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Women's Pensions

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he has taken to ensure that women who paid the married woman's national insurance contribution will receive a full pension. [118487]

The married women who opted to pay reduced rate contributions made an informed choice. They were required to give written notice of their decision on a form attached to a leaflet. The leaflet went to great lengths to describe the consequences of that decision and required them to sign a declaration that they had read and understood the leaflet. Employers could not make this decision on behalf of their employees. Women who chose to pay reduced rate national insurance contributions were given a certificate to give to their employer. An employer was not allowed to deduct reduced rate national insurance contributions without this certificate. It would be unfair to those married women who chose to pay the full rate contribution to retrospectively put married women who paid the reduced rate contribution in the same position.All married women are able to get a basic state pension based on their husband's contributions of 60 per cent. of his entitlement once both have reached state pension age and have claimed their state pension.In the recent pensions Green Paper: 'Simplicity, security and choice: Working and saving for retirement' we have proposed looking at how best to ensure that women are aware of their pension position and the choices they make.We recognise that the majority of pensioners are women and are committed to ensuring that our pension reforms improve women's pension rights. We have already done much to help. The introduction of stakeholder pensions, State Second Pension, winter fuel payments, improvements to the minimum income guarantee and, from this October, pension credit are, or will be, of particular help to women. We are also extending home responsibilities protection to foster carers to help protect their basic state pension entitlement whilst they are doing this valuable job. This will particularly benefit women since they form the majority of foster carers.