lt is good that so many members have stayed to contribute to the debate, which is of enormous importance not only to women, but to their families and their families’ wellbeing. When I was in my late teens, my mother and father continually lectured me on the need to provide myself with, first, adequate life insurance and, secondly, a pension. Although they were by no means well off themselves, that was always a priority for them and they encouraged me to follow suit.
Of course, when we are young, those things seem a long way off and of little relevance—they are certainly not the first of our priorities. However, I am glad that I listened to my parents, although that was more to keep them happy than because I thought it was the right thing to do. It was not until my late 20s that I fully understood why it was and appreciated the security that it provided, not just for me but for the family that I then had, being married with a child.
Thinking back, if the truth be known, I think that the fact that week by week, month by month and year by year I was contributing to the national insurance scheme and knew that there would be a time when the Government of the day would make good its promise of a state pension, so it was something secure that I had in the bank, worked against the notion of being bothered to make any additional provision for retirement. For everyone, the date of retirement was definite and certain and, since the Government was the public provider, it was considered to be rock solid.
Bringing that forward to today, we find ourselves in a situation in which what women have planned for and taken for granted all their lives, what they have worked for and what they were promised—and, indeed, entitled to—has been taken away from them, not by a callous private provider, but by their own Government, which has broken the contract without any redress of any kind. Just think what would have happened if a rogue private provider had said, at the end of the contract, “We have ripped up the agreement; we are ignoring the deal. We took your payments but we are unilaterally extending the date when we will pay out.” The roof would have fallen in on them.
The fact that it is the UK Government that has acted unilaterally in that way and which has stolen pension rights from the WASPI women does not make it acceptable. The fact that the UK Government brought in legislation to make that theft legal does not make it just. The fact that the UK Government has the power to act in that reprehensible way does not make it honest. The impact of this measure on women’s wellbeing is, and will continue to be, profound. It is time for the UK Government to recognise the damage that has been done and to reverse this mean-hearted measure and restore trust in the pension system. It is time to restore the pension rights of all the affected women.
I urge members to support the WASPI women.