Claim Granted: Campaign Film on the fight by 3.8 million women born in the 1950s to get back their pensions

The fight by 3.8 million women born in the 1950s. Film by Jasper Warry and Hello Deer Productions

This up beat film rightly pitches the mood of a generation of women who are not going to lie down and lose tens of thousands of pounds each because of a cruel, incompetent government which thought it could get away with raising the pension age without telling them.

It is a worthy rebuke to George Osborne, the multi millionaire former Tory chancellor and editor of the Evening Standard who once boasted about the removal of the benefit:

“I’ve found it one of the less controversial things we’ve done and probably saved more money than anything else we’ve done.

Instead he has left the Department of Work and Pensions with a multi million pound legal bill and that’s only for starters. If the women win it is going to be one of the most costly decisions George Osborne has ever made.

Byline Times Exclusive: Charity Commission to condemn Oxfam over Haiti sex exploitation but ignore damning report exposing 23 other charities

Oxfam to be damned tomorrow while 23 other international charities could have a worse history of sex exploitation of women

 The Charity Commission will tomorrow issue an excoriating report on Oxfam’s mismanagement and failure to act over the sexual exploitation of victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2011.

But the Commission will ignore a much wider scandal that suggests that 23 of the world’s biggest overseas aid charities are hiding far worse sexual exploitation of vulnerable people by their own staff and of fellow women and gay aid workers.

The full story is in Byline Times here.

Ministry tells court 3.8 million 50s born women had no right or remedy to stop them losing their pensions

Crowds of BackTo60 and Waspi supporters outside the High Court celebrating the hearing today

The 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who lost lost billions of pounds by the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66 had no right to expect to be told about the changes to their pensions, lawyers for the Department of Work and Pensions told a judicial review today.

Sir James Eadie,QC,  on behalf of Amber Rudd, the current work and pensions secretary, argued that the women  had no legal remedy to get their money back because the judges hearing the case could not challenge the primary legislation which authorised the change. He said constitutional grounds prevented the judges challenging any major primary legislation passed by Parliament.

The full story is on Byline Times here.

Exclusive on Byline Times: Ministry secretly knew 50s born women were widely ignorant of big rise in pension age – judicial review hearing told

Internal Whitehall documents released yesterday reveal that the Department of Work and Pensions  secretly knew on six separate occasions that there was “ widespread ignorance “ among 3.8 million women born in the 1950s that they were about to lose their pensions for up to six years.

 The disclosure by Michael Mansfield, QC came on the first day of a landmark judicial review brought by the campaigning group Back to 60 into the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66 which has left  this group of women living in poverty after they had relied on the money for their retirement.

The full story is on BylineTimes here.

Exclusive: How Margaret Thatcher’s legacy can undo the damage she did to 50s born women pensioners

Jackie Jones MEP explains how 50s born women will get their rights

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It is a supreme irony. Margaret Thatcher’s government ended the Treasury contribution to the National Insurance Fund that has now deprived 3.9 million women born in the 1950s of their pensions for up to six years. Now she could also be their saviour.

This is because Britain’s first woman prime minister took the decision to ratify in 1986 the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination 1979 (CEDAW).

It is this decision that commits the United Kingdom to outlawing not only any discrimination against women who are unfairly treated but demands reparations for the people who lost those rights.

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Pic credit: BBC

The CEDAW convention also crucially provides a mechanism to deliver the money to 50s women without facing a legal challenge from any other group – whether it be the pensions industry or anyone else.

The role of this convention is likely to be a major debating point in next week’s high court judicial review since Professor Jackie Jones – elected last week as a Labour MEP for Wales and former professor of Feminist Studies at the University of the West of England – will be BackTo60s expert witness. In the hearing that led to the granting of the judicial review she produced a brief here which explains the convention.

What is particularly exciting for 50s women – regardless of the result of the judicial review – is that this mechanism known as a Temporary Special Measure could be implemented by government ministers without any need for a judicial review at all. All it would need is the will of the politicians to do something about it under our obligations to ratify CEDAW.

The effect would be to legal proof any challenge without changing the law that has equalised the state pension age.

There is also an extraordinary precedent which was adopted by the Blair government and extended by the Brown government.

