Mhairi Black Accuses Government Of 'Doing Absolutely Nothing' On Women's Pensions

My speech in response to the lack of action from the Government on the #WASPI issue."The responses the Government have made have been completely inaccurate and often irrelevant"

Posted by Mhairi Black MP on Monday, 1 February 2016

Mhairi Black has delivered a blistering attack on the government during a debate on women's pensions, slamming MPs for trying to "justify doing absolutely nothing" on the issue.

The Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP was arguing that women born in the 1950s were not properly notified that the age at which they could retire would rise, as part of the WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign) committee debate on Monday.

Black's dispute stemmed from a 2011 coalition decision to accelerate the speed of the already planned state pension age rise for women from 65 to 66.

"It would seem that this is not the first time that the government have misled people, or certainly gotten their facts wrong," the SNP MP said, before launching into her speech.

Mhairi Black MP speaks out on pensions during WASPI debate

"The Pensions Minister [Baroness Altmann] gave inaccurate information to the Work and Pensions Committee when she said that WASPI [Women Against State Pension Inequality] was calling for the Government to undo the Pensions Act 1995—in other words, to reduce the pension age for women back to 60.

"That is strange, given that she was so involved with WASPI before being employed by the Government," Black said, before claiming she had heard the same three responses to her arguments from MP's.

"I have been met with the same three rebuttals over and over—we heard some of them in the previous speech—given by the Government to justify doing absolutely nothing.

"That brings me on neatly to the second reason why the government think that nothing should be done: the principle of equality. We hear time and again that this is about equality, which is why we cannot repeal the 1995 Act and why the women affected should just put up with it," Black, 21, said.

"I do not want to hear that the new single-tier pension is the answer, because it is not; I do not want to hear speeches about the concept of equality, because it is irrelevant; I want to hear a genuine response from the government on this matter. I said during the last debate that I did not believe that the policy was vindictive or deliberate, but with the knowledge of everything that is happening, it will become deliberate. That is not something I want tied to my name."

The same debate saw Labour's Helen Jones give a "magisterial" smackdown to Tory MP Richard Graham who had called for the chamber to not be influenced by the "understandable emotion" of women born in the 1950s.

"I hope that we will focus as much on the facts of the ask and the consequences of that as on the understandable emotion of women born in the 1950s. By way of reassurance to those in the Chamber, let me say that that includes my wife and both my sisters," he said.

Jones retorted: "The hon. Gentleman said earlier that the women protesting about the change were being emotional. That is quite often a label attached to women who exhibit behaviour different from that of a doormat. What I said to him about the injustices in this scheme was based on fact, not on emotion."

In The Huffington Post UK's Waughzone, Executive Editor of Politics, Paul Waugh, described it as "the zinger of the day."

Audio of Jones can be heard here:

Meanwhile Conservative MP, Maria Miller, responded to Black saying "there is a great deal of heat in this debate".

"I hope that at the end of it, we will get a bit of light as well. We owe it to the many people who have signed this petition to lift the fog of debate. I say that because many of my constituents have contacted me to ask for clarification of many of the issues raised here. The Minister has an important role to play in ensuring that some of those issues are clarified.

"What is clear is that we all agree on equalisation of the state pension age. It is the right thing to do. It is equally right that we are regularly reviewing the age at which we retire. The great news is that we are all living longer, but we cannot possibly expect that not to affect the age at which we can retire. Surely it cannot be sustainable for us to live longer in retirement than in employment. The sums simply do not add up."

Conservative MP Richard Graham argued the new state pension would provide a better outcome for millions of people and giving the WASPI campaign their desired outcome would cost £30m, which he said was more than the entire transportation budget.

"It may also be considered by other as enormous and inappropriate ask," he added.

Speaking at the end of the WASPI debate, Vara said: "It is important not to look at the issue in isolation.

"People are now living longer and staying healthier for longer. Both for men and women life expectancy is projected to increase.

"The government has a duty to maintain the state pension system and it would be wrong to ignore these developments."

The debate took place after an online petition on WASPI entitled "Make fair transitional state pension arrangements for 1950’s women" received over 100,000 signatures.

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