Northern Ireland

David Cameron to announce PMS solution next week

PMS name plate
Image caption Thousands of PMS members have been unable to retrieve their savings

The Prime Minister has told Parliament he hopes to announce details of a solution to the crisis in the Presbyterian Mutual Society next week.

David Cameron said he recognised the difficulties in finding a "fair resolution" to the plight of savers.

Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions Mr Cameron said the details should be finalised by 20 October, the same day as the Spending Review.

The issue was raised by the DUP MP William McCrea.

On Tuesday, NI Secretary Owen Paterson said a Ministerial Working Group had made significant progress on the issue.

In response to the Secretary of State's comments Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has said talks on the society had been "very encouraging".

"Key now to what we're waiting on is what's going to be announced next week in the comprehensive spending review," she said.

Thousands of people have been unable to access their money since the society entered administration in 2008.

Ms Foster said there were two options to help the savers.

The first was a commercial one, which she said would be preferable and would see a financial institution take over the assets of the PMS and continue to run it.

"However, we very much believe - it's nearly two years now - we cannot wait any longer, we really need to push ahead with plan B which is a government-backed solution consisting of a loan and a mutual access fund.

"So what we're doing now is we're waiting to see how much funding we will have for that scheme next week," the minister said.

She said the commercial option could still take over if a bank steps in the next couple of months.

The Presbyterian Church and political leaders have lobbied for two years for a method to be found to support savers.

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have held talks on the issue with the Labour government and the current coalition administration.

Mr Paterson said he was confident a resolution could be outlined in the context of next week's Spending Review.

"We remain committed to ensuring a fair and just resolution which will balance the interests of members and taxpayers," he said.

The Presbyterian Church welcomed the news.

Former Moderator Dr Stafford Carson said: "We want to commend our local politicians for the way they've stuck at this task to get us through to a resolution.

"Clearly, we're in the midst of a major spending review and there's not a huge amount of money there, but we hope the cake that the government provides is big enough to meet the needs of PMS savers.

"It's really encouraging that we've got a top of the news rescue story this morning about the Chilean miners, it would be wonderful if we had an equally successful rescue of the PMS."

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