Today we are debating the important issue of the equalisation of the State Pension age for men and women (thanks to Mhairi Black who secured the debate). The UK Government’s dreadful handling of this change has resulted in profoundly unfair effects for women born between 6 April 1951 and the early 1960s. They now have to contend not just with the equalisation of their retirement age to the new higher age of 66, but also with this happening over a very short period of time.
The injustice here springs from the lack of notice provided to women born in the 50s and early 60s, despite having previously been promised more time to plan and greater tapering provisions. Understandably, many then relied on and factored in these promises for their retirement planning.
The transitional protections promised by previous administrations are now being reneged upon, leaving some women with as little as 8 years notice that they will have to wait a further 18 months before being able to draw their State Pension. This is causing huge distress and anxiety for many women affected because of the sudden gap it is creating in their retirement and pension arrangements. It also flies in the face of the Pensions Commission’s recommendation that at least 15 years notice should be given for major changes to the State Pension Age.
My SNP colleagues and I recognise that the State Pension age must increase because people are living longer, a fact of which everyone is of course glad. We recognise too that it is only fair for women to start receiving their State Pension at the same age as men. However, we are deeply concerned by the very unfair manner in which the Government has gone about putting the equalisation into effect. This is causing real hardship, uncertainty and anxiety for a great many of the thousands of women affected and we call upon the Government to rethink these ill-conceived plans.
I have been contacted by many constituents, some of whom have kindly agreed that I can share their stories of how this policy has affected them:
Wilma is the youngest of three sisters.
Her oldest sister was born in 1947 but sadly died nearly 20 years ago. She would now have been receiving her State Pension.
Wilma’s middle sister was born in 1949 and so was one of the last women to get her State Pension in full at the age of 60 – around six years ago – because she was born before the date set by the Finance Act 1995.
Wilma herself, having been born in 1955, will not be able to draw her State Pension until she turns 65. Wilma was aware of this from around 2000 but then learnt in 2011 that George Osborne was planning to push retirement age up to 66 for women in her age cohort.
Wilma feels the issue is about basic fairness – she feels cheated and robbed. She is concerned for other women of her age (including several of her friends) who have been pushed into severe financial difficulty by this policy.
Andrea gave up her job in August 2009, just before reaching 56 with the expectation that she would work freelance until she reached 60 and received her State Pension.
She then received news in September 2010, that she wouldn't get the State Pension until the age of 63 years, 7 months. This information was buried in a pension forecast she had requested. She has never received an official notification of this change.
At the age of 58 years, 3 months, Andrea did receive official notification, this time informing her that she wouldn't receive State Pension until turning 64 years, 9 months.
She has not received the tapering she could reasonably have expected. A friend, who is 6 months older than her, will receive her State Pension a full 2 years earlier than Andrea will.
The WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign has been fighting against these discriminatory effects of the Government’s acceleration of the process to bring men and women’s pensions into line. WASPI’s petition has been signed by over 100,000 people calling on the Government to bring forward a fairer system for women born in the 1950s. You can find out more about their campaign on their Facebook Page.
Four weeks ago I was worried about writing this column on the eve of the last major parliamentary debate on Brexit. Anything could have happened, rendering my speculation obsolete by the time you read it. I shouldn’t have fretted. Anything could have happened but nothing did.
Here I am again. Groundhog day. It’s Tuesday. There’s a big debate tomorrow.
Tuesday. Another day spent discussing Brexit. Another day of my life I’m not getting back.
We are no further forward. As the clock ticks down to exit it’s only fair to ask: What the hell is Theresa May playing at?
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party