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Access to pensions for women born in the 1950s

Volume 724: debated on Wednesday 14 December 2022

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

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; notes that the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman reported in 2021 that the Department of Work and Pensions had let down women born in the 1950s; and further notes that the PHSO is clear that DWP's failure to let women know about the changes to the state pension were maladministration; and that it has encouraged the DWP to be “proactive” in considering compensation now.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to make fair transitional arrangements for all women who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the state pension age.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Patrick Grady, Official Report, 17 October 2022; Vol. 720, c. 495 .]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Pensions (Laura Trott):

The Government decided over 25 years ago to make the state pension age the same for men and women. Changes to state pension age were made over a series of Acts by successive Governments from 1995 onwards, following public consultations and extensive debates in both Houses of Parliament.

The Pensions Act 2011 accelerated the timetable for equalisation and brought forward the increase in state pension age for both men and women to age 66, these changes to be transitioned in over a 10-year period. During the passage of the Pensions Act 2011, Parliament legislated for a concession worth £1.1 billion, in 2011-12 prices. This concession reduced the proposed increase in state pension age for over 450,000 men and women and means that no woman will see her pension age change by more than 18 months, relative to the original 1995 Act timetable. This was a clear change to help ensure the financial safety of those affected..

In the judicial review on changes to state pension age, both the High Court and Court of Appeal have found no fault in the actions of the Department, and decided it acted entirely lawfully. The courts found that the Government were justified in striking the balance where they did, between keeping state pension provision on a sustainable footing and recognising the hardship that could result for those affected by the changes. Several age and sex discrimination arguments were raised, and the courts found in favour of the Government on all of them. The Court of Appeal held there was no sufficient causal link between the withdrawal of the state pension for 1950s-born women and the disadvantage caused to that group.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the Government were justified in its actions on state pension age changes, and it held that there was no duty to notify those affected by them. Furthermore, the courts concluded that there has been adequate and reasonable notification given by the Department over a number of years.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is independent and is carrying out an investigation on the notifications DWP gave about changes to state pension age. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s stage 1 report confirms that their investigation is not a review of the entire state pension age increase from 1995-2011. The ombudsman stage 1 report of 20 July 2021 made findings in relation to a specific window of time under the last Labour Government.

This is a multi-staged process and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has not given his final findings on the overall investigation. Stages 2 and 3 have not yet been completed. It would not be appropriate to comment on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's stage 1 report published on 20 July 2021. The ombudsman’s investigation is ongoing and section 7(2) of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 states that ombudsman investigations “shall be conducted in private”.

Reforms to the state pension have put measures in place to improve state pension outcomes for most women. Over 3 million women stand to receive an average of £550 more per year by 2030. Women live longer than men on average, and therefore receive pension payments for longer. Also, women retiring today can still expect to receive the state pension for over 21 years on average; two years longer than men.