As it gets nearer to the appeal hearing brought by two members of BackTo60 on July 21 to recover their lost pensions from 60 to 66 I gave another interview tonight to Ian Rothwell, presenter for Salford City Radio, which has been covering the issue of the women’s lost pensions.
I make no apologies for raising again the extraordinary findings that the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted that 4.6 million men were able to get auto credits from the age of 60 for 35 years from 1983 to 2018.
The disclosure is all the more damaging because a central theme of the DWP at the court hearing was that the raising of the pension age from 60 to now 66 was an issue of equality to end discrimination against men – without disclosing the scale of auto credits given to men to cover their national insurance contributions.
Even now while many women born in the 1950s are suffering severe hardship by waiting for their pension, men have the opportunity, thanks to ex pensions minister, Steve Webb, raising the issue ,to claim back the money they lost if they had paid national insurance contributions while they were over 60 during this period.
The DWP may be able to claim that for some men they already had enough contributions so it was immaterial, or that some died or moved abroad before they could claim their pension, that misses the main point.
The main point is that there was much more of a level playing field between men and women than the DWP acknowledged at the hearing. Men needn’t have paid NI insurance even if they took a low paid job. And if they had an occupational pension and their wife had retired they needn’t have bothered to contribute any further to their state pension or even worked.
Anyway you can hear the interview at the top of the blog.
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.
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.
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.
While the media has been almost entirely focused on Brexit tomorrow’s judicial decision on whether 3.8 million women born in the 1950s are entitled to full restitution for the pension they lost will be ground breaking.
The BackTo60 campaign brought the case using individual examples of hardship caused by successive governments raising the women’s pension age from 60 to 66 and not taking action to give them adequate notice of the change.
Whatever decision is made it will not mean the lowering of the current pension age of 66 and will have no effect on the primary legislation that introduced the change – the 1995 Pension Act. It is entirely about compensation and discrimination towards this group of women as a result of the implementation of this and subsequent Acts of Parliament – again by successive governments- of the change.
Frankly it has not been surprising that two judges have taken nearly four months to reach a decision – even though it has been frustrating for the women themselves – many of whom have suffered severe financial hardship.
If it was a simple decision – just pay out the money – or say there is no case to answer and it can be easily dismissed- we would have had a decision months ago.
Instead the judges will have had to consider both UK and EU law and the UK’s ratification by Margaret Thatcher of the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women ( CEDAW) – which specifies that women who have suffered discrimination must be fully compensated.
The fact that CEDAW is part of this judicial review affecting so many people is in itself ground breaking. The only other contentious issue where CEDAW has been used before, to my knowledge, is the Labour Party’s decision to apply it under the Equality Act – to use it for all women shortlists to change the composition of Parliament.
The other key issue is whether the 1995 Pensions Act itself years after it was passed created discrimination against women who are now suffering hardship. This was a key feature of the granting of the judicial review in the first place by Mrs Justice Lang who rejected the Department of Work and Pensions argument that the challenge to the 1995 Act was too late. She saw instead the courts intervening to relieve the plight of women suffering now – rather than a tardy response to legislation passed over 20 years ago. It will more than interesting to see the judges’ ruling on this point.
What will also be important will be the judges ‘reaction to the case put forward by the government’s top lawyer, Sir James Eadie, known as the Treasury Devil, who did not just accept that the women had not been informed of the change but said the DWP has no duty under the 1995 Act to inform them in the first place.
If this was accepted by the judges it would mean that nobody was entitled to be informed by law about any change in their pension – not just the 1950s women.
The opposite case was put by Michael Mansfield who argued that the Government’s decision was an ” abuse of power” which had targeted a large sub group of people who had endured hardship.
Whatever the decision tomorrow it will be a landmark one – not only for women who had to wait up to six years for their pension but also for age and sex discrimination.
Senior Labour figures are preparing to improve their offer
to compensate 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who are facing hardship by
having to wait up to six years for their pensions.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, indicated that the
party is now looking at a new offer as the general election approaches.
He made the comment
after a private meeting at Labour’s annual conference this week organised by his
office which enabled leading figures from campaigning organisations fighting
the women’s cause to pitch their case to senior people from the Labour Party.
The meeting came as the two largest trade unions affiliated
to Labour, Unison and Unite, backed the case for full restitution for the
women. Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, personally endorsed full restitution, in
a tweet. The party is also discussing putting the offer in its general election
Among the leading figures at the meeting were Laura Alvarez, the wife of Jeremy Corbyn: Andy Whitaker and Rory Macqueen respectively head of strategic communications and chief economic adviser at John McDonnell’s office; Mike Amesbury, shadow employment minister, and Fran Springfield, co chair of Labour’s disability organisation and one of the people drawing up the party’s manifesto. Mr McDonnell came to the end of the meeting.
