John McDonnell explains the Labour pensions offer to 50swomen over more than tea and sympathy.

John McDonnell with Azhar Ali, Labour candidate for Pendle, explaining the offer to some of the women

For those who are following the fight by all groups to get compensation for 3.8 million women who have waited up to six years for their pensions, here is a detailed video with John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor on how he intends to implement the £58 billion package

There are a number of new points revealed in this video.

  1. Labour is looking at offering both a weekly payment and a yearly lump sum depending on whether the women would like it.
  2. The implementation of the plan would begin as soon as Labour enters government.
  3. Labour has already talked to Whitehall civil servants so they can work up the scheme immediately Labour gets into office.
  4. Every woman will get a letter to prevent the previous debacle under successive governments where women did not hear of the offer
  5. He discloses he has talked to Michael Mansfield, the QC, who is drawing up the appeal for BackTo60 who are seeking full restitution to make sure it cannot be legally challenged.
  6. Labour ruled out means testing the offer because they found it would be complicated and expensive to do this and would delay payments. Bad luck economist Frances Coppola your idea wouldn’t work
  7. Yes it would mean Theresa May and Harriet Harman would get payments – but because it is taxable they will have to pay a big chunk back.
  8. Means testing would also break the principle that it is a national insurance based payment – based on entitlement not a benefit.
  9. He reveals the BBC had great difficulty understanding what the deal was about and why he had decided to pay it.
  10. Finally for tech lovers the end of the video he talks about introducing a national free broadband system – citing a small tech company in a rural area which devises new games – but can’t expand because of the poor quality broadband in its area. He points out this will be a boost for business.

On Byline Times: Labour ambush the Tories over 50swomen pensions:is it an election game changer?

Standing firm for full restitution for 50swomen

This article unlike my earlier one on the offer of compensation to 3.8 million 50swomen looks at the political moves that led Labour to make this offer which is not full restitution. It asks whether it is going to be a game changer in the 2019 General election? Read it in full on Byline Times here.

Labour’s new deal for 50swomen’s lost pensions: What does it mean?

Crowds of BackTo60 supporters after the judicial review hearing

Labour today broke through the political barrier of just offering tea and sympathy for 3.8 million women who had to wait up to six years for their pensions.

And coming only 24 hours after Boris Johnson announced that the Conservative Party would not give a penny in compensation to any of the women affected by this appalling scandal it is a major advance.

First the positives. It is a huge improvement on the offer available from the All Party Parliamentary Group on the issue co chaired by Tim Loughton, the Tory MP for Worthing East and Shoreham and Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea,East. The sums are obvious. Tim Loughton is on record of seeking £2 billion compensation, Labour is offering to spend £58 billion over five years.

From what I could gather – despite both MPs declining to answer any of my questions – it would have meant probably only £73 a week on benefit for women who have still not gained the pension in two years time and nothing for the rest, who form the vast majority of people involved.

It is also – and this is very important considering the age of people involved- to start pretty soon if Labour is elected. This compared with the previous APPG proposal with no firm date for implementation and the longer the delay, fewer people would have got anything.

As John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, said: ” “We will introduce it as rapidly as we probably can and we will try to ensure the payments are made promptly. …… we are hoping that people will appreciate the sense of injustice and anger that these women feel about the changes that were imposed upon them.”

And it is helpful for people who had relied on the now outdated married woman’s national insurance contribution to build up their pension entitlement since to get compensation Labour is treating all cases as though they paid the full national insurance stamp which would increase their entitlement.

It is also by far the best offer on the table for the December 12 election as it compares with nothing from the Conservatives and an offer from the Liberal Democrats to obtain compensation through the Ombudsman. Again that would depend when the Ombudsman considered the case and whether he decided to award any compensation.

Now the pitfalls. First it is paid at the rate of £100 a week over five years for all those born before 6 April 1955 rather than a lump sum. It is also taxed. As one of the arguments by the numerous detractors from the private pension industry -is that it should be means tested, very wealthy people will have to return, under Labour, half the payment to the state. Those who are really poor will get it tax free – because there is no tax next year on the first £12,500 of income. And this limit will probably rise over the period.

Second the scheme is complicated and the amount of compensation will be different for each individual.

Broadly it looks as though compensation will rise from a month’s loss of pension (£400) to a maximum of £31,379 for those born up to April 5 1955. It would then gradually fall again until disappearing altogether for those born after April 5 1960. The figure paid out will fall from £100 a week to a lower sum depending on a person’s date of birth from 6 April 1955.

In general terms this means that those born up to April 5 1955 will fare better than those after- though those born in the rest of 1955 will still get high compensation.

What this mean for those born earlier and have or about to get their pension that they will be guaranteed an extra £100 a week for up to five years depending on their birth date.

