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Women and the State Pension

Volume 607: debated on Monday 14 March 2016

8. What the average notice period was for women whose pension age was brought forward by the Pension Act 2011. (904057)

Women whose pension age was increased had a notice period, between Royal Assent and their new state pension age, of between four years and eight months and 14 years and five months. The average notice period was 10 years and 11 months.

One of the 1,400 women in my constituency affected by these changes recently told me that she is still waiting for official notification from the Department. Does the Minister accept the abject failure on the part of the DWP to communicate these changes to the women affected by them? Does he think it is acceptable that some women have found out only through the brilliant work of the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaigners?

Between 2009 and 2010, over 5 million notices were sent to people, according to the records held by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. I would point out to the hon. Lady that, in 2012, only 6% of women within 10 years of state pension age thought that their state pension age would be at age 60.

Given the rhetoric in the recent Opposition day debate about the state pension age changes, does the Minister share my surprise that the six options put forward by the shadow Secretary of State would not make much difference at all to many women born in the 1950s? Does he agree that it is time for the Opposition to be clear about the choices they would make and how they would pay for them, and also to be clear about the changes they would not make?

Order. I know that the Minister will want to focus exclusively, and doubtless with loving care, on his own policy, and will not dilate on that of the Opposition, which would be disorderly. Knowing the hon. Gentleman, I do not think he does disorderly.

You put that so eloquently, Mr Speaker, but I hope you will allow me to make the odd comment. It would be impractical to follow the Opposition’s policies because they have no sense of arithmetic.

We are not just dealing with the issue of the notice period: there is a fundamental unfairness. Let us take an example: a constituent of mine born in 1953 would have retired at age 63, but a woman born on 10 February 1954 will not retire until July 2019, two and a half years later. That is patently unjust. What the Government can do is to mitigate the timetable so that people have time to react. That is the right thing to do, and the Government should act.

The hon. Gentleman talks about mitigating things. May I just say to him that transitional arrangements were made at the time? Those transitional arrangements cost £1.1 billion. The period that women would have to work before they retired was reduced from two years to 18 months, and 81% of the women affected by that period of 18 months will not have an extension of beyond 12 months.

I am really disappointed that the Minister still does not recognise that those women were given a totally inadequate notice period. Given that unfairness and the Secretary of State’s earlier comments—this Government are pretending they want to take people out of poverty—will the Minister look at the six options we have presented to the Government to deal with this injustice? Will he, as many Members of his party would support doing, allow those affected—[Interruption.] I am coming to that, if the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) would listen. Will the Minister allow those affected to take a reduced state pension at an earlier age and be paid a lower state pension for a longer period?

As far as the six options are concerned, all of them have a cost. It is time that the Opposition started to think about where the money would come from. The hon. Lady lays the blame at the feet of this Government, but she might reflect on the 13 years during which her party was in power, when it did absolutely nothing. [Interruption.] She is chuntering from a sedentary position about £20-something billion. May I just say to her that the cost of undoing the Pensions Act 2011 would be £30 billion?