Women’s State Pension Age Debate

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Department: Department for Work and Pensions

Women’s State Pension Age

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Tuesday 26th March 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, for his support and endorsement of our stance on the triple lock and our decision to include it in our manifesto. On the points on WASPI that he has mentioned, absolutely—I think I have said this before—I recognise the strength of feeling and I am aware of the urgency in dealing with many of these matters. I probably will not repeat it again, but just to say it briefly, I have highlighted very clearly the complexity of the issues. The noble Lord would not expect me to be in a position to set out a timetable, even if I could. So I am afraid that I will disappoint him by sticking to the line, which is that we will be coming back to Parliament without undue delay.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, I congratulate the WASPI and Back to 60 campaigners on their quest for justice. The ombudsman’s reports have said that:

“Our investigation found maladministration … thousands of women may have been affected by DWP’s failure to adequately inform them that the state pension age had changed”.

This has led to anguish, hardship and many other problems. I have met many of these women and listened to their arguments and to their case. This problem of not telling them about the hike in pension age is part of a bigger problem about how women have been treated by successive Governments. Despite the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the illusions of equality, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens. The gender pay gap persists, which then leads to the gender pension gap. Despite hiking the state pension age for women, women continue to receive a lower state pension. No attempt whatever has been made to equalise the two, although the equality horse was ridden to raise their state pension age. Unfortunately, many of the wronged women have died. I am sure that the House would agree that justice delayed was justice denied.

I do not understand what, in the light of this report, the Government need to consider. It is very clear that women have been wronged. I press the Minister to give a commitment that women will be compensated for the anguish and hardship that they have suffered and that this compensation will be paid, I hope after the Easter break.

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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I will disappoint the noble Lord by saying that I am not able to give any such commitment, apart from those that I have given. I am beginning to sound like a long-playing record but, despite what he said, these are complex matters, and he will have to respect that. I want to pick up on one thing that he mentioned—the role of DWP. Yes, the report’s words, not mine, were that the PHSO found maladministration in the steps that the department took between 2005 and 2007 in relation to notifying the women affected. I gently point out that this was when the Labour Party was in power. The point has been made before, but it is worth making. However, this is one of the many complexities. I am unable to answer the precise questions. I hope that the noble Lord respects this.