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Government urged to respond quickly to Waspi state pension report

The Government has been urged to provide details of a compensation scheme for women affected by how state pension changes were communicated.

Last week, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) took the “rare but necessary” decision to ask Parliament to intervene over complaints that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had failed to provide accurate, adequate and timely information about state pension reform.

MPs from all sides of the Commons urged Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride to provide details of a compensation scheme for Waspi women as quickly as possible.

International Women’s Day
Campaigners for the Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign (Waspis) (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Conservative MP Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), a member of the Work and Pensions Committee, told the Commons: “I think this issue has gone on long enough and we need now to choose a compensation scheme and get this issue finished.”

He asked if the Government will have “made its mind up” before an autumn fiscal event, with Mr Stride saying in his reply: “As to whether there is an autumn statement at all and the date thereof is not within my remit, and indeed I wouldn’t be absolutely certain that any particular date or autumn statement is pencilled in or otherwise.”

Conservative former minister John Penrose said “speed is vital” in the Government’s response.

He told MPs: “The Secretary of State has rightly pointed out that the actions in question between 2005-2007 didn’t happen on his watch, didn’t happen on any Conservative government’s watch, but if he delays he will stop being part of the solution and start being part of the problem himself, and he will need all the understanding and the goodwill on both sides of this House that he can possibly muster.”

Labour MP Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) said the treatment of Waspi women has led to “great hardship”.

She said: “One woman in my constituency struggled to feed herself and had to sell her home as a result. The impact has been devastating.

“It’s estimated that some 270,000 Waspi women have died since the start of the campaign in 2015 and that another dies every 13 minutes.”

SNP MP Hannah Bardell (Livingston) said: “It actually isn’t that difficult, the Waspi women have been screwed over by the state and they’ve been made to wait for years.”

She added: “It’s not good enough to stand in solidarity and then not take action.”

Conservative MP Siobhan Baillie (Stroud), a member of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “At the heart of this is women saying they were left unable to plan or that their plans for the future were scuppered.

“So it is right that there’s a focus on laying out a timetable as soon as possible and we know that the issue of compensation is key to many of these women.”

Conservative MP Peter Aldous, who co-chairs the State Pension Inequality for Women All-Party Parliamentary Group, said: “A failure by Government to comply with (the ombudsman’s) recommendations would be almost completely unprecedented over the past 70 years and would in effect drive a coach and horses through an integral part of our system of democratic checks and balances.”

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Anyone watching this today and this lengthy, convoluted statement from the minister will be left confused as to actually what is going to happen now.

“Could he tell us in words of one syllable when those women who are victims of this maladministration will be able to receive the compensation they justly deserve?”

Labour MP Richard Burgon (Leeds East) said: “This injustice can’t carry on any longer. I know that the Secretary of State has sought to avoid answering the question ‘when is this going to happen?’

“In due course isn’t good enough, without due delay isn’t good enough, when’s it going to happen?”

Child maintenance payments
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said ‘we continue to take the work of the ombudsman very seriously’ (Danny Lawson/PA)

Following the repeated questions from multiple MPs on when the Government’s response would be published, Mr Stride said he had “probably answered or responded two dozen times”.

He said: “The answer remains the same, that we will look at these matters extremely carefully which is what everybody who has an interest in these matters would expect us to do, to do it diligently and carefully.”

In a statement in the Commons on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report, Mr Stride said: “We continue to take the work of the ombudsman very seriously and it is only right that we now fully and properly consider the findings and the details of what is a substantial document.

“The ombudsman has noted in his report the challenges and the complexities of this issue.

“In laying the report before Parliament, the ombudsman has brought matters to the attention of the House and we will provide a further update to the House once we have considered the report’s findings.”