It’s official. The Department for Work and Pensions has finally admitted after more than 25 years that they never thought of doing any impact studies on the effect of their decisions to raise the pension age from 60 to 66 for 3.8 million women.
A Freedom of Information request from a 1950s born woman seeking details of impact studies on the group of women most affected has forced the ministry to admit that there are none.
The letter says: “The Act does not oblige a public authority to create new information to answer questions; nor does it require a public authority to give advice, opinion or explanation, generate answers to questions, or create or obtain information it does not hold. “If you ask a question, rather than requesting recorded information, we will provide you with the recorded information that best answers the question. Once we have provided the recorded information, we have met our obligations under the Act; interpreting the information provided is up to you. “Your request makes statements and seeks to engage us in debate which you want us to respond to. This would need new information to be created.”
No information held
It goes on : “We do not hold any recorded information of an impact assessment of the effects on women of the State Pension Age that informed the rises of 1995. However, you may find the following explanation useful. We have provided this outside our obligations under the FOI Act”.
The Department has released the White Paper that preceded the 1995 Pension Act and the impact statement the coalition government produced before implementing the 2011 Act which speeded up the rise. And guess what the ministry are right there is nothing about the impact on women before the government legislated for the change.
There is one concession – the idea of extending the auto credit of national insurance contributions to women. Men over 60 had this concession since 1983. Women would have had it once they started to raise their pension age from 60 in 2010 but of course this was never implemented and men continued to have it until 2018 when the pension age was equalised. Instead there is much concern repeated in the 2011 impact study of the effects of the change on business and occupational pensions. The 2011 impact study is more comprehensive but also concentrates on the savings the government will make.
So no wonder Sir James Eadie QC when acting for the DWP in last year’s Court of Appeal case brought by BackTo60 to seek restitution for the 3.8 million affected made it clear that pensions were not a social measure aimed to reduce poverty or inequality. The ministry never had the issue on their radar when they introduced the change in 1995. These women were not even thought important enough to require an study on how it would affect their lives.
Happy New Year. Since this blog was launched at the very end of 2009 it has had over 2.8 million hits and over 2 million visitors – a remarkable achievement – even if I say it myself – for a single handed effort.
The number of blogs on my site also topped over 1000 – 1072 – to be exact. Last year my blog got 511,721 hits – that is fewer than the 1,041,000 the previous year – but still the second highest figure since it started.
I am extremely grateful that so many people are interested enough to read my news and views on current issues and also to the women following the BackTo60 campaign who have had a dispiriting year after losing their Court of Appeal case for compensation for raising their state pension age from 60 to 66. They are also having to wait for a very long time to find out whether the Supreme Court will hear their cases – far too long in my opinion. If it goes to the Supreme Court I shall be reporting it.
Like last year the majority of most read stories were about that campaign. The most read story of all last year was the revelation – from a reader using a Freedom of Information request – that 4.6 million men over 60 had their national insurance contributions paid by the state if they did not register for the dole to keep the unemployment figures down. This had over 64,000 hits and when the Department for Work and Pensions revised this figure to a staggering 9.8 million that had another 34,600 hits – bringing interest in both stories to nearly 100,000.
Coverage of BackTo60’s Court of Appeal hearing was the second highest at 58,860 – which is a pretty high figure for a court case.
Also an old story on how the government has saved paying out £271 billion to the National Insurance Fund which could have paid for higher pensions and also stopped the need to raise the pension age for women had another 22,000 hits. Originally written in the summer of 2018 this enduring blog has now had 311,000 hits altogether.
Outside other highly read blogs on the pensions campaign the most read blog was one on how Boris Johnson and other Cabinet Ministers were moving towards an elective dictatorship by devolving power to themselves rather than Parliament under new Brexit laws. That had 35,554 hits.
This year there has been a subtle change in coverage on my blog of stories I write for Byline Times. Last year I tended to provide a short summary of the story on my blog. This year most of my Byline Times stories appear by themselves and are not automatically repeated on my blog. They get even wider coverage on Byline Times so those who want to see them and follow me on Twitter do get tweets telling them about the story. Or you could take out a subscription to Byline Times and get a monthly print newspaper.
Ending discrimination against women
There will be new developments next year. I will be blogging about the People’s Tribunal run by John Cooper, QC, the human rights lawyer, to end all forms of discrimination against women. This is a movement which wants to get the UK Parliament to put into domestic law the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women. The UK ratified it under Margaret Thatcher but nothing has been done since.
