David Cameron has been mocked for his “bravery” for suggesting women are “retiring with better pensions” following fierce criticism for the Government’s “mishandling” of the retirement of women born in the 1950s.
The Prime Minister attempted to burnish the Government’s credentials on equality by detailing its policies to tackle discrimination faced by women following International Women’s Day this week.
But the Labour Party immediately accused him of misguided “grandstanding” since around half a million women born in the 1950s have seen their pension age jump by as much as six years with little warning, costing them thousands of pounds.
Cameron also trumpeted how the “gender pay gap” is at its “lowest published level” - despite The Huffington Post UK revealing that no Government department can say it pays women more than men.
On his pensions claim, Labour’s Owen Smith, Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, told The Huffington Post UK: “The Prime Minister got to his feet in PMQs and said that women are retiring with better pensions. He’s a braver person than most if he’d say that in person to the 2.6 million women born in the 1950s who are set to lose out through the government’s mishandling of the rise of the state pension age.
“The women affected have worked hard all their lives and suffered as a result of decades of a deeply unfair gender pay gap, yet just before retirement they have had their financial plans ruined by the Tories’ mishandled reforms.
“The Tories should put a stop to this grandstanding and instead concentrate on committing to bringing forward fair transitional arrangements for the women who are set to lose out. The Budget would be the ideal place to do it.”
For decades the state pension age for women was 60.
An increase to 65, phased in between 2010 and 2020, was included in the Pensions Act 1995, but in 2011 the coalition Government pushed through a speeding up of the latter part of the timetable.
Some of the affected women say they will effectively suffer a loss of up to £30,000 as a result.
The Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign against the move prompted a House of Commons debate marked by cross-generational support.
The SNP’s Mhairi Black, who at 21 is the youngest MP in Parliament, delivered a blistering attack on the Government for trying to "justify doing absolutely nothing" on the issue.
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
She 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."
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods questioned why women were £13 billion “worse off” thanks to cuts to public services, a freeze to child benefit and reductions in benefits.
After IWD asked Cameron about damaging cuts to services & in work support that negatively affect women particularly. Bluster of answer #pmqs— R. Blackman-Woods (@robertabwMP) March 9, 2016
The Prime Minister responded: “I am not saying that this Government have solved all these problems, but we have more women in work and they are getting higher pay, paying lower taxes, getting more childcare and retiring with better pensions.
“When it comes to the things that Government need to do, we are appointing more women to senior positions and public appointments, and the honours system is now properly reflecting women.”
He was then heckled by an MP who said: “What about the pay gap?”
The PM said: “The pay gap is now at its lowest published level. We have abolished the pay gap for under-40s. When it comes to protecting women, this is the Government who criminalised forced marriage, introduced the duty to report female genital mutilation, set out a specific domestic violence measure, and introduced Clare’s law so that people can find out about violent partners.”
Last week it emerged younger people could be forced to work into their 70s before retiring following a Government review of the state pension age.