Briefing on the legislation increasing the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s, and the campaigns against it

The Pensions Act 1995 provided for the State Pension age (SPA) for women to increase from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to 2020. The Coalition Government legislated in the Pensions Act 2011 to accelerate the latter part of this timetable, starting in April 2016 when women’s SPA was 63 so that it reached 65 in November 2018, at which point it started to rise to 66 by October 2020. The Government’s initial intention was that the equalised SPA would then rise to 66 by April 2020 (Cm 7956, Nov 2010, Foreword). However, because of concerns expressed at the short notice of significant increases for some women (as much as two years compared to the timetable in existing legislation) it made a concession when the legislation was in its final stages. This limited the maximum increase under the Act at 18 months, at a cost to the Exchequer of £1.1 bn – see Library Briefing Paper, SN 06082 Pensions Bill 2011 – final stages (Nov 2011).

These changes have given rise to a long-standing campaign, with some women born in the 1950s arguing they have been hit particularly hard, with significant changes to their SPA imposed with a lack of appropriate notification.

The issue has been debated in Parliament on a number of occasions. These changes have been debated many times in Parliament. The Government’s consistent response has been that the issues were debated when the 2011 Act was before Parliament, a concession made at that time, and that it will “make no further changes to the pension age or pay financial redress in lieu of a pension.” (PQ 49721 27 October 2016). It also says that any further change would create new inequality between men and women and cause “younger people to bear a greater share of the cost of the pensions system”, which “would be unfair and undermine the principle of inter-generational fairness that is integral to our state pension reforms.” (HC Deb 8 February 2018 c1693).

On 3 October 2019, the High Court gave judgment on a claim for judicial review brought by the backto60 campaign. The claimants’ grounds were that the mechanisms chosen to implement the increases in the pension age discriminated on grounds of age and/or sex. They also sought judicial review of the government’s “alleged failure to inform them of the changes.” However, the court dismissed the claim on all grounds (Delve and Glynn v SSWP – media summary). The Court of Appeal is to hear the appeal against this judgment on 21 July 2020 (Pensions Age, 24 Feb 2020). In response to questions on 9 March 2020, Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman said “full restitution would cost something in the region of £215 billion […] a case was before the courts last year: on all grounds, these ladies lost their case. Clearly, that matter is subject to appeal, but the case was lost in respect of every ground, including notice.”

Responding to the judgment, WASPI said it would “continue to campaign both to seek genuine cross-party support in Westminster, and to seek justice via the complaints of maladministration process.” This relates to the fact that, before the judicial review, WASPI had been encouraging women who felt they had not been adequately informed to make complaints of maladministration, first to DWP’s Independent Case Examiner (ICE) and then to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). Following the decision of the High Court to grant permission for a judicial review to go ahead, the ICE took action to “close all live State Pension age complaints, in line with its agreed operational parameters” (PQ 214627 4 February 2019).  The PHSO put its proposal to investigate a sample of complaints on hold pending the outcome of the judicial review. However, in January 2020, it announced that it would investigate six sample complaints. It will “look at whether there was maladministration in DWP’s communication of changes to women’s State Pension age.”

The All Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality has said it would continue to press for justice and has called on the Government to consider costing three proposed solutions.

More information can be found in the following Library Briefing Papers: CBP-07286 Women and Pensions (July 2018); SN-06546 State Pension age review (August 2017); RP 11/52 Pensions Bill (June 2011); RP 11/68 Pensions Bill: Committee Stage Report (October 2011) SN 6082 Pensions Bill 2011 – final stages (November 2011); RP 95/47 Pensions Bill (HL) 1994/95: social security aspects (April 1994)

The supporting documents below show:

i) the number of women affected by the 1995, 2007 and 2011 Acts by country, region and Parliamentary constituency;

ii) how the State Pension age has changed for women with different dates of birth; and

iii) the number of women aged 60 and over claiming key out-of-work benefits for working-age claimants, from 2013 to 2018, by country, region and Parliamentary constituency.

  • Commons Research Briefing CBP-7405
  • Authors: Djuna Thurley, Roderick McInnes
  • Topics: Pensions