Allowing women early access to the state pension is “fiscally impossible” and MPs pressing for the change are “irresponsible”, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has said.
Answering MPs’ questions in a work and pensions select committee hearing on 11 May, Stephen Crabb said the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign had offered no “fiscally neutral” solution to the issue, saying any potential answer would cost HM Treasury “billions of pounds”.
Mr Crabb argued that the legislation being contested by the Waspi campaign dated as far back as 1995, adding: “I am not looking to reopen decisions that were taken in Parliament. There was a lot of vigorous debate on the decisions that were taken.”
He said: “ It is just fiscally impossible (to wind back the legislation), and it’s irresponsible for anyone in this House of Commons to try to pretend and lead these women on into thinking that somehow there’s an easy decision to be made.”
He added that allowing women early access to the state pension would create a “fiscal burden” that would have to be shouldered by the young. Pensions minister Baroness Altmann said in January that she was “astonished” to hear what Waspi which she was once involved with was demanding, adding she never supported undoing the 1995 Pensions Act.
State pension age equalisation measures for men and women began to take effect in 2010, but recently Chancellor George Osborne announced a much quicker schedule than originally planned, meaning the increase to age 65 will happen between 2016 and 2018, and then both sexes’ pension age will increase to 66 by 2020 rather than by 2026.
Anna Sofat, founder of women’s financial services boutique Addidi Wealth, said while it was “absolutely fair” that women’s pension age was equalised to men’s, the Government’s sudden decision to bring the changes forward was “patently unfair and unjust”.
She rejected Mr Crabb’s claims that the change was fiscally impossible, stating: “They can do it, they can afford it, they just don’t give it enough priority. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. But there’s no will.
But she added she was pessimistic about a positive outcome for the Waspi campaign. “The only was is if lots of people get behind it,” she said.
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