Skip to main content

State Pension Reform: Gender Inequality

Volume 609: debated on Monday 9 May 2016

Last month, we introduced a new simpler state pension as part of our wider package of pension reform. The combination of the new state pension, automatic enrolment, the triple lock, the protection of benefits and giving people power over their pension pots will ensure that pensioners, male and female, will have greater protection, security and choice in retirement.

Protection is all very well, but introducing the new state pension in 2016 means that 350,000 women who were born between 1951 and 1953 will retire on the old system just before the new provisions come into force, whereas a man born on exactly the same day will retire slightly later but receive a pension under the new arrangements. Will the Minister please heed the Scottish National party’s calls to establish a pensions commission in order to end these inequalities?

The hon. Lady was not here in the last Parliament when we debated and voted on these changes. We debated them at enormous length and a clear decision was made by Parliament. As part of that, a concession of more than £1.1 billion was introduced to limit the impact of the rising state pension age on those women who would be most affected. Let us be clear: there is no party in this Chamber that has a clear and coherent proposal for unwinding the changes that have been made since 1995 to equalise the state pension ages. I therefore have no plans to bring forward further concessions or changes.

I have listened carefully to what the Minister has just said. State pension equalisation has left 500,000 women born between 1953 and 1955 much worse off, with some facing a financial loss of up to £30,000. When will this Government take responsibility for the severe financial impact on those women and, in the interests of justice, do the decent thing, relent and put in place transitional arrangements?

In the last Parliament, we were clear about the reasons why the changes were happening, which included addressing the long-term, serious fiscal impacts of life expectancy increasing. Developed nations all around the world are having to take exactly the same kind of decisions. Let us be clear: unwinding any of the decisions that were taken would involve people of working age—younger people—having to bear an even greater share of the burden of getting this country back to living within its means. We need to take a broader perspective than that taken by the hon. Lady and her SNP colleagues.

Two weeks ago, the Labour Front-Bench team held constructive talks with the co-founders of the Women Against State Pension Inequality, or WASPI, campaign. We will work together to find a fair solution to the injustice that they and hundreds of thousands of women face as a result of the Government’s state pension reforms, and my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State has suggested six of them. The Secretary of State said that he would meet the WASPI women, but he also said that there were no plans to change the policy. Why is the Secretary of State going into that meeting with a closed mind? By doing so, will he not just repeat the mistakes of his predecessor?

I have to say to the hon. Lady and to Members across the Opposition Benches that there is a question here of responsible opposition. If they do not have a plan that is clear and fully costed—the Labour party’s policies were not—they are simply playing those women along, pretending that they are in a position to unwind the changes while sitting there knowing full well that they have no serious proposal for doing so.