Waspi women compensation scheme called for vote after 'gross injustice'

A group of women protest against WASPI state pension injustice
MPs have called for a vote in parliament on whether compensation should be given to women born in the 1950s affected by changes to the state pension age (andrew milligan/pa) -Credit:PA Wire/PA Images

MPs have urged for a parliamentary vote on whether to compensate 1950s-born women affected by the state pension age alterations.

In a backbench discussion about the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) findings on the Women's State Pension age, it was highlighted that Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaigners had endured a "gross injustice" and called for the swift creation of a compensation scheme.

The PHSO has requested Parliament to determine methods for providing redress to those wronged due to mismanagement by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

READ MORE: DWP WASPI state pension compensation 'too low', MPs told

According to the ombudsman's report, a compensation level four, which is between £1,000 and £2,950, might be suitable for each woman impacted.

The report noted that compensating all 1950s-born women at this level could cost the public purse between approximately £3.5 billion and £10.5 billion, acknowledging that "though we understand not all of them will have suffered injustice".

SNP spokesperson Patricia Gibson, opening the debate, remarked: "Although I'm disappointed there will be no vote on this matter today, there is nothing, nothing at all to prevent the Government from bringing such a vote forward in Government time."

She added, "Indeed, the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman has invited the House to express a view through laying its report before Parliament".

Ms Gibson stated that the ombudsman's report makes it "very clear" that women were not informed appropriately and the DWP was "negligent".

Intervening, SNP MP Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) described it as "ludicrous" to suggest the women "should have found out about a change to their pension arrangement by happening to read advertisements in the correct newspaper, on the correct day".

Ms Gibson said: "Many women impacted found out at the very last possible moment that their retirement age had been raised."

The member for North Ayrshire and Arran went on to say the Waspi women had suffered a "gross injustice", and accused the Government of being "tone deaf" to their pleas for justice.

She said: "The issue before us today goes to the heart of our sense of justice and fairness, and the social contract the Government of the day has with its citizens.

"A whole generation of women had their pension age raised without the notice that they are entitled to expect.

"Robbing them not just of tens of thousands of pounds in pension payments, but robbing them of their retirement plans, robbing them of financial peace of mind, robbing them of the contract they believe that they had with the society in which they worked hard, paid their dues, fulfilled their responsibilities, and in which they thought they could enjoy some sort of retirement in later life.

"After all, they had earned it, had they not? ".

Stephen Timms, the Labour ex-minister who chairs the Work and Pensions Select Committee, claimed: "I do think that citizens have a responsibility to keep themselves informed, listening to the radio, reading the papers, about changes to the law that affect them, but what the ombudsman has established and has made clear in the report is that the department found out, at around, I have to say, the second time that I was pensions minister, apparently, that only 40% of women knew about the forthcoming pension age change.

“Now, 40% is a lot of people, but 60% is an even larger number who did not know.”

Labour's former minister Sir George Howarth stated that a compensation scheme cannot wait until after a Government change.

His words echoed: "My fear is we will not deal with it urgently, and let me be clear, I do not believe that allowing the clock to run down until the forthcoming general election is an acceptable option."

He went on to say: "As has been mentioned by others, every generation experiences injustices. In my time in this House they've included thalidomide victims, Hillsborough, Primodos, contaminated blood and most recently the Horizon scandal.

"For me they are all debts of honour which we have a duty to redeem. I suspect that a majority of members of this House would agree with me, so please, let us have the opportunity to do so."

Conservative MP for Waveney Peter Aldous Waveney pointed out that a "constitutional gap" would emerge if the recommendation of the ombudsman were ignored. He said: "The PHSO points out that it is extremely rare for an organisation that they investigate not to accept and act on their recommendations.

"They make the observation that a failure to comply with the ombudsman's recommendations represents a constitutional gap in protecting citizens rights who have been failed by a public body and ensuring access to justice.

"Finite resources are not an excuse for failing to provide a fair remedy. If Parliament chooses to do nothing, that will undermine the ombudsman. The DWP should respect what Parliament recommends."

Stockton South Conservative MP Matt Vickers (Stockton South)said: "I urge the Government to consider the report as quickly as possible and ensure that Waspi women get the fair and fast compensation that they deserve."