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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 7:30 pm on 18th October 2011.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 7:30 pm, 18th October 2011

The incentive is clear: the providers do not get any money at all unless they help someone into work.

Nia Griffith mentioned grandparents: women in the age group under discussion who by taking care of grandchildren enable their sons and daughters to work. That is an important point, and that is why I was pleased to carry through in office proposals that had previously been brought forward on national insurance credits for grandparents—when their daughters are not using them—to ensure that their state pension rights do not suffer.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh East asked why we did not do all that earlier and referred to Second Reading, but I remind her that in that debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that the basic principle of the Bill is right—that we move to equality sooner and to aged 66 in 2020. We have been entirely consistent with what he said, but he also said that we need to make sure that the transition is fair and that those most adversely affected are helped. That is exactly what we deliver on today with the amendments.

We have identified, notwithstanding the difficult fiscal position, £1.1 billion to ensure that half a million people face a shorter increase in their pension age, and that a quarter of a million women who could have faced up to 24 months will now face a maximum of 18 months. It is worth keeping in context the fact that nine out of 10 people affected by the Bill will see an increase of one year or less in their state pension age.

Yasmin Qureshi, who spoke last, said, “Well, it’s only a bit of money,” and, “It’s penny pinching,” and all I can say is that many people think that £1.1 billion is a lot of money. I know that it is a naïve observation, but I am in that category as well.

It was important to allocate to this issue a large amount of time for debate today, but we have simply had a repeat of what we heard in Committee: “Find £10 billion or £11 billion—it’ll come from somewhere, it’s not really a lot of money.” From the Government, however, we have seen a serious balance struck between introducing the fiscal responsibility that was all too often lacking under the previous Government and listening and responding to the needs of those most affected by the Bill—and I commend our amendments to the House.