Government Urged To 'Show Respect' To Women Affected By Pension Age Increases
1 December 2016, 05:31
Ministers have been accused of ducking their responsibility to help women who have been adversely affected by state pension age increases.
SNP pensions spokesman Ian Blackford urged the Government to show "respect'' to the women who campaigners argue have had to rethink their retirement plans at short notice.
But Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said concessions had already been made and that further ones "can't be justified''.
Plans to increase the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020 were initially set out in 1995.
But the coalition government decided to speed up the process in 2011, resulting in the state pension age for women due to increase to 65 in November 2018 and to 66 by October 2020.
The Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign group have led the fight to try and win increased support for those affected and Mr Blackford said it was time the Government listened.
"We should remind ourselves of what a pension is,'' he said as he led an opposition day debate on the subject.
"It is deferred income. Women and men have paid National Insurance in expectation of receiving a state pension.
"That's the deal, plain and simple. You pay in, you get your entitlement.
"You don't expect the Government without effective notice to change the rules.
"What has been done to the Waspi women has undermined fairness and equity.''
Mr Blackford pointed to the 240 Waspi-related petitions which have been submitted to Parliament by MPs from across the UK in recent weeks as evidence that the Government needed to take action.
"Parliament and the petitioners should be given more respect by the Government,'' he said.
Mr Blackford urged the Government not to be as "pigheaded'' as previous administrations as he referenced opposition to the Suffragette movement.
He said: "The Tory Government have ducked their responsibility to the Waspi women for too long. It is time to face up to the reality.
"Pensions are not a privilege, they are a contract and the UK Government has broken it.''
But Mr Green said concessions had already been made to help those affected.
He said: "No woman will experience increases of more than 18 months as a result and in fact for 81%, for more than four in five of the women affected, the increase will not exceed 12 months compared to the previous timetable.
"This concession benefited almost a quarter of a million women who would otherwise have experienced delays of up to two years and introducing further concessions can't be justified given the imperative to focus public resources on helping those who are most in need.''
Labour former frontbencher Andy Burnham intervened and said: "You talked about those in need as if the Waspi women are not in need, of course many of them are in need.
"Can I say to you, you are getting onto resources, what price justice? What price doing the right thing?''