He told Commons Treasury Committee chairman John McFall that despite completing the interviewing of witnesses he will be unable to deliver his report in June, as hoped, in time for publication by the government in July before the Commons adjourns for its summer holidays.
McFall in response said the further delay was ‘a matter of concern’, adding: ‘We are acutely conscious of the fact that many people throughout the country, some of them facing significant hardship, are looking to a resolution of all the issues relating to Equitable as soon as possible.’
He called on Penrose to adopt a timetable that would allow publication when parliament resumes in September, adding: ‘I hope we can be confident that you see no further dangers of delay.’
Penrose told the committee in a letter that it remained his aim to report this summer but the interviewing of witnesses, now complete, had taken ‘considerably longer than I had hoped’.
He claimed the hold-up was ‘not the result of some delay or tardiness on the part of the inquiry’ which was ‘dealing with a great quantity of witness evidence’.
He added: ‘Rather it has been in large part a consequence of a greater readiness on the part of some witnesses to co-operate than I had reason to anticipate.’
He said painstaking work had been done analysing the documentary evidence and piecing together the financial history of Equitable over the relevant period which had enabled the inquiry to identify the issues and persuade witnesses of the value of co-operation.
He said he appreciated the desire of policyholders for a report as soon as possible and remained committed to that.
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