It comes as Elizabeth Truss, the equalities minister, appears to want to reverse progress what she calls “identity politics” so I foresee fresh battles over this issue. And I am curious to see how the Equality and Human Rights Commission is going to handle this.
I shall also be taking up some individual cases of injustice. The recent blog on the plight of Epsom and St Helier University Health Trust’s only woman cardiologist just one example – where a health trust is pursuing an individual and where they are whistleblowing issues.
I shall continue to keep an eye on political issues -particularly as incompetence, the chumocracy and corruption are on the rise in the UK and plan to write about it on Byline Times and this blog.
I have started again reporting on child sexual abuse again and plan more articles.
2021 promises to be a challenging year – the first post Brexit year- and I feel more than ready to meet it.
While the headlines concentrate on soaring youth unemployment the biggest rise in jobless totals are among the over 50s.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics analysed by the group, Rest Less, a jobs and community site for the over 50s. reveal unemployment has soared among this group by a staggering 33% year on year – the biggest percentage increase of all age groups and significantly more than the national average increase of 24%.The figures below tell the story.
Other figures shows that those furloughed over 50 who will later lose their jobs will be 80 per cent women. See this research here. And for the group I have championed through BackTo60 – the women born in the 1950s – who are now waiting up to six years to get their pension – the prospect of getting a job even if they wanted one will be worse.
But this is not just a tale about statistics. It is about human beings whose lives are being made more of a misery during this nasty Covid- 19 period.
One of those is Amanda Speedie, a resourceful and articulate 61 year old, who lives in Cornwall over the border from Plymouth. She was one of the women who did not find out until 2011 that she couldn’t retire at 60. She has since been dismayed by the failure of the judges decision on the BackTo60 court case. She had also tried using a local WASPI template to see if she could claim from the Ombudsman but that got nowhere.
She told me: ” When the decision was made it passed me by I was too busy bringing up a family, didn’t read newspapers ands rarely looked at TV news. If they had written to me I would at least have known”.
She is now divorced but well qualified-having worked in a variety of roles from estate agency to medical secretary to customer service and admin roles. She worked at one stage as a shift supervisor of the River Tamar toll plaza.
No full time job since 2012
She hasn’t had a full time job since 2012. She survives on two small private pensions – worth £40 a week – and by taking on some gardening work for which she earns £45 a week. She occasionally takes on sewing repair and alterations which might bring her in an extra £10 or £20 a week. She doesn’t qualify for any of the government payments.
Her real passion is to become a writer .Amanda studied for a BA in English with Media Studies and graduated with the MA in Professional Writing in 2007.
She has however some very strong views about what women in their 60s should do and that does not include work.
” Many women are single, they can’t get jobs and even if they can haven’t the energy to do full time work ( I did a full time job for five weeks and came home exhausted every night and had to give it up) They suffer health issues and lose their energy after the menopause. Older people also face discrimination from employers who are not keen to employ them.”
She has written twice to Rushi Sunak, the Chancellor, suggesting that he introduced an allowance equal to the pension for women in their 60s. She has had no reply.
” Women could then do things they might want to do like volunteering or looking after their grandchildren or take a part time job if they wanted.”
What is alarming is that generation born in 1960s are hitting the same problems. Rest Less had another case of a women in her 50s.
Claire Cassell is 54 from Willenhall near Birmingham. She lives with her husband. For nearly three years, Claire was working as a receptionist for a legal firm.
She was furloughed at the beginning of lockdown and didn’t hear anything from her employer until May when she was notified that they were hoping to get back to work soon.
By July she hadn’t heard anything more and texted her boss to find out if they were going back to work. He simply replied ‘No’.
At the end of August, she received an email telling her her role was at risk of redundancy. She was made redundant on 1 September. She is entitled to Job Seeker’s Allowance until March but as her husband works, she cannot claim Universal Credit. Since then, Claire has applied for 200 jobs and has had two disastrous Zoom interviews. She says she has a lot to give an employer and has 12 years of work still in front of her.
What this suggests is life is going to get much harder for the middle aged – who might have to face a decade or more of impoverished lives – before they get their pension. The government’s solution is to raise the age before you can get a state pension to 67 and then 68, and some pressure groups like Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Policy Studies would like it to be 75 asap – knowing he as an ex minister and his wife will retire on a huge state pension provided by Parliament and Whitehall.
