Pensions backlash

Waspi anger as Reeves says no to compensation

Waspi in Linlithgow
Campaigners say Labour are showing ‘wilful disregard’ of a ruling (pic: Terry Murden)

Women’s state pensions campaigners have reacted angrily to Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ dismissal of their claim for compensation.

The Women Against State Pensions Inequality (Waspi) group has written to Ms Reeves demanding an explanation after she told Daily Business she had not made any provision for payments.

Their claim that successive governments failed to inform them of changes to the state pension age was upheld by the independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman who said compensation must be paid.

During a visit to Edinburgh Ms Reeves said she recognised the “injustice” but said: “There are lots of things that a Labour government might like to do, but the state of the public finances and the dire need in our public services means that we won’t be able to do everything that we might like to do.

“Our manifesto will be published shortly, but I’ve said we won’t put forward anything that is not fully costed and fully-funded and I have not set out any money for this.”

Labour has previously refused to commit to compensation but Ms Reeves statement makes it clear that there is no plan and no budget to pay a bill estimated to cost the Treasury between £3.5 billion and £10bn.

Some 3.6m women were hit hard when the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) changed the rules.  Many received just 18 months’ notice of a six-year delay to their state pension.

In their letter to Ms Reeves, campaigners say that ‘wilful disregard’ of the ombudsman’s report in March this year – which said compensation must be paid – would turn a new Labour administration into a “pale imitation of Boris Johnson”.

Waspi organisers say Ms Reeves appeared to contradict Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who had previously said a Labour government would respond to the ombudsman “at pace and reach a judgement”, leaving the door open to compensation.

Rachel Reeves with Anas Sarwar in Edinburgh (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

The letter says: “Now, with Labour a stone’s throw from power…hundreds of thousands of Waspi women already feel badly let down, as it appears Labour is preparing to turn its backs on us at the eleventh hour.” 

Waspi is urging its social media following of hundreds of thousands of affected women to write to Labour candidates in their constituencies, asking for a firm pledge that they will support compensation in the first 100 days of the new parliament if elected as MPs.

In recent polling, some 68% of the public say that successive governments got things wrong and fair and fast compensation should now be paid to those affected.  The Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish National Party have all made pledges to ensure Waspi women are compensated.

Waspi chair Angela Madden said: “This has gone on long enough.  While politicians dither and delay, the women affected are dying at a rate of one every thirteen minutes.

“There is no point in having an Ombudsman if governments – blue and red alike – are just going to ignore its recommendations.  Waspi women have waited six long years for the outcome of his investigation and it vindicated us, demanding that compensation be paid.

“And Rachel Reeves surely can’t be saying a Labour government would just show wilful disregard for his conclusions.  We are the sixth largest economy in the world and an independent watchdog has recommended compensation be paid, so money will have to be found. 

“Imagine the outcry if anyone had