State Pension  

New shadow pensions minister debuts with Waspi questions

New shadow pensions minister debuts with Waspi questions

The new shadow pensions minister has used his first appearance in the role to ask the government about the grievances of the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign.

Labour MP Alex Cunningham was appointed at the end of last week after a long period when his party didn’t have a spokesperson for the pensions brief.

The previous holder, Angela Rayner, had been reshuffled out of the position when Labour’s shadow cabinet was faced with a string of resignations in June.

Launched in 2015, the Waspi campaign seeks compensation for what it views as unjust treatment of women born in the 1950s, resulting from changes to equalise the state pension age between men and women.

Addressing the House of Commons Mr Cunningham said: “The Prime Minister herself celebrated her own 60th birthday earlier this month, making her part of that sisterhood of 1950s-born women who have been so shabbily treated by her predecessor’s government.

“I know that the Prime Minister unlike other members of this special sisterhood probably won’t need to rely on the state pension but will the minister appeal to his boss to use the power that she has and compensate some of the most needy women in our society?”

In response, pensions minister Richard Harrington said the government has already taken action, and criticised the Labour Party for failing to address the issue in its last manifesto.

He said: “Transition arrangements are already in place. We have committed £1bn to lessen the impact of the state pension age changes on those who were affected so no one would experience a change of less than 18 months.

“The government has made the transition arrangements and no further moves will be made to assist these women, all of whom will benefit in time from the new state pension.

“For those women or indeed those men who are in a position of destitution there is a very comprehensive benefit system which they are fully entitled to.”

The changes were made in two acts of parliament, the first in 1995, the second in 2011.

The 1995 legislation pushed the pension age up, in cohorts, from 60 to 65. Women born in 1951 would receive the pension at 61, women born in 52 would receive it at 62, and so on, ending at age 65. This brought women’s pension age in line with that of men.

But the 2011 Act pushed the date for women born in 1954 back further, some by as much as 18 months.

While the Waspi campaign claims the changes were made “with little or no personal notice” with respect to both acts and “faster than promised” with respect to the 2011 Act, which gave them “no time to make alternative plans”.

During the recent leadership election, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to address the Waspi campaign’s issues but no action has yet been announced.