Pension minister sparks outrage as WASPI pension worries are debated

pensions debate

The pension worries of women born in the 1950s have been debated in the House of Commons’ Westminster Hall.

The debate comes after many protests and resistance from campaigners, led by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) group.

In 1995, pension ages were initially set out to rise for women between 2010 and 2020. However, the coalition government sped up the process and the age was scheduled to rise to 65 in November 2018 and 66 by October 2020.

WASPI campaigners now argue that over two million women, who were born in the 1950s, have had to unfairly rethink their retirement plans at short notice.

The debate did not unfold without controversy. Pensions minister, Guy Opperman caused outrage by suggesting that women affected by the pension reforms should enrol on apprenticeships.

Opperman said, “The reality is over 200,000 people over 60 have entered further education since 2014/15.”

“We have also extended apprenticeship opportunities as one of the best routes to skilled employment for people of all ages and gender.”

“Such apprenticeships in England, for example, in 2014/15….12 per cent of the starting apprenticeships were for those aged 45.”

Opperman was heckled with shouts of “shame on you” and “disgraceful” from campaigners who had attended the debate.

One MP, Labour’s Graham Jones also responded, “I’m struggling to hear the debate, did the minister just say that women aged 64 could go on an apprenticeship course.”

SNP MP Mhairi Black also joined in the debate, saying that it was “laughable” that the Government could not find the money for pensions, but could find £1 billion to fund its deal with the DUP.

Speaking in the debate, Black said, “I got an email today from a woman, a WASPI woman…and she was telling us that her friend committed suicide after the general election result because she could not face what was going to happen to her.”

“Citizens committing suicide over an issue that could be solved like that.”

“An issue that the Government could do a U-turn on at any given moment.”

“So when the Government manages to fork out a magical £1 billion to cling on to power, first of all you must really want the job of being the one that has to fix these things.”

“Second of all, you don’t get to claim that money is the reason you can’t help when you can find £1 billion for self-interest.”

She continued, “I have a bit of respect for them to be able to go ‘Aye, we got that wrong guys so we’re pulling back, we’re listening to you.”

“What I would say, for hopefully the last time, just drop one more plan.”

“Realise this cross-party, this is across different backgrounds, different areas, this is people’s mothers, this is your aunties, this is your sisters and cousins.”

“So please can we do the right thing, do the job of Government and fix the problem and start looking after your people.”

The debate comes just days after the Women’s Equality Party asked the government to close the pensions gender pay gap.

According to recent research conducted by Mercer, women can expect to receive 40 per cent less than men in their retirement. This difference means that the pensions pay gap is twice as large as the wage gap.

The 39.5 per cent pensions gap is largely caused by women living longer, undertaking more part-time work and career breaks to care for family.

The WEP have said that the gap is due to successive governments failing to invest in giving women equal opportunities to work and save.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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