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State Pension: Payment Delays

Volume 703: debated on Monday 8 November 2021

I am advised that all delayed claims have been processed, except for those that require further customer information. Some 70% to 80% of claims are now made digitally by Get your State Pension, with over 50% being cleared the same day. We are, however, introducing a new tele-claims service that will supplement the paper applications, which we accept have been lengthy and have incurred delays.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Two of my constituents should have started receiving their state pensions at the start of August and were on the verge of destitution when I was contacted in October by the welfare rights officer at Glasgow West housing association. Following the intervention from my office, both have now received what they were due from the Department for Work and Pensions, but they are by no means the only people to be hit by this latest DWP shambles. I am really concerned for people who do not have anybody like a housing association or an MP to advocate for them, so will the Minister tell me how many people he estimates have been affected by this altogether? What more can he do to put it right and make sure that those who do not have somebody advocating for them do not get left behind?

We accept that there have been delays, and we have taken significant action in the form of the redeployment of 700 staff to address those. I am pleased that the cases of the two constituents that the hon. Member outlined have now been addressed. The particular problem has been in respect of the receipt of further information from particular applicants, and those matters are being addressed on an ongoing basis.

People work hard all their lives and pay in to save for their retirement; they deserve to be paid their state pension on time. Colleagues across the House, as we have heard, are reporting more and more cases of delays in payment, some of which are as long as three months. This is a basic service provided by the Government, which we all rely on. How on earth did these delays come about? When will the Government take this seriously, and when will pensions finally be paid on time?

Obviously, the hon. Gentleman did not listen to my earlier answer. This matter was addressed by the end of October. The reality of the situation is that the pandemic has caused delays to state pensions, with issues relating to illness, self-isolation, caring, training, location, staffing, equipment, recruiting. I could go on, but these matters are being addressed.

There are not just delays to the state pension, but underpayments. The British Government are also set to hammer pensioners’ incomes, with a cut of £2,600 on average over the next five years as a result of their plan to break the pensions triple lock, which the House of Lords rejected last week with a majority of 102—led, indeed, by a Conservative. Will the Minister do the right thing and U-turn on his plans to scrap the triple lock on pensions? If not, is it not the case that the British Government just cannot be trusted with pensions, and that the only way to ensure dignity and fairness in retirement for Scots is with independence?

I have heard it all. How on earth the Scottish Government, were they in any event to get independence, would be able to pay ongoing state pensions is a mystery that no Scottish politician has ever been able to answer. The factual reality is that the state pension, by reason of the triple lock, is up £2,000 per person, something that would never happen under an independent Scotland—that is for sure.