Earlier today, Liz spoke in the Women Against State Pension Inequality debate in the House of Commons. Grahame Morris MP for Easington secured the very important debate and you can watch and read Liz’s contribution below.
“First, may I declare an interest as one of those 1950s-born women who are directly affected by changes to the state pension age? Unlike many—some are sitting in the Public Gallery—I am fortunate to be able to raise the issue in the Chamber. The fact is that many of these 1950s-born women have been hit not just once but twice by changes to the state pension age.
Those of us born in the 1950s were first hit by the equalisation of the state pension age to that of men, with transitional arrangements in place according to date of birth up to 2020. Sadly, the then Government did not see fit to tell the women affected about the change, so many remained unaware and looked forward to receiving their state pension at 60. As they approached 60, they were devastated to find the financial ground shifting beneath their feet. In 2011, the coalition Government sped up the changes, so the state pension age for women reached 65 by 2018, and would rise with an increase in the state pension age for men and women to 66 by April 2020. Many women were left completely unable to make up that financial gap, and that would have been the case even if they had been aware of the earlier changes, which many of them were not. It is ironic that measures that were designed to increase state pension equality should have such a discriminatory effect on women in particular. They have indeed had a discriminatory effect, as many 1950s-born women face real hardship.
Out of the thousands of women in my constituency, I wish to refer to two whose cases particularly struck me. Barbara, whose door I knocked on during the election campaign, had worked all her life; indeed, she was working until just before I knocked on her door. She had worked for British Home Stores, but following the collapse of that company, she found herself without a state pension and, in a classic double whammy, without a company pension at that stage. Then there was the woman who approached me, quite unsolicited, in Blaydon shopping centre who said, “We need to do something.” She said that she had retired early to look after her mum, thinking that she would get her state pension at 60, only to find, after her mum’s death, that she could not get her pension. She had to rely on benefits and family support, and that was after working most of her life.
These cases are not unique, so the issue will not go away. Many women still contact me to say that they have joined the WASPI campaign and registered cases for maladministration with the Department for Work and Pensions, leading to even more of a backlog with the independent complaints examiner who is considering this issue.
Where do we go from here? The Government must address the issue as a matter of urgency. I have no doubt that we will hear about the measures that the Government have put in place to help people into work or apprenticeships. That is absolutely fabulous for any woman who wants to work and is able to do so, but there are many women whose circumstances mean that they are not able to do so. They were not expecting these changes and they find themselves unable to work, having looked after parents or family. Frankly, in a competitive market, it is just not that easy for 1950s-born women to find work.”
Intervention from Mr Pat McFadden MP:
“Does my hon. Friend agree that whatever measures the Government might have taken, those measures have not worked and nor have they dealt with the problem? The continuing sense of injustice is still there, which is why we are having this debate.”
“Yes, I most certainly do agree. I am asking the Government to meet the WASPI campaigners, explore solutions, look at transitional state pension arrangements, and make resolving this issue a priority for the 3.8 million women affected. This is a campaign powered by women with determination and courage, and I commend all who are determined that this cause will be addressed.”