State Pension Age (Compensation)

– in the House of Commons am 1:48 pm ar 7 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun 1:59, 7 Chwefror 2024

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to publish proposals for a compensation scheme for women born between 6th April 1950 and 5th April 1960 inclusive who have been affected by increases in the state pension age;
and for connected purposes.

Like so many injustices created by Westminster, the lack of resolution for the 3.8 million WASPI—Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign—women is a disgrace. Those 3.8 million women were given the bombshell that their state pension age was going to increase from 60 to 66 just as they were about to retire and it was too late to do any proper financial planning. Many were already in ill health or worse, and others had taken early retirement and were planning to get by until age 60, when they thought they would receive their state pension.

For nine years, this place has debated the matter, hearing harrowing individual stories, with many MPs, from across the Chamber, pledging they would do all they could to help those women. But for nine years the Government have ignored the plight of those women. They hoped the WASPI women would go away, but they have not, although, unfortunately, 40,000 are dying each year without getting any form of compensation, with some 240,000 having already, tragically, passed away without receiving compensation.

For those now trying to make the best of their retirement, while facing a cost of living crisis, polling has established that half of WASPI women have struggled to pay essential bills in the past six months and, worse, a quarter have struggled to buy food. We know that this is an injustice; indeed, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman judged as far back as July 2021 that the Department for Work and Pensions was guilty of maladministration due to lack of direct communication. Yet here we are, still fighting for compensation.

The majority of the Tory Back Benchers who previously were very vocal in supporting WASPI women, including the leader of the Tories in Scotland, have all gone quiet, as has the Labour party. Astonishingly, the best I can find from the current Labour leader is:

“We’ve met many of these women and campaigners. And our hearts go out to them…It’s a huge injustice.”

He also said he would need to hear the outcome of the court case he believed was ongoing—that was back in April 2023. Just saying

“our hearts go out to them” is as bad as saying nothing. It is completely vacuous, and there has been silence in the 10 months since, when the court case had already concluded.

I urge the leader of the Labour party: instead of letting the Tories move his political dial and political compass, find a moral backbone and make a commitment that if this fag-end Tory Government will not deliver some form of compensation, a future Labour Government will. Having said that, given that the current Labour shadow Work and Pensions Secretary has never uttered the words “WASPI” or “1950s women” in Parliament, and neither has Labour’s Women and Equalities spokesperson, I do not see much pressure being put on the Labour leader from within his shadow Cabinet. This is a shocking dereliction of duty from what is supposed to be the main Opposition party at Westminster.

It is not just the main parties here at Westminster letting down the WASPI women; the ombudsman has taken way too long and is still dragging its feet, having given the women hope and dashed it time and again. It is hard to believe that in the almost three years since the maladministration assessment, a solution is still to be recommended by the ombudsman. It is a scandal in itself that the WASPI women had to go to court to confirm the flaws in the second ombudsman report. This process should have been closed out a long time ago, and I know from dealing with constituents affected by this that they find this dragging out of the process stressful and frustrating, and is rubbing salt in their wounds. As we head towards another general election, it helps the Government hide behind the myth that they cannot do anything until the PHSO concludes.

We also know that when the PHSO does conclude, the DWP still will not admit its failure to communicate adequately and its maladministration, so parliamentary intervention will probably be required to force the Government’s hand. The purpose of this Bill is to bring forward parliamentary intervention to stop those affected women having to wait any longer. Fair and fast compensation is the simple scheme that the WASPI women are looking for, using, as a minimum, level 5 of the ombudsman scale—realistically, however, level 6 of the PHSO bandings is the most appropriate—and this Bill could deliver a simple framework.

We are talking about a practical resolution, one that does not result in astronomical sums per person. It is not asking for a reversal of pension age to 60, and it is not a full restitution of pensions for those affected by the maladministration—no matter how nice an outcome that would be. The WASPI women understand there is no blank cheque from the Treasury; they are practical and they want to get on. That said, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the UK Government have saved £200 billion from the decision to equalise the state pension age at 66.