One of the biggest issues about funding future state pensions and the incessant demands for raising the pension age is the fact that we are all going to live longer. This ministers argue is going to be too expensive for new generations paying into the national insurance fund and therefore retirement should continue to rise, possibly eventually to 75.
This argument was used ruthlessly by the Department for Work and Pensions in the judicial review against the appellants supported by the BackTo60 campaign for not compensating any of the 3.8 million women who have seen their pension age rise from 60 to 66.
To justify this ministers always quote figures up to 2011. The reason why they use this year as a comparator is that it was last year of any big rise in longevity which had risen for decades.
Since then the rise has flattened – in one year it actually fell – and last year was the first in five years that showed a small rise. Next year the ONS is warning will be the first year they will have figures of the effects of Covid-19 – and the hint is that longevity will fall because of the disproportionate deaths among pensioners.
The figures released by the ONS in this report yesterday cover three years from 2017 to 2019 – which statisticians say is more reliable than taking one year in isolation.
As you can see from this graph from the report illustrates longevity has largely flatlined. Women still live longer than men – but the greatest beneficiaries of rising longevity have been men. They are steadily catching up with women and the report wonders whether the huge drop in men smoking and moves from manual and agricultural work to less physical work in the office or behind a computer is the reason for this.
The report says: “Following decades of steady increases in life expectancy in the UK, a marked slowdown in the rate of improvements has been observed since 2011. Between 2002 to 2004 and 2009 to 2011, life expectancy at birth in the UK increased each year by an average of 16.7 weeks for males and 12.7 weeks for females. In contrast, between 2010 to 2012 and 2017 to 2019, these improvements slowed to an average of 6.3 weeks and 4.2 weeks per year for males and females respectively.”
The report also reveals another startling fact. When you compare the UK to many other developed countries both men and women have lost out big time in the longevity stakes. The countries that make up the UK (with the exception of Northern Ireland) are all near the bottom of the table only beaten by the United States.
Top of the league is fast growing South Korea followed by Denmark, Norway and Finland. The figures are for the number of extra weeks people can expect to live – comparing 2018 with 2011. Note again with the exception of Wales and the USA men have been the biggest gainers not women.
So while we all are being expected to wait longer for our pension in the UK, our extra weeks of life expectancy fall well below many comparable developed countries. We are being cheated – or at least not given the full facts – by our political leaders. So don’t believe any facile claims we have a world beating system for pensioners. Far from it.
Now the figures for this small rise in longevity are not uniform throughout the UK.
The lowest regional life expectancy for both males and females in 2017 to 2019 was observed in the North East; the North East’s life expectancy at birth was also lower than in the countries of Wales and Northern Ireland but higher than in Scotland.
Males living in the four most southerly regions of England had life expectancies at birth exceeding 80 years, whereas regions of the midlands and the north fell short of 80 years; London exceeded the North East region by almost three years.
Women live longest in the Outer Hebrides
The largest local area increase in life expectancy between 2009 to 2011 and 2017 to 2019 for males at birth was in Westminster, while for females it was in Scotland’s council area of Na h-Eileanan Siar. ( better known as the Outer Hebrides).
Live longer in London, die sooner in Blackpool
The statisticians comment:
“The rate of growth in life expectancy in London continues to surpass that occurring in other regions and the constituent countries of the UK. This has resulted in London now having the highest life expectancy for both males and females among regions in England.
“Four of the top five local areas with the highest male life expectancy in 2017 to 2019 were London boroughs, while three were for females. Since 2001 to 2003 traditional deprived parts of London such as Tower Hamlets, Newham and Hackney have seen strong gains in life expectancy over the time series. In fact, 17 of the top 20 local areas with the strongest growth in male life expectancy since 2001 to 2003 were London boroughs. This contrasts with Ceredigion where male life expectancy has only grown by 0.8 years since 2001 to 2003. These patterns add to the growing inequality observed across different areas of the UK over the past decade.”
This is heightened by other observations :
“Overall, for the UK, the difference was 11.3 years between Westminster, with the highest life expectancy at birth, and Glasgow City, with the lowest.
