'Give women early access to state pension,' MPs recommend

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The government should consider giving some women early access to their state pension if they accept lower weekly payments, a committee of MPs has said.

The proposal would apply to thousands of women who argue they were not given enough warning that the pension age was being increased from 60 to 66 by 2020.

The plan would help such women cope at no extra cost to the Treasury, the Work and Pensions Select Committee said.

The government said it would respond to the report in due course.

Ministers have been under pressure to put in place transitional help for the estimated 500,000 women born in the 1950s who have seen the age they can claim their pension rise by six years.

The BBC's personal finance correspondent Simon Gompertz said so far the government had refused to budge on the issue, and recalculating pensions on the old basis could cost the taxpayer billions of pounds.

'Possible way forward'

In an interim report, the committee suggested ministers should consider allowing women in the age group concerned to claim their state pension sooner than scheduled.

In return, they would get "slightly" lower weekly payments for the duration of their retirement, it said.

The scale of the reduction would be calculated to ensure that, on average, over the lifetime of the pensioners involved, there would be no additional costs to the public purse.

Labour MP Frank Field, the committee's chairman, said more work needed to be done before such a scheme was introduced, but he hoped the idea would "open up debate" among MPs from all sides.

However the government said it had already made concessions when the change in pension age was speeded up in 2011.

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said it "took action to limit the maximum change to State Pension age to 18 months, a concession worth over £1billion."

The DWP also said that women retiring today can still expect to receive a pension for four years longer than men.

When will you get a state pension?

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The government's state pension calculator is available here.

Conservative committee member John Glen added that it was necessary to find "transitional arrangements, but implemented in an affordable way".

"This report recommends a possible way forward which the government should now explore," he said.

Under the 1995 Pensions Act, the government decided that the pension ages of both men and women would be equalised by 2020. Previously, women retired at 60, while men retired at 65.

'Changes were clear'

As a result of the changes made in 2011, some of those born between April 1951 and 1960 will not qualify for a pension until the age of 66.

More than 130,000 people have signed a petition calling for "transitional arrangements" to be put in place to help such women cope with the changes.

However, Pensions minister Baroness Altmann defended the government last month, saying letters sent to women informing them of changes to their state pension age were clear.

Adverts about the changes were also placed in papers and magazines, she said.

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