The organisations represented included BackTo60, Waspi
Scotland, Waspi Ltd and Waspi 2018.
They were backed up
by two women from Unison in Wales, Lianne Dallimore and Mac Hawkins who also
addressed the meeting.
Jackie Jones, Labour MEP for Wales, also pressed the case
for full restitution and explained how it come done by a special temporary measure
through Parliament using the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of
discrimination against women (CEDAW) which was ratified by Margaret t5hatcher
in 1986. This allows the money to be paid without amending the present pension
age of 66 for men and women.
At present Labour’s offer is confined to backdating payments
for two years from 66 to 64 for 1950s
born women but no further compensation.
Labour is also waiting the result of the judicial review held in June where Michael Mansfield, QWC put the case for full restitution for all 50s women. It has now been announced it will report on October 3 – next Thursday.
Among other people who attended the meeting were Christine Blower, former general secretary of the National union of Teachers, who is about to be ennobled as Baroness Blower; Labour MP for Ipswich Sandy Martin; Labour MEPs Jude Kirton-Darling and Richard Corbett. Moira Ramage, prospective Labour candidate for Paisley and Renfrewshire South.
This weekend I had the honour of chairing a session at the Byline Festival for BackTo60 Campaigning Group in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex.
The occasion was important for giving wider publicity to a new generation how successive government’s cruel treatment of a large group of 3.8 million women who are waiting up to six years for their pension. And also to show to the young that by having guts and determination ( which the 5,000 people at Byline Fest have in droves) us oldies can also press our case home by arguing and succeeding in getting a judicial review to try and remedy this injustice.
It was also to warn them that this group will be the first of many to find themselves in a similar predicament. This is particularly so if former Department of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s charity, the Centre for Social Justice, succeeds in getting the UK to have a retirement age of 75 by 2035 – giving it by then the dubious accolade of being a world leader in forcing people to work until they drop.
Amber Rudd, the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, says the government won’t do it, I don’t believe her. For the role of think tanks is to influence government and prepare the people for the changes they want, and this is the think tank that proposed Universal Credit, which any self respecting person will think has been an unmitigated disaster for the poor and the disabled.
The story of the pension scandal that hit the 50s born women is not a boring pensions tale. It covers Whitehall skulduggery, effectively saving £271 billion of public money by removing the Treasury contribution to the National Insurance Fund; a failure to properly communicate the change in pension age from 60 to 65 and then 66 to the people affected until it was too late for them to do anything about it.
And the revelation of the hardship, and misery it had inflicted on people driving them to despair even suicide as they haven’t the money to live on.
And finally the fake news that we are all living longer – which has hardly been the case since 2011 when it flatlined. It has only been the wealthy who are living longer, for the poor in part of the UK like Glasgow and Blackpool it has started to fall.
It also a tale of hope – of challenging the government in the courts and finding a legal mechanism – a temporary special measure – which can be used to redress this balance – thanks to the work of one of the speakers at the session, Jackie Jones, MEP for Wales and a former professor of feminist studies at the West of England University.
What was gratifying was the interest among the young and older festival goers who came to listen. They engaged with the issue, asked pertinent questions, even if some were shocked at the antiquated attitudes in the 1970s when Dr Davina Lloyd, revealed that she was banned from going to university in the 1970s because she was a married woman and was expected to stay at home. She was saved by Roy Jenkins, who went on to become home secretary, who passed a law allowing married women to train as teachers.
Members of the panel did a YouTube film with the Byline Festival after the session. It is below.
The Department for Work and Pensions has produced statistics to frighten the public into believing that compensating 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who lost out through the rise in the pension age from 60 to 66 will cost more than double the real price.
A new DWP research report issued a day after judicial review hearing on June 5 and 6 and given widespread coverage in mainstream media put the cost at an eye watering £188 billion and £212 billion instead of a previous figure of £77.2 billion. The directly comparable figure hidden in a footnote is £91.1 billion at today’s prices.
It is a supreme irony. Margaret Thatcher’s government ended the Treasury contribution to the National Insurance Fund that has now deprived 3.9 million women born in the 1950s of their pensions for up to six years. Now she could also be their saviour.
This is because Britain’s first woman prime minister took the decision to ratify in 1986 the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination 1979 (CEDAW).
It is this decision that commits the United Kingdom to outlawing not only any discrimination against women who are unfairly treated but demands reparations for the people who lost those rights.
The CEDAW convention also crucially provides a mechanism to deliver the money to 50s women without facing a legal challenge from any other group – whether it be the pensions industry or anyone else.
The role of this convention is likely to be a major debating point in next week’s high court judicial review since Professor Jackie Jones – elected last week as a Labour MEP for Wales and former professor of Feminist Studies at the University of the West of England – will be BackTo60s expert witness. In the hearing that led to the granting of the judicial review she produced a brief here which explains the convention.