” For females, the local area gap in life expectancy at birth in England was 7.7 years between Westminster (87.2 years) and Blackpool (79.5 years), meaning Blackpool was the lowest in England for males and females. In Scotland, the gap stood at 5.5 years between East Renfrewshire (84.0 years) and Glasgow City (78.5 years). “
These findings must call into question whether there should be such a rush to raise the pension age – since the UK is both lagging behind other countries in life expectancy, has a huge inequality between the prosperous South and London and the North East ( Red Wall MPs please note). Finally the DWP is misrepresenting what is happening – both in its evidence to the judicial review over the raising of the pension age for women and to the nation as a whole. Longer life expectancy is tailing off not growing anywhere near the rate it did when decisions were made to raise the pension age.
Lawyers for Backto60 and the two complainants decided today to apply to the Supreme Court for permission to bring their case to the highest court in the UK.
The decision was taken after two of the Judges in the Court of Appeal, who heard their case, Lord Justice Sir Nicholas Underhill and Lady Justice Dame Vivien Rose, refused permission for them to go to the Supreme Court.
Applicants are allowed to go to the Supreme Court directly to plead their case to be heard if they are turned down by the Court of Appeal.
The decision was announced by Joanne Welch, the founder of Back to 60, appropriately during an interview with the BBC radio programme Woman’s Hour.
The decision comes after the Court of Appeal comprehensively rejected their case in a judgement announced on Tuesday. The judges ruled that the first judge , Ms Justice Lang, should not have allowed the judicial review to go ahead because it was a long time after the 1995 Act raising the pension age for women was passed. They agreed with the arguments put forward by Sir James Eadie, the Treasury Counsel, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions that they had been adequately consulted about the rise in the pension age from 60 to 65 announced in 1995 and later extended to 66 under the Pensions Act in 2011.
Some 3.8 million women were affected by the change which Michael Mansfield, Henrietta Hill and Adam Straw, argued amounted to both direct and indirect age and sex discrimination and had led to women born in the 1950s being driven into poverty and ill health. This was rejected by the judge, chaired by Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls.
Joanne Welch told Woman’s Hour “I know that Julie Delve and Karen Glynn have been actively considering next steps. I believe that they are going to go ahead with an application for permission to have this heard in the Supreme Court”.
Plans to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case are now being drawn up by the legal team after Joanne Welch confirmed that the decision was taken at a meeting today.
I have spent this morning reading the 21,000 word judgement of the Court of Appeal led by the Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton.
For the faint hearted I warn you this will make grim reading. But I think the women who have fought so hard to get their pensions back need to be properly informed about the logic used by the judges to come to their decision. It doesn’t mean I agree with it.
Their judgement will cause widespread misery and angst for the women themselves and total delight for the government, ministers, the Department for Work and Pensions and the small number of vocal detractors, mainly from the financial advice and private pensions industry, who didn’t want the women to get a penny.
Appeal on four grounds
The appeal was on four main grounds each of which were dismissed by the judges. Since it is a judicial review it depended a lot on case law which ranged from an immigration case, the bedroom tax, to a sex change case and to EU law and the Convention of Human Rights. It even included a novel way of approaching the law to consultation from Michael Mansfield QC.
To a lay person the case law might sound bizarre but the aim of the lawyers representing the women is to draw out rulings from these diverse set of cases to benefit the cause of the 50swomen to get their money back.
The four grounds for appeal were age discrimination according to an article from the European Convention of Human Rights; indirect sex discrimination or sex/age discrimination;notification and delay.
On the first case the judges rejected it. – citing they could not overrule an Act of Parliament.
“Despite that evidence and despite the sympathy that we, like the members of the Divisional Court, feel for the Appellants and other women in their position, we are satisfied that this is not a case where the court can interfere with the decisions taken through the Parliamentary process. “
They did concede that women got lower state pensions than men.
Women pensioners’ life expectancy – a strain on public fiances
“DWP figures in August 2018 for the mean weekly amount of state pension for men was £158.87 and for women £131.27. Though they may have shorter life expectancy, men will still receive much more state pension than women even taking into account that women live for two years longer. That does not, however, undermine the point that the SSWP [ Secretary of State for DWP] makes that longer life expectancy for women places a strain on public finances,(my emphasis) even if they would have received a lower pension over the years 60 – 65 than a man would receive.”
