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State Pension Age

Volume 608: debated on Thursday 14 April 2016

2. What steps the Government are taking to address the effect of the increase in the state pension age on women. (904442)

6. What steps the Government are taking to address the effect of the increase in the state pension age on women. (904447)

All women affected by faster equalisation reach state pension age under the new state pension system, which is more generous to many women than the previous system. In the first 10 years, around 650,000 will receive £8 per week more on average, due to the new state pension valuation.

Is the Minister aware of the recent Dutch case of a woman who was affected by changes to her retirement age, with more notice than many women in the UK have received? In that case it was found that the woman’s human rights had been breached. Does the Minister think women in this country have had their human rights breached by the action that his Government have taken?

Nobody denies that the state pension age needed to be reformed, but it is the transitional arrangements that the Government have or have not put in place that have caused so much consternation. I cannot help wondering whether a cynical calculation has been made that those women will have reached retirement age anyway by the next general election. May I ask a straightforward question? Do the Government genuinely believe that the transitional arrangements are fair—yes or no?

The transitional arrangements that were put in place in 2011 were debated in both Houses. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that initially it was proposed that the equalisation should be fast-tracked by two years. Following various debates and intensive negotiations, that was reduced to 18 months, at a cost to the Treasury of £1.1 billion. Transitional arrangements were made in 2011 and the Government have no plans to review them.

13. This is about women and equalities. We know that a woman born in early 1953 will already have retired; a woman born in early 1954 will not retire until the second half of 2019—two and a half years later. That cannot be right. In a spirit of fairness, will the Minister look at this again and give some solace to the women who have to wait an unbelievably long time to collect what is rightly and fairly theirs? (904454)

We need to accept that equalisation was necessary, first, because it was required by European Union directive and, secondly, because people are living longer. Women on the whole recognise that we need to equalise the state pension ages. We are not doing so as fast as some other countries, such as Germany and Denmark, which have already achieved what we are seeking to do.

Following the resignation of the previous Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann stated that he had

“often been obstructive to my efforts to resolve important pensions policy issues such as on women’s pensions.”

Now that the main impediment to change has been removed from Government, when can we expect an update on progress for the women of WASPI—Women Against State Pension Inequality—who have been so unfairly treated for so long?

I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s assessment. As I said in my previous answer, the Government do not intend to review this matter because it was heavily debated and dealt with in 2011.

I thank the Minister for his response, but what is the purpose of the Department and, indeed, of the women and equalities ministerial role if they do not address the inequalities that exist? We have had four parliamentary debates on the issue, MPs have asked dozens of questions, 186,000 people have signed a petition and we voted in this House to agree that the policy is unfair, so after all that, why is the Minister still prepared to defend an indefensible position?

The hon. Lady was not in the House in 2011, but the issue, as I said, was heavily debated. A vote was taken after a Backbench Business Committee debate. As she knows only too well, a point of order was raised after that debate and the person sitting in the Chair at the time happened to be the first and former Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee. She made it abundantly clear that votes taken after debates tabled by the Backbench Business Committee are not binding on the Government.