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I congratulate Mhairi Black on securing the debate. I also congratulate members of WASPI—many of the women are in the Gallery today—on its magnificent campaign. Had they not had that campaign, I fear that the problem would have gone unnoticed and certainly would not have been addressed.
The Pensions Act 1995 increased the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to April 2020. It was not a short-notice change—the notice was 15 years. In a debate in October 2013, the Minister, Steve Webb, accepted that some women did not know about the change at the time, but went on to say:
“Although it was all over the papers at the time, these women were a long way from pension age and probably turned the page when they saw the word ‘pension’”.—[Hansard, 8 October 2013; Vol. 568, c. 54WH.]
What a way for a Government to expect people to find out!
The coalition Government legislated in the Pensions Act 2011 to accelerate the increase in the state pension age, which became 65 in November 2018. They intended to equalise the state pension age at 66 by April 2020, but that was amended. During that debate, the then shadow Minister, my hon. Friend Rachel Reeves, expressed concerns. Largely because of that, the date was amended and we got a reprieve of six months. The Government seem to believe that that is some compensation.
I will not say much about the impact, because hon. Members who have read about it will know. Anne Keen, one of my constituents and a leading WASPI campaigner, is in the Gallery today.