Pension Equality for Women DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Debbie AbrahamsMain Page: Debbie Abrahams (Labour) - Oldham East and Saddleworth)
Department Debates - View all Debbie Abrahams's debates with the Department for Work and Pensions
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says, but the WASPI women are not receiving a pension because the UK Government will not give them one, so that is a ridiculous notion. I commend the hon. Gentleman because he supported us during an Opposition-day debate. That was commendable and brave, so fair play to the guy, but that is a totally ludicrous point of view and I will explain why.
As I have said—I am coming to a conclusion, Madam Deputy Speaker—I disagree with Labour on constitutional grounds, but that is because I want to cut out the middle man. This is the perfect example of why I support independence. Why are we paying taxes to come to London to be told by a Conservative Government what we can and cannot spend the money on? The irony is that, when those policies start to take effect, the Government turn round and say, “We want the Scottish Government to fix it.” I don’t think so! If they want to devolve pensions, great. Until then, this is a UK problem and a Conservative problem, and it is not going away. It has to be fixed, and it has to be fixed soon as. Do the right thing.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely no surprise that 1950s women such as my constituents Jane Yates and Glenys Daly feel robbed? They have worked hard for 45 years and they say that their bodies are giving up, yet they cannot get the pensions that they have paid for.
I congratulate my good friend the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) on securing today’s debate on the state pension age and the 30-odd colleagues who have spoken.
The decisions by successive Governments concerning the rise in the state pension age were reached by reason of equality legislation, increased life expectancy and sustainability of the state pension. Since world war two, we have seen huge changes in life expectancy. Thanks to a better NHS, changes in the job market and improvements in medicine, there have been improvements for men and women such that they are living longer, staying healthier for longer, and leading far more active lifestyles, regardless of age. People living and staying healthier for longer is to be welcomed, but the Government must not ignore the fact that it also brings enormous financial and demographic pressures. The key choice that a Government face when seeking to control state pension spend is to increase the state pension age or pay lower pensions, with an inevitable impact on pensioner poverty. The only alternative is to ask the working generation to pay an ever larger share of their income to support pensioners, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill) made clear in her speech.
In July 2017, the Government published their first review of the state pension age, which set out a coherent strategy targeted at strengthening and sustaining the UK state pension system for many decades to come. It accepts the key recommendation of John Cridland’s independent review, which was to increase the state pension age from 67 to 68 between 2037 and 2039.
The review is clear about increasing life expectancy and the challenges it poses. People are living longer. Almost 6,000 people in the UK turned 100 in 2016, compared with 3,000 in 2002. By 2035, there will be more than twice as many people over 100 as there are now.
Break in Debate
The hon. Gentleman and I both voted for the 2011 Act to increase the state pension age, with the circumstances that apply, after much consideration of the variety of options that had been proposed. He and I, and certainly the Scottish National party and the Scottish Government, have differing views on taxation, such as on whether it should support Trident, but, with respect, the tax reduction he proposes would reduce the job-creating power of the businesses upon which we rely for the jobs and public services we all wish to support.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that specific point, because I genuinely believe she is scaremongering—[Interruption.] Oh, yes. On the issue of life expectancy, there are two fundamental sources. The first is the ONS, which has repeatedly made it clear that life expectancy is rising across the board. We cannot get away from the fact that the ONS reported only this month that life expectancy continues to rise.
The Labour party manifesto sought an independent review of all aspects of the state pension age. Well, the Government did that with the Cridland report, which makes it critically clear that life expectancy has increased. Life expectancy at birth in 2016, for example, was 91 years for females and 89 years for males. In 50 years’ time, by 2066, life expectancy at birth in the UK is projected to rise to 98 years.
Healthy life expectancy has also been increasing in recent decades. Healthy life expectancy at 65, as a proportion of total life expectancy, has been relatively stable since 2000. Healthy life expectancy at 65, according to the latest ONS statistics, has been increasing in Scotland in recent years, as has disability-free life expectancy.