They rejected the indirect and age/ sex discrimination saying any EU directives allowing a differential age for men and women were a temporary measure.
women carry out 60 per cent more unpaid work than men
The judges note the argument that 50s women are hard done by. They quote facts” that women carry out an average of 60 per cent more unpaid work than men; 86 per cent of single parents are women and single parents have a higher risk of poverty than any other household type. In the 50 – 64 year old age group, women are much more likely to give up work than men because of caring responsibilities. The Appellants submit that it is therefore indirectly discriminatory, subject to the question of justification, for the state pension to be withdrawn from them because their gender adversely affected their ability to earn a living.”
But they recoil from accepting the arguments for fear that a victory would lead to a flood of new demands from other groups.
“it becomes clear what a significant expansion of the law would result from such a broad application … It is undoubtedly the case that many groups have traditionally suffered discrimination in the workplace because their protected characteristic meant that there were fewer opportunities open to them for advancement in stable, well-paid work. That is the case not only for women but for disabled people, for lone parents, for some BME groups and for transgender people.”
They conclude that the state pension is a universal not a means tested benefit therefore it should not be used to right problems caused by discrimination – that should be left to other measures in the political field.
“In our judgement.. there is no sufficient causal link here between the withdrawal of the state pension from women in the age group 60 to 65 and the disadvantage caused to that group. The fact that poorer people are likely to experience a more serious adverse effect from the withdrawal of the pension and that groups who have historically been the victims of discrimination in the workplace are more likely to be poor does not make it indirectly discriminatory to apply the same criterion for eligibility to everyone.”
DWP gave ” adequate and reasonable notification”
On consultation they buy the argument from the DWP that there was enough consultation going back to 1991 when the pension age change was first debated and they cast doubt on even sending a direct mail to everyone on the grounds that people might not read it anyway..
” We therefore dismiss Ground 3 of the appeal on the basis that there was no duty to notify those affected by the change in state pension age and that the Divisional Court were entitled to conclude as a fact that there has been adequate and reasonable notification given by the publicity campaigns implemented by the Department over a number of years.”
Criticism of Ms Justice Lang
Finally they condemn Ms Justice Lang for allowing the judicial review in the first place on the grounds that it was already out of time.
They castigate her for extending the time limit.
“Unlawful legislation is not a continuing unlawful act in the sense that the time limit for challenging it by way of judicial review rolls forward for as long as the legislation continues to apply. If that were the test, there would effectively be no time limit for challenging primary or secondary legislation or for that matter administrative conduct which continues to affect a claimant unless or until the action is withdrawn or revised.”
Lawyers for BackTo60 have asked the judges for permission to appeal their judgement.
Their judgement today shows what a big struggle it is to convince people of their case but it doesn’t meant it is wrong to fight this injustice for 3.8 million people.
The Court of Appeal has announced that the long awaited judgement on the Backto60 case covering 3.8 million women who had to wait up to six years for their delayed pension will be made on September 15.
The judgement will be delivered by email to the two claimants on behalf of BackTo60 campaign and the Department for Work and Pensions. The judgement will be put on the judiciary website.
The official notice published today reads:
NOTICE Take notice that on TUESDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER, 2020 at 10.30, Judgment will be given in the following. APPEAL From The Queen’s Bench Division (Administrative Court and Divisional Court) FINAL DECISIONS C1/2019/2914 The Queen on the application of Delve & Anr -v- The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Covid-19 Protocol: This judgment will be handed down remotely by circulation to the parties or their representatives by email, release to BAILII and publication on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website. The date and time for hand-down will be deemed to be TUESDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER, 2020 at 10.30.
A copy of the judgment in final form as handed down should be available on the Judiciary website (www.judiciary.uk) or BAILII shortly thereafter but can otherwise be obtained on request by email to the Judicial Office.
The decision will be on the merits of whether the DWP handled the policy change properly and whether the women suffered discrimination not on the merits of the plight of the women.
If the judges decide that there were faults in the system the women will have won and be entitled to compensation. If they decide that the DWP acted properly within the law they will lose.
The case has received the attention of three of the most powerful judges in the Court of Appeal.
They are the Master of the Rolls, 69 year old Sir Terence Etherton; Lord Justice Sir Nicholas Underhill, 68, and Lady Justice Dame Vivien Rose,60.
The DWP engaged Sir James Eadie known as the ” Treasury devil” – one of the most powerful lawyers employed by the government, to argue their case.
BackTo60 brought in Michael Mansfield, one of the leading human rights lawyers as part of their team.
