Ministers 'want to use general election' to dodge WASPI compensation claim, Commons told

The SNP's David Linden said the DWP should take urgent action to sort out  compensation due to WASPI women
The SNP's David Linden said the DWP should take urgent action to sort out the compensation due to WASPI women -Credit:Parliament TV

Ministers are hoping to use the general election campaign to ignore the situation of the women affected by the way state pension changes were communicated, the SNP has claimed. A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) report ruled some women born in the 1950s were not adequately informed of the impact of the changes.

For more than 60 years, men received their state pension at 65, while the threshold was 60 for women, despite concerns the move was unfair due to the longer life expectancy of women. The ombudsman report ruled accurate and timely information had not been given to millions of women in the UK. The PHSO suggested a compensation level of between £1,000 and £2,950 for impacted women, and the DWP is currently considering its response.

The PHSO said it was not confident the DWP would ‘do the right thing’ on the issue and urged Parliament to intervene. SNP frontbencher David Linden told the Commons today: “The reality is that 270,000 Waspi women have now died and with every passing day, indeed even during our select committee hearing on Wednesday nine women would have died.

“Isn’t the issue here that the Government hopes that during the course of an election campaign this issue will get lost and that the two big parties can concoct a situation whereby they ignore this, more women will die, and more 1950s women will be denied the justice that they deserve?”

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride disagreed, telling MPs: “I simply don’t accept that that is a fair assessment of the very considerable time and effort that we are putting in to taking this matter extremely seriously.” But he faced Conservative pressure on the matter, with Dudley North MP Marco Longhi saying: “Could I encourage the Secretary of State to look into this matter, not just as carefully as he I know will do and is saying he will, but at great pace now, please?”

Labour MP Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) meanwhile said: “It is six weeks now since had the statement before the House. Again, repeating that call is: When? When can we expect this response to the ombudsman’s report?” Women affected by the way state pension hikes were communicated should receive fast and fair compensation, a committee of MPs previously heard.

At a hearing of the Work and Pensions Committee last week, the report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) issued in March was discussed. Jane Cowley, Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign director, told the Work and Pensions Committee: “In terms of things we’d like to see in a compensation scheme… we’d like it to be speedy because of the delays that have already gone on, we want… something that can be set up within weeks rather than years.”

She added: “It needs to be very simple, very clear, easy to operate.” Ms Cowley told the committee: “We can’t have a ‘one-size-fits-all’, it does have to take account of people’s different circumstances.”

Ms Cowley said: “I think women need to be given the benefit of the doubt. We’ve had many years of women’s word being doubted by the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) and I think we need to move on from that.”