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.
The BackTo60 organisation which represents 3.8 million women who face up to six years delay to get their pension has lodged its application for permission to appeal at the High Court.
The decision to go ahead comes on the back of a successful crowd funding appeal which has raised over £70,000 of the £72,000 in a week. The fund raising is to remain open as it will have to cover both the legal action and further campaigning.
The mass media coverage in the Daily Mail and the Express following the judgement by Lord Justice Irvine and Mrs Justice Whipple to turn down the judicial review on all grounds to compensate the women has boosted interest in the case. Perversely the damning judgement created a wave of sympathy for the women and spread the word to a much wider audience.
Lawyers advising the group including Michael Mansfield have decided there are good grounds for appeal but will have to develop their case in seeking permission to appeal.
No date has been fixed yet for a hearing.
Meanwhile BackTo60 is receiving support from people who used to support the original Waspi campaign but now feel they are no longer interested in helping the bulk of the women who are affected by the big rise in the pension age.
One is Lizzie Spring, a former co-ordinator for Waspi in London.
She told me: ” I’m gobsmacked by the JR. I expected some restitution of our lost income, if not back to 60 at least back to the State Pension Age changes added in 2011. The tone and content of the ruling seems so adamantly ignorant of most women’s lives for the past fifty years. Some of it is risible. Menare discriminated against because women were expected to retire early from paid work, to do the housework, cook and provide them with company? Women’s financial and domestic inequality and lack of opportunities are cultural norms?
” It is shocking that two very materially wealthy people that nobody has elected into power, have the right to inflict such beliefs on so many women. I am not coping with the situation well. It is bewildering to me and almost impossible to believe highly educated people really view women’s historical poverty and imposed inequality in this way. I’m also of course personally still facing being poor my whole old age so I’m frightened and furious about the outcome too.”
She is also scathing about the offer being negotiated with Therese Coffey , the works and pensions secretary, by the two joint chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on behalf of Waspi Ltd.
” It means accepting a lower pension and only some compensation after the age of 63 I think it’s a disappointment. It risks compounding the poverty of women with the least money who might take such an offer out of desperation. It contains nothing to support the many women who’ve cashed in small private pensions and/or sold homes to survive for five plus years. The compensation after 63 would take ages to implement even if accepted and if not even backdated, would not be compensation but just a sop for a few. Those of us who’ve finally got state pensions but have spent all our lifetime savings while waiting, will presumably just continue to live in poverty, which is pretty bleak.”
Nor is she impressed by Boris Johnson seeking her vote “Johnson’s entire shtick is being untrustworthy and it’s an embarrassment having him as PM. I’d not vote Tory anyway so his predictable betrayal of 1950s women doesn’t affect my vote.”
And she is interested in the idea of using a Special Temporary Measure in Parliament to compensate the women : “It’s quite exciting on first viewing. But If it’s used as a route it will need to be done with huge amounts of hard evidence.
“Whoever presented the case would need a great deal of sensitive intelligence in relation to how much women are apparently still resented if we ask for equality. If decisions are made by people with no understanding of inter-sectional discrimination it’ll likely have the same outcome. “
The signs are despite a campaign to try and suggest that the settlement being negotiated with the government by the two MPs Carolyn Harris and Tim Loughton is the only game in town, people are starting to vote with their feet and backing groups that want full restitution.
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.
This up beat film rightly pitches the mood of a generation of women who are not going to lie down and lose tens of thousands of pounds each because of a cruel, incompetent government which thought it could get away with raising the pension age without telling them.
It is a worthy rebuke to George Osborne, the multi millionaire former Tory chancellor and editor of the Evening Standard who once boasted about the removal of the benefit:
“I’ve found it one of the less controversial things we’ve done and probably saved more money than anything else we’ve done.“
Instead he has left the Department of Work and Pensions with a multi million pound legal bill and that’s only for starters. If the women win it is going to be one of the most costly decisions George Osborne has ever made.
The 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who lost lost billions
of pounds by the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66 had no right to
expect to be told about the changes to their pensions, lawyers for the Department
of Work and Pensions told a judicial review today.
Sir James Eadie,QC, on behalf of Amber Rudd, the current work and pensions secretary, argued that the women had no legal remedy to get their money back because the judges hearing the case could not challenge the primary legislation which authorised the change. He said constitutional grounds prevented the judges challenging any major primary legislation passed by Parliament.
