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In my first foray from the Dispatch Box, I would like to say that I look forward to having a continuing dialogue with the Minister on this subject. He has a formidable reputation in this field. He told me at our first meeting that one of my former students is now his researcher; that, I think, makes him doubly formidable. I would also like to pay tribute to my predecessor, my hon. Friend Rachel Reeves. She, along with thousands of women, has led the campaign to highlight the burden being placed on up to 500,000 women by the acceleration of the timetable for the equalisation of the state pension age. I think we can all agree that she has done a very important job of work.
We welcome the Government’s concessions as laid down in the amendments, but we do not think they go far enough. The Government are no longer condemning 245,000 women to an extra waiting period of between 19 and 24 months, and that is welcome; but it is too little, too late. The cardinal fact about the Bill remains that 500,000 women will still have to wait up to 18 months longer, and 330,000 will have to wait exactly 18 months longer, before reaching their state pension age. The Government have chosen to break the all-party Turner consensus that women’s state pension age should not reach 65 before 2020, and they have also broken the coalition agreement, which promised that women’s state pension age would not reach 65 before that year.