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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 Fiona O'Donnell Fiona O'Donnell Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:30 pm, 18th October 2011

The hon. Gentleman should be extremely grateful to me for giving way, as he has not had the courtesy to be present for the entire debate. The fact is that when this Government want to find money, they can do so.

This decision betrays an appalling lack of ambition. I understand that the Government are not doing well in growing the economy, and they are probably a little disappointed in themselves—as, indeed, others are disappointed in them. Perhaps they have little faith in this country’s ability to recover and come out of the recession, with people back in work and contributing to the state. However, none of that serves to explain why this group of 500,000 women have to pay the price. Why do they have to pay for the Government’s plan to reduce debt?

For every one of those 500,000 women who will work for longer—300,000 of them for the full 18 months—there is a real story, such as that of a woman who works in the care service and who wrote to me. If she had known a few years ago that she was going to have to work extra time, she would have got out of the care sector while she could. She thinks she can struggle on until her retirement age as it stands now, but given the physical demands of her job, she does not think she can do another 18 months of lifting and handling.

Unfortunately, Richard Graham has left the Chamber. He talked about women retiring at 40 and 50 and living another 60 years of retirement. He is not talking about the women we are talking about. The women who need this money most are the women this Government are hurting most.

I urge Members to consider fairness, and to consider giving these women a fair chance. This is our one opportunity to stand up for those 500,000 women—the women who have been contacting us, appealing for justice. I hope we will all do the right thing tonight.