My evidence to the CEDAW in LAW Tribunal this month on the egregious plight of 50s women and their lost pensions

Giving evidence to CEDAW in LAW tribunal

Earlier this month I gave evidence to a tribunal set up by CEDAW in LAW presided over by Australian judge Jocelynne Scutt on the situation affecting 3.8 million women who have had to wait an extra six years to get their pension.

My evidence tries to explain how this situation came about going back to 1988 when the government decided to end Treasury contributions (except when the fund was in the red) to the National Insurance Fund starving it of money to pay out pensions. Given pensions are paid out of current contributions the fund would have built up a very healthy surplus – enough for both higher pensions for everybody later and avoided the current raising of the pension age. Given the UK has one of the lowest state pensions in Europe this would have been a very good improvement.

My evidence also showed how successive governments failed to properly tell the women affected how they would lose their pensions for five and later six years under the 1995, 2008 and 2011 Pensions Acts.

And it reveals how men were treated differently after Margaret Thatcher in 1983 decided to pay the national insurance contributions for men from 60 to 65 to keep them from claiming unemployment benefits. This lasted until 2018 and was available for 9.8 million men. Women born in the 1950s were promised this from 2010 but it was never implemented.

Failure to remedy

Also I strongly criticise the failure to remedy this in both the courts and through the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The Supreme Court would not hear the case and Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has given half hearted support to maladministration claims for part of the period. On top of that the All Party Parliamentary Group on state pension inequality has been ineffective, relying on the Ombudsman to present the women’s case rather than directly intervening as MPs to pressurise the government.

The tribunal also heard from a number of women who described the devastating effect this wait had on their lives and from Elgun Safarov, the vice chairperson of the United Nations Convention of the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women Committee.

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Lord Reed: The Supreme Court President backing the government against the people

Lord Reed of Allermuir, President of the Supreme Court. Pic credit: judiciary.com

An influential all party report by peers and MPs published last week (see my report in Byline Times) found nine recent judgements by the Supreme Court were favouring the government over the individual.

The change appears to have taken place after Lord Robert Reed became President in 2020 replacing Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond. It also follows a change in the composition of the court which is now almost exclusively male with just one token female judge out of 10.

The judgements of Lord Reed are hostile to women’s and children’s rights

I have since investigated further and found other cases where Lord Reed’s judgement have struck down opponents to Boris Johnson’s government particularly if they involve campaigning groups and they affect the welfare of women and children.

External view of the Supreme Court Pic Credit: Supreme Court

In one judgement he stated: “challenges to legislation on the ground of discrimination have become
increasingly common in the United Kingdom. They are usually brought by campaigning organisations which lobbied unsuccessfully against the measure when it was being considered in Parliament, and then act as solicitors for persons affected by the legislation, or otherwise support legal challenges brought in their names, as a means of continuing their campaign.”

This as the report points out ” reflect the executive talking point that litigation is used by “activist lawyers” to “conduct politics by other means”. Such a comment could easily have been made by Priti Patel, the home secretary.

BackTo60 outside the High Court in better times

Now this view may well explain a decision not mentioned in the report concerning the fate of a judicial review brought by the BackTo60 organisation on March 30 2021. This is the case readers of this blog will be familiar (Delve and another v. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)- involving a long standing campaign to gain full restitution for 3.8 women born in the 1950s who faced up to six years delay in getting their pensions. Since this ruling the Parliamentary Ombudsman has found partial maladministration in the arrangements for implementing this policy.

Lord Reed and two other male judges decided to refuse to hear the case at the Supreme Court saying the delay in bringing the proceedings was unarguable.

Now this is strange given that the Hon Ms Justice Lang – had granted the case for a judicial review on all grounds -and lawyers had been allowed to argue their case at the High Court and the Court of Appeal even though they lost. The only people who were really angry about the decision were government ministers at the DWP.

Michael Mansfield, QC ” activist lawyer”

Michael Mansfield QC who argued the case for Backto60 said the Supreme Court’s was a “paper thin refusal”.

In my opinion the real reason may well have been that Lord Reed loathed campaigning groups like BackTo60 and hated well known ” activist lawyers” like Michael Mansfield. Also his decision would not affect a single man -only elderly women would suffer.

The second case which is in the report concerned another case brought by women and children about the government’s two child limit on tax credits and benefits for children. Again it involved the DWP. The claimants had used the UK’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to argue discrimination. Lord Reed ruled in July 2021 that this was ” out of order” and the UN convention could not be used in arguments because the UK Parliament had not passed specific legislation to implement the convention. This was precisely the opposite of what he argued in 2015.

