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State Pension Age (Women)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:10 pm on 7th January 2016.

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Photo of Roger Mullin Roger Mullin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 2:10 pm, 7th January 2016

Happy new year, Madam Deputy Speaker, although the people I really hope have a happy one are the women who have been suffering under this injustice for too long.

On 20 June 2011, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions advised MPs during a debate on the Pensions Act 2011 that he would be considering “transitional arrangements” to provide assistance to the worst-affected women, yet later that year, only completely inadequate transitional arrangements were accepted. In the same 2011 debate, the Hansard record reveals that although concern was expressed by many Members, the extent of the problems, not least the lack of effective communications, support and the transition, was not as well understood as, thanks to the WASPI ladies, it is today.

Today gives us an opportunity to begin to set the record straight and to give the Government the chance to right a wrong. Much more recently, on 24 January 2014, Ros Altmann, now the ennobled Baroness who has become the pensions Minister wrote:

“Women in their late fifties or more today have been the most disadvantaged by the UK pension system”,

and she also pointed out:

“For years, women have been the second class citizens in both state and private pensions. This particularly affects women already in their late 50s...Women…typically…earn less than men when they are working, once again leaving them with less chance to save for a pension and leaving them with lower state pensions as they lose out on the earnings-related element of the system.”

Let us recall, too, that women born in the 1950s did not have the same breadth of employment opportunity as men. In the early years of employment, it was still legal to ban women from joining private pension schemes if they married or worked part time. Women were encouraged to pay the married women’s stamp, which meant they accrued no state pension rights at all, and the state pension system did not credit them if they worked full time raising a family. In other words, the pension system was designed by men, for men.

Thousands of women are now struggling to fill the gap before they have access to their state pension, and no adequate impact assessment has been undertaken by the Government. They have simply left these women to get on with it. Some are planning to use up what savings they have, and others who may have very small private pension pots are choosing to pull them all down to help fill a gap that is the creation of this Government. The Government must act.