Today is the second reading of the government’s Pensions Bill and the first chance for MPs to vote on the controversial plans surrounding the state pension age. The issue has appeared widely in the media this morning ahead of the crucial debate.
Rachel, as Shadow Pensions Minister, has written for Left Foot Forward to explain how Moving the goalposts on pensions is unfair and unjust.
You can also read The Daily Mail’s article, Don't punish women': Ministers demand rethink on pensions that will cost 500,000 up to £15,000 each, by clicking here.
In the Yorkshire Post today there is an opinion piece written by Rachel entitled, MPs must protect these women who face an unjust wait for their pension. Click ‘Read More’ below to read the full text of this article.
MPs must protect these women who face an unjust wait for their pension.
Today MPs will vote on the Government’s plans to accelerate the increase in the state pension age. MPs from all parties have the chance to stand up for constituents who are affected by proposals that unfairly target women in their mid and late fifties.
The Government’s plans mean 4.9 million people having to wait longer before the can draw their state pension. Amongst them, 500,000 women will have to wait more than an extra year, while 33,000 will have to wait exactly two years. No men will have to wait for more than a year. In Yorkshire, 43,000 women will be hit by more than a year with 3,000 women in the region waiting two years longer.
Along with Labour leader Ed Miliband, I will be leading the charge in Parliament against these unfair and unjust plans. They are unfair because they target a group of women who have, on average, just one sixth of the savings built up by men of the same age. 40% of them have no savings at all. Many of the women will have taken time off to bring up families. They have received lower pay throughout their career: in 1980, when these women were in their mid 20s, the pay gap was 30%. Many of these women worked part time and would have been prevented from saving for a pension because companies did not have to provide occupational pensions for part time workers until the mid 1990s.
An Age UK survey released last week revealed that many of the women affected don’t even know about the potential changes. One fifth weren’t aware of changes made in 1995 to increase their pension age beyond 60. So to give just five years notice of further changes is of great concern.
I am under no illusions about the demand on the system from increasing life expectancy. But there is an alternative. I have backed a plan that would equalise the state pension age for men and women by 2020 and then increase the pension age for both men and women from 65 to 66 between 2020 and 2022. This would achieve the aim of reaching a state pension age of 66 more quickly, but would affect 1.2 million fewer people than under the Government’s plans. It would affect an equal number of men and women, no one would have to wait for more than a year longer for their pension, and women in their mid fifties would not be singled out for harsh medicine.
People approaching retirement need time to plan for change. The Government’s proposals do not allow for that, even though Pensions Minister Steve Webb said last year that “whatever changes we make, we need to do make them in a way that is fair. Fair across the generations. Fair between men and women.” Indeed, the Coalition Agreement promised that the state pension age would not “start to rise to 66 for women before 2020”. The proposals MPs will be voting on today breach that promise, and start the rise to 66 for men and women in 2018.
The women affected don’t want handouts from the state. They have paid into the pensions system, brought up children and many are now caring for elderly parents or young grandchildren. What they want is their pension protected, certainty and time to plan.
One woman, who has worked since she was fifteen and is facing the prospect of an extra two years before she can retire told me: “I have osteoarthritis in my thumbs and wrists, which makes the lifting and cleaning work in my job harder. The basic state pension will be my only retirement income, and I have no extra means of coping financially. I will have no option but to try and carry on working.” These changes are unfair and disproportionate, and hundreds of thousands of women do not deserve to have the goalposts moved again.
Today’s vote will be a chance for MPs to show that they have listened to their constituents and that they are willing to act to protect them, and for coalition MPs it is a chance to stick by their coalition agreement and vote down these unfair proposals.