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Clause 1 — Equalisation of and increase in pensionable age for men and women

Part of Concessionary Bus Travel (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 18th October 2011.

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Photo of Gregg McClymont Gregg McClymont Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 5:00 pm, 18th October 2011

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. If women and men are to work for longer, we have to look at the figures for employment. My understanding is that up to 38% of women aged between 56 and 60 are not in employment at the moment. That is a real issue, which I am sure the Minister is considering.

The Bill fails the two tests, in that it is unfair and there is an undue lack of notice. It also fails the proportionality test. Take the case of Laura Davis, who is 57, single and suffers from a heart condition and acute osteoarthritis, which hampers her mobility. She works full time but her commute is a struggle. She was hoping for a dramatic revision of the Pensions Bill’s terms. Laura, from Watford, Hertfordshire says:

“It is a shame the Government could not meet us half way and say that no one in my age group would be required to work longer than a further 12 months….That would have been a better compromise.”

That is a compromise that we on the Opposition side suggest, and that is why we seek to amend the Bill through our amendments to part 1, which I shall now address.

Our amendments do meet the tests of due notice and fair treatment for those half million women, and would ensure that no women would wait more than an extra 12 months to reach their state pension age. Our amendments would also bring forward the uplift in state pension age to 66 for both men and women, from 2026 to 2022, because we recognise that, as the Minister and others on the Government side have emphasised, this is a difficult issue. There are no simple answers, and tough decisions will have to be taken. Our amendments would balance the sustainability of the pension system with the need to treat all women fairly. They offer a substantial saving of £20 billion, but not at the expense of those women. As I emphasised earlier in response to some amendments, the difference in annual savings from our amendments versus the Government’s is equivalent to 0.1% of central Government spending in 2011-12, or 1.3% of the Government’s annual pensions budget. Given the undue, disproportionate and unfair burden being placed on such women, I do not think that is too high a price to pay.