyngor a roddwyd, ac anwybyddu rhybuddion gan yr actiwarïaid yn 2000, wedi'i feirniadu'n hallt.

Disgrifiwyd gwybodaeth swyddogol a roddwyd gan y Llywodraeth yn wybodaeth 'anghywir', 'anghyflawn', 'aneglur' ac 'anghyson', a gwnaed yr argymhelliad hwn yn y cyd-destun hwnnw. Pam mae unrhyw Lywodraeth yn teimlo ei bod yn gallu dewis a dethol o ran adroddiadau'r ombwdsmon pan gânt eu gwneud yn annibynnol ar Lywodraeth? Dyna pam y cyflwynodd Llywodraeth Lafur yr ombwdsmon, felly pam bod Llywodraeth Lafur yn teimlo na all dderbyn y prif argymhelliad hwn? A fuoch mewn cysylltiad â swyddfa'r ombwdsmon i ddweud bod gennych ffydd ynddi, Weinidog?

O gofio bod y Llywodraeth wedi methu â chymryd sylw o'r rhybuddion ar y gofyniad ariannu sylfaenol yn 2002, a fuoch mewn cysylltiad â John Hutton—ac fe gymeraf seibiant tra ceisiwch gyngor—i holi pam yr anwybyddwyd rhybuddion yr actiwari yn 2000 a pham na dderbyniwyd y rhan honno o adroddiad yr ombwdsmon? Sylwais ichi ddweud y canlynol yn eich datganiad.

'Bydd llawer mwy o drafodaeth ar y mater hwn, ac, fel Llywodraeth, byddwn yn ystyried adroddiad yr ombwdsmon yn llawn.'

Os nad ydych wedi ei ystyried yn llawn eto, pam mae'r argymhelliad allweddol hwnnw—yr argymhelliad canolog ar gyfer y gweithwyr hyn—wedi ei wrthod eisoes? Gallaf weld bod y Prif Weinidog wedi'i synnu, ond yr wyf yn darllen hyn o'r datganiad. Os dywed hynny yn y datganiad ac nis ystyriwyd yn llawn eto, sut y gellir anwybyddu'r argymhelliad allweddol hwnnw?

Mae hyn yn mynd i graidd y mater. Sut y gallwch wrthod argymhellion annibynnol yr ombwdsmon ar y materion canolog hyn sy'n ymwneud â thalu'r gweithwyr hyn yng Nghymru ac mewn mannau eraill sydd wedi colli allan oherwydd diffyg gweithredu eich Llywodraeth—neu 'gamweinyddiaeth', fel y'i disgrifiwyd gan yr ombwdsmon?"

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