This new film released today covers both the reaction to the Judicial Review hearing last month and the birth of the People’s Tribunal. It also shows that under BackTo60’s leadership the two are interlinked.
The BackTo60 campaign was aimed to help 3.8 million women born in the 1950s get full restitution for their pensions. The People’s Tribunal has a hugely enlarged audience covering all women and girls in the United Kingdom and seeking to end the discrimination against all women.
Both are linked by injustice. The 50sWomen campaign wants restitution for the implementation of unfair laws – the 1995, 2007 and 2011 Pensions Act because of the adverse effect on one large group of women.
The People’s Tribunal want the UK to bring into domestic law the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw).
The UK is already signed up to the convention – Margaret Thatcher did so in 1986 – but unlike other countries has not put the convention into UK law. The UK has also never appointed a representative to sit on the UN committee in Geneva either.
Any such legislation would transform women’s rights to fight discrimination and have a massive effect on the legal system of this country.
It would also give women a massive confidence boost that they would know beyond doubt they are equal to men and if they are treated any worse than men have a powerful tool to pursue any injustice through law.
Some people might think that in modern Britain women already do have equal rights with men. But when you think that despite equal pay laws and an Equality Act under the Blair Labour government, many women still do not have equal pay now nor do they have equal progression in their chosen career.
Despite strides – including all women short lists – there is not equal representation in Parliament among MPs and women more than men suffer domestic abuse.
Professor Jackie Jones, who was an expert witness in the judicial review and is part of the People’s Tribunal team, explains all of this very well in another YouTube video which you can watch below.
Finally all this going to cost money and today the People’s Tribunal launch a big crowdfunding appeal to set up and run the tribunal. They need to raise £75,000 but it will be worth every penny. The link top the crowdfunder is here.
Revised figure doubled for ” men only national insurance subsidy”
The Department for Work and Pensions has revised the estimated number of men over 60 who received what are known as ” auto credits” towards getting a full pension from 4.65m to 9.8m between 1983 and 2018.
The 4.65 million figure was already staggeringly high but the new figure is more than double the number previously disclosed. It is also well over double the number of 1950s born women who are currently waiting for their pension for up to six years.
The scale of the payments has been kept quiet by the Department for Work and Pensions for 37 years. It was only revealed last month when Myfanwy Opeldus, one of 3.8 million women facing now a six year delay to get her pension, got the admission from the ministry through a Freedom of Information request.
Letter issued after court hearing
Yesterday the Department for Work and Pensions wrote to her again raising the figure to 9.8 million. The letter came just after the Court of Appeal hearing into the judicial review this week heard about the plight of women affected by the rise in the pension age and was told by Michael Mansfield about the men receiving ” auto credits” which was not known at the time of the first judicial review.
The new disclosure makes it even more galling for the women who were originally promised they would have their national insurance contributions paid between 2010 and 2018 only to have the offer withdrawn a year before it was due to start. A number have had to pay thousands of pounds to make up the sum for a full pension while others simply have not been able to afford it.
The letter does say that not all 9.8 million men would have benefited as some would have died, others would have full insurance records and some would have been working abroad.
enormous subsidy for men
Nevertheless the scale of the subsidy must be enormous and a benefit for people years after it was offered by Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of Exchequer in 1983, to encourage men to get off the dole to keep the very high unemployment numbers down at the time.
This story seems to get worse and worse so let us hope there will some justice from the courts for all the women concerned.
Judges are inscrutable. Like wise old owls you can never be sure what they are thinking. This week’s two day hearing of the Court of Appeal into the rejected judicial review on behalf of 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who saw their pension age rise from 60 to 66 was no exception.
However the proceedings were extraordinary for a number of reasons. For a start the introduction of new technology clashed with the traditional proceedings of the courts.
Hit by Covid 19, the Court of Appeal decided that ” public interest ” in the case was so great that it should be live streamed with some of the judges and lawyers contributing via video link. They were justified with audiences over 2000 peaking at one point to just below 4000 – Court No 71 could never hold anything near that number ever, Covid 19 or not. Now two days later it has been seen by over 16,000 people.
For the first day it worked. But during the second day it ran into a number of technical problems -including cutting people off. And at the very end of the day the technology fizzled out for me so I didn’t see the very last part of the hearing . I have now seen it and Michael Mansfield makes a strong defence of why 50s women have been so badly affected by the delay in the pension age, citing one case where a woman contemplated suicide. He also emphasised the failure to notify people properly, saying there was a common law duty to do so.