What is particularly exciting for 50s women – regardless of the result of the judicial review – is that this mechanism known as a Temporary Special Measure could be implemented by government ministers without any need for a judicial review at all. All it would need is the will of the politicians to do something about it under our obligations to ratify CEDAW.
The effect would be to legal proof any challenge without changing the law that has equalised the state pension age.
There is also an extraordinary precedent which was adopted by the Blair government and extended by the Brown government.
In 2002 Parliament passed the Sexual Discrimination (Election Candidates )Act which set up the controversial all women’s short lists for MPs, MSPs, MEPs, AMs and local councillors. The aim, as a detailed House of Commons library briefing reveals, was to dramatically increase the number of successful women candidates in public life and redress the balance between men and women holding public office.
This particular change was seen as a Temporary Special Measure originally aimed to end in 2015.
The 2010 Equality Act used an order to extend this to 2030. The measure was enthusiastically adopted by Labour who had pioneered the idea for the 1997 general election. Other parties did not adopt all women short lists but came under increasing pressure to select more women candidates.
The result has been a big increase in the number of women in Parliament. Now there are 208 women MPs in Parliament compared to 60 in 1992 before Labour introduced the all women shortlist.
Two issues have not been sorted out. The UK has repeatedly refused to embed all the provisions of CEDAW into domestic law. It steadfastly refuses to incorporate CEDAW into the Equalities Act 2010 or pass a separate Act that would provide women with the rights and fundamental freedoms Mrs Thatcher pledged to adhere to over 30 years ago.
And no special legislation has been passed to allow such payments to be made to the 3.9 million women born in the 1950s.
However this is changing. A Parliamentary motion calling for a temporary special measure to compensate the women has attracted 139 MPs from all parties and widely differing views. These include a number of ex ministers from the two main parties including Tories Sir Michael Penning and Robert Halfon, Labour’s Kevan Jones and Angela Eagle.
Other MPs supporting Anna McMorrin’s motion include the DUP chief whip, Sammy Wilson and Brexit spokesman Nigel Dodds; Green Party MP Caroline Lucas; Labour MPs Stephen Kinnock, David Lammy , Chris Bryant, Emma Lewell-Buck and Gareth Thomas; Tory MPs, Sir Peter Bottomley, Dame Caroline Spelman,Sir David Amess, Sir Henry Bellingham and Laurence Robertson;Liberal Democrat MPs Jo Swinson, Layla Moran, Tim Farron and Stephen Lloyd; Plaid Cymru MPs, Ben Lake and Jonathan Edwards Scottish Nationalists, Angus Brendan MacNeil and Deidre Brock and Independents John Woodcock and Chris Williamson.
What is clear is a gathering support for action among MPs – something the present government and pensions minister Guy Opperman ignore at their peril. The 50s born women have a just cause on their side.
A High Court judge yesterday gave the Back To 60 campaign permission to bring a judicial review against the Department for Work and Pensions over the raising of the pension age for 3.8 million women born in the 1950s.
The Hon Ms Justice Lang – who is also known as Dame Beverley Ann Macnaughton Lang – ruled in favour of all the issues raised by barristers Catherine Rayner and Michael Mansfield on behalf of the women.
The ruling by the 63 year old judge obviously stunned the Department of Work and Pensions whose barrister, Julian Milford, asked for 66 days ( instead of the normal 14 days) to prepare a fresh case against Back To 60. They were granted 42 days.
The ruling means that a future hearing BackTo60 have the right to argue their case that the government’s decision which affected the 3.8 million women was both a matter of gender and age discrimination. In addition they can argue that the total failure of successive governments to review the arrangements to look at the hardship faced by many of the people made matters worse.
” the taper mechanism used to raise the date on which women receive state pension, in combination with a failure to properly inform women of the changes was unlawful because it discriminates on grounds of sex, age and sex combined and age.”
Catherine Rayner told the judge that there had been no fewer than 60 changes to the date when a 50s woman could get a pension and that the main driving force for the government was to save money. She said the equivalent of £5.3billion had been taken from this group of women. She described it as an ” historic inequality ” which was made worse by the lack of knowledge among the women themselves because the government never informed them directly about the changes.
Julian Milford for the DWP, admitted that this was part of a cost saving for the government but also said it was about equalising the pension age between men and women.
He argued that there should be no judicial review of this because it was about primary legislation which had been widely debated in Parliament in 1995 and it was far too late to call it into question.
He also argued that a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which meant that pensioners who had retired to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were not entitled to uprated pensions meant that the women had no case to ask for a judicial review about changing their pensions.
Both these points were rejected by the judge who said that even though the act was passed 23 years ago the fact that its impact was causing problems for the women now meant the review could go ahead.
