Ministers told to urgently provide compensation to Waspi women

Ministers have been told to urgently provide compensation to women born in the 1950s who have been affected by changes to the state pension age.

Former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford pressed for compensation to be put in place before the House of Commons rises for the summer recess on July 23.

This follows a report on Women’s State Pension age which suggested that compensation at level four, ranging between £1,000 and £2,950, could be appropriate for each of those affected.

During a backbench debate on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) report, it was said the Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) women suffered a “gross injustice” because of maladministration on the part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Opening the debate on Thursday, SNP frontbencher Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) accused the Government of being “tone deaf” to the pleas of Waspi women for justice and called for a vote in Parliament.

Mr Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said: “The DWP has to play a part in bringing forward proposals for a financial redress scheme to Parliament before the summer recess and these proposals must be amendable.

“Most importantly, any process must clear the parliamentary process before the summer recess. We do not have long. We have less than nine weeks of parliamentary time before recess. This means within days the DWP must come forward with proposals.”

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Government could resolve matters by undertaking to bring forward a “simple compensation scheme” to help all those women affected.

He said: “What we need is justice and it’s up to this Parliament to deliver that justice for women who have worked so hard in their lives to deliver services for all of us, that we’ve all benefited from, we owe it to them and we can do it now.”

Labour former minister Sir George Howarth also said a compensation scheme should not be deferred until after a change in Government, adding: “My fear is we will not deal with it urgently and, let me be clear, I do not believe that allowing the clock to run down until the forthcoming general election is an acceptable option.”

He continued: “As has been mentioned by others, every generation experiences injustices. In my time in this House they’ve included thalidomide victims, Hillsborough, Primodos, contaminated blood and most recently the Horizon scandal.

“For me they are all debts of honour which we have a duty to redeem. I suspect that a majority of members of this House would agree with me, so please, let us have the opportunity to do so.”

Conservative MP Peter Aldous (Waveney) said it would create a “constitutional gap” if the recommendations of the ombudsman were not acted on, adding that “a mechanism should be put in place before the summer recess”.

Mr Aldous, co-chairman of the State Pension Inequality for Women All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) said: “Finite resources are not an excuse for failing to provide a fair remedy. If Parliament chooses to do nothing, that will undermine the ombudsman. The DWP should respect what Parliament recommends.”

Conservative MP Matt Vickers (Stockton South) said his mother had been affected by the changes, adding: “I urge the Government to consider the report as quickly as possible and ensure that Waspi women get the fair and fast compensation that they deserve.”

Pensions minister Paul Maynard said the Government recognises the importance of providing information on changes to the state pension age “in good time” to help individuals plan for their retirement.

Intervening, Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Parliament needs the proposals “rapidly, certainly before the recess”.

Mr Maynard said he had heard this message “clearly”, adding: “We do not wish undue delay, but as I keep saying it is a complex issue, not just a matter of ticking a box, so it needs to be got right.”

Compensating all women born in the 1950s at the level four range would involve spending between about £3.5 billion and £10.5 billion of public funds, the report said.

Conservative former minister Andrew Selous said: “If we’re going to spend billions on this, then we have to be honest about what other things we cannot spend money on, things that those Waspi women themselves may very much want, or what other services we’re going to have to cut, or what other taxes are we going to have to raise.”

He added that the Government should “look at a dedicated fund in the Treasury reserves for contingencies”.