Pension Equality for Women

Christine Jardine Excerpts
Thursday 14th December 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Jo Churchill Portrait Jo Churchill - Hansard
14 Dec 2017, 1:09 p.m.

Indeed we will. The nub of my point is that many of us come to this place as women and as carers. My husband and I still have four living parents, which is great. It is a sign of improved medical care and so on. Nevertheless, we have four children who arguably will bear the brunt of paying for these costs.

In one of my surgeries recently, I spoke to a woman who is affected by the changes to the state pension age—she is a WASPI woman. She said:

“I was born in 1956 and have been fortunate to work all my life”—

I take on board the point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy)—

“in a variety of careers that I have enjoyed.”

She explained that some of those careers were due to necessity of circumstance. She was warned in two letters that her state pension age would be changing. She will receive her state pension at 66.

She went on:

“I will be 62 next birthday and even if I was in receipt of a pension, I would struggle to stop working as I thoroughly enjoy my current job.”

That is what I mean about the need to consider this issue on a more individual basis. The woman continued:

“I appreciate that I am very fortunate as I am blessed with good health”—

there have been several allusions to that in the debate. She said that she had a supportive husband

“and 3 lovely children. I expect to live longer than my parents but my perception is that my children struggle more financially than I did at their age. I realise that my taxes contributed to my parents’ pensions and my children’s taxes will fund mine. I cannot expect my already financially challenged children to contribute to my pension, for many, many more years. That would seem very unfair.”

If we do not see through these changes to the state pension, the burden on our children will be astronomical. This is not fair, but it is where we find ourselves. We must ensure that our response is proportionate.

It is about choices. I say gently to the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black) that the Scottish National party has the ability to make a unilateral decision if it wants to.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) - Hansard

I agree that the SNP does have that ability, but should we not look at making a decision for all women in the United Kingdom, rather than saying, “Well, you can do it there and you can do it over there,”? This is a UK-wide problem, so we should not be singling people out.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing) - Hansard
14 Dec 2017, 1:18 p.m.

Order. The hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill) has been very generous in taking interventions, but I am afraid she has run out of time.

Break in Debate

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge - Hansard
14 Dec 2017, 1:26 p.m.

That is not a function of the state pension system. I will resist the bait to which the hon. Lady tries to get me to rise.

It is important that we remember the costs involved. The DWP spends £264 billion a year, of which the largest part is for the state pension. At £111 billion, it is by far the biggest single piece of public expenditure. That sum gives out a state pension of on average just under £160 a week—not exactly a king’s ransom. Of course pensioner poverty would be far higher in the current age were it not for the fact that many of this generation of pensioners are fortunate enough to have occupational pensions—and good luck to them. My parents are in that generation, many of whom own property. Savills estimates that the housing equity of people over 65 is about £1.5 trillion, so that generation has been cushioned to a certain degree. It has also been cushioned by the Government’s actions to protect pensioner benefits and introduce the triple lock, all of which have protected state pension expenditure from the necessary savings made in other Departments.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard
14 Dec 2017, 1:27 p.m.

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that, regardless of the figure that he quoted, the people who are paying the price for this are women born in the 1950s?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge - Hansard
14 Dec 2017, 1:27 p.m.

Actually my point was going to be that everyone will end up paying the price. Of course this debate is about a specific cohort that has been hit quite directly and over a specific period, and there is also the whole issue of notification. However, although young people going into the workforce know about the change in the retirement age and have had notification, that does not mean they will be able to save adequately for a pension. It also does not mean that they will be able to afford one, or to get a foot on the housing ladder, and they probably will not have an occupational pension. We cannot look at this issue in isolation; we need to look at the whole system.