Internal Whitehall documents released yesterday reveal that
the Department of Work and Pensions secretly knew on six separate occasions that there
was “ widespread ignorance “ among 3.8 million women born in the 1950s that
they were about to lose their pensions for up to six years.
The disclosure by Michael Mansfield, QC came on the first day of a landmark judicial review brought by the campaigning group Back to 60 into the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66 which has left this group of women living in poverty after they had relied on the money for their retirement.
UPDATE: Since this blog was written the dates for the hearing were changed to June 5 and June 6.
The historic hearing into whether 3.9 million 50s born women have been cheated out of their state pension by the government has been set by the High Court for May 24.
The date is later than expected because the Department for Work and Pensions expected to win the hearing for permission to bring the review on November 30 brought by BackTo60 campaigning group and thought they would stop the process in its tracks.
Now the Department has been allowed more time to prepare its case as all of its initial arguments to stop the review were thrown out by the judge.
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.
This means the government will have to answer whether the decision to raise the state pension age from 60 to 65 and then 66 amounted to age and equality discrimination. The key point is that the judge decided that although the legislation dated back to 1995 the present effects of the change is causing hardship to a specific group of women who were not able to fully contribute to the national insurance fund.
The original hearing also led the government to admit that further changes introduced by the coalition government in 2011 had been part of an austerity programme and reveal that the private pensions industry is also against the women winning their case as it could have a knock on effect on private occupational pensions that are tied to the state pension age.
The issue of maladministration will not be the main feature of the case as this is being dealt with by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Cases of discrimination and resulting hardship can still be brought by MPs to the Ombudsman. And recently Ben Lake, the Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion filed a case on behalf of a constituent.
Joanne Welch, spokeswoman, said
” BackTo60 .com had a resounding victory on 30th November 2018 and our amazing World Class Legal Team pressed home our advantage for a 2-Day Substantive Hearing. “The substantial significance of our argument has been recognised by the authorities and the case has been elevated to a higher level for determination – this has necessarily involved an alteration of hearing dates. ” There will now be a much more thorough and robust review as the case will take on an historic perspective and achieve national significance: it will be heard, May 2019, at the Divisional Court. Our collective impetus is working so well, thanks to each one of you. Long may it be so.”
The High Court is to hear the case for a judicial review into the government’s mishandling of the raising of the pension age for 50s women on November 30.
The court granted a two hour hearing today.This means that Michael Mansfield and his team will argue the merits of the case for a judicial review.
The Department for Work and Pensions will oppose any judicial review. The judge will decide whether it can go ahead.
The granting of a two hour hearing is significant in the sense that the court has decided that the merits of both sides of the argument must be examined thoroughly. Previously the court had thought that 30 minutes was enough to hear the arguments – suggesting that it could be turned down without much debate.
The announcement is a victory for the lawyers arguing the case and for BackTo 60 in taking such an uncompromising stance. The government has so far refused to budge an inch in recognising the grievances of the 3.8 million women who have lost out – some of them living in dire poverty as a result.
The case will be backed up by the paper from Jackie Jones, a law professorat the University of the West England She has produced the report, which shows that this group of women have suffered discrimination contrary to an international convention signed by successive UK governments. It is not a legal document but it is an expert opinion.
Interesting comment from theneedleblog on Michael Mansfield’s bid for a judicial review of the Goddard Inquiry.
Sadly if this had remained an independent panel there would have been no bar to appointing survivors to serve on it. I warned this could happen but some survivors took no notice.
Also it is not well known that it is coalition policy to try and appoint an investigative journalist to work alongside other experts on independent panels. I should know because as a result of this policy I am currently serving alongside health and police experts on the Gosport War Memorial Hospital independent inquiry which is trying to get to the bottom of a series of unexplained historical deaths of elderly people at that hospital stretching for nearly two decades.
Here is the full press release. I’ll comment below.
The Chambers of Michael Mansfield QC supports the Survivors’ two grounds of judicial review. Firstly, that the Survivors of Sexual Abuse are excluded from membership of the Inquiry panel because of a claim that they will lack the necessary objectivity. It should be noted that this bar to membership of the panel in fact only targets Survivors who have disclosed their abuse; this of course serves only to punish and stigmatise Survivors.
Secondly, that the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel (VSCP) involvement is so limited as to be meaningless. The VSCP was said to have been created to allow Survivors to participate at the centre of this Inquiry. Instead the VSCP will meet with the Inquiry team on two days per month and not have access to the Inquiry papers. Each of these decisions sidelines the participation of the Survivors. As…