I start my contribution to the debate by acknowledging that all the women who are affected by the pension changes have every right to feel disappointed, angry and aggrieved at the impact on their lives. I understand and empathise with their arguments, particularly as they faced significant barriers to work and workplace rights during their working lives. I believe that there was a failure in communication when the changes were accelerated. However, as I only have four minutes, I will focus on the position that we are in, as I understand it.
It is important to reflect that we are discussing a course of action that has its roots in the European Court of Justice, as part of a drive to ensure equal pay for men and women—a sensible, necessary move, as I am sure many members in the chamber would agree. Life expectancy was changing—positive changes meant people were living longer—and the pensions system was experiencing increasing demands. The Pensions Act 2011 was passed in the heat of the financial crisis with very real concerns in mind.
All of us would no doubt agree that a pensions system is only effective if it is sustainable, and if it is not sustainable, it will do little good. With spending on the state pension set to increase by £26 billion, action had to be taken in the face of the risk that future generations would receive nothing at all.
The motion calls on the UK Government to provide a “bridging pension” and I have asked about the options. It is my understanding that the UK Government has fully explored the options that are available to mitigate the pension change, which shows that it realises that, although change was necessary, as was the acceleration of the timetable, there may not have been adequate communication with some women, which the Work and Pensions Committee has confirmed.