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10-09-2019

Increases in the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s

Briefing on the legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s, and the campaigns against it.

The Pensions Act 1995 provided for the State Pension age (SPA) for women to increase from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to 2020. The Coalition Government legislated in the Pensions Act 2011 to accelerate the latter part of this timetable, starting in April 2016 when women’s SPA was 63 so that it reached 65 in November 2018, at which point it started to rise to 66 by October 2020. The Government’s initial intention was that the equalised SPA would then rise to 66 by April 2020 (Cm 7956, Nov 2010, Foreword). However, because of concerns expressed at the short notice of significant increases for some women (as much as two years compared to the timetable in existing legislation) it made a concession when the legislation was in its final stages. This limited the maximum increase under the Act at 18 months, at a cost to the Exchequer of £1.1 bn - see Library Briefing Paper, SN 06082 Pensions Bill 2011 – final stages (Nov 2011).

These changes have given rise to a long-standing campaign, with some women born in the 1950s arguing they have been hit particularly hard, with significant changes to their SPA imposed with a lack of appropriate notification.

The issue has been debated in Parliament on a number of occasions. An All Party Parliamentary Group has been set up, chair of which Carolyn Harris, presented a Private Members’ Bill to Parliament in September 2017, the purpose of which was to establish a review of the arrangements and to undertake costings for a compensation scheme.

More recently, the campaign group WASPI has encouraged women who think they were not adequately informed to complain to DWP about maladministration. Action on these complaints was suspended in December 2018 pending the outcome of legal proceedings. (PQ 214627, 4 February 2019Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website).

The High Court heard an application for judicial review brought by the campaign group backto60 on 5 and 6 June 2019. Judgment was reserved (The Guardian, 6 June 2019). According to one of the lawyers involved, the application to the court raised matters arising from the government policy of equalisation of the pension ages and its impact on women born in the 1950s, including the taper mechanism used to raise the SPA, in combination with a failure to properly inform women of the changes (Catherine Rayner, 7BR, November 2018).

The Government’s consistent response has been that the issues were debated when the 2011 Act was before Parliament, a concession made at that time, and that it will “make no further changes to the pension age or pay financial redress in lieu of a pension.” (PQ 49721 27 October 2016). In a Parliamentary Written Answer of 6 June 2019, Pensions Minister Guy Opperman said:

Successive Governments have made necessary decisions to equalise and increase the State Pension age. State Pension age reform has focused on maintaining the right balance between sustainability of State Pension, equality and fairness between generations in the face of demographic change.

Even after equalising women’s State Pension age with men’s, women will spend more than 2 years longer on average in receipt of their state pension because of their longer life expectancy. If we had not equalised State Pension age, women would be expected to spend on average over 40 per cent of their adult lives in retirement.

During the passage of the Pensions Act 2011, the Government listened to the concerns of those affected and this is why we introduced a concession worth over £1 billion in order to limit the impact on those women who would be most affected by the changes. This concession reduced the proposed increase in State Pension age for over 450,000 men and women, and means that no woman will see her pension age change by more than 18 months, relative to the 1995 Act timetable.

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