Allowing women early access to the state pension is “fiscally impossible”, and MPs pressing for the change are “irresponsible”, secretary of state for work and pensions Stephen Crabb has said.
Answering MPs’ questions in a work and pensions select committee hearing today (11 May), he stated the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign had offered no “fiscally neutral” solution to the issue, saying any potential answer would cost HM Treasury “billions of pounds”.
Mr Crabb argued the legislation being contested by the Waspi campaign dates as far back as 1995, adding: “I am not looking to reopen decisions that were taken in parliament. There was a lot of vigorous debate on the decisions that were taken.”
He said: “It is just fiscally impossible [to wind back the legislation] and I think it’s irresponsible for anyone in this House of Commons to try to pretend and lead these women on into thinking that somehow there’s an easy decision to be made.”
Targeting MPs who have backed the Waspi campaign - which argues against the acceleration of pension age increases for women - Mr Crabb said: “These people who are outriders for the campaign need to be very, very careful that they are not leading these women on, pretending that this is something they would do if they were in government when they would have no intention of doing so.”
He said allowing women early access to the state pension would create a “fiscal burden” that would have to be shouldered by “the young”.
Pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann said in January that she was “astonished” to hear what Waspi - which she was once involved with - was demanding, adding she never supported undoing the 1995 Pensions Act.
State pension age equalisation measures for men and women began to take effect in 2010, but recently chancellor George Osborne announced a much quicker schedule than originally planned, meaning the increase to age 65 will happen between 2016 and 2018, and then both sexes’ pension age will increase to 66 by 2020 rather than by 2026.
Anna Sofat, founder of Addidi Wealth, said while it was “absolutely fair” that women’s pension age was equalised to men’s, the government’s sudden decision to bring the changes forward was “patently unfair and unjust.”
She rejected Mr Crabb’s claims the change was fiscally impossible, stating: “They can do it, they can afford it, they just don’t give it enough priority. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. But there’s no will.”
But she added pessimism about a positive outcome for the Waspi campaign. “The only way is if lots of people get behind it,” she said.