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

Published Monday, February 11, 2019

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

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

The Coalition 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. 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.”

In a Westminster Hall debate on 22 November, Patricia Gibson referred to UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s comments on the impact of the changes to the pension age on a group of women born in the 1950s who had been "ill-prepared" to adjust. She called on the Government to respond to the demands from women to have “what is rightfully theirs restored to them” (HC Deb 22 November 2018 c402WH).

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.)  

The most recent statement of the Government’s position was in a response to a petition by Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd on 17 December 2018. She concluded by saying:

With the Government facing increasing financial pressures, it is simply not justified to reverse these changes, especially when we take into account that women who reached State Pension age in 2016 are estimated to receive more State Pension on average over their lifetime than women ever have before. We will be making no further changes to the law on this issue. Doing so would mean working-age people, especially younger people, bearing a greater financial burden to support the rising costs of the pensions system.

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. 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.” It is scheduled to have its Second Reading on 8 March 2019.
  • 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.

Complaints and legal challenge

WASPI has produced information to support women who think they were not adequately informed to complain to DWP about maladministration:

The High Court has granted permission for judicial review of “matters arising from the government policy of equalisation of women ‘s pension ages and the impact of those changes on women born in the 1950s.” The case is listed to be heard on 5 and 6 June (HC Deb 31 January 2019 c1072).

Following this, the ICE closed complaints to it on this issue, on grounds that it cannot deal with complaints that are, or have been, subject to legal proceedings (see - ‘How to bring a complaint to the Independent Case Examiner’ (September 2017).  The Government has said that:

In the event that the High Court makes no legal determination in respect of the complaint regarding State Pension age change, the Department will review its position once more and consider lifting the suspension. At this point the Independent Case Examiner Office could, at the request of the Department, also re-open those complaints closed as a result of the judicial review. This would be on the understanding that: (a) the matter is no longer the subject of legal proceedings; and (b) there has been no legal determination on the issues which form the basis of the complaint to the Independent Case Examiner. (PQ 214627 4 February 2019)

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (which would deal with complaints from a decision of the ICE) has said it will await the outcome of Court proceedings before deciding whether to investigate – see Complaints about communication of changes to women’s state pension age on the PHSO website.

More information

More information can be found in the following Library Briefing Papers: CBP-07286 Women and Pensions (July 2018); SN-06546 State Pension age review (August 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 supporting documents below show:

i) the number of women affected by the 1995, 2007 and 2011 Acts by country, region and Parliamentary constituency;

ii) how the State Pension age has changed for women with different dates of birth; and

iii) the number of women aged 60 and over claiming key out-of-work benefits for working-age claimants, from 2013 to 2018, by country, region and Parliamentary constituency.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7405

Authors: Djuna Thurley; Roderick McInnes

Topic: Pensions

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