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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 5:30 pm on 18th October 2011.

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Photo of Jennifer Willott Jennifer Willott Liberal Democrat, Cardiff Central 5:30 pm, 18th October 2011

This is slightly earlier in the debate than I expected to be called. I will speak briefly on the amendments tabled by Gregg McClymont and the Government amendments.

I know that we will have a fuller debate later, but much of the Bill has complete agreement across the House and is extremely welcome. The changes to the state pension age seem to have overshadowed many of the other issues in the Bill. As I said on Second Reading, I and many of my Liberal Democrat colleagues were deeply concerned about the effect of these changes on women who are being asked to work significantly longer at short notice.

The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken—I will not repeat his constituency name, as saying it once was an achievement—said that the state pension age has to rise, and I think that we all accept that. We are all living longer. The gains in life expectancy have been significant and are continuing. In 1970, someone reaching 60 could expect to live for 18 years. Last year, that had risen to 28 years. That puts a significant financial burden on the state. By the time I retire, I fully expect the retirement age to be somewhere north of 70. Goodness knows whether there will even be a state pension by that point.

When we are increasing the state pension age, we need to ensure that it is done as fairly as possible. I and my colleagues, a number of whom are present, have been vocal in our efforts to change the timetable. I know that the Minister and his colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions have been actively working within Government to ensure that the timetable is fairer and that those who are worst affected by the changes are protected. In my view, the initial draft timetable was not fair to the women who were worst affected. I am pleased that the Government have listened to the concerns that were raised by many people and have tabled today’s amendments. I am sure that the Minister will tell us more about them in his summation.