State Pension Age: Transitional Protection for Women

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th July 2016.

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Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Opposition Whip (Commons) 12:00 am, 11th July 2016

If he will make it his policy to introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by the acceleration of increases in the state pension age.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South

If he will make it his policy to introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by the acceleration of increases in the state pension age.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Transitional arrangements are already in place. We committed over £1 billion to lessen the impact of the changes for those worst affected, so that no one will see their pension age change by more than 18 months compared with the previous timetable. We have no plans for further changes.

Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Opposition Whip (Commons)

My constituent who turned 60 this year has not received any information about the changes. She was the primary carer of her children and now cannot work because of disability. but now looks forward to having to work another six years. The Minister has been presented with many proposals, including transitional arrangements. When will the Government give these women the justice they deserve?

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady refers to notice. At the time of the Pensions Act 2011, more than 5 million affected people did receive notification. That was done using the addresses Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs then had. As far as the proposals are concerned, they all, regrettably, cost a huge amount of money. We therefore have no plans to go down that route.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South

In reality, it is the 1950s-born women who are bearing the cost. My constituent is 62-years-old and is about to be made redundant in July. She suffers with diabetes, a heart condition and COPD. She tells me that, owing to limited childcare, she worked part-time when her family were young and could not contribute to her pension. She is now very anxious that she will never be able to secure another job, and will not receive her state pension until she is 66. She has a large black hole now in her life. How does the Minister advise her on facing that bleak future?

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I assure the hon. Lady that, under the coalition Government and the present Government, we have record levels of employment for women, including older women. That is something to bear in mind. We are working extensively with employers to ensure they appreciate the value of older workers, which they do. That is why we have record levels of employment, particularly for women.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

I suspect that most hon. Members have been acquainted with difficult cases like the one mentioned by the hon. Lady. Will my hon. Friend the Minister keep an open mind on pension credit arrangements for these people? They are, after all, means-tested and could deal with the worst hardship cases.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We do have particular criteria and where people fit that criteria, they will of course qualify for whatever benefit it is they are seeking guidance on.

Photo of Ian Austin Ian Austin Labour, Dudley North

Two thousand women in Dudley North worked hard to save and plan for their retirement, but have been affected by the changes. Will the Minister meet me, my constituent Hilary Henderson and the other women from Dudley North to discuss the changes in detail? If not, why not?

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I recently met the leaders of the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign, and I have met many members of the campaign in my constituency, so I am very well aware of all the details and facts. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there have also been a huge number of debates about the subject in the Chamber in recent weeks.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Labour, Llanelli

Given the imminent takeover by the new Prime Minister, who herself falls into the category of women affected by the pension changes, would this not be the ideal moment to look again at the various proposals that have been advanced for much fairer transitional arrangements—such as the one from Mariana Robinson of Wales—for all the women who do not have a prime ministerial salary to fall back on?

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I remind the House that in 2012 the DWP conducted a survey and found that only 6% of women who were due to retire within the next 10 years were unaware of an increase in the pension age. As I said earlier, the Government have no plans to review the matter.

Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

A little over a week ago, thousands of women from across the United Kingdom came to Parliament in a display of solidarity that reminded me very much of the Dagenham women some decades earlier. Is not the Secretary of State’s refusal to revisit the financial issues faced by the 2.6 million women whose pension ages have been increased without adequate notice a slap in the face for those women? Given that the former Pensions Minister admitted that the coalition Government had got it wrong, why is the Under-Secretary being so unreasonable?

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I find it deeply regrettable that Opposition parties seek to make capital at the Dispatch Box, and indeed from the Back Benches, when they do not have a solid proposal. They cannot provide a proper, credible solution that will ensure that the financial position of the country is taken into account. I might add that if the Opposition parties are so keen on this issue, they should bear in mind that although the Pensions Act came into being in 2011, the issue was not raised in any of their manifestos.