State Pension: Impact of Changes on Women

Part of Opposition Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:00 pm on 26th September 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party 6:00 pm, 26th September 2016

I thank the Member for the intervention; I was running out of time. The Member voted for the amendments or similar ones in Westminster. The cost of our amendments — they were costed — would have been in the region of £257 million and would have come as a huge relief to the 7,000 women who would have been impacted on positively had they been passed.

As an Assembly, we missed an opportunity to show that we are capable of challenging the shackles of parity in a mature and progressive fashion. Some people might even ask what the point of the Assembly is. I also recall an attempt at that time by the then Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland, to secure accelerated passage for the Bill so that it would not even have been debated in the Chamber.

Transitional protections and mitigation measures for those negatively impacted by welfare reform are welcome, but where is the protection for the women who have worked all their lives only to see their promised pensions taken from them and their retirement age raised? Even the former pensions Minister, Ros Altmann, has said that the Government got it wrong and has called for more help for the women affected. She, like the motion, recognises that women were not adequately informed.

The Tory Government have said that the matter is settled: Parliament voted for it, and that is that. Not only is this attitude completely dismissive of the women affected — I pay tribute to WASPI for keeping up its fight — but it is complete bunkum. The UK Government can and do move the goalposts on legislation when they want to make the nets smaller, to save them more money and to cause people more hardship, but they expect us to believe that they cannot do it when it comes to righting wrongs and ensuring justice. Let the message to Westminster from the Assembly today be very clear: we support this campaign and demand fairness for these women.