Lord Reed backed government savings over helping children

But worse than that his judgement gave away his hostility to the plight of women and children.

 “The Court concludes that the two child limit has an objective and reasonable justification, notwithstanding its greater impact on women. The measure pursues a legitimate aim: to protect the economic wellbeing of the country by achieving savings in public expenditure and thus contributing to reducing the fiscal deficit. It was inevitable that, if that aim was to be achieved, there would be a disproportionate impact on women, since women are disproportionately represented among parents responsible for bringing up children  Parliament decided that the disproportionate impact of the two child limit on women was outweighed by the importance of achieving its aims. There is no basis on which the Court could properly take a different view.”

The third case, not mentioned in the report, involves the Scottish government’s attempt to introduce legislation to implement in full the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This alarmed Boris Johnson who did not want the Scottish Government implementing a convention that the UK had ratified which he felt should be done, if at all, by the Westminster Parliament.

I wrote about this here. The Supreme Court sided in October 2021 with the UK government blocking the Scottish Government doing this which also meant that other planned legislation implementing UN conventions on discrimination against women (CEDAW), ethnic minorities and the disabled would be stalled.

Lord Reed’s decision tore up part of the SNP manifesto

This decision led by Lord Reed again limited rights for women and children but also tore up the Scottish National Party manifesto pledge to introduce legislation. Ironically given all the fuss over judges being accused by the Daily Mail of being ” enemies of the people”, it makes Lord Reed, a Scottish judge who would know all about Scottish politics, an enemy of the Scottish voter who had elected the SNP government and expected them to fulfill their promises.

My conclusion is both Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, the Lord Chancellor, literally know they have a friend at court, the highest court in the land. They know they can introduce what restrictive legislation they want, and provided it is passed by Parliament, the most powerful judge in the land’s loathing of campaigning groups, will help them get their way. And women who only have a marginal role in the Supreme Court, better not expect any help either from a man who appears to have a bit of a misogynistic streak when it comes to backing their corner.

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MPs challenge Opperman to rewrite guidance for people who lost thousands of pounds in additional pensions

MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee has written to Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, asking him to rewrite the fact sheet on the Gov.uk website so people can properly claim compensation for losing additional pensions worth up to thousands of pounds after the new state pension was introduced in 2016.

Guy Opperman, pensions minister. Pic Credit: Twitter

The action from the committee comes after members of the public complained to MPs that it was virtually impossible to find the advice given in the fact sheet or claim. Not a single person has succeeded in a claim against the Department for Work and Pensions yet possibly 11 million people are entitled to it.

The people affected are a large but distinct group. They were  people who were contracted out of SERPS by their employer but were told they would receive an index linked guaranteed minimum pension. This arrangement was scrapped when the new state pension was introduced in 2016 for anyone in the private sector – but remains for public sector workers.

The money they have lost is anything from a few pounds a week to tens of thousands of pounds over the lifetime of their pension. This decision was never debated in Parliament or included in the Pensions White Paper. Just as with the 50swomen and divorcees, women are the most affected.

Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, decided that there was maladministration by the DWP and two complainants got £1250 between them. He recommended that the government publish guidance on how to claim. But ministers ignored his advice and he never bothered to hold the ministry to account for its failure.

Peter Schofield, permanent secretary at the DWP

In March Peter Schofield, DWP permanent secretary on £190,000 a year, wrote to MPs on the committee, saying he had no intention of changing it. You can read the blog on this here.

Now Stephen Timms, the Labour chair of the committee, has written a strongly worded letter to Guy Opperman, asking for it to be rewritten. The full text is here.

Stephen Timms MP chair of the committee

The letter reveals anger among members of the public.

The letter said:” One person pointed out that the factsheet has been placed on Gov.UK in the section on ‘public service pensions’, when it is not in fact relevant to members of such schemes as they have full inflation protection.

“Another told us that they only became aware of it after looking through the correspondence between the Committee and DWP on the Committee’s website. They said “how anyone affected was expected to know it was there I will never know. There was no press release or other publicity to encourage the large numbers of people affected to look at the gov.uk site factsheet.
” Yet another person pointed out that some pension schemes were unaware of the factsheet.

One referred on its website to GMP indexation being partly delivered through ‘increases each year added to your State Pension’, without distinguishing between people who reach State Pension age before and after 6 April 2016.”

