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

Published Tuesday, July 18, 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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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).

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. 

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, especially between 1995 and 2009. It 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”.  It launched an inquiry to explore this further.

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 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.) 

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.)  In response to a Westminster Hall debate on 9 February 2017 the then Work and Pensions Minister Caroline Nokes said that going further than the Government had already done could “not be justified” (HC Deb 9 February 2016 c225-43 WH). Responding to the first debate after the 2017 election, the new Pensions Minister Guy Opperman said:

It is not the Government’s proposal to repeal or ameliorate the 1995 or 2011 Acts, but I accept that we must do all we can to assist everyone affected into retraining and employment, and to provide support if that is not possible. The commitment to provide support is clear, unequivocal and ongoing. (HC Deb 5 July 2017 c123WH)

More information can be found in the following Library Briefing Papers:CBP-07286 Women and Pensions (November 2015); SN-06546 State Pension age increases (June 2015); 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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