In 2002 Parliament passed the Sexual Discrimination (Election Candidates )Act which set up the controversial all women’s short lists for MPs, MSPs, MEPs, AMs and local councillors. The aim, as a detailed House of Commons library briefing reveals, was to dramatically increase the number of successful women candidates in public life and redress the balance between men and women holding public office.

This particular change was seen as a Temporary Special Measure originally aimed to end in 2015.

The 2010 Equality Act used an order to extend this to 2030. The measure was enthusiastically adopted by Labour who had pioneered the idea for the 1997 general election. Other parties did not adopt all women short lists but came under increasing pressure to select more women candidates.

The result has been a big increase in the number of women in Parliament. Now there are 208 women MPs in Parliament compared to 60 in 1992 before Labour introduced the all women shortlist.

Two issues have not been sorted out.  The UK has repeatedly refused to embed all the provisions of CEDAW into domestic law. It steadfastly refuses to incorporate CEDAW into the Equalities Act 2010 or pass a separate Act that would provide women with the rights and fundamental freedoms Mrs Thatcher pledged to adhere to over 30 years ago.

And no special legislation has been passed to allow such payments to be made to the 3.9 million women born in the 1950s.

However this is changing. A Parliamentary motion calling for a temporary special measure to compensate the women has attracted 139 MPs from all parties and widely differing views. These include a number of ex ministers from the two main parties including Tories Sir Michael Penning and Robert Halfon, Labour’s Kevan Jones and Angela Eagle.

Other MPs supporting Anna McMorrin’s motion include the DUP chief whip, Sammy Wilson and Brexit spokesman Nigel Dodds; Green Party MP Caroline Lucas; Labour MPs Stephen Kinnock, David Lammy , Chris Bryant, Emma Lewell-Buck and Gareth Thomas; Tory MPs, Sir Peter Bottomley, Dame Caroline Spelman,Sir David Amess, Sir Henry Bellingham and Laurence Robertson;Liberal Democrat MPs Jo Swinson, Layla Moran, Tim Farron and Stephen Lloyd; Plaid Cymru MPs, Ben Lake and Jonathan Edwards Scottish Nationalists, Angus Brendan MacNeil and Deidre Brock and Independents John Woodcock and Chris Williamson.

What is clear is a gathering support for action among MPs – something the present government and pensions minister Guy Opperman ignore at their peril. The 50s born women have a just cause on their side.

How Singapore shames London’s record on disabled mobility

Since taking this world trip I have gone out with my wife Margaret in a wheelchair in some 20 countries and encountered many challenges – from uneven and inaccessible pavements to stairs with no accompanying ramps, high kerbs, blocked paths and sudden inaccessible dead ends.

The visit to Singapore was a treat. It outstripped many European cities in the comprehensive services available to disabled people and the ease of getting around the country.

It sends a strong message to Transport for London on how to organise disabled friendly services across the capital. From travelling on the system it was clear a great deal of thought had been put in to make it as easy as possible for disabled people. Signage, positioning of lifts and the design of trains were all co-ordinated. So was access to the street to and from stations. It makes London just amateurish and years behind and pretty hostile to disabled people..

It was a lightening visit – just one day – it involved a visit to major attraction using the underground train system.

While This the cruise terminal was not directly connected to the metro the 250 yard walk from the terminal to the new station was well signposted. It’s served Marina South Pier where more local ferry services run. Getting access was easy . A wide ramp allowed wheelchair access to the station and lifts took you down to the booking hall and platform. The lift came out exactly opposite a carriage on the train which included wheelchair spaces.There was completely level access to the train with a minimal gap. We had to change lines at the next station Marina Bay. Again the system was easy to navigate.

Going out at Bayfront station was easy with lifts to the station entrance and a lift also well used by families with pushchairs to street level.

And then there was a bonus. We were going to the Gardens by the Bay one of Singapore’s newer iconic attractions. And round the corner was a shuttle bus to take you to the centre. But it was no ordinary shuttle bus. It included a ramp so wheelchairs could be hoisted on to the back to enable disabled people to travel in style. They were also testing a driverless vehicle.