The government also revealed that the private pensions industry is uneasy about the women winning their case because it could force them to pay out occupational pensions five years earlier to some women – if their contract with companies meant it was payable on the day they could collect their state pension.
As the 7BR website says:
“The hearing will allow a detailed examination of complaints made by made by women born in the 1950s, and championed by groups such as #backto60 and WASPIE, as well as their political representatives. The case raises legal questions about sex and age discrimination in the mechanisms chosen by government to implement a policy; the responsibility of Government to inform people of significant changes to State Pension entitlement and of the applicability of the EU directive on Equal Treatment in Social Security provision.”
My view is that it has significant implications for Westminster and Whitehall.
It means that a judge has quashed the views expressed by financial commentators like Frances Coppola and other people connected to the private pensions and banking industry that there was no chance of a judicial review. It has also called into question the arguments they used over primary legislation and the ECHR court ruling.
It will add to pressure on the Labour Party leadership to promise to do something for these women whose cause is championed by Laura Alvarez, the partner of Jeremy Corbyn, and whose shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is well aware of the issue, and predicted the women would win a review.
It will put enormous pressure on Amber Rudd, the new works and pensions secretary, who is already having to cope with the backlash over the mess caused by universal credit and will now have to seriously address the plight of the 50s women. It is also a blow to the reputation of Guy Opperman, the pensions minister, who all but nearly misled Parliament by telling them that the judicial review had already been rejected.
And I am afraid the All Party Group on State Pension Inequality for Women in Westminster will have to buck their ideas up and come behind this review rather than seeking small sums of compensation for the affected women. By taking this radical stand and going for the jugular BackTo60 have shown the way. They have not won yet but they have got much farther than anybody thought.
Two supporters of the BackTo60 campaign have got professional legal support to challenge the government for maladministration over the failure to notify them over the raising of the pension age.
The fresh challenge is in addition to the hearing next Friday at the High court to decide whether BackTo60 can challenge the government through a judicial review.
Pensions Litigation lawyer Mr Ivan Walker (Principal of Walkers Solicitors based in Kent) has agreed to advise Fran Martin and Ros Pain-Tolin who, are two of the lead cases of 1950s Women. They have got to the final stage of presenting their case to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Mr Walker recently represented the members of the Lloyds Bank pension schemes in a landmark High Court claim regarding sex discrimination in the system for contracting out of the State Earnings-related Pension Scheme.
The move is significant because professional legal advice is essential in bringing such a case. The women are launching a crowd funding appeal to help finance the move.
The link is here. Go onto the crowdfunder site here:
Both women have faced enormous and heart rending struggles to cope since the government pushed back the right to claim a pension from 60 to 65 and it is going up to 66 by 2020. Their struggle is typical of many others who have commented on this blog and have been left with virtually nothing to live on.
Fran Martin told me :
“I received a letter in 2013 from DWP – which indicated that I had a 6 yr hike added to my SP age – This was received 2 years before my 60th birthday in 2015. I was totally shocked and still am.
“I have gone from an optimistic cheerful forward thinking person to a virtual recluse with all the incumbent stresses and strains that this places on other family members. Health has deteriorated too, with high blood pressure, diabetes and anxiety being I feel part and parcel of the result of being misled at what is a vulnerable time in anyone’s life..”
Sleepless nights have become the new norm and even whilst now prescribed sleeping tablets I can still be wide awake at 4 or 5am with worry for a very bleak future if even that exists, I’m not convinced it does.”
She became redundant in 2015 and then saw her plans for a happy retirement ruined.
” I had purchased a retirement cottage in 2008 in Aberdeenshire completely unaware of any state pension Legislation. and which DWP treated as capital – Forced in Dec 2015 to put the cottage up for sale – but with no work and no one coming into Aberdeen to rent, to date the cottage is still on the market. and have costs for the upkeep of same and the flat that I live in Aberdeen.
” I am ineligible for any benefits as the DWP class the cottage as capital. I was also forced to draw down a small private pension in 2015 at the worst possible times for annuities, and use this and small savings to eek out a bleak existence – Dependant to on a mother in her mid 80’s which quite frankly I never thought I would have to be and obviously places stress and worry on her too.”
Ros told me: “I always expected my State Pension to be at 60 in 2015. I never received a letter. ICE ( who handle pension complaints)say that one was ‘probably’ sent in Feb 2012, but they did not keep any ‘case specific’ records so cannot confirm.”
“I only have a small works pension that I had taken early. I also a degenerative back condition which causes me pain most days and I suffer from Asthma.
” I really don’t know how I would manage at all, if I didn’t have my husband and his Pension to rely on as well. He is now 70 with his own health issues. My Mother almost 95 has also given financial support over the last few years.”
Both women are determined to fight the system so Amber Rudd in her new role as work and pensions secretary better look out as a storm is gathering not only from them but from millions of other people who feel they have been robbed of their state pension when they should have had it.