I received a letter today from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr Owen Paterson, updating us on the current situation with regards to the Presbyterian Mutual Society. This is what he wrote:
At our recent meeting to discuss PMS, I indicated that I would be in touch to update you as the situation moved forward.
I chaired a meeting of the Ministerial Working Group yesterday – the Minister of State for Northern Ireland Hugo Swire, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban, the First and deputy First Minister and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment also participated.
As you are aware, the legal and commercial sensitivities surrounding PMS limit what I can say publicly at this stage. However, in broad terms, I wanted to emphasise again the commitment that the Government and the Northern Ireland Executive share to finding a just and fair resolution to the PMS crisis. The commitment was very much in evidence during the course of the Ministerial meeting on 8 September; the intensive work being carried out by officials from Whitehall and Stormont was reflected in the constructive proposals being worked through by my colleagues on the Ministerial Working Group.
We are considering several options with the aim of finding the best available solution for the thousands of PMS members who have been unable to access their investments since the Society entered administration in 2008 – and in so doing, we have been mindful of the many representations made to us by individuals, families, Church congregations, elected representatives and other public figures seeking that a satisfactory solution be found.
Complex issues still need to be resolved, but the will exists to identify a way forward in the context of the Spending Review this October. The Ministerial Group will meet again in two weeks to review progress. I hope this note offers some reassurance that progress is being made and that we expect to be able to provide more detail in coming weeks as to the way forward.
We thank Mr Paterson for his update and assure him and his colleagues of our prayerful support as they seek to resolve these “complex issues”. As we wait, we encourage one another, as Jesus did his disciples, to “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1-8).