What the deal is not full restitution given that some women have lost up to £50,000. However Back to 60, have raised enough money through their crowdfunder, to continue their legal action and are seeking permission at the Court of Appeal to appeal the ruling.

The fact that BackTo60 went to the courts prompted Labour to prepare a much more generous offer for the 50swomen – their briefing makes it clear that this was in their mind.

” It’s a one-off historical redress for a historical wrong, so the state will be expected to find the money, just as it would do if the Government lost a court case.”

This is the opposite to the view of Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, who takes the position ” we act within the law” and the defeat means no money need ever be paid.

The fact that both Unison and Unite unions supported full restitution was also hugely influential in Labour’s thinking.

Labour’s manifesto has promised talks with all groups before it is implemented which will give all 50swomen representatives the chance to comment and discuss the implementation of the scheme.

Last night Waspi Ltd – which has not wanted full restitution – and ” We paid in, you pay out ” were advising their supporters to back Labour at the general election.

BackTo60 which never intended to advise its voters which way to vote – will produce a comparative guide to all the offers from the main parties to 50swomen and leave it to their supporters to draw their own conclusions on how they wish to cast their votes.

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said
“We’ve prepared a scheme to compensate these women for a historical wrong. It’s one that they were not been able to prepare for and for which they’ve had to suffer serious financial consequences for as a result.

“Some of them have been hit by a combination of poverty and stress, having lost out on what they had contributed towards. These changes were imposed upon them by a Tory-led government. So we have a historical debt of honour to them and when go into government we are going to fulfil that debt.”

John McDonnell to announce Labour’s plans for WASPI women on Sunday – Shadow Cabinet minister’s leaked Facebook message

Andrew Gwynne’s message that suggests more to come

The Labour Party is to flesh out details on Sunday of how it will financially compensate some 3.8 million women many of whom are enduring enforced poverty after having to wait up to six years to get their basic state pension.

The party’s manifesto yesterday pledged full support for the women and promised talks if it wins the next general election to draw up a compensation package.

But it did not put any cash figure on what it would pay the women or make any provision in the Grey Book to fund it.

This is in sharp contrast to a pledge given to pensioners living overseas in places like Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and many Caribbean countries which is fully costed in the manifesto. It would come into force in April and could £500m spread over four years. This is a victory for the all party group that campaigned for the pensioners and will mean their pensions would get their first uprating for years. If Britain leaves the EU pensioners living there would also get a permanent uprating rather than just for three years under the Tories.

The failure to mention any money for the women last night provoked a furious reaction from the women with many tweeting their anger to John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor and others saying Jeremy Corbyn had lost their vote.

Andrew Gwynne Pic Credit: andrewgwynne.co.uk

However one woman challenged Andrew Gwynne, the party’s shadow communities secretary, warning that Labour’s manifesto announcement did not ” look good”.

Gwynne replied: ” Yes John McDonnell is making an announcement on Sunday about how we will honour the pledge on Page 75 of the manifesto to the 1950s women. the costings are separate to the grey book.”

I have since heard from sources that this is indeed the case but Labour are being tight lipped again about what they are going to announce.

John McDonnell; Shadow Chancellor Pic Credit: Channel 4 News

The full manifesto section reads:

Pensions

People work hard for most of their lives and deserve a decent retirement free of financial stress and insecurity.

Under the Tories, 400,000 pensioners have been pushed into poverty and a generation of women born in the 1950s have had their pension age changed without fair notification.

This betrayal left millions of women with no time to make alternative plans – with sometimes devastating personal consequences.

Labour recognises this injustice, and will work with these women to design a system of recompense for the losses and insecurity they have suffered.

We will ensure that such an injustice can never happen again by legislating to prevent accrued rights to the state pension from being changed.

The Conservatives have repeatedly raised the state pension age despite overseeing a decline in life expectancy. Labour will abandon the Tories’ plans.

All I can say is that John McDonnell better come up with something concrete rather than warm words or else they are going to be 3.8 million women voters who are going to be bitterly disappointed, judging from the tweets I have seen, and Labour could well lose many potential votes on December 12 – not only from them – but from their spouses and families.

Frankly I am bit puzzled why they are doing this and prolonging the suspense..

Tory election strategy: Don’t pledge anything to 3.8 million 50s born women who lost their pensions

Pic credit: Sky News

A leaked document in today’s Guardian revealed what Conservative Central Office has said to all its Parliamentary candidates on how to avoid giving pledges to people during the election campaign.

It covers a wide variety of issues including Brexit, the NHS, trade deals, Voter ID, private schools, rivers, climate change and shooting. But a special section has been devoted to the Waspi campaign showing that MPs are acutely aware of the demands of 3.8 million who are waiting up to six years for a pension.