Once there the two amazing attractions the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest were easily accessible.The Cloud Forest was particularly impressive with wheelchair accessible lift and always taking you hundreds of feet above the tree, hanging plants and huge waterfalls.The pictures tell the story.

Singapore’s system is copied by the metro in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It also has lifts to platforms and ramps into stations. Unfortunately at the two stations we used half the lifts did not work. And the access to the stations is not straightforward. More like London than Singapore.

Permission granted: 50s Women win historic case to judicial review on pension rights

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50s women dancing in front of the Royal Court of Justice after the judge granted their request for a judicial review

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A High Court judge  yesterday gave the Back To 60 campaign permission to bring a judicial review against the Department for Work and Pensions over the raising of the pension age  for 3.8 million women born in the 1950s.

The Hon Ms Justice Lang – who is also known as Dame Beverley Ann Macnaughton Lang – ruled in favour of all the issues raised by barristers Catherine Rayner and Michael Mansfield on behalf of the women.

The ruling by the 63 year old judge obviously stunned the Department of Work and Pensions whose barrister, Julian Milford, asked for  66 days ( instead of the normal 14 days)  to prepare a fresh case against Back To 60. They were granted 42 days.

The  ruling means that a future  hearing BackTo60 have the right to argue their case that the government’s decision which affected the 3.8 million  women was both  a matter of  gender and age discrimination. In addition they can argue that the total failure of successive governments to review the arrangements to look at the hardship faced by many of the people made  matters worse.

As is stated on the lawyer chambers site:

” the taper mechanism used to raise the date on which women receive state pension, in combination with a failure to properly inform women of the changes was unlawful because it discriminates on grounds of sex, age and sex combined and age.”

Catherine Rayner told the judge that there had been no fewer than 60 changes to the date  when a 50s woman could get a pension  and that the main driving force for the government was to save money. She said the equivalent of £5.3billion had been taken from this group of women. She described it as an ” historic inequality ” which was made worse by the lack of knowledge among the women themselves  because the government never informed them directly about the changes.

Julian Milford for the DWP, admitted that this was part of a cost saving for the government but also said it was about equalising the pension age between men and women.

He argued that there should be no judicial review of this because it was about primary legislation which had been widely debated in Parliament in 1995 and it was far too late to call it into question.

He also argued that a ruling by the European Court  of Human Rights which meant that pensioners who had retired to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were not entitled to uprated pensions meant that the women had no case to ask for a judicial review about changing their pensions.

Both these points were rejected by the judge who said that even though the act was passed 23 years ago the fact that its impact was causing problems for the women now meant  the review could go ahead.

The government also revealed that the private pensions industry is  uneasy about the women winning their case because it could force them to pay out occupational pensions five years earlier to some women – if their contract with companies meant it was payable on the day they could collect their state pension.

As the 7BR website says:

“The hearing will allow a detailed examination of complaints made by made by women born in the 1950s, and championed by groups such as #backto60 and WASPIE, as well as their political representatives. The case raises legal questions about sex and age discrimination in the mechanisms chosen by government to implement a policy; the responsibility of Government to inform people of significant changes to State Pension entitlement and of the applicability of the EU directive on Equal Treatment in Social Security provision.”

My view is that it has significant implications for Westminster and Whitehall.

It means that a judge has quashed the views expressed by financial commentators  like  Frances Coppola and other people connected to the private pensions  and banking industry that there was no chance of a judicial review. It has also called into question the arguments they used over primary legislation and the  ECHR court ruling.

It will add to pressure on the Labour Party leadership to promise to do something for these women whose cause is championed  by Laura Alvarez, the partner of Jeremy Corbyn, and whose shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is well aware of the issue, and predicted the women would win a review.

It will put enormous pressure on Amber Rudd, the new works and pensions secretary, who is already having to cope with the backlash over the mess caused by universal credit and will now have to seriously address the plight of the 50s women. It is also a  blow to the reputation of Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, who all but nearly misled Parliament by telling them that the judicial review had already been rejected.

And I am afraid the All Party Group on State Pension Inequality for Women in Westminster will have to buck their ideas up and come behind this review rather than seeking small sums of compensation for the affected women.  By taking this radical stand  and going for the jugular BackTo60 have shown the way. They have not won yet but they have got much farther than anybody thought.