Pledge to campaigners
Labour to compensate women in pensions battle
Jeremy Corbyn met women campaigners from Falkirk (pic: Terry Murden)
Labour is promising to compensate 3.7 million women who claim they were denied their pension rights and left thousands of pounds out of pocket.
The party has responded to campaigns by women’s groups against legislation delaying the age when they are entitled to the state pension.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The next Labour government will compensate women who were unfairly hit by the rise in the state pension age and give them the respect they deserve.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that a “debt of honour” was owed to these women who say they were given insufficient notice of the change.
The coalition and Conservative governments introduced legislation over a number of years which delayed the women’s state pension age. Pension age equality was determined by the 1995 Pensions Act but was accelerated under a 2011 Act so that the retirement age for women rose from 60 to 65 last November. It will go up to 66 by 2020, and to 67 by 2028.
A long-running campaign reached the courts last month but judges ruled there had been no discrimination and the claim over unfair treatment was rejected.
In Friday night’s televised leaders’ grilling, Tory leader Boris Johnson said he could not commit to helping the women. “It is very expensive to come up with the solution that you want. I cannot promise that I can magic up that money for you tonight.”
However, Mr McDonnell said Labour would introduce a universal scheme costing £58 billion that would see the women affected given a maximum payment of £31,300, with an average payment of £15,380 .
He said that Labour recognised a “historic injustice” and that many of the women felt the government had breached a contract with them after they had paid their dues through a working lifetime of national insurance payments.
“We’ve prepared a scheme to compensate these women for a historical wrong.
We have a historical debt of honour to them– John McDonnell
“It’s one that they were not been able to prepare for and for which they’ve had to suffer serious financial consequences.
“Some of them have been hit by a combination of poverty and stress, having lost out on what they had contributed towards.
“We have a historical debt of honour to them and when we go into government we are going to fulfil that debt.
“We will introduce it as rapidly as we practically can and we will try to ensure the payments are made promptly.
“It’s a five year scheme and they will get their redress over that five year period.
“This is a basic principle of justice that we have to adhere to as a government and we are hoping that people will appreciate the sense of injustice and anger that these women feel about the changes that were imposed upon them.”
The move is the latest spending commitment by Labour which is still behind in the polls. A new Opinium poll for The Observer shows the Conservative Party has a 47% share of the vote, Labour is on 28% and the Lib Dems on 12%.
A poll by BMG Research for The Independent shows the Tories have put on four points to hit 41%, 13 points ahead of Labour, down one on 28%. It puts the LibDems on 18% (up two), with the Greens on 5% (unchanged) and the Brexit Party on 3% (down six).
BMG cautioned that the apparent swing is likely to be influenced by the Brexit Party not standing in some seats and consist of Conservatives piling on more votes in seats which they may well have won anyway, while the key Labour-held marginals which Mr Johnson must win to secure a majority in the Commons are unaffected.
In Scotland a Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times shows that 40% of Scots plan to vote SNP, with the Tories on 28% and Labour on 20%.
Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn was forced to defend his decision to take a neutral position in a second referendum on Brexit.
LibDem leader Jo Swinson said it showed “a total absence of leadership. Remainers in this country need a leader, not a bystander.”