Peter Aldous urges Government to find a fair transitional arrangement for the state pension for women born in the 1950s

14th December 2017

Peter Aldous urges the Government to find a fair and affordable transitional arrangement for the state pension for women born in the 1950s, many of whom face unique problems in mitigating this sudden change in their circumstances.

Owing to my cold, I will not be able to speak quite as passionately and as loudly as the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris). I congratulate the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) on securing this debate. He has played an important role in continuing to highlight the very difficult situation in which many women born on or after 6 April 1950 find themselves as a result of the changes to the state pension age in the 1995 and 2011 Acts. This unfairness needs to be addressed and we need to get on with finding a solution.

I fully support the case for equalising the retirement age and the need to raise the pension age. The latter is required on the grounds of increased life expectancy and financial sustainability. However, such changes have a profound impact on people and the lives they live. Such changes need to be properly researched, to be subject to full consultation and then to be introduced in a fully transparent way. Those steps have not been taken in this instance. Even though the Pensions Act providing for the pension age for women to increase from 60 to 65 was enacted in 1995, government waited 14 years, until April 2009, before it began writing individually to the women affected. That lack of notification meant they had no time to make alternative arrangements for their retirement.

At the time of the 2011 Act, it was clear that there was a problem, and women were raising their concerns with me. As a result, the Government did make changes to limit the impact on those most affected. With hindsight, it is clear that the full scale of the problem was not recognised and that legislation should have been preceded by a full impact assessment.

The WASPI briefing for this debate highlights the unique barriers many women born in the 1950s face in mitigating this sudden change in their circumstances: many have no other source of income, and until the 1990s many women were not allowed to join company pension schemes; many women face difficulties in returning to the workforce and may be suffering from long-term health problems; many, on the expectation of an earlier retirement, have taken on caring responsibilities; and for some, divorce settlements were calculated on the assumption that the state pension was going to be received earlier. Baroness Altmann, in her February 2016 article, provides a compelling case as to why this matter needs to be revisited.

The message from the Waveney constituency and from Suffolk is that this situation must be addressed. When many of us presented petitions in this Chamber last autumn, I was in second place, behind the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), in terms of the number of people who had signed up —2,249 Waveney constituents had done so. Last year, Conservative-run Waveney District Council unanimously endorsed this petition, and last week Conservative-run Suffolk County Council unanimously backed the campaign for equality of pension provision for women. In Suffolk, there has been a tradition of women going out to work, whether in factories, agriculture, fishing, food processing or clerical posts. This was often part-time work, often on low salaries. These changes are disproportionately affecting a lot of them and their families.

I hope the hon. Gentleman and you, Madam Deputy Speaker, will forgive me for intervening. I just wanted to say that the hon. Gentleman has my full support, and that the reason I am not speaking in this debate is simply that so many other people are down to speak. The whole of Suffolk is behind him on this one.

I am grateful for that endorsement from Suffolk.

I acknowledge the challenges the Government face in finding a way forward that is affordable and that complies with equalities legislation. However, it is clear that a particular group of people have been unfairly penalised. I thus support the motion, and I urge the Government to find a way forward that is fair, fully considered and affordable.

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