A SCOTTISH MP is urging the UK Government to right a wrong by reconsidering its plans to reform pensions for women who will suffer financially under the proposals.
Ronnie Cowan was speaking after Guy Opperman, the Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, told him the Government “has no plans to revisit the policy on women’s state pension age and does not intend to make further concessions”.
Cowan, the SNP member for Inverclyde, had written to Pensions Secretary David Gauke last month, taking up the case on behalf of WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality. It is campaigning on behalf of women who would be adversely affected by the accelerated timetable for increasing their state pension age (SPA).
Under the plans, the SPA will rise from 63 to 65 between this April and November next year, and from 65 to 66 by October 2020.
Cowan told The National: “The Government’s reply is frustratingly all about equalisation. I can’t believe that this far down the line they are still so uninformed or blind to the WASPI argument that they genuinely think equalisation is the issue.
“That can only lead me to the conclusion that the UK Government is so entrenched in its ways that it is incapable of engaging in a meaningful discussion on this issue. Its attitude towards the plight of the women affected by this policy is appalling.”
The MP added: “The WASPI campaign has been run with great dignity and it’s time the UK Government responded in kind by righting this wrong.”
In his response, Opperman told the MP: “We have to be realistic and acknowledge that people are living longer and that if we want to carry on having an affordable and sustainable pensions system we needed to equalise the state pension age for men and women faster and bring forward the rise to 66.
“Changes to the state pension age put right a long-lasting inequality, the rationale for which ceased to have any relevance long ago.
“That rationale had been that only men go out to work and therefore a husband and wife needed to receive the state pension at the same time because when the man ceased work they would otherwise both need to survive on one person’s pension.”
Opperman said that even after women’s SPA was equalised with men’s they would receive their pension on average for two years more because of their longer life expectancy.
“Women reaching 65 in 2018 are expected to live until 88.9 years while the figure for men is 86.7 years,”
he said. “Crucially, the equalisation of state pension age brought the average proportion of time spent in retirement by men and women more in line with one another, with women spending slightly longer in retirement due to a higher life expectancy.
“Without equalisation, women would spend on average 41 per cent of their adult lives in retirement, compared to men at 31 per cent.”
Opperman went on to claim that the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) had shown that the rise in women’s SPA since 2010 had been “accompanied by increases in employment rates for the women affected”.
“The most current average age of exit from the labour market for women is 63.7 – well above the previous women’s state pension age of 60. Reversing the 1995 Act would create an anomaly where women were expected to work for less time than they actually work now,” added the Minister.
The WASPI campaign came alive in 2015 with just five members and now boasts more than 3.5 million who were born in the 1950s and who are opposing the way changes to the SPA were implemented – with little or no notice.
Campaigners have said this has denied the 1950s-born women enough time to make the required changes to their retirement plans and has hit many in the pocket – some by as much as £50,000.
WASPI wants a “bridging” pension to give the women an income from the age of 60 until their SPA, a pension that is not means-tested, and compensation for women who have already reached their SPA and who have lost out financially.