Govt rejects calls to slow women’s state pension age hike

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The Government has rejected calls for new transitional arrangements to be introduced for women affected by increases to the state pension age.

In a debate in the House of Commons today, spurred by campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality, Department for Work and Pensions minister Shailesh Vara maintained that provisions for women affected by the 2011 acceleration of women’s retirement age to 66 had been thoroughly debated at the time.

Vara said the Government had already made a £1.1bn concession by reducing to 24 months to 18 months the maximum amount of extra time any woman affected would have to wait before accessing their state pension.

He said: “This matter was debated very thoroughly in 2011, and a concession was made then worth over £1bn. It was thoroughly debated in both houses of parliament and I very much hope that I have put on record the position of the Government.”

The minister’s statement followed numerous pleas from MPs for the Government to reassess how the changes are affecting women.

Opening the debate, Scottish National Party MP Mhairi Black accused the Government of being “vindictive”.

She said: “There are two problems at the heart of this. The poor communications that have happened through the years, and all we can do is learn from that.

“But the second issue is the 2011 Act, and the rapid changes that the Coalition and this Government have made. That’s something we can do something about.

“I don’t believe this policy is vindictive or was done in the knowledge it would hurt people, but because of a mess and mistake after mistake that we have found ourselves at this point.

“But if we won’t do anything then it will become vindictive and people will be hurt.”

Labour shadow pensions minister Nick Thomas-Symonds added: “The much-vaunted reduction in the cap from 24 months to 18 months simply isn’t enough. Does the Government understand the anger that there is that more transitional measures have not been considered?

“I urge the Government to be constructive. They can still do something to ease the transition. Whatever the Government does today, do not slam the door in the face of the 1950s women.”

However, there was also scepticism from some MPs.

Pensions All Party Parliamentary Group chairman Richard Graham said: “We will never know exactly who was communicated to and who noticed and paid attention to it.

“But we do know that in 2004 the previous government did a study on this and that found that three-quarters of those affected had been communicated to effectively.

“It is incumbent on all of us as MPs, partly to represent the emotional feelings of our constituents, but also to reflect on the reality and the cost and the implications of what has been proposed.”

Conservative MP Marcus Fysh added: “We have a duty to the young people of this nation to keep their taxes down so that they have as much scope to plan for their retirement as possible.

“It would be entirely wrong to reopen a decision that was taken by a Lib Dem and Conservative Coalition back in 2011.”

Fellow Tory MP Huw Merriman added: “Whilst I agree with the concern being raised, I do not see a remedy before us.

“If the manifesto of my Government is to be enacted this further mitigation would then have to be paid for by others in society in the form of higher taxes.”