The Secretary of State has regular discussions with the Chancellor, but the Government will not be revisiting the state pension age arrangements for women born in the 1950s that are affected by the Pensions Acts of 1995, 2007 and 2011.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and I, Members of the Minister’s own party, and all Opposition parties in this House, including the Democratic Unionist party, have introduced a Bill, to be debated on 27 April, to provide for transitional arrangements to be put in place. Will the Minister support the Bill? If not, will he tell the House why not?
The Minister will be aware that, following the Brexit vote, bond yields dropped by 30%, increasing the public sector pensions bill by a hefty 30% to £1.8 trillion over the last year. Is this latest example of Government ineptitude the real reason WASPI women are being ignored, penalised and denied their pensions?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question, but if her Government in Scotland disagree with any aspect of the UK Government’s welfare reforms, they have the powers to do something about it. I refer her to the letter of 22 June from Jeane Freeman, my opposite number, which specifically discusses the uses of Scotland Act powers to address individual cases.
Will the Minister further clarify that point? Labour says that the previous pension age could come back and that we could return to a situation where men are discriminated against. Does he agree that such discrimination might be profoundly against the law?
The ombudsman’s first rulings on whether the Government are guilty of maladministration for failing to give 50s-born women sufficient notice of their earlier retirement age are due soon. Maladministration or not—it will take years to resolve that matter—can I ask the new Minister to take this back, think again, tell us what he is prepared to do, and what research he is prepared to do, to alleviate their misery, and perhaps even consider our proposals on pension credit and allowing them to retire up to two years earlier?
My hon. Friend is correct. The new state pension is much more generous for the many women who were historically worse off under the old system. More than 3 million women stand to gain an average of £550 extra per year by 2030 as a result of these changes.