Waspi campaign continues despite Govt debate rejection

WASPICampaigners are pledging to continue to fight for concessions for women whose state pension will increase from 60 to 66, despite the Government has rejected their case in a debate in Parliament yesterday.

Yesterday SNP MP Mhairi Black, who also sits on the DWP Select Committee, called on the Government to immediately introduce transitional arrangements for those women negatively affected by that equalisation, following a debate in Parliament forced by the delivery of a petition with over 100,000 signatures. The transitionary rules mean two women born in the same academic year can have state pension ages 2 years and 10 months apart.

But Department for Work and Pensions minister Shailesh Vara rejected the call, saying it had already relaxed the pace of change to accommodate those affected with concessions costing over £1bn.

That campaign was led by Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) which argued that successive governments have not done enough to publicise the increase of women’s state pension age from age 60 to 65, announced in 1995. It argued the further acceleration of state pension age announced in 2011 means born in 1953 and 1954 will see their state pension age rise by up to 18 months with relatively little notice. Around half a million women will see their state pension age rise by an extra year, and 300,000 by an extra 18 months.

Despite losing the backbencher debate, the Government is not required to take any further action. But Black claimed victory on BBC’s Woman’s Hour today and said that she would be continuing to put pressure on the Government on the issue, saying ‘the debate raises awareness of the issue. It highlights to the government that they have made a mistake and have got to do something about it’.

Vara said: “The Government listened to the concerns expressed during the passing of the 2011 Act, and shortened the delay that anyone would experience in claiming their state pension, relative to the 1995 timetable, to 18 months. That concession benefited almost a quarter of a million women, who would otherwise have experienced delays of up to two years. A similar number of men also benefited from a reduced increase. The concession was worth £1.1 billion in total, and as a result 81% of women affected will experience a delay of 12 months or less.”

Black said: “As late as 2008, fewer than half of women knew that they would be affected. The National Centre for Social Research stated in 2011 that only 43% of women were aware of the planned change.”

Conservative MP for Solihull Julian Knight, who was formerly Money editor of the Independent on Sunday told the House: “I am not in the habit of quoting Liberal Democrats, but I will make an exception in this instance over the Government’s decision to defer the date at which the state pension age will rise to 66, at a cost of £1.1 billion. While in office, Steve Webb, the former Pensions Minister, put it as follows:

‘a billion quid is a serious amount of money.’”

Labour pensions spokesman Nick Thomas-Symonds MP said: I am grateful to the Minister for being so generous in giving way. He read out the quote about £1 billion being a ‘serious amount of money’, but he really should have quoted the whole sentence, which begins:

‘this was a measure to save 30 billion quid over how many years, and we wanted 10 per cent of that back to soften the blow’. Steve Webb wanted £3 billion back but got only £1 billion.”