To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what legal advice he has taken on whether the proposed changes to basic pension contributory rules from April 2010 are compatible with European Union law; and if he will make a statement.
The Department has made a full and thorough assessment of the compatibility with European Union Law of the proposed changes to the rules governing entitlement to basic state pension in the Pensions Bill currently going through Parliament. Consequently, we are confident that all these proposed measures are compatible with European Union law.
Currently, state pension age for men and women is not equal. As a result, men need 44 qualifying years for a full basic state pension whereas women need 39. This inequality is permitted under the derogation at article 7 of the EC directive 79/7.
Action has already been taken (through the 1995 Pensions Act) to eliminate the inequality in state pension ages between men and women and this will occur between 2010 and 2020. The current Pensions Bill sets out the Government's plans to introduce a new single contribution condition (30 qualifying years for a full basic state pension) for both men and women reaching state pension age from April 2010. This would not, in our view, increase or exacerbate the existing discrimination due to unequal state pension ages between men and women. Any inequality in the system will be limited to the period between 2010 and 2020 and will gradually decrease over that period.