If we look at funding in the round, changing non-dom tax status could bring in £3.6 billion a year to the Treasury, and changing the capital gains rate to that of income tax could bring in a further £10 billion to £15 billion a year. Two simple tax changes would easily pay for compensation in a couple of years and create long-term additional income for the Treasury. If the Government properly tackled the personal protective equipment and covid support frauds, they could bring in even more money to pay out. There has never been a VIP lane for the WASPI women, and no Minister has ever agreed to meet them. Can the difference in attitudes be any starker?

Is that because Ministers do not want to hear the real stories of constituents? My constituent Ann contracted viral meningitis at age 59 and a half. Following consultant advice, she opted to stop working and gave her three months’ notice, in order to retire at 60. Literally days before her retirement date, she got the news that she would not get her state pension until age 66. She was too old-school to try to change her agreement and go for ill health retiral, which would have been the most appropriate outcome, so she endured six years without employment or pension, and the associated stress of that impacted on her health recovery.

My constituent Marie’s husband got cancer and had to stop working when she was aged 59. She was forced to work on for another seven years, doing work that required physical effort while doing caring duties, in order to survive financially.

My constituent Mary went part-time at age 55, due to health conditions, and then got the pension age increase bombshell at aged 59 and two months. That forced her to work on for several years, even while having cancer treatment in her 60s.

My constituent Pamela was given the news at age 60, just as she retired. She could not get back into the workforce and suffered ill health. She was forced to downsize her property twice, and she still has a financial hangover.

My constituent Violet was widowed at age 53. She had been working since the age of 15 and had been paying national insurance contributions for 45 years, but was forced to wait another six years due to that lack of notification.

My constituent Lynn was exhausted after working for 34 years in the NHS and agreed early retirement at 55. However, she found out on her very last day at work that it would be 11 years before she got her state pension, not the five she anticipated.

My constituent Nancy was widowed at 54, while she was working part-time. This was traumatic emotionally and then financially. She suffered umpteen chronic health conditions, while caring for parents and still being forced to continue taking NHS bank work to survive.

My constituent Lesley was sometimes working three jobs to make ends meet and put money away for the future. She was the carer for her partner when he had cancer and for her dad when he had cancer. She then had a period of travelling to Southampton every weekend to visit her aunt. Her superwoman efforts would exhaust anyone, and it is little wonder that she took early retirement at age 56, only later to discover she would have to get by for a further six years before getting her pension.

I have countless examples of constituents who would have put more into private pensions and who would have topped up NI contributions. I have examples of those who have had to use their savings, who have missed out on holidays and who have generally struggled to get by because of that lack of notification. Let us not forget that many of these women are well-qualified. They are intelligent, yet they are made to feel that it is somehow their fault that they did not know. The DWP’s denials make it worse for these women.

Westminster needs to make amends for its mistakes. Let me give a reminder, however, of how it operates: the miners’ strike miscarriages of justice, the Hillsborough cover-up, the infected blood scandal going back to the late 1970s, and the ongoing sub-postmaster scandal. Those are all issues that the three UK-wide parties have been complicit in at some point or another. It seems this place never learns.

However, on a positive note, I am grateful for the cross-party support for this Bill. I pay tribute to the tireless campaigning of the WASPI women, particularly locally, including Ann Hamell, who first brought this matter to my attention and has kept fighting for justice since. By sticking together, we will get some form of compensation. Even that will not undo the wrongs, and the emotional and financial distress for the women, but it will finally be an admission of guilt and a small financial redress that can bring some relief to women who were prejudiced against in terms of work pay and pension pots, and then prejudiced against in retirement since.

Question put and agreed to.


That Alan Brown, Steven Bonnar, Patricia Gibson, Jim Shannon, Marion Fellows, Grahame Morris, Amy Callaghan, Colum Eastwood, Peter Aldous, Wendy Chamberlain, Gavin Newlands and Chris Stephens present the Bill.

Alan Brown accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 April, and to be printed (Bill 164).