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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 6:30 pm on 18th October 2011.

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Photo of Anne Begg Anne Begg Chair, Work and Pensions Committee 6:30 pm, 18th October 2011

It is not a solution for the 90%, because they will still have to work for an extra year, on top of the extra years for which they were already having to wait for their state pensions. I believe that Age UK made that comment at the time of the Government’s announcement. Of course all Members agree that the position is better than it was before, but it is still not good enough. If my inbox is anything to go by, women who thought that their problems would be solved when they first heard the announcement have now made their calculations and discovered that for a large number the goalposts have not been moved at all, and that they have been moved by only a small amount for others.

In my view, it is a pity that the Government ever went down this route. They could have begun the accelerated rise in the pension age to 66 after the completion of the equalisation, between 2020 and 2022, rather than in the period before 2020. Obviously some wonk at the Treasury thought “What a good idea this is—it will save billions of pounds”, without recognising the anomaly that it would create and the difficulty that it would cause for this group of women. If Conservative Members want to know why their stock among women is falling rapidly, I will tell them. The fact that the Tories do not understand that decisions such as this suggest that they imagine women can somehow cope with reductions in their income has made women realise that many of them simply do not understand their lives or appreciate their problems.

The Government’s proposal may be better than what was in the original Bill, but if we vote for it tonight our decision will be final, because that will then be the timetable for the acceleration of women’s pension age to 66. Labour Members believe that certainty is necessary when it comes to pensions and that we must allow people to plan in advance, but whoever wins the next election, the last thing that any Government will be in a position to do is start fiddling with the system. What is fundamental to our argument is that a group of women have had no chance to plan, and I see no way in which any Government will be able to deal with that.