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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

I was just going to move on to the fact that, although I am delighted by the changes, in an ideal world I would have liked us to go further. I would have liked to see the cap closer to 12 months than 18 months, but we are not in an ideal world and the cost associated with that would have been significant. I understand that the cost of capping at 12 months would have been close to £3 billion, which would have been a significant amount of money to find. That would have been an uphill struggle. We have to appreciate the scale of the money that has been found to make things better for the women who are worst affected.

There has been a broad coalition campaigning on this subject, including Age UK, Saga and Members of all parties. Some have been extremely constructive in their campaigning and in the pressure that they have put on the Government, whereas others have been slightly less constructive at times. Some of what the Labour party has proposed today is, I think, unrealistic. It is unhelpful to the attempt to make as much progress as we would like towards helping the women who are most affected.

The Labour amendments tabled in Committee and today on Report that would delay the entire increase by two years are not sensible or realistic. Regardless of what the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East says, £10 billion would be a huge black hole in the public finances, and it would be a significant amount that the Government would have to find. [Interruption.] I am told that it would be closer to £11 billion. I am not going to start the debt versus deficit debate again, but there would be a huge black hole if we accepted a Labour party proposal that would require an unfunded promise of £11 billion.