I had a telephone conversation yesterday with the Secretary of State, Mr Owen Paterson, and he assured me that work was continuing to seek a fair and just resolution to the PMS crisis. As yet we have no black and white outcome, he said, but ministers and officials are pressing on, and are seeking a solution.
There is a twin track approach in this quest, with efforts still being made to bring about a commercial solution as well as a reconsideration of what we have come to refer to as Plan B. The Secretary of State said that the Working Group was equally serious about both options.
It’s important that we stay patient for the next few weeks. Clearly the Spending Review next month is a deadline that the Ministerial Working Group is very aware of, and there is an urgency to their work.
The Secretary of State confirmed that the last meeting of the Ministerial Working Group was very constructive, and the statement following today’s meeting is also positive. It’s good to see that the Treasury are actively involved in the discussions as represented by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Mark Hoban.
I hope to see Mr Paterson next week for further discussions on this topic.
Here’s today’s statement:
Members of the Ministerial Working Group on the Presbyterian Mutual Society met today in Belfast to assess progress towards a resolution for those PMS members who remain unable to access their investments in the Society, which entered administration in October 2008.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban came to Belfast for the first time in his ministerial role to attend the meeting. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson MP chaired it. First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, NI Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment Arlene Foster and Minister of State for Northern Ireland Hugo Swire also took part.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Paterson said:
“My colleagues on the Ministerial Working Group and I are encouraged by the progress which has been made in the fortnight since we last met. We remain committed to finding a fair and just resolution quickly and to that end I’m confident that we have taken a significant step forward today.
“Work has been going on intensively in the several months since the election and the momentum is increasing further.
“We are all conscious of the need to identify a way forward in the context of the Spending Review next month. We know that PMS members are keen to know more about the options we have been working on, and we hope to be able to offer more insight in the near future. We will meet again in two weeks.”