Social Security

Part of Rail Update – in the House of Commons at 7:01 pm on 5th February 2018.

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Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Consumer Affairs) 7:01 pm, 5th February 2018

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his insight. That idea is worth pursuing, but, rather sadly, I fear that the WASPI women now feel that the only option left to them is a legal challenge in the courts. If that is where the matter finds itself, that in itself is an indictment of a Government who have let these women down. Either way, the WASPI women are not going to go away, and perhaps through the parliamentary ombudsman and perhaps through the courts, this matter is far from over.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said that 300,000 more pensioners have been driven into poverty over the past four years, which is the first sustained increase in pensioner poverty for more than 20 years. That, on its own, should give us pause for thought. [Interruption.] The Minister shakes his head, but he should take it up with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which is a very credible organisation.

There has been a sustained attack on pensioners, and we saw that in the Government’s election campaign with the attack on the triple lock and the threat of a dementia tax. Thankfully those threats have receded, because they cost the Government their majority, but the matter requires the Government’s full attention. The Government should reflect on the electoral consequences, as well as the moral consequences, of these attacks.

According to the European Commission’s 2015 research, the UK has a wider than average gender pensions gap. We are trailing behind the rest of Europe on how we treat our pensioners, which is a matter the Government should take seriously. After the WASPI fiasco, confidence in pensions has been undermined at a time when we are trying to encourage younger generations to plan for their future. Those two situations do not sit side by side very comfortably.

An independent pensions commission would ensure that employees’ savings are protected and that a more progressive approach to fairer savings is considered, as we move towards a period when the new state pensions take effect. An independent pensions commission is needed more than ever. It is time for the Government to consider it seriously in the long-term interest of pension security, and I urge the Minister to do so.