Only 19 people used the on-page search function

The analytic review of the factsheet sent to the Committee on 2 March 2022 said, the factsheet had had 6,922 ‘unique page views’, which seems low number given that the Department estimated that 50,000 people would be worse off in 2017-18 alone.13 Only 19 people had used the on-page search function, which is ‘very low’.

The MPs say: “The Committee would be grateful for an explanation of the circumstances in which an individual in the target group for the factsheet may be eligible for compensation and what steps should they take to get it. This should be included in a revised version of the factsheet.”

The letter concludes; ” The Committee is concerned that, now six years on from the NAO report, it is still the case that some people with GMPs negatively affected by the new State Pension reforms “have not been able to find the information they need.” In light of this, will the Department revisit its decision not to review the factsheet and commit to improving its content so that it better meets the needs of those affected and promoting it better? This Committee would be grateful for sight of a suitably revised version of this factsheet before it is published.
“I would be grateful for a response by 8 June.”

The DWP’s official position is “We encourage anyone who is concerned to read the online factsheet and contact us if they think they have been affected.

“The publication of the factsheet is the final step in the Department meeting the Ombudsman’s recommendations on this issue.”

But MPs are not satisfied and nor should anyone else. So Mr Opperman’s response will be closely watched. To repeat again if this is the way the ministry treats this group of people how are the 3.8 million 50s women who are hanging on for a compensation package from Robert Behrens are going to be vastly disappointed. Note it is SIX years since he recommended compensation for this group and not a single person has got a penny. At this rate the 50s women could be well into their 70s before they get any money or in their graves by then.

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Revealed: A new generation of women face pension inequality

Pic credit: Siemens pension scheme

Just before the Parliamentary recess the House of Commons library produced a new report on pension inequality showing how a new generation of women will lose out again to men unless action is taken now.

The report- The Pension Gender Gap – makes stark reading for millions of women now in work. The focus in this report is on the hurdles facing women to get an equal pension with men.

The main hurdle is the private pension or second pension women receive to top up their state pension. It quotes a Women’s Budget Group pre-Budget Briefing which says that: ‘Private pension schemes, promoted and subsidised by UK governments, are the main reason for the gender gap in pensions, placing women at a disadvantage due to their domestic roles and lower pay’.

The pay gap – still at 7.9 per cent – between men and women is basically discriminating against women getting the same pension as men. When the Conservative government set up the auto-enrollment scheme for a workplace pension in 2012- funded by employers and employee contributions – they excluded anyone not earning enough to pay national insurance.

While it increased the chances of women getting a private pension ( from 40 per cent in 2012 to 86 per cent in 2020) their savings fall away after they reach 35 because they are bringing up children and often take part time work.

As the report says: “The design of automatic enrolment widens the gap between lower and higher earners in retirement and disadvantages those in second jobs.”

Women who take part time work or multiple part time jobs are simply excluded from getting a second private pension partly paid by their employer.

Some low paid women may never get a work pension

And those who never earn enough at work – there are an estimated 500,000 of them nearly all women – never get a second pension at all.

As the Association of British Insurers told MPs on the Commons Work and Pension Committee: “Women disproportionately work in lower paid jobs; 75% of those earning under the £10,000 AE earning trigger are women. They also make up the majority of multiple job holders, as much as 64%. This is significant as their total income could be over the AE earnings trigger, but as it is divided across multiple jobs they will not be automatically enrolled into a pension.’

Fortunately it looks like the Department for Work and Pensions is planning to do something about this though we may have to wait a couple of years before this happens.

A DWP spokesperson said :

“Automatic enrolment has helped millions more women save into a pension, with participation among eligible women in the private sector rising from 40% in 2012 to 86% in 2020 – equal to that of men. Our plans to remove the Lower Earnings Limit for contributions and to reduce the eligible age of being automatically enrolled to 18 in the mid-2020s will enable even more women to save more and start saving earlier.”

But this isn’t the only barrier. The report highlights three other issues, affordable child care, pension rights for divorcees and monitoring pension equality.

On child care the report highlights demands by the trade union, Prospect and the People’s Pension, one of the larger pension trusts, both call for help with child care including tax relief for the care of the under two year olds and a local authority grant for 3 and 4 year olds.

Make pension savings a compulsory part of a divorce settlement

The Pension and Lifetime Savings Association call for the law to be changed so pension rights have to be considered in divorce proceedings.

“The government should consider changing the law to ensure that pensions rights are considered on a mandatory basis as part of divorce. Currently pensions may only be considered if there is a financial settlement considered by the courts. The process of pension sharing on divorce could also be better streamlined to remove friction and delay for all parties.”

