Pension Equality for Women DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Carolyn HarrisMain Page: Carolyn Harris (Labour) - Swansea East)
Department Debates - View all Carolyn Harris's debates with the Department for Work and Pensions
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), and I congratulate the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) on securing this important debate. I am here to speak on behalf of my North Cornwall WASPI women. I have met them numerous times at different events over the past two and a half years. I presented a petition on their behalf last year, and many of them have come to see me at surgeries in the towns and villages of my constituency to express their concern about the challenging times that many women are facing. Other hon. Members have alluded to some of those challenges today.
Most people who come to see me have worked their entire life. They might well own their own home and not be in a position to make the transition for those 18 months. I support transitional measures for our WASPI women, and I believe we can reach a practical solution by reducing the state pension over a longer period of time. Private pension providers already allow that. The option should be given to people with public pensions.
The changes in 2011 were rushed and wrong. The equalisation of pensions from 1995 was the right thing to do but, with increases of between two months and 18 months, people have suffered in different ways, which we should acknowledge. People should be able to take their pension earlier, or have the option to wait and have the £159 a week, as it currently sits. I have produced some figures, and my benchmarks are based on the current life expectancy for a woman in the UK of 83 and the pension age in 1995 of 66.
At the moment, the state pension is £159.55 a week. Over the 17 years leading up to average life expectancy, the pension would cost just over £141,000. I have done some modelling based on £130 a week, £140 a week and £150 a week for a reduced pension over a longer period. I have used the baseline to measure that against the least affected women, those affected for two months, and the most affected women, those affected for 18 months.
I put together my proposals over the past few days. The conclusion I have reached, according to the figures, is that the only group that would be affected if the proposals were introduced are the people who have to wait for 18 months, the most affected group. Even then, the Government would have to find only £2,357 over the lifetime of the pension. All the other models come out positively for the Government. We should do this as a gesture to the affected women.
Will the Minister sit down with me to look through my figures to see whether there is a satisfactory solution to the problem? I am happy to meet him if he is happy to meet me. We should consider a sensible way forward. I am not entirely sure I will be here for the winding-up speeches, but I would welcome the opportunity to meet the Minister at a later date to discuss a practical solution.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there are still loads of inconsistencies, such as that a one-year change in date of birth means an additional three years to reach the pension age for some of these women? That makes the way in which the Government have introduced these changes even more illogical.
Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) to begin his speech, let us make it very clear that we do not have cheering and clapping in any part of this Chamber. We do have, “Hear, hear” and we do have smiles and laughs, but we do not have cheering and clapping.