The Stevenage Labour Party is appalled by the High Court decision against two women born in the 1950’s yesterday (03/10/2019). This verdict leaves the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign once again lobbying MPs for compensation for over 4 million women affected by the massive rise in state pension age, from 60 to 65. Originally planned to be phased in over 10 years, the Tory & Lib-Dem coalition in 2011 accelerated this to a single stage in 2018, leaving millions of women without adequate plans to support their retirement. Our Tory MP in Stevenage, Stephen McPartland, supported these dreadful changes, yet remains silent on the issue since.
The change in pension age has left many destitute and heaps injustice on a working life which saw women face pay discrimination and sexism throughout their careers. The average amount each woman could lose is a shocking £47,000.
Many women received no notice of the change until shortly before their 60th birthday, when they were expecting to be able to retire and draw a state pension, leaving them with insufficient time to make other pension arrangements.
The High Court judgement ruled that Parliament had no duty to be fair or to notify these women. Despite being a legal argument, we strongly disagree that it is a morally sound one. The Secretary of State in charge of the Department of Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey MP, along with her Tory Ministers should be ashamed of themselves for taking no responsibility for the life-changing impact this ruling will have on these women. The WASPI campaign has vowed to take their fight back to Parliament. MPs – including our own Stephen McPartland – should expect that the campaigners won’t be going away any time soon!
A number of our Labour members in Stevenage are impacted by this ruling, including our Women’s Officer, Michelle Gardner, who said: “I am very disappointed at the result. I had no real warning that my retirement originally set for 60 was going to be extended to 66. I found out when I was 58, with no time to readjust my pension plans. Many women who were reliant on retiring earlier have had their lives turned upside down. Once again women are losing out, yet many took on additional responsibilities as carers of their families. We as women have pulled the short straw.”
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Stevenage, Jill Borcherds has promised to back the campaign and fight for compensation for those affected: “Yesterday’s judgement makes Labour’s manifesto commitment to extend Pension Credit to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable women all the more urgent. In addition, Labour is exploring options for further transitional protections, to ensure all these women have security and dignity in old age.”
Stevenage Labour will continue to support the fight of WASPI women for compensation for these harsh and unfair changes, against a Tory government which has consistently tried to ignore them, and the previous Lib-Dem coalition which only accelerated their injustice.
The Labour Party is committed to providing dignity in old age to all members of society, whereas the Tories seek to support the most well-off. We have a comprehensive health and social care plan and a commitment to defending existing pension benefit rights. Labour will ensure every person in the country is able to live with dignity, no matter their age.