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State Pension Age: Women

Volume 609: debated on Monday 9 May 2016

11. If his Department will introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by changes in the state pension age. (904888)

12. If his Department will introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by changes in the state pension age. (904889)

19. If his Department will introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by changes in the state pension age. (904897)

21. If his Department will introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by changes in the state pension age. (904900)

22. If his Department will introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by changes in the state pension age. (904901)

Women affected by changes made in 2011 face a maximum increase in state pension age of 18 months, rather than two years, as a result of a Government concession, and will retire under the new state pension, which will be more generous for many than the previous system. No further transitional arrangements are planned.

Will the new Secretary of State look again at these transitional arrangements? Will he also see whether or not the cost of this could be offset by some adjustments in his budget?

The Secretary of State made it absolutely clear earlier in these questions that he has no intention of revisiting this issue.

Why has the Minister not used the opportunity of a majority Conservative Government to put right the wrongs of the last Government, which have had an impact on some 4,290 women in my constituency, by introducing proper transitional arrangements—or is this just compassionate Conservatism in action?

During the debates in 2011, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the then Pensions Minister said on Second Reading of the Pensions Bill that they would go away, consider and reflect, and they did precisely that: on Report, they made a concession worth £1.1 billion and reduced the timeframe from two years to 18 months. Transitional arrangements were put in place, and at a substantial and significant cost, notwithstanding the very tough economic climate at the time.

Recently, the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise talked about how

“people have been working…for up to 30 years and paying into a pension fund in the expectation that…they will have a certain amount of money on which to live”.

She went on to say that

“there is an increasingly good case to be made for the right thing to be done by people”.—[Official Report, 25 April 2016; Vol. 608, c. 1183.]

Given the sudden change in the retirement age for women, how can the Government justify this rank hypocrisy from one Minister to another? Will the Secretary of State bring fairness for those women? In his new role, he has an opportunity to show that he will consider things fairly and support the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise.

From the context of her question, I think that the hon. Lady was levelling the charge of inconsistency as between one Minister and another. I know she would not accuse a Minister of behaving hypocritically to another.

That would render it orderly. I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) for proffering advice, especially from a sedentary position.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will take the hon. Lady’s reference, “from one Minister to another” slightly broadly and remind her that, following the passing of the Pensions Act in 1995 there were 13 years of Labour government during which a succession of Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions and pensions Ministers did absolutely nothing to try to alter the system that she and her colleagues now seek to change.

While Ministers do nothing, my constituents and other people are really suffering. My constituent, a woman born in the 1950s, told me:

“I feel anxious and distressed about how I am going to manage without an income in what has been, for my generation, the expected retirement age.”

It is six months since we had our first debate on this, so will the Minister and the Secretary of State now commit that civil servants will assist with costing the various options for transitional arrangements that have been put forward by Labour?

The hon. Lady asks for a costing. During the 2011 debate the cost was calculated to be £1.1 billion, and there is no intention to revisit the issue.

Does the Minister accept that there were significant failures from his own Department to communicate the changes to the state pension age, and does he think it unacceptable that some women found out about the changes only months before they expected to retire?

In 2012, a survey compiled by the Department for Work and Pensions found that only 6% of women who were due to retire within 10 years thought that the pension age was still 60. Moreover, in 1995, people were able to ask for an estimate of when they were likely to retire, and in 2011 more than 5 million people were sent a letter to the address that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs then had informing them of the changes.

14. With an all-party group on the WASPI campaign being set up later this week, will the Secretary of State confirm that he is willing to meet a cross-party group of MPs and some members of the campaign to discuss the matter further and to open up some good communication? (904892)

I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is more than happy to meet the all-party group. I know that he, like the rest of us, has met some members of the campaign in his constituency, but he is certainly keen to meet the all-party group.