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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 three 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 66 to 68 in stages over the period 2024 to 2046.
  • The timetable set in these Acts has changed. The Pensions Act 2011 brought forward the increase in women’s SPA to 65 to November 2018, at which point the equalised SPA will start to rise to 66, which it will reach in October 2020. The Pensions Act 2014  (s26) brought forward the increase to 67 to between 2026 and 2028.

To ensure further revisions in life expectancy were taken into account in a timely and transparent way, the Coalition Government for periodic reviews of the SPA, based around the principle that people should maintain a specific proportion of adult life receiving the state pension. The reviews would be informed by a report from an independently-led body on wider factors such as variations in life expectancy and would seek to provide a minimum of ten years’ notice to people affected. The first such review must be published by 7 May 2017 (Cm 8528, Chapter 6; Pensions Act 2014  s27 ).

On 1 March 2016, the Government announced John Cridland as the independent lead for the first review of the SPA (HCWS 563, 1 March 2016, c39WS).

Following an interim report in October 2016, John Cridland published a final report in March 2017, recommending that:

  • 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  • If additional savings are needed, the triple lock should be withdrawn in the next Parliament.

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

  • the main means-tested benefit for pensioners is 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;
  • the 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 the same time, the Government Actuary’s Department published a report looking at two alternative scenarios – reflecting receipt of the State Pension for either 32% or 33.3% of projected adult life in retirement.

On 24 March, the Government said it would consider both reports before presenting its review of the SPA to Parliament by 7 May 2017 (HCWS552, 24 March 2017; Pensions Act 2014  s27 (1)).  However on 28 April, a DWP spokesperson said this would take place after the General Election on 8 June (UK ministers delay response on state pension age, Financial Times, 28 April 2017 (£)).

The main political parties took different approaches to the issue in their manifestos for the 2017 election. The Conservative party said it would “ensure that the state pension age reflects increases in life expectancy, while protecting each generation fairly”. (Conservative Party 2017 election manifesto). The Labour Party said it would commission a new review:

The pension age is due to rise to 66 by the end of 2020. Labour rejects the Conservatives’ proposal to increase the state pension age even further. We will commission a new review of the pension age, specifically tasked with developing a flexible retirement policy to reflect both the contributions made by people, the wide variations in life expectancy, and the arduous conditions of some work. (Labour Party 2017 election manifesto)

The SNP proposed an independent commission, the remit for which would include: “consideration of the specific demographic needs of different parts of the UK in relation to State Pension age.” (SNP 2017 election manifesto).

In his first speech as Work and Pensions Secretary on 4 July 2017, David Gauke welcomed John Cridland’s report as representing “exactly the sort of longer-term approach I want to cultivate within my department, and across wider government” (Speech, ABI long-term savings conference, 4 July 2017).

On 19 July, Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke announced that 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.” It would carry out a further review before legislating to bring forward the increase to 68 “to enable consideration of the latest life expectancy projections and to allow us to evaluate the effects of rises in state pension age already under way.” (HC Deb 19 July 2017 c865-6; DWP, State Pension age review, July 2017, p10).

The background is discussed in more detail in Library Standard Note SN 2234 State Pension age – background (May 2012). The debate around the increases in the State Pension age for women born in the 1950s is discussed in SN-07405 (February 2017) and the triple lock in CBP 7812 (February 2017).

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