EUROPE/UK - MEPs have accused the UK of breaching its "duty of loyal cooperation" between EU institutions and member states by failing to respond to a report on the near-collapse of the insurer Equitable Life.

At the meeting of the European Parliament's Petitions Committee Diana Wallis (ALDE UK), author of the Committee's report, said it was "extraordinary" the UK government "has not even had the courtesy to acknowledge the report.

The report, which was published in June 2007 after an 18-month inquiry, criticised the UK government for its "failure to transpose and implement" relative EU Directives and for its "generally hands-off or light touch regulatory system".

Wallis revealed in December while the Committee had received a "clear and detailed" response from the European Commission addressing the report's recommendations on EU lawmaking and access to cross-border redress for consumers and citizens, there had been no response from the UK.

At Wednesday's Committee meeting, Wallis said she believed the UK's failure to respond to the report constituted a breach of the "duty of loyal co-operation" which effectively requires member states to actively and unreservedly support the actions and policies of the European Union.

Mairéad McGuiness (EPP-ED, IE), former chair of the committee of inquiry, said "one would think the UK was not a member of the EU", while Robert Atkins (EPP-ED, UK) claimed the "downright rudeness of the British government" was an "utter disgrace".

As a result, the Committee proposed the best course of action was for Wallis and McGuinness to seek an early meeting with the UK Treasury, while Marcin Libicki (UEN, PL), chair of the Petitions Committee, also backed plans to approach Charlie McCreevy, the Internal Market Commissioner, to ask for his support.

The European Parliament's inquiry focused on the implementation of EU law, comparing the adequacy of UK regulation against that seen in other EU countries, and assessed the availability and effectiveness of redress systems available across borders to the victims.

Equitable Life almost collapsed in 2000 after it admitted it could not honour its policies, which resulted in more than one million policyholders, including 15,000 members in Germany and Ireland, losing over €5bn in reductions to their retirement savings.

Petitions from members in the UK, Ireland and Germany led to the establishment of the European Parliament's committee of inquiry in January 2006, the findings of which were published in Wallis' report in June last year.

A further report into the issue by the UK Parliamentary Ombudsman has been subject to continued delays but in December she told members she expected to publish a final date for publication towards the end of April.

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