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

Published Thursday, November 16, 2017

Briefing regarding the WASPI campaign and the impact of legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s

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Background

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 will now reach 65 in November 2018. The equalised SPA will then rise to 66 by October 2020. The reason was increases in life expectancy since the timetable was last revised.

The Government initially intended that the equalised SPA would then rise to 66 by April 2020 (Cm 7956, November 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) the Government 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 (November 2011).

WASPI

Some women born in the 1950s argue they have been hit particularly hard, with significant changes to their SPA imposed with a lack of appropriate notification. The campaign Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is calling for “fair transitional state pension arrangements,” which they say translates into a ‘bridging pension’ paid from age 60 to SPA. Its petition, currently on the Parliament website calls for:

[…] a non-means tested bridging pension for women born on or after 6/4/1950 who are affected by the 1995 and 2011 Pension Acts and compensate those at risk of losing up to around £45,000, to also give proper notification for any future changes.

In a March 2015 report on Communication of State Pension age changes, the Work and Pensions Select Committee concluded that “more could and should have been done” to communicate the changes and called on the Government to “explore the option of permitting a defined group of women who have been affected by state pension age changes to take early retirement, from a specified age, on an "actuarially neutral basis”.

The issue has been debated in Parliament on a number of occasions and an all Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality for Women  has been set up to “hold the government to account on the issue of transitional arrangements to compensate 1950s women who are affected by changes to the state pension age and to campaign on issues around the state pension age.”

The Government’s position

The Government argues that the changes in the 2011 Act were debated at length and a decision made by Parliament, as part of which a concession was made to limit the impact on those most affected. It says it will “make no further changes to the pension age or pay financial redress in lieu of a pension.” (PQ 49721 27 October 2016; HC Deb 15 November 2016 c48WH.)

On 16 October 2017 Pensions Minister Guy Opperman said further concessions could not be justified:

The decision to equalise the State Pension age for men and women dates back to 1995 and addresses a longstanding inequality between men and women’s State Pension age. If State Pension ages had not been equalised, women would be spending 40% of their adult life in retirement and this proportion would be continuing to increase.

The 2010-15 Government made the decision to bring in further changes to the State Pension age, following extensive debates in both Houses of Parliament. These changes were introduced in order to protect public finances and maintain the sustainability of the state pension over the long term. Life expectancy at age 65 increased by 5 years for men and almost 4 years for women in the 20 years to 2009. The 2011 Act accelerated the equalisation of women’s State Pension age by 18 months and brought forward the increase in men and women’s State Pension age to 66 by five and a half years, relative to the previous timetables. Failing to act in light of compelling demographic evidence would have been irresponsible and would have placed an unfair fiscal burden on the working population.

A concession was made prior to the passing of the 2011 Act which reduced the delay that anyone would experience in claiming their State Pension, relative to the previous timetable, to 18 months. This concession benefited almost a quarter of a million women, who would otherwise have experienced delays of up to two years. A similar number of men also benefited from a reduced increase, and the concession was worth £1.1 billion in total.

This issue has been debated numerous times and numerous statements have already been made. Introducing further concessions cannot be justified given the imperative to focus public resources on helping those most in need (PQ 106072)

See also the Government’s response to the current WASPI petition.

Private Members’ Bills

Two Private Members Bills have been presented to Parliament on the issue in the current Parliamentary Session:

  • Carolyn Harris MP presented the Pensions (Review of Women’s Arrangements) (No. 2) Bill 2017-19 to Parliament on 7 September 2017, on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality for Women. Scheduled to have its Second Reading on 27 April 2018, its purpose is to: “establish a review of pension arrangements for women affected by changes made by the Pensions Act 1995 and the Pensions Act 2011; to require the review in particular to undertake costings for a compensation scheme and consider the operation of section 1(4) of the Pensions Act 2011; and for connected purposes.”
  • Peter Bone presented the Pensions (Review of Women’s Arrangements) Bill 2017-19 to Parliament on 5 September 2017. It is scheduled to have its Second Reading on 15 February 2019.

More information

More information can be found in the following Library Briefing Papers: CBP-07286 Women and Pensions (November 2015); SN-06546 State Pension age review (May 2017); RP 11/52 Pensions Bill (June 2011); RP 11/68 Pensions Bill: Committee Stage Report (October 2011) SN 6082 Pensions Bill 2011 – final stages (November 2011); RP 95/47 Pensions Bill (HL) 1994/95: social security aspects (April 1994)

The spreadsheets below show i) how the State Pension age has changed for women with different dates of birth; and ii) the number of women affected by the 1995, 2007 and 2011 Acts by country, region and Parliamentary constituency.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7405

Authors: Djuna Thurley; Richard Keen

Topic: Pensions

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