17. What recent representations he has received on his policy on the date at which the state pension age for women will start to rise. (58798)
Several stakeholder groups, as well as individuals, have expressed concern about the changes we propose, although the majority of commentators agree that we need to increase the state pension age more quickly.
I wonder whether the Minister knows that some 1,200 women in my constituency will lose out. Does he understand that they are angry and feel cheated that pension payments, which they had every reason to believe they had paid for and were due will now not be paid to them? What does he say to those 1,200 women?
Perhaps a generation ago, those very women would have expected to draw a state pension for about six years less—that is a significant change that they have seen in their working life. They will still get the state pension for exactly the same time as someone a generation ago would have expected. We are trying to be fair between the generations and not load all the cost on the next generation.
The coalition agreement talks about equalising the state pension in 2020. Bringing forward the date to 2018 will not help to meet the Government’s target of getting the public finances in balance by 2015, but it will adversely impact a large number of women at very short notice. Will the Government think again and revert to the coalition agreement?
My hon. Friend has raised this issue with me before in debate, and although he is correct that the savings do not fall in the comprehensive spending review period, I would draw his attention to one number. Under previous projections, the national debt at the end of this Parliament was £1.4 trillion. If we were to delay the change, we would have to add another £10 billion. Someone has to get a grip on the national debt.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that question; indeed, we asked that very question in our Green Paper. We are looking at future changes to the state pension age, to 67 and 68, which are already legislated for. We believe that that needs to happen sooner. We are currently consulting and reflecting on the right balance between taking account of changes in longevity and giving people fair notice, and we would welcome the hon. Gentleman’s input on that point.