The section reproduced below includes a template letter to be sent to anybody inquiring what the Conservative candidate’s views are on paying women. So you needn’t bother writing as this will be the reply. It is more about future pensions – claiming that by 2030 pensioners will be £550 a year better off under the Conservatives. It also contains a 20 year old attack line on Labour reminding people that Gordon Brown once raised pensions by only 75p a week in 2000.

The Tory advice to all candidates: Don’t sign any pledge to any WASPI or BackTo60 group

Rather extraordinarily there is one pledge all candidates can sign – that is supporting any rural sport especially shooting. Here candidates are free to support any pledges. This is almost Trumpian in its advice – put guns before pensioners.

On Scarlet Standard: How the 50s born women could swing marginal seats in 2019 election

BackTo60 outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the judicial review.

My first article for Scarlet Standard – a new on line magazine for the Labour movement – highlights the plight of 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who are now waiting up to six years to get their pension.

Read it in full here. The gist is the present Tory government don’t plan to do anything about it – but the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have got to up their game to get their vote. And there is everything to play for. And the women have the power to decide who could be elected.

The great betrayal: How “friendly” MPs and Waspi Ltd want to deprive 2.5 million 1950s women of any money for lost pensions

Carolyn Harris MP : Official Parliamentary photograph

One would expect the Department for Work and Pensions to fight not to pay 3.8 million women born in the 1950s any money for lost pensions. One would expect Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, and Therese Coffey, the secretary of state for work and pensions, who have good pensions themselves, not to be bothered.

But one would not expect the two MPs who head the All Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality to be in the vanguard of depriving millions of 1950s born women getting any money at all.

Tim Loughton MP

Yet that is precisely what Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, and Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East are doing if you compare their proposals with official figures supplied by the Department for Work and Pensions of the demographic breakdown of the women affected. The figures were released to one my readers after a Freedom of Information request.

Their proposals, as I understand it, is to only offer compensation to women aged 63 and over, probably next year. If you take this point it means that all women born between April 1950 and December 1956 are excluded from getting a penny.

This means that in Great Britain (the DWP haven’t supplied the figures for Northern Ireland) if implemented next year it would only help 1.14 million women. And if you include Northern Ireland that means well over 2.5 million people will get nothing.

If the deal is delayed to 2021 just 770,000 in Great Britain will get any benefit and some 3 million people will get nothing.

Now for even those women how much will they will get. The official statement from them is vague about this.

The vague statement from the APPG

However in an interview with the Daily Express Tim Loughton fleshed this out a bit more. It reports:

“The APPG thinks a more realistic solution would be to allow those affected to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance of £73.10 a week in addition to pension credit, while still being able to qualify for free bus passes and prescriptions. This plan would cost around £2bn. It has written to Chancellor Sajid Javid asking for money to be made available in autumn budget. “

In return Mr Loughton says BackTo60 should withdraw its request for permission to appeal at the High Court.

He is quoted as saying:”It would help if 1950s women would fall in behind a single practical doable solution which would make their case so much easier. I don’t think the legal route is going to get anywhere so the Government’s hand is not going to be forced by the courts. That was always a tall order and I think the judicial review result showed that. The most likely solution is a compromise.”

When you examine this ” compromise” it is asking 50s born women to buy a pig in a poke.

For a start the present full pension is £168 a week – so £73.10 on Jobseekers’ Allowance is less than half of that. Also it is not clear if the women had to sign on whether they would be forced to attend interviews, search for work etc.

Then pension credit will be only available to people over 66 in 2020 and not even then – if their partner is younger. So is the government’s going to change the rules or what? That can’t be done immediately in a Budget.

Finally and here is the rub when women get their pension – instead of the maximum £168 .10 they will only get £159 a week. For some it might be more than their contributions but for others it will be less. That is why I said earlier this amounts to the £73.10 a week being a loan for some which they are having to pay back with a reduced pension for life.

I would love to have had the opportunity to ask Tim Loughton and Carolyn Harris to explain this – but they have ignored my emails. My view is that they don’t want to spell it out because they want to con 50s born women into accepting this pathetic offer without realising what it is.

And there is the role of Waspi Ltd and its lobbyist Connect PA. WASPI Ltd seems to be an organisation pretending to have its supporters at heart but prepared to sell many of them down the river into permanent poverty. It has been receptive to the idea of the APPG compromise whereas BackTo60, We Paid In, You Pay Out, Waspi Campaign 2018 and Waspi Scotland want nothing to do with it.

Women do have one strong card – the December 12 General Election. They can decided to vote out both of the MPs if they want to.

Tim Loughton has 6100 women in his constituency who have lost out and a majority of only 5106 over Labour. Much will depend on the views of the Labour candidate Lavinia O’Connor and whether she would support full restitution.

Carolyn Harris has 4800 women affected in her constituency but a much larger majority of 13,168 over the Tory candidate.

Whatever happens the general election campaign this does give women the power to demand something is done for them and plenty of opportunity to campaign against those who have let them down.