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State Pension Age Increase: Transitional Arrangements

Volume 670: debated on Thursday 23 January 2020

4. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on transitional arrangements for women born in the 1950s affected by the increase in the state pension age. (900372)

8. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effect of the increase in the state pension age on women born in the 1950s. (900377)

State pension age entitlement is a matter that has been comprehensively debated on many occasions in Parliament over the decades. Meanwhile, there is a judicial review on the state pension age, which claimants have been given permission to appeal, meaning that there is still live litigation. We cannot comment on that litigation.

Not so long ago, the Prime Minister said he would look at this issue with

“fresh vigour and new eyes”,

but as far as I can see nothing has been done. What will the Prime Minister and this Government actually do to help those women?

We are here for Women and Equalities questions. Women retiring today can expect to receive state pension for an average of over 21 years—two years longer than men—and if state pension age had not been equalised, women reaching the age of 60 would be expecting to spend over 40% of their adult life in receipt of state pension. I believe in equality and opportunity for older women. There are great opportunities out in the workplace now, and our local jobcentres can give women really good advice on that next stage of their working career.

As we have heard, the Prime Minister is on the record as saying that he is sympathetic to this cause. In fact, last summer he said:

“Let’s see what we can do”.

Very much in that spirit, and despite what the Minister just said, does she agree that if she really believes what she just said, at the very least she should commission an impact assessment on the effect of these changes for women, so that they can get the justice they need?

By 2030, 3 million women will stand to gain, on average, £550 more per year as a result of the recent reforms. The DWP has produced an estimate for keeping the state pension age at 60 for women and 65 for men, and that estimate assumes that state pension continues to be uprated at least at around average earnings going forward. The reality is that the Government’s reform has been focused on maintaining a balance between sustainability of the state pension and fairness between the generations, in view of the demographic challenges. My retirement age is 67. The Government have already introduced concessions costing £1.1 billion.

The appeal speaks for some of the groups of 1950s women, but certainly not all, and colleagues—both retreads and newbies—will by now have heard from women with different perspectives, all of whom will have a suggestion on how we resolve the issue. The appeal is silencing as many voices as it is speaking for, if not more. How can the silenced women be heard? They too are desperate, and they too need to be heard on this issue.

The Government’s position on the changes to the state pension age has been clear and consistent, and there are substantial problems with the various practical alternatives offered by different voices.

I understand what the hon. Lady is saying. We have an older workers champion, who is working with employers, in both the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and that links into the industrial strategy. As Employment Minister, I am keen to tackle the stigma around older workers and the feeling that it is better to be retired than on benefits or not working. For me, this is about equality and opportunity. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), people can have the best part of their career later in life.