Henrietta Hill was questioned by the judges about indirect and direct sex and age discrimination and how the lawyers saw their case being applied.
The judges reserved judgement which means it could be a few months before there is a decision.
Judges were engaged
The three judges presiding over the hearing were engaged with the debate.. The Master of the Rolls, 69 year old Sir Terence Etherton, is also president of the Property Bar Association and chairman of the Trust Law Committee and a visiting professor at Birkbeck College. In his youth he was a fencer and a member of the GB International Fencing Team, including being selected for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Lord Justice Sir Nicholas Underhill, 68, is a former president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal so well versed in complex cases. He also is a former Attorney General to the Prince of Wales.
Lady Justice Dame Vivien Rose,60, is the most recently appointed appeal judge of the three, is an expert in EU and UK competition law, tax, has been a Treasury legal adviser and held a post in the Ministry of Defence as Director of Operations and International Humanitarian Law during the Gulf War. Unlike the other two judges, who were educated at public schools, she was educated at a London comprehensive school and is the first lawyer in her family. She also sings in a choir.
Given this expertise of the judges it was extraordinary that Sir James Eadie, QC, the Treasury First Counsel, nicknamed the ” Treasury devil” should try to get the Judicial review declared unlawful.
He was building on the questioning in the previous judicial review which raised whether Ms Justice Dame Beverley Lang was right in granting the judicial review for the 3.8 million women in the first place.
He was shot down with a rapier like comment from the Master of the Rolls who pointed out he could have raised this immediately after her judgement at a special hearing and again when the judicial review was heard.
” Not in my brief” -Sir James Eadie
His reply was “it was not in my brief from the DWP ” and talked about ” the bigger picture”. My interpretation of that is Amber Rudd, then works and pensions secretary, would have been well aware that to strike out a review for 3.8 million women would have been political dynamite and caused widespread furore well beyond the actual case.
But Sir James persisted citing judgments which said that the case could have been held in 1995 as soon as the Pension Act was passed. Michael Mansfield,QC dealt with that claim in his summing up.
What is important is that the judges were really engaged with the arguments and tested both sides equally. They looked at the notification ( or non) notification issue of the pension age rise, listened to the arguments involving EU law and the relevance of the UN Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and noted the auto credits issue which allowed 4.6 million men over 60 from 1983 to 2018 to have their national insurance contributions paid by the state.
Sir James Eadie’s tactics seem to be to try and get most of the case law raised by Adam Straw and Henrietta Hill for the 50swomen ruled as irrelevant.
At one point the Master of the Rolls intervened to point out to Sir James that Adam Straw’s argument about one particular case was aimed at making a specific legal point not about the content of the case.
The other DWP tactic was to use out of date information. Sir James used 2011 as the reference for the continuing rise in longevity ( and pension payment costs) – the high point of the increase – ignoring it flatlining since. This I gather was corrected by Michael Mansfield later.
Sir James also got it wrong when he said the purpose of the case was to reduce the pension age to 60 for all women. It isn’t. It is to fully compensate the 3.8 million women who feel cheated about waiting six years for a pension and not being properly told about the change.
The DWP switched tactics over the economic plight of the 1950s women – in the original judicial review he made great play of the fact they were not worse off but some were well off.
This time he acknowledged that 1950s women faced economic disadvantages and social ills but these, he argued, were nothing to do with the raising of the pension age.
For people watching this case it must have seemed a bit arcane that it is based on case law rather than – though Michael Mansfield did highlight their catastrophic plight – going into detail of the hardships of 50swomen. Full statements on the hardships faced by the two women cited in the case were passed to the judges by Michael Mansfield.
Now for a judgment. The point of a judicial review is to question the administration of a policy to see if it was fit for purpose and had not disadvantaged people.
Therefore don’t expect a judgement ordering the women must have all the money. But you could expect a judgement saying the system cheated them which will have to lead to action by the government to redress the matter.
Either way win or lose the BackTo60 campaign will be considerably enhanced by the outcome of this case – because it highlights the women’s plight and will be a force to reckon with. Going to law is much more powerful than trying to persuade MPs.
After all very few campaigners can claim to have their case examined by the Master of the Rolls and I know BackTo60 lawyers are delighted that they got an appeal on all the points they raised in the first judicial review.