I want to pay tribute to the WASPI campaigning group, a group of non-political women who have come together to demonstrate and raise awareness of the serious issues involved. They had to resort to freedom-of-information requests to hold Government Departments to account, and these demonstrated the lack of communication about the Pensions Act 1995. What that group said, what we have heard today and what we hear from our constituents is how the combination of the 1995 and 2011 Pensions Acts is shattering people’s lives.
Some women have spent their whole lives planning to retire at 60 and they now find that they might have to work an extra five or six years. Nobody here can imagine the impact and the stress that this could wreak on family life. Some women have already retired on the basis that they would have enough income to get by until they reached what they thought was going to be the state pension age of 60. These include women who have been out of the workplace for up to five years and now find themselves in the position of having to find employment again. This is difficult enough when they have been out of the workplace, but it is further compounded by the austerity measures in the public sector. Some of these women had financial advisers and took early retirement, but their advisers did not tell them about the impact of the 1995 Act.
One of my constituents was made redundant from the civil service, which allowed her to care for her husband, who has now sadly passed away. Now she has discovered that she needs to get back in the workplace for a further five years. How is she going to do that at the age of 60, bearing in mind that only 34% of women in the 60 to 64 age range are economically active? Another constituent has been lucky enough to get back into work, but she feels that having to pay national insurance again while she is working these extra years rubs salt in the wounds. Another constituent, Jan Buchanan, simply says she has been robbed of over £30,000.
Another aspect of the excellent information gathered by the WASPI group is its submission and recommendations on how the Government should communicate with people in future about their pensions and how to make financial information and its impact clearer. I recommend that the Government take that on board.
We have heard that the previous Pensions Minister now admits that acceleration in 2011 was a mistake, but he has taken the easy option of blaming the civil service and the Tories. I do not think that is acceptable either. Two months ago, the Chancellor found £27 billion pounds and as we have already heard, money could be found for bombing Syria and £5 billion has already been wasted on the development of the future Trident programme.
This Government continue to tell us that they take pride in being able to take tough decisions. We will give them an open goal and an easy decision—they should change their minds on the transitional arrangements and help these people whose lives have potentially been ruined.