MP slams government’s £30 billion ‘smash and grab’ on women’s pensions

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02 Feb 2016
Newcastle’s Labour MP, Paul Farrelly, has added his voice to the chorus of criticism over the government’s raid on women’s pensions, worth £30 billion to the Treasury’s coffers.

In a packed House of Commons yesterday, MPs queued up to condemn the government’s plans to speed up the process of equalisation of pensions between the sexes, leaving hundreds of thousands of women in their 50s unaware of what was going on.

In heated exchanges, the government’s changes were denounced as ‘cruel’ and ‘heartless’, with ministers standing accused of undervaluing the contribution of women to the UK through work, caring and childcare.

During the debate, Newcastle’s MP also linked the changes to George Osborne’s wider programme of pensions changes: ‘It seems to me and many others that, alongside measures such as the restriction to lifetime allowances, this is part of the Chancellor’s great raid on the pensions of people around the country,” he said.

Pensions reform goes back over 20 years, recognising that people now live to a much greater age, and women longer than men. 

A rise in the state pension age for women from 60 to 65, phased in between 2010 and 2020, was included in the Pensions Act 1995. But in 2011 the then Conservative-Lib Dem coalition suddenly brought forward the 65 age for women to 2018. 

That has not only meant that all have to work longer than expected, but many who retired early – to care for relatives, for example – now find themselves disqualified from claiming the full state pension, as they only have 30 years, not 35, of national insurance contributions.

Helen Jones, the Labour MP for Warrington North who secured the debate, likened the government’s action to fraud, breaking its understanding with women in their 50s and failing to let them know in time, or properly at all.

‘The contract with these women has been broken and I say again that if this had been done by a private provider, we would be after it for mis-selling,’ she told over 100 MPs gathered, from all parties, for the three hour debate in Parliament’s Westminster Hall.

The changes will cost women affected up to £30,000, leaving many to scrape by without the full state pension.

Work and pensions minister Shailesh Vara, however, defended the government’s handling of the issue and stated that it had no plans to give extra help to the women affected. 

The campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), which organised an online petition to trigger the debate, branded the response as ‘inadequate’ and accused the government of treating their concerns ‘with contempt’

Mr Farrelly has been contacted by numerous constituents, including at his regular surgeries, who are angry at being caught unawares by the implications of the latest reforms