In 2012, overall participation of female eligible employees in a workplace pension was 58%, but since the introduction of automatic enrolment this had increased to 80% in 2016. For males, this has increased from 52% to 76% in the same period.
Two former Pensions Ministers have criticised the Government for the policy, all Opposition parties recognise that the Government are wrong, the continuously growing number of cross-party MPs who have joined the all-party parliamentary group say it is wrong, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged 1950s-born women know it is wrong. When will the Pensions Minister and the Government admit their mistake and take action to rectify this grave injustice?
The Government will not be revisiting the state pension age arrangements for women born in the 1950s who are affected by the Pensions Acts of 1995, 2007 and 2011. This would require people of working age, and more specifically younger people, to bear an even greater share of the cost of the pension system.
The Government’s former Pensions Minister, Baroness Altmann, has said that she regrets the Government’s failure to properly communicate state pension age equalisation, an approach she described as
“a massive failure in public policy.”
Does the Minister appreciate how much this failure has affected the ability of the 1950s-born women to plan for a happy and secure retirement, and their sense of outrage about this issue?
Since 1995 successive Governments, including Labour Governments, have gone to significant lengths to communicate the changes, including through targeted communications, hundreds of press reports, parliamentary debates, advertising and millions of letters, and in the past 17 years the Department has also provided over 18 million personalised state pension estimates.
Can my hon. Friend confirm that if changes are made to the women’s pension arrangements, it will create discrimination against men, and that would be unfair?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. The proposal whereby women would receive early pensions would create a new inequality between men and women, the legality of which is highly questionable.
The Government seem to be under the misapprehension that the campaign by the wronged ’50s-born women will eventually go away if they just keep ignoring it. They even told the Table Office that they would not answer a question on the subject from my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams). It will not go away, however, so why does the Minister not engage with the campaigners to find a solution, and in the meantime support our proposals to extend pension credit to the most financially vulnerable and give them all the opportunity to retire up to two years earlier?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have already introduced transitional arrangements costing £1.1 billion in 2011, which mean that no woman will see her pension age change by more than 18 months relative to the 1995 Act timetable.