More than 2,000 complaints regarding changes to women’s state pension age, which were closed due to a judicial review, could be reopened if there is no legal determination in this case, Guy Opperman has said.
FTAdviser reported in December that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Independent Case Examiner’s (ICE) office was closing complaints about the changes in women's state pension age, because the matter had been taken to court.
But Mr Opperman noted the ICE could reopen the 2,505 cases which were closed as a result of the judicial review in the event it is not accepted.
He said this would be on the understanding that the matter is no longer subject of legal proceedings and there has been no legal determination on the issues which form the basis of the complaint to the ICE.
In a letter to Frank Field, chair of the Work and Pensions select committee, earlier this month the minister for pensions and financial inclusion said "in the event that the High Court makes no legal determinations in respect of the complaint regarding state pension age change, the department will review its position once more and consider lifting the suspension".
The judicial review, which has been set for May 24, also had an impact on the number of complaints that were rejected by the ICE – 1,598 cases - as they could not be accepted due to the ongoing judicial matter.
DWP has a two-tier process for formal complaints, which means once a complainant has exhausted the DWP process they are signposted to the ICE.
The ICE has been handling complaints about the increase of the women's state pension age to 65, which had led to the creation of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) and Backto60 campaigns.
As FTAdviser reported in November, only a dozen of these cases had been accepted by the ICE in the previous seven months, due to a backlog in the system, as the government received thousands of grievances made by these women.
In November, it was revealed that Backto60 has been granted permission to file a judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice.
A judicial review is a court proceeding in which a judge considers the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body. It can't be filed directly; the court needs to be asked for permission first.
Backto60, which claims to have 738,000 supporters, is being supported by a legal team led by renowned civil rights barrister Michael Mansfield.
The group is requesting the state pension age should be returned to 60 for women born in the 1950s, but such a decision would cost £77bn and has previously been dismissed by the government.
Both Backto60 and Waspi claim when the 1995 Conservative government's Pension Act included plans to increase the women's state pension age to 65 – the same as men's – the changes were implemented unfairly, with little or no personal notice.
The movements also claim the changes were implemented faster than promised with the 2011 Pension Act, and had left women with no time to make alternative plans, leading to devastating consequences.