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State Pension Age: Women

Volume 624: debated on Monday 27 March 2017

11. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on improving pension transition arrangements for women born in the 1950s. (909483)

20. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on improving pension transition arrangements for women born in the 1950s. (909493)

I give the same answer I gave to the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford): the Government have been clear that the introduction of further transitional arrangements cannot be justified, given the imperative to focus public resources on helping those who are most in need. There are no plans to go beyond the £1.1 billion concession introduced when Parliament considered the changes.

In response to the Minister’s answer, I ask him whether he will respond to the comments of his Government’s former Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann, who said she regretted the Government’s failure to properly communicate state pension age equalisation, an approach she described as

“a massive failure of public policy”,

and the comments of Steve Webb, another of their former Pensions Ministers, who said that the last Government made a bad decision on changing the state pension age? Will the Minister look at rectifying that?

In the latter case, Steve Webb was Pensions Minister at the time, so I do not think there is much further I can say about that.

There were very extensive communications on the 1995 changes. Millions of people checked their state pension requirements; it was publicised and leaflets were produced. This has been said many times on the Floor of the House, and I simply reiterate it.

It is not good enough for the Minister to say, as he did earlier, that that is it for the WASPI women and that everything has been done that is going to be done. Has he given any consideration to the recommendation from the Work and Pensions Committee talking about allowing the WASPI women the chance to claim their pensions early at a reduced rate, which I believe is cost-neutral and fits with other areas where the Government have allowed pensioners to take their pensions earlier at a reduced rate?

The proposal is not cost-neutral; I must make that clear. It is very impractical and it is impossible to do in the time concerned. I have made it very clear that the transitional arrangements that were made when the Pensions Bill went through Parliament are all that will be provided.

These changes took place under two Acts of Parliament: the Pensions Act 1995, which brought in the main change, and the Pensions Act after that. I want to make it clear that after the 1995 Act, 18 months was the maximum increase.

Last week, the John Cridland report indicated that there may well be an increase in the pension age. As life expectancy rises, it is right and proper for any Government to consider increasing the state pension age. However, will my hon. Friend reassure the House that if there are indeed any changes to the state pension age, they will be communicated in a timely and appropriate manner, so that those affected know about them?

The Government will be making a full response to the Cridland report. The review is forward-looking and, I must make it clear, will not make recommendations for any changes to happen before 2028. That was a commitment in the 2013 autumn statement.

19. The Minister said in terms that the Government cannot afford to fund transitional arrangements or any of the proposals in the report referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). May I suggest that he look again, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at spending over £30 billion on tax relief for pension contributions, for which there is no evidence that it encourages pension savings? (909492)

There is a lot happening in pensions at the moment. The point the hon. Gentleman mentions in relation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer is something completely different, but there will be no change to the transitional arrangements at £1.1 billion.

Labour will oppose the earlier increase in the state pension age and the end of the triple lock, recommended in last week’s Cridland report, but we welcome the statement from John Cridland that at least 10 years’ notice should be given of any age increase, so there is yet another chance for the Minister. Do the Government agree with Cridland? If they do, will the Minister now admit that they got it badly wrong with the WASPI women and at least back Labour’s proposals to extend pension tax credit?