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The National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:08 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 6:08 pm, 23rd October 2019

I do not want Brexit to happen at all because of my real fear that health services in this country could very well find their way into a trade deal with the Donald Trumps of the world. [Interruption.] Bill Grant might mumble “Nonsense”, but many of us have a real fear that that is the case, so we have an opportunity in supporting the Opposition amendment.

I wish now to touch on the Pension Schemes Bill and to follow on from some of the comments by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. First, let me welcome the measure on collective defined contribution pensions that will be in the Bill. Such a measure, which we have discussed in the Work and Pensions Committee, is long overdue. It is another example of trade union pressure and trade union lobbying. We should congratulate the University and College Union and the Communication Workers Union, which have campaigned long and hard to ensure that collective defined contribution pensions become a reality.

I also welcome the fact that we are going to see the Pensions Regulator get increased powers. The Pensions Regulator was asleep while Carillion was paying out more in dividends to its shareholders than it was putting into its pension scheme. Clear evidence of that came out in the Carillion inquiry, so I welcome that change, just as I welcome the move towards pensions dashboards, which increases transparency.

I come back to the point made by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney—the scandalous injustice that is not being dealt with. We are talking about women born in the 1950s growing up and discovering that they could not get access to a cheque book unless they got the permission of their father or their husband—[Interruption.] I am not joking. It was in 1980 that the law was changed; I would have thought that someone sitting on the Minister’s Bench would know that it was the Thatcher Government who actually stopped that. It was also the case that women could not obtain credit without permission from male relatives. They went through that during their lives and they are then told at some point that they cannot retire when they thought that they were going to retire. Many women tell me that they did not receive correspondence or a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions saying that their retirement age had changed. In fact, I suggest that, in my experience, we would be more likely to find someone who has the six numbers than a woman who has received a letter telling them that their pension age has changed.