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State Pension Errors: Retired Women

Volume 680: debated on Monday 14 September 2020

What steps her Department is taking to (a) investigate and (b) rectify errors made in the payment of the state pension to retired women. (905897)

What steps her Department is taking to (a) investigate and (b) rectify errors made in the payment of the state pension to retired women. (905899)

We are aware of a number of cases in which individuals have been underpaid category BL basic state pension. We corrected our records and reimbursed those affected as soon as the underpayments were identified, and we continue to check and remedy further cases that are identified.

With up to 130,000 women potentially affected, and with many of those women who have already contacted the DWP having been told, wrongly, that they are not entitled to any additional money, will the Minister say what more he is going to do, in the light of the miscommunication that affected thousands of women represented by the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign, to ensure that the women affected are contacted and given the correct information?

As the hon. Lady knows, I cannot comment on the live litigation in respect of the WASPI women, although I can say that at the first hearing before the judicial review, notification and communication were found for on behalf of the Government—this Government, the coalition Government and the Labour Government whom she served. In respect of category BL pensions, we are improving the training and the ability of the individuals who are handling the cases.

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) in paying tribute to the WASPI women. Estimates suggest that as many as 130,000 women could have been underpaid their state pensions. Will the Minister confirm the total number who have been affected by the Department’s error and how he intends to ensure that they receive the full amount to which they are entitled?

This matter dates from 2008 and a Labour Government who introduced the particular changes. The Department continues to check for further cases, and if any are found, awards will be reviewed and any arrears paid in accordance with the law. We continue to encourage anyone who believes that they are being underpaid the state pension to contact the Department for Work and Pensions.

This issue is in addition to the UK Government continuing to deny justice for WASPI women at a time when women are disproportionately impacted, socially and economically, by the coronavirus outbreak. The Scottish National party believes that mistakes were made in the changes to the state pension age and has repeatedly called on the UK Government to oversee a full impact assessment that considers the wide-reaching effects of the detriment felt by 1950s-born women. Will the Minister commit to a full impact assessment on both issues?

The hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot comment on live litigation, but he also knows that when the High Court heard the judicial review, it found for the Government on all the issues that he outlines. I point out that sections 24, 26 and 28 of the Scotland Act 2016 give the Scottish National party Government in Holyrood extensive powers to intervene, if they choose to do so.

Up to 130,000 women who have been denied their pension entitlements through pension underpayments are awaiting justice. An investigation is under way; when will it finally conclude so that those women, many of whom are in their twilight years, get the justice that they deserve? To make a bad situation worse, the Government pledged in their manifesto that they would honour the triple lock; we now hear that they are considering scrapping the triple lock when UK pensioner poverty is the worst in Europe. Will the Secretary of State commit today that her party will not add to its long list of U-turns by scrapping the triple lock?

I really think the hon. Gentleman needs to talk to his good lady wife, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), because she was the Secretary of State for the Labour Government who so grievously underpaid state pensions such that the coalition Government and this Government have now transformed basic state pension so that it is more than £1,900 a year higher than it was a decade ago. That is thanks to the actions of the coalition Government and this Conservative Government. The House will be aware that the matters the hon. Gentleman raises in respect of category BL state pension were a result of the changes brought in by the regulations introduced under the Labour Government in 2008.