UK Politics

Youngest MP Mhairi Black urges help for women pensioners

Mhairi Black Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mhairi Black says she's always likes to shine a light on inequality

State pension age increases that discriminate against women born on or after 6 April 1951 have been labelled "unjust" by Westminster's youngest MP.

The SNP's Mhairi Black said extra help should be directed towards women "shafted and short-changed" by state pension increases - and her stance was overwhelmingly backed by MPs.

Ministers had "made a mistake" by rushing the measure through, she said.

"It's leaving a lot of women out of pocket," she told BBC's Woman's Hour.

Plans to increase the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020 were initially set out in 1995.

'Undue hardship'

But the coalition government decided to speed up the process in 2011, resulting in the state pension age for women increasing to 65 in November 2018 and then to 66 by October 2020.

The SNP and Labour warned the 2011 decision to accelerate the rate at which state pension age is to be equalised with men "directly discriminates" against women born on or after 6 April 1951.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mhairi Black wants an independent pensions commissioner to look into the controversy

They claim these women have been forced to rethink their retirement plans on relatively short notice, causing "undue hardship".

In a backbench debate led by Ms Black, MPs overwhelmingly backed calls for the government to introduce further transitional arrangements for those women negatively affected by the changes, by 158 votes to 0.

While the motion is non-binding, which means the government is not compelled to do anything, Ms Black - who also called for an independent pensions commission to look into the problem - said the scale of support for the measure showed the strength of feeling among MPs.

"It's about highlighting to the government that they've made a mistake here and they've got to do something about it," she told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour shortly after the vote.

"And it's about putting pressure on them to make sure that those women don't lose out on something they've paid into all their lives."

Blame game?

Pressed on whether the introduction of transitional arrangements to address the problem would mean young people footing the bill, Ms Black commented: "Everything government does costs billions of pounds.

"If we can find the money to throw billions at nuclear weapons; if we can find the money to send air strikes to Syria, then why can't we find the money that pensioners are quite rightly entitled?"

Ms Black said many pensioners were continuing to work beyond their capability or health, which in turn meant fewer jobs for young people.

But during the Commons debate, Work and Pensions Minister Shailesh Vara argued that the new state pension would benefit many women who lost out under the current two-tier system.

"All those affected by the 2011 changes will reach pension age after the introduction of the new state pension," he said.

"Around 650,000 reaching state pension age in the first 10 years will receive an average of £8 a week more under the new state pension than they would have under the previous system."

The minister said it was "regrettable that MPs had sought "to put the blame post-2010 onwards."

He claimed 10 pensions ministers during the Labour administration of 1997-2010 had "totally failed to do anything."

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