Pension Equality for Women DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Anne-Marie TrevelyanMain Page: Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative) - Berwick-upon-Tweed)
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Order. As I have indicated, a great many people wish to speak, so we will have to start with a time limit of six minutes.
I recognise the type of people to whom my hon. Friend is referring. Women out there clearly feel that they have experienced miscommunication, and they are facing genuine hardship, so I ask my hon. Friend to continue her cause.
Like many hon. Members, I have taken part in at least seven debates over the past two or three years, and still the Government have not actually done anything about the situation. Nor have they actually listened to what has been said. It is not my intention to rehash all the arguments that have been put over the past seven or eight debates, but we obviously have to congratulate the WASPI women on their tenacity over the past few years and on staying the course, to get justice for themselves. I congratulate the WASPI women from Coventry and the other women who have travelled down here today from all parts of the country, some of whom have had to do so at their own expense.
I want to emphasise just one or two points. The Government had a golden opportunity to do something in the Budget. They could have made some sort of gesture —a halfway house—towards achieving what the WASPI women want, but they totally ignored the situation, while telling the public that they want to listen to their concerns on a whole range of issues. In some ways, the Government have actually used austerity to justify not taking any action on help for WASPI women. If they can spend £50 billion or £60 billion on high-speed rail, I am sure that they could the find the money to cover the costs of helping these women.
The WASPI women were not given time to plan for their retirement. That is the tragedy here, and it is important to emphasise that point. Somebody suggested earlier that that was not the real point, but it is. That and finding resolution to the problem are the two main points. It was also suggested that Gordon Brown somehow had something to do with the situation. Well, we all know that that is not true, but we are where we are, so we should not dwell too much on that; suffice it to say that it was the John Major Government who introduced pension age equalisation, so Members should bear that in mind. We should also bear in mind that 53% of the WASPI women actually rely on their pensions to make ends meet. Many of them look after elderly parents. Some of them have children who suffer from disabilities. People tend to forget that many of the women have to look after grown-up children—probably in their 20s. There is an organisation in Coventry that supports such women, but it gets no help whatsoever.