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Increasing the State Pension Age in stages

From the 1940s until April 2010, the State Pension age (SPA) was 60 for women and 65 for men. Legislation to increase the SPA was introduced in stages:

  • The Pensions Act 1995 included provision to increase the SPA for women from 60 to 65 in stages between April 2010 and 2020, to bring it into line with that for men.
  • The Pensions Act 2007 made provision to increase the SPA from 65 to 68 in stages over the period 2024 to 2046.
  • The Pensions Act 2011 brought forward the increase in women’s SPA to 65 to November 2018, at which point the equalised SPA started to rise to 66, which it reached in October 2020.
  • Section 26 of the Pensions Act 2014 brought forward the increase to 67 to between 2026 and 2028.

Periodic reviews

The Pensions Act 2011 accelerated legislated increases to women’s State Pension ages, and brought forward the increase in the overall SPA from 65 to 66. These changes gave rise to a long-standing campaign, with some women born in the 1950s arguing significant changes to their SPA were imposed with a lack of appropriate notification.

To ensure further revisions in life expectancy were taken into account in a timely and transparent way, the Coalition Government legislated for periodic reviews of the SPA. The Government would conduct reviews, informed by a report from an independently-led body, and the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD).

The first periodic review (2016-17)

Though it is not mandated by legislation, in advance of the first periodic review, the Coalition Government committed to the “core principle” that people should spend, on average, “up to one third of their adult life drawing a State Pension”. They also committed to providing individuals with at least ten years notice for any changes affecting them.

The first independent report was produced by John Cridland, who was also asked to consider wider factors such as variations in life expectancy. The final report, published in March 2017, recommended:

  • The SPA should rise to age 68 over the two-year period 2037 to 2039.
  • The SPA should not increase more than one year in any ten-year period, assuming that there are no exceptional changes to the data.
  • If additional savings are needed, the triple lock should be withdrawn in the next Parliament.

The rationale for the proposed increase to 68 was:

  • It would keep roughly constant the proportion of adult life spent in retirement with the average over the last ten years (32.87%).
  • An earlier increase – for example, between 2028 and 2030 – would be too close to the increase to 67 (between 2026 and 2028). Alternatively leaving the increase to 68 as legislated for in 2007 (between 2044 and 2046) would result in the proportion of adult life in retirement rising to 33.5% which did “not seem prudent in terms of fiscal sustainability”.

To mitigate the impact of a higher SPA on disadvantaged groups, the review recommended:

  • That the main means-tested benefit for pensioners be set one year below SPA, from the point at which SPA increases to 68, for people who are unable to work through ill health or because of caring responsibilities.
  • Conditionality under Universal Credit should be adjusted for people approaching SPA. This should be included in the design of Universal Credit as it evolves currently. This should be in place, at the latest, by the point at which SPA rises to 68.

At same time the Cridland report was published in March 2017, the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) published a report looking at two alternative scenarios – reflecting receipt of the State Pension for either 32% or 33.3% of projected adult life.

Following the Cridland and GAD reports, the Government undertook its own concluding review. On 19 July 2017, then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, David Gauke, announced the Government would “accept the key recommendation of the Cridland review and increase the state pension age from 67 to 68 over two years from 2037.”

However, in its final report, the Government said that this was a “big decision with significant consequences” and it would therefore carry out a further review before bringing forward the rise in State Pension age to 68. This would enable consideration of the latest life expectancy projections and allow the Government to evaluate the effects of current rises in State Pension age.

The second periodic review (2021-23)

On 14 December 2021, the Government launched the second periodic review of the State Pension age, with a consultation document published in February 2022. As in 2017, an independent report, this time led by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, and a report from the Government Actuary’s Department will be published, followed by a final report setting out the Government’s proposals. The deadline for this is May 2023.

Compared to data used in the 2016-17 review, more recent projections have not been as optimistic about improving life expectancy. Some commentators have argued that if the Government maintains the principle that people should expect to spend a fixed portion of adult life in receipt of State Pension, planned rises in the SPA should be slowed.

However, unlike for the first independent review, the Government has not committed in advance to this principle or made fresh commitments to fixed notice periods for changes.

The terms of reference for the independent report instead asked Baroness Neville-Rolfe to consider “whether it remains right for there to be a fixed proportion of adult life people should, on average, expect to spend over State Pension age.” Similarly, the consultation document asks whether it is “reasonable to give people a fixed period of notice for State Pension age changes, and if so what period.”

The independent report was completed in September 2022 but has not yet been published.

Background on State Pension ages is discussed in more detail in Library briefing on the State Pension age – background. The Library also has relevant briefings on increases in the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s, and the State Pension triple lock.

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