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Women against state pension inequality

Volume 634: debated on Monday 8 January 2018

The petition of Glasgow East Constituency ,

Declares that as a result of the way in which the 1995 Pension Act and the 2011 Pension Act were implemented, women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age; further that hundreds of thousands of women have had significant changes imposed on them with little or no personal notice; further that implementation took place faster than promised; further that this gave no time to make alternative pension plans; and further that retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to make fair transitional arrangements for all women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by David Linden , Official Report, 14 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 336.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr David Gauke):

In 1995, after two years of debate in Parliament and following public consultation, the Government brought in a law to equalise men and women’s State Pension age (SPa). This increased the earliest age when a woman could claim SP from 60 to 65. The Government planned for the original change to take place over 10 years between 2010 and 2020.

However, life expectancy is rising. The Government recognised they needed to make further changes to keep the SP affordable. In 2011 they introduced another law to equalise men and women’s SPa more quickly. The 2011 law also brought forward the increase in everyone’s State Pension age from 65 to 66 by five and a half years.

The Government’s original plan was to increase women’s SPa by up to two years, so that men and women’s SPa would equalise in November 2018 rather than in October 2020. The Government listened to concerns, and looked to see if they could reduce the effect of the planned SPa increases. As a result they agreed to reduce the increase in women’s SPa to no more than 18 months, compared to the original 1995 timetable. This benefited almost a quarter of a million women who would otherwise have waited up to two extra years to claim their SP. This change cost £1.1 billion.

The Government did provide notice of the 1995 changes. Letters were sent to women born between 6 April 1950 and 5 April 1953 from April 2009 to March 2011 informing them of State Pension changes. Those affected by the changes to the law in 2011 were written to between January 2012 and November 2013.

The Government have done lots to improve pensions for everyone, particularly women. Future women pensioners will benefit on average from a higher new SP payment, and from the expansion of automatic enrolment. A woman retiring today can still expect to receive the SP for almost three years longer than men. If SPa had not been equalised, women would spend on average over 40% of their adult life in retirement.

Other possibilities have been considered. All would cost working people a significant amount. Reversing the 2011 SPa changes would cost over £30 billion, while returning to a female SPa of 60 would cost over £70 billion by 2020-21 (with £38 billion needing to be found before April 2018 alone). Going back on these changes could also create a new inequality between men and women.

Further changes to SPa are not justified, given the need to use public money to help those most in need.

The Government are helping older people remain in and return to work. The number of older women in work is now at a record high. There are more than 900,000 more women aged over 50 in work than in 2010. The average age of exit for women is currently 63.6—well above the previous women’s SPa of 60.

Our “Fuller Working Lives Strategy: A Partnership Approach”, published in February 2017, aims to help older workers remain or return to employment, and to change employer’s attitudes.

Government have changed the law to create the right support for our Fuller Working Lives strategy. For example it is now against the law to dismiss someone from their employment just because they reach the age of 65. Employees also have the right to request flexible working as long as they have worked continuously for the company for six months. This means people can agree a work pattern to suit their circumstances.

The Government also support vulnerable people. They spend around £50 billion a year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions, while also providing support to carers through the payment of Carers Allowance.

Since 1995 the Government have gone to significant lengths to communicate SPa changes.

Over the last 17 years the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has provided over 19 million personalised State Pension estimates. It has encouraged people to request these as part of their long-term financial planning —after all, retirement is a life changing financial decision and people are expected to plan for this.

Following the 1995 SPa changes the equalisation of men and women’s SPa was often reported in the media and debated at length in Parliament. DWP notified people with leaflets and carried out a pension’s education campaign between 2001 and 2004. This included information on the future equalisation of SPa. Later DWP sent individual letters to those affected. The Government made further increases to SPa in 2011 after a public consultation exercise and extensive debates in Parliament.

With Government facing increasing financial pressures, they cannot unpick the changes to SPa, some of which have been in place for 22 years. It is simply not affordable, especially when we take into account that the average woman reaching SPa last year will get a higher SP income over her lifetime than an average woman reaching SPa at any point before.

There will be no further changes to the law on this issue. This would mean working-age people, especially younger people, bearing a greater share of the cost of the pensions system.