And finally the Government Equalities Office should impose a mandatory requirement on the DWP to publish gender pension gap statistics and then draw up proposals to speed up ending the gap. The GEO did not want to comment on this.

There is one ray of hope arising from the new state pension introduced in 2016. It has narrowed the gap between men’s and women’s state pensions. Women got 82pc of men’s pension in 2016. By 2020 it had narrowed to 92pc. But the DWP could not tell me when it would be 100 per cent.

Unless action is taking speedily a whole new generation of women are going to lose out to men. No one wants to suffer the fate of 50swomen who have been so badly treated again. They are already worse off because of the abolition of the second pension in 2016.

Chris Thompson, a retired pension expect, pointed out both men and women lost out over auto-enrollment. “Between 2012 and prior to 6 April 2016 when the new state pension started people were also paying into the state second pension if they were not contracted out.

” From the 6 April 2016 people ceased accruing state second pension so are now much worse off than under the old state pension system. A low earner about £46 pw worse off and a high earner about £67 pw. Another thing to remember is that losses do not take into account loss of inherited and derived rights, loss of GMP indexation if contracted out or increase in NI due to loss of NI rebate.”

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Exclusive: Parliamentary Ombudsman stalls maladministration investigation for 3.8 million 50s women denied pensions

Robert Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman

Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has halted his maladministration investigation until at least the end of next month leaving 3.8 million women who have delayed pensions having to wait even longer to find out whether he will recommend any compensation.

The women are all born in the 1950s who lost up to £50,000 each when their pension age was raised from 60 to 66 and were not properly informed by the Department for Work and Pensions. The Ombudsman found that for 28 months from 2005 they were victims of maladministration. This is contested by many of the women who believe that from 1997 when Peter Lilley was social security secretary and advised by his civil servants to launch a campaign to alert women what was to happen in 2010 so they could prepare for it. He ignored that and numerous women have told me they were not aware of the change then. The Ombudsman has refused to re-open the first stage of his investigation to look at this again.

Disclosure buried half way through updated website statement

The disclosure of the latest delay is buried half way through an update on the situation on the Ombudsman’s website published on February 18. The link to it is here.

The key words are:

“It is not possible to say how long it will take to reach a conclusion. How long an investigation takes varies depending on its complexity and the amount of evidence to review.

We have asked DWP to send us further evidence by the end of March 2022. We cannot progress stage two of the investigation without that evidence.” ( my emphasis)”

This statement was news to the six original complainants and many other women who assumed that the second stage of the inquiry – whether any of the women are entitled to compensation for this injustice – who assumed that the inquiry which has taken years was proceeding however slowly not that it had been halted.

In fact the whole situation surrounding this part of the Ombudsman’s inquiry is rather suspect. There is not supposed to be the need for more evidence so what have the DWP to provide.

The inquiry has also taken fresh evidence from Mps on the 50s Women State Pension Inequality APPG arguing that the Ombudsman should get a minimum of £10,000 each. Their submission goes over ground already covered by complaints from the original six women who raised the issue.

On top of that it appears that Waspi Ltd and the Pension Reform Alliance are trying to dictate the agenda and exclude any argument for full restitution for 50s women. Some of their members have argued that even if full restitution is mentioned they won’t get any compensation at all.

Some 60 MPs have now backed a Parliamentary motion by Labour MP Ian Byrne calling for full restitution which is the position of BackTo60 and ” We Paid In You Pay Out ” women’s justice group. Some of the MPs who backed this are said to have had calls from Waspi groups asking them to withdraw their names as they told them they didn’t want full restitution.

While all this is going on there is another issue of whether and when the DWP will reply to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is relying on outdated legislation to handle this case and he cannot compel the DWP to reply by the end of next month.

DWP ignored deadlines in previous cases

The DWP has ignored deadlines set by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in previous pension issues. The most notable was a case over compensation for people who had not been properly informed that they would lose their index related guaranteed minimum pension if they worked in the private sector.

Robert Behrens gave the DWP three months to arrange notices for people to apply for compensation after he ruled that two complainants were entitled to it.. The DWP ignored the Ombudsman and TOOK NEARLY TWO YEARS before doing anything about it. The ministry also ignored his proposals for a remedy.

I have asked the DWP whether they will reply by the end of next month but have had no response to my question.

Instead they issued this statement:

“The Government decided over 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.

“Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, and the Supreme Court refused the claimants permission to appeal.”

Back to 60 came back last night criticising the statement saying that their arguments for a judicial review were granted at the time and the Supreme Court used the argument that their case was ” out of time” for the court to hear it -not that the original arguments were wrong or else the judicial review would never have been granted in the first place.

The DWP is understood to feel it is inappropriate to comment further while the Ombudsman is investigating.

All this is yet another blow for these badly treated women who may still have to wait years before they see any money. Indeed by then the Ombudsman will have left. Under the outdated legislation the Ombudsman should retire from his post at the end of next month. But the government appear to have extended his term in office for another two years against what is laid down in the 1967 legislation.

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Therese Coffey’s mean “pay out and grab back” scheme for the poorest elderly cheated of their rightful pensions

Therese Coffey

A new scandal was revealed in the House of Lords this afternoon which could affect tens of thousands of the poorest pensioners already cheated for decades of the right money for their pension.

The underpayments running to tens of millions – exposed by Sir Steve Webb, the former Liberal Democrat pensions minister – is slowly being sorted out by officials at the DWP though as this blog exposed earlier with the most complicated cases being delayed under a secret ” drop and go ” scheme to get the numbers up.

Baroness Stedman- Scott

The minister Baroness Deborah Stedman-Scott revealed that so far £60.7 million had been paid out to 9491 people cheated of their full pension – suggesting that some of the payments must be pretty large.

Extraordinarily she could not give a gender breakdown – which led to a rebuke from Labour peer Lord Jeff Rooker who accused her of hiding the fact that vast majority must be all women.

But then came the killer blow. In answer to a question to another former pension minister, Baroness Ros Altmann, Baroness Stedman-Scott confirmed that the poorest pensioners who got the money -mostly in their 80s and 90s – would cease to get their fees paid by local councils if they got more than £23,250 in England

Hidden bonanza for care home owners

Instead they would have to pay privately until their pension savings money fell below £23,250. Given that many care homes charge differential rates for people residing there – local authority rates are often lower than private rates – this could even be a new bonanza for care home owners – as they could get more money for providing the same services.

Baroness Ros Altmann raised the issue

This “pay out and grab back” scheme was universally condemned by peers of all parties. Not one supported Baroness Stedman-Scott who was looking increasingly uneasy at having to admit this.

She hinted that in rare cases the DWP could make a special payment to a pensioner or that local authorities could perhaps waive individual fees.

“Special payments under the DWP discretionary scheme are not routinely made to those who have been underpaid state pension. However, under exceptional circumstances, such as where severe distress has been caused by the way an individual case has been handled, a case may be referred for consideration of a special payment.”

This got no purchase with the peers. The most critical comment came from Lord Forsythe of Drumlean, another former Tory minister, who accused the government of ” hiding behind the skirts of local government” rather than take national responsibility for the change.

Lord Rooker raised the issue of 50s women and the government’s ” holiday” from funding the national insurance fund

Lord Rooker linked this action to the failure to pay out the 50s women when the pension age was raised to 66.

“The noble Baroness talks about “people” and “persons”, but we are talking about women. When was the last time tens of thousands of men were short-changed with their pension? I do not recall that happening. When the Government took their long-term holiday from paying into the National Insurance Fund, they deprived hundreds of thousands of women of the pension that they were entitled to. Why cannot that be redressed?”

Government ignores answering who is to blame at the DWP

Conservative peer Baroness Patience Wheatcroft, a former journalist, wanted to know who in the DWP was responsible for this failure to pay so many people the right pension.

“My Lords, when more than £60 million that should have been paid has not been paid, surely somebody should be held responsible in the end for that error. In the private sector, the sum of £60 million would be taken very seriously. Can the Minister tell us, therefore, who was ultimately responsible for this failure to pay such a large sum of money?”

The minister couldn’t – she just blamed it on a computer failure.

She did promise under pressure to approach both the Treasury and Therese Coffey to see if the government could introduce regulations for councils to ignore the pension back payment. But admitted she might get short shrift from the Treasury.

All this points to another blow for the 50s born women when and if they get compensation in the future. By that time many may well need social care -only to find out that they will have to give back their payments to cover their care home costs.

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Boris Johnson: Labour solely to blame for the maladministration over 50swomen pensions

Boris Johnson at PMQ;s Pic credit: Jessica Taylor House of Commons

Boris Johnson is planning to weaponise the sad plight of 3.8 million 50s born women by blaming Tony Blair’s Labour government solely for the maladministration in not informing them about the six year delay in getting their pensions.

In a letter to one of his constituents, Anne Taylor, the PM provides his first detailed comment for some time on the plight of the pensioners. It comes as Parliamentary activity is being stepped up. The all party group of MPs on 50s women state pension inequality for women is pressing the Parliamentary Ombudsman to propose compensation of £10,000 for each woman. A Parliamentary motion by Ian Byrne, the Labour MP for Liverpool, West Derby, calls for full restitution for all 50s women, worth up to £50,000 for some, has been signed by 52 MPs.

Mr Johnson justifies blaming Labour by seizing on the finding of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Rob Behrens, who found that there was maladministration over a 28 month period from 2004 and 2007 solely under a Labour government.

He points out that the Ombudsman’s investigation has to go through two further stages and still has to consider whether there has been an injustice. Only then will it move on to discussing compensation and he insists that this will be ” limited to that specific window of time.”

” I await the next stages of this process, but it is important to stress, that the ombudsman investigation is not an entire review of the State Pension increase from 1993 -2011.”

Actually he is wrong here, as the Ombudsman did consider the wider period but as I have written in an earlier blog, one of the flaws of his findings, was that it exonerated Whitehall action in the earlier period, including when Peter Lilley, then social security secretary, ignored warnings by civil servants of the need to inform the women.

He is also wrong about the court judgement when the Court of Appeal rejected a judicial review and the Supreme Court refused to hear BackTo60s case. He cites WASPI in this case and seems to think they were calling for a review of the pension age to 60. This insults both groups.

Boris Johnson has changed his mind on the issue. In a blog in 2019 I wrote about his two faced approach – first supporting women during his Tory leadership campaign and then dropping them after the court decision.

What is disturbing about this latest letter is that it offers little hope of any support for their case from the Prime Minister. It also suggests that he is building up ammunition to accuse Labour of being responsible for all the mistakes – hoping they will stay mum for fear that he will accuse Keir Starmer of being responsible for the women’s plight.

Bizarrely the Ombudsman’s findings leave him aiding and abetting the PM’s stance. It also means those hoping for a quick decision on compensation from the Ombudsman are going to be very disappointed as the PM will hope it is dragged out for years.

As for his constituent Anne, this is her view: ‘Having less than 2 years to prepare for a 6 year hike was shocking enough.  Nothing could have prepared me for the way I have felt since, I have literally had my hair turn grey, lost my sense of self and felt like a second class citizen. I had no idea how aged I would become in this time. I have 6 months of my sentence to go, I will never forgive this and successive governments for not giving back our earned dues’.

Boris Johnson’s letter

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The 200,000 men in their 50s and 60s who can’t get jobs

Boris Johnson in full flight in the Commons. Picture credit: Jessica Taylor House of Commons

This blog has consistently highlighted the cases of 50s born women who in waiting for their delayed pension have either had to fall back on benefit or struggle on in work with serious health issues.

Now in the last two years – almost since the Covid pandemic started – the same problem is hitting men born in the 1950s and 1960s as they wait until they can claim pensions at the age of 66.

The official figures compiled by the Office for National Statistics comes just as Boris Johnson has been found out again for lying five times about the record number of jobs created during the pandemic.

Boris Johnson’s ” incorrect job figures”

The BBC’s Reality Check Team revealed that Ed Humpherson, from the Office for Statistics Regulation, had sent one of the prime minister’s advisers at Downing Street a letter saying it was “incorrect to state that there were more people in work at the end of this period than the start”.

Mr Johnson has been mixing up the number of people on payrolls, which has gone up with the number of people in work, which has not. They are not the same thing – the payroll number excludes self-employed people, In fact the number of people in work had fallen by 600,000 to 32.5 million – a point taken up by Justin Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port, and Shadow Health and social care spokesman. He criticised the PM for providing in accurate information to Parliament.

An analysis by Rest Less , a digital community which acts as an advocate for people aged over 50, reveals startling increases in people over 50 on the dole queues

Latest figures released by ONS show that half the men who have been on the dole for more than 12 months are over 50. Comparable figures for the 18-24 age group is just 27 per cent.

While the proportion of both men and women who have been on the dole for more than a year has risen from 34 per cent to 41 per cent. This compares with a rise from 14 per cent to 25 per cent for the 18-24 year old group.

DWP plans crackdown on unemployed benefit claimants

Stuart Lewis, Founder of Rest Less, commented: “Our analysis shines a light on the many individuals who have so much to contribute to the workplace, but who are being left behind by the recovery. Unemployment amongst people aged over 50 is up 23% compared with pre-Covid levels. The fact that half of all unemployed men aged over 50 have been unemployed for more than 12 months is shocking and a timely wake-up call to government and industry that we need to do more to ensure that our post-pandemic jobs plan supports people of all ages.”

And some of the cases are heart wrenching and are very similar to the plight of 50swomen trying to get jobs while being forced to live on Universal Credit.

Plight of Chris Long

One example is Chris Long from Bedfordshire.

He will turn 60 in March. According to a report from Rest Less:”  He has been out of work for the past three years.  Chris has worked in a variety of roles over the years, most recently as a forklift driver but previously in a security role and in mental health and addiction services.  He has a broad skill set as a result.

” Around the same time as Covid hit three years ago, Chris became unwell with a health condition which was later diagnosed as lung disease for which there is no cure, only symptom management.  He had to give up his job as a result.  Some days, Chris has trouble walking up and down the stairs but there are other days where he feels fit enough to work.  It has proven difficult for him to find work whilst he looks after his health and, in his own words, he says ‘I just don’t know where I fit anymore’.

Chris is currently on benefits but needs to get back to work for financial reasons.  He lives with his partner, who works, and they have an 8 year old daughter to support. “

Given the Department for Work and Pensions is now cracking down on anybody on Universal Credit who has been out of work for more than four weeks and won’t accept any job by reducing benefits the picture for him is bleak.

What employer is going to take on someone on who can’t get up the stairs unless they happen to have a policy of employing disabled people.

What appears to be happening is a double whammy for people over 50.

On the one hand the government is boasting about how successful their jobs programme has been – with the Prime Minister lying about the statistics.

On the other it looks like now both men and women who have health issues over the age of 50 ( and who doesn’t) and find it difficult to stay in work are being confined to a twilight existence until they get their pension which is being remorselessly made later and later in their lives by an uncaring government.

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MP reignites Back to 60’s demand for “full restitution” for 3.8m 50s born women

Ian Byrne MP

A Labour MP has tabled a fresh Parliamentary motion backing the case for women born in the 1950s to have repaid all the money they lost by the six year delay in receiving their pension. For some people this could be as high as £50,000.

Ian Byrne, Labour MP for Liverpool, West Derby, tabled the new motion this morning reigniting the issue which the government want dead and buried after the campaign group Back to 60 lost in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The full test of the motion is:

“That this House welcomes the positive interventions from so many hon. Members from across the House on behalf of women born in the 1950s who have lost their pensions; and pays tribute to constituents and campaigners in their ongoing fight for justice; recalls that women born in the 1950s were subject to discriminatory employment and pension laws; recognises that this included being excluded from some pensions schemes; recognises that this had the negative effect for them of losing the opportunity to have the same level of pension as their partner or spouse; further recognises that this has had the consequence of women in this position never being able to have equal pensions to men; further notes that this has negatively and profoundly impacted on them including increased poverty, deteriorating health and homelessness; notes that at least 3.8 million women have been impacted by the loss of their pensions from the age of 60 in three separate age hikes; and calls on the Government to enact a temporary special measure as permitted by international law to provide full restitution to women born in the 1950s who have lost their pensions from the age of 60 because of the impact of the rise in retirement age. “

50s women unjustly treated

While Parliamentary motions are rarely debated publication of this motion acts as a noticeboard to other MPs and ministers that there is a still a very strong feeling in Westminster that the women have been unjustly treated.

It is significant that the motion tells the government that there is a mechanism in Parliament that they can use to implement the change – known as the special temporary measure- which would lead to the women being paid quickly.

It comes at the time when through ill health and Covid 19 some 204,000 women have already died before they get their pensions.

It is also significant as it shows that there are MPs in Parliament who think that the state pension inequality for women all party parliamentary group does not go far enough in redressing the issue. This group, chaired by Labour MP Andrew Gwynne and Tory MP Peter Aldous, has submitted proposals to Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, asking for him to offer a minimum of £10,000 compensation to the women. This proposal backed by WASPI has two drawbacks. First the Ombudsman has to agree and given his report only found partial maladministration between 1995 and 2010 he may decide not to agree such a high sum. And he has no power to force the government to accept his recommendations beyond shaming them.

John McDonnell MP

This new motion is backed by 15 MPs including John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, and Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader. It is perhaps rather ironic that if Labour had won the last general election compensation might have already agreed as John McDonnell promised a £58 billion pay out to correct the injustice.

Other MPs backing the move include Jim Shannon, the DUP social care and health spokesman, and Labour MPs, Kim Johnson, Beth Winter, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Zarah Sultana, Ian Mearns, Kate Osborne. Nadia Whittome, Grahame Morris, and Jon Trickett.

Jon Trickett has linked his support to his local Waspi group, showing that they favour full restitution.

The motion also has the support of Wera Hobhouse, Lib Dem spokesperson for Justice and women and equalities, and independent MP Claudia Webb.

Andrew Gwynne MP, joint chair of the state pension inequality for women APPG

UPDATE: Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP and joint chair of the APPG state pension inequality for women, told BackTo 60, he had no objection to MPs from his group signing Ian Byrne’s motion.

He said” I see no conflict between it and the APPG’s submission to the PHSO.”

Nine more MPs have signed the motion including five SNP MPs, Chris Stephens, Glasgow South West; Allan Dorans, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock and Deidre Brock, Edinburgh North and Leith, Amy Callaghan, East Dumbartonshire and Chris Law, Dundee West. The other three MPs are Labour and SDLP – Dan Carden, Liverpool Walton; Ian Lavery, Wansbeck and Aspana Begum, Poplar and Limehouse, Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield; Sir George Howarth, Knowsley, and Hannah Claire, Belfast South.

In another development the Pensions Reform Alliance and Waspi have said they do not want 50swomen to get full restitution. Members of the Alliance put out misleading information that this Parliamentary motion would somehow influence Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, from recommending compensation for the 3.8 million women. This is complete nonsense as it would not impinge on anything the Parliamentary Ombudsman would recommend and MPs are entitled to express their opinions.

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Parliamentary Ombudsman officially says maladministration over 50s women pensions – but it will still be a long wait for justice

Amanda Amroliwala, Deputy Ombudsman Pic Credit: Parliamentary Ombudsman

Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, today published his report finding there was maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions in issuing advance warnings over the rise in the pension age for women born in the 1950s and 1960s.

The report – as previously revealed on this website – is little changed from its draft version – and still insists that up to 2005 there was no maladministration over telling the women that their pension age would rise. After that the report says there were delays.

Amanda Amroliwala, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman CEO, said: “After a detailed investigation, we have found that DWP failed to act quickly enough once it knew a significant proportion of women were not aware of changes to their State Pension age. It should have written to the women affected at least 28 months earlier than it did.

‘We will now consider the impact of these failings, and what action should be taken to address them”

The decision to publish the first part of the investigating before announcing whether the women will be compensated is unprecedented. But according to the press office ” this is because it is the most important investigation we have done” and ” there is a lot of public interest”.

The report is now laid before Parliament and MPs will be able to press the government about its findings.

Andrew Gwynne MP

Andrew Gwynne, joint chair of the All Party Group on the State Pension Inequality for Women, said:

This report is a landmark moment in the ongoing fight for 1950s women to receive justice, and a vindication of what campaigners have been saying for years. The PHSO has conducted a thorough investigation of a number of complaints and found that there were failings in the actions of the DWP in communicating changes to State Pension.

The DWP must urgently address these findings and advise 1950s women what actions they will take to right the wrongs committed by successive Governments. For too long 1950s women have been ignored, and this must change.”

The question is now what will happen next. The report is the first part of a three stage process.

What happens next?

The next stage will be to examine how badly the women were affected by this process. According to the press office this may not be just examining how the six complainants were affected but will look wider. It is not clear at this stage how this will be done and how long it will take.

Then there is a third process -deciding how much compensation the women will get. It will be nothing like the sums of money women lost – often adding up to as much as £50,000 – but is more likely to be hundreds or low thousands.

Again it is not clear whether the Ombudsman will publish these two processes separately or just issue a final report.

My guess – and it is only a guess- is that this may take a year.

Even when it is published the Department for Work and Pensions will need time to respond and a lot will depend on the timetable the Ombudsman gives them to respond and compensate people.

If I take previous cases involving the DWP- the six will get their compensation within a month- while the remaining millions will have to wait. Also the Ombudsman cannot compel the DWP to compensate them – but pressure from MPs should ensure that people will eventually get the money.

The 3.8 million women and those born in the 1960s are still a long way from justice despite this ruling today.

Previous stories on my blog on this issue are:

https://davidhencke.com/2021/06/07/exclusive-parliamentary-ombudsman-proposes-to-say-maladministration-by-dwp-over-the-rise-in-the-womens-pension-age/

https://davidhencke.com/2021/06/12/50s-women-pensions-flaws-in-the-parliamentary-ombudsmans-preliminary-maladministration-report/

I haven’t gone into much detail on the report as you would have read it when I published the draft on June 7.

Those who want to see the report It is here.