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Volume 724: debated on Wednesday 14 December 2022


Wednesday 14 December 2022


Health and Social Care

NHS Dental care in Halifax

The petition of Residents of the constituency of Halifax,

Declares that petitioners are concerned about the lack of access to NHS dental care registration and appointments in Halifax; further that residents have been unable to receive both urgent and routine treatments at NHS dentists; and further that there are concerns that residents in Halifax are being advised by NHS England to enquire about appointments further afield which is impractical for many people.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to improve NHS dental care provision in Halifax so that residents can access care easily and locally.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Holly Lynch, Official Report, 1 November 2022; Vol. 721, c. 838 .]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Neil O’Brien):

The Government are aware of the challenges that areas such as Halifax are facing in accessing NHS dentistry. Dentistry is an important part of the NHS and we are committed to improving access and other issues currently faced by patients and the workforce. This is why we announced a package of dental system improvements on 19 July, detailed in our plan for patients. These important first steps to reform NHS dentistry, will improve access for patients and make NHS work more attractive to dentists, particularly in areas where there are access challenges. These changes include improvements to the 2006 contract to ensure dentists are remunerated more fairly for complex treatment, and patient access is improved, especially for those with higher oral health need. As part of this package, we will also enable dental practices to deliver 110% of their contract levels to help recovery from the pandemic and increase activity.

We have taken action to implement these changes, including through regulations that came into effect on 25 November. NHS England (NHSE) will shortly publish additional guidance for dental professionals as part of this package.

In Halifax, additional funding for local initiatives will improve patient access by increasing dental practice capacity. These initiatives will deliver additional care from November 2022 to March 2023 targeted at those patients in greatest need. In addition to this, an additional £50 million in funding was made available for additional activity and patient appointments at the beginning of this year.

We recognise that, despite these changes, there is still more to be done. This is why the Government continue to work with NHS England and the dental sector on further changes which will be announced in 2023. We will continue to work with stakeholders to understand the issues and concerns and this includes considering the most effective reforms for improving access.

Work and Pensions

Access to pensions for women born in the 1950s

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.