As a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, I have been involved in a number of enquiries into issues arising from the equalisation of State Pension age.
The Committee prepared a comprehensive review of this issue based on a wide range of evidence which is available to review on the committee’s webpage.
During the review, we looked into all aspects of the pension changes. In one particular session, we took evidence from the then Pensions Minister, Baroness Altmann, who explained very clearly why she felt pension changes were necessary
In the final report the Committee asked Government to consider an alternative option for women to access their pensions at a lesser rate, but sooner. The Committee’s website contains detailed information about our work on this issue including our concerns about communication with those affected.
Although I still firmly believe in the recommendations made in our report, there is unfortunately no mechanism which mandates the Government to accept them. In recent debates on this subject, the Government have consistently stated that further concessions cannot be justified.
However, two MPs, Carolyn Harris and Peter Bone have both introduced Private Member’s Bills (PMBs) on this issue to Parliament.
Carolyn’s Bill was presented on behalf of the APPG on State Pension Inequality for Women and proposes to establish a review of pension arrangements for women affected by changes made by the Pensions Act 1995 and the Pensions Act 2011. The Bill would require the review to undertake costings for a compensation scheme. Further details on Carolyn’s Bill can be found here
Peter’s Bill seeks to establish a similar review.
Bearing in mind the financial pressures we face as a nation and the fact that these changes were legislated for in 1995 and 2011, I think the Government will maintain their position. However, these PMBs may keep the issue alive, such that the Government reconsiders our Select Committee’s recommendations. There is in addition, the pending court case which may help focus the Government’s attention on this important issue.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman service is also taking a close interest, having been asked to investigate on behalf of a number of women who have been affected. The Ombudsman is awaiting the outcome of the court case before deciding whether to investigate the Government’s handling of the situation.
In the coming months, the Government will bring forward a Comprehensive Spending Review which is undertaken periodically to look at the income/expenditure and needs of each Government department. It may therefore transpire that the pending court case and involvement of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, provides the focus for Government to consider the recommendations of the Select Committee.
For now we must wait for the court’s decision.