I thank Sandra White for her determination to take this important issue forward. Few issues have unified women across the country more than the scandal of the women who have been robbed of their pension at 60—a pension that they had paid for. The gallery is a sight to behold.
In her Westminster hall debate, Patricia Gibson MP pointed out that the issue is not about people living longer, as some would have us believe, but about women who had their pension age changed with no notice and, further, who faced an accelerated timetable in 2011 that brought the change forward by nine years. It is the biggest scandal of the decade, and it is a shame that the Tories cannot see that.
The goalposts were moved not just once but twice—it was a double whammy. The age of equalisation was 65, and then the pension age moved up to 67—those women have had a double whammy. Westminster robbed them and Westminster should pay. It was right that we had the equalisation of men and women, as Sandra White said, but that should not have resulted in women being robbed in their later years in life. The vast majority of those women started work at the age of 15 or 16 and have not had the educational opportunities that younger women may have had. They were carers and they were mothers, and they worked part time and probably on the lowest levels of pay. They have been rewarded with a baseball bat across their entitlement.
When George Osborne was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he told a global investment conference in 2013 that raising women’s pension age was
“one of the less controversial things we have done” and
“it has probably saved more money than anything else.”
Today, women around the country are making it clear that that will never be forgotten.
Stella Taylor, who was born in 1955, said that she worked all of her life. She became unwell at the age of 58 and discovered, quite accidentally, that her state pension age—she had expected to receive her pension at 60—had been moved to 66. Sandra White recalled the same type of story—they are not uncommon.
We need to be clear that it is the lack of notice that is the biggest scandal of all. Women were not able to prepare for their retirement years.
Steve Webb, who is another former pensions minister, acknowledged that when his department wrote to women for the first time to let them know of the changes—that they were to work an additional year—it was probably “the first time” that many of them realised that they were to work an extra six years.
As Annabelle Ewing said, until the 1990s, women were not allowed to join company pension schemes. Women faced returning to work at difficult times, and a lack of age-friendly policies will be a factor in that regard. Some divorce settlements have been calculated using the projected incomes that women might have received at a pension age of 60—the clock cannot be reversed on that one. The Government can find the money to bail out the bankers, so it is time that the Government found the money to pay these women their pensions.
We should not lose sight of the fact that pensions are a wider issue in society. The retirement age has gone up, and we have not had much of a say in that. We need to educate people about how important their pension is to them. It is their deferred pay—it is money that they have paid to the state or into their pension scheme, and they need to have a say in the state retirement age. Pay the WASPI women what they are due. Back the WASPI women.