I am grateful to be called so early in the debate. I have 4,000 women in my constituency who are affected by this issue, and I have met many; I am sure other honourable colleagues have done the same. I will have to rattle through my speech. I am sorry not to be as eloquent as I would like on their behalf.
It is a complex picture. Not only do my constituents feel that they were not given adequate information about how to plan their future, but they feel cast on the heap, so to speak, now that they are having to look for jobs. Their experience in the jobcentre has been abysmal. People who have been in senior positions are being given advice on how to dress and present themselves at interview and update their CV. There is nearly 0% unemployment in my constituency, so their chances of getting a job are pretty remote and they are finding it incredibly dispiriting to have to take part in that process.
I would like to mention Daphne—I will not give her second name—who has been instrumental in bringing the issue to my attention in St Albans. What she says reflects the position of many women, and I am actually a WASPI woman as well. She says that generations ago, people did things differently. Daphne started work very young and was only informed of the pension age change in October 2012, two and a half years before she was due to retire. She is married to a man five years older. She says that this was not how she planned to spend her retirement—scraping around trying to get a job, being advised by people at the jobcentre who have absolutely no idea how to get her a job, and feeling a sense of injustice that she was given so little time to plan.
That is the nub of it for the WASPI women. They accept that there should be equalisation in pension age, but what they do not accept is being given a matter of months to turn their lives around—to turn around their future plans with their spouse or partner. They do not accept not having some comfort in their retirement, so that they can live the life they thought they had planned for and had made all the preparation for.
The fact that those letters did not arrive, desperately needs to be looked into by the Minister, and something should be done to redress the imbalance.