State Pension Age: Women

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:49 pm on 30th November 2016.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 6:49 pm, 30th November 2016

I will not give way. I have a very short time left.

There was actually very good communication. However, I would like to mention the various contributions we have had. My hon. Friend Nadine Dorries, who was among many speakers from the Government side, said that women, including herself, were not informed following the 2011 Act. In fact, as I have just shown, millions of letters were sent between January 2012 and November 2013. She said it is difficult for women over the age of 60 to find employment, and she said nobody would employ her. Actually, more than 4 million women in her age group are in employment—more than ever.

From the Opposition, we have had the argument, which I have had to deal with on many occasions, about the state pension being a contract. It is not a view but a question of fact that the state pension is a benefit, not a contract. As my hon. Friend Mr Vara said, promises are cheap. The Government have to actually deal with facts.

I have much sympathy for Members who spoke of constituents who are finding it difficult to access the benefits system. [Interruption.] Someone has shouted from a sedentary position, “What are you going to do about it?” As hon. Members will be aware, and as the Secretary of State mentioned, we have a system of helping through the benefits system people who may need looking at. We have older claimants’ champions, and we are getting more of them. We will find a way to help people to find their way into the benefits system. For any constituents who are finding this difficult, if the Department can have their name, address and national insurance number—I have asked for this on many occasions—I will be very happy to personally see what the position is and get them the help they need to get through the benefits system. We hear a lot of talk from hon. Members about their constituents, but the actual factual details I get are few and far between.

Let me move on to the famous economic report from the Scots Nats. I commend my hon. Friend Richard Graham, who described it as irresponsible and inaccurate. I really could not have put it better myself, because it is, as my hon. Friend the Member for North West Cambridgeshire said, raising false hopes by saying to our constituents that this is a small problem that can quite easily be dealt with. I remind hon. Members that even the SNP costs this at £8 billion, and the Department, as I have written to the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, has assessed it at nearer to £30 billion. We have looked at every alternative. We have looked at more than 25 options that have been mentioned to us about the WASPIs, and there simply is not a viable option, either because of cost, complexity or practicality.

The luxury of opposition is promising everybody money without having to consider how to pay for it. I view this as very irresponsible.

Annotations

Andy Robertson-Fox
Posted on 3 Dec 2016 12:17 pm (Report this annotation)

As I have pointed out to Mr. Harrington elsewhere his view that the pension is not a contract but a benefit has been discredited by at least four previous pensions ministers - and many others of all parties.

The contract is that in return for NI contributions both mandatory and voluntary an entitlement is earned to a pension based on the contributory qualifying years. This unwritten contract was implicit when registering for one's NI Number and Card.

Jane Davies
Posted on 3 Dec 2016 3:34 pm (Report this annotation)

No matter how many times politicians say it a state pension is NOT a benefit. We have paid for it by contributing to the NI scheme.

It is not a government 'handout' of taxpayers money....it does not come out of general taxation like benefits, it is a contract we have with the government to pay us our pension with OUR money therefore the government also have no right to decide who gets annual cost of living increases. Where one lives is irrelevant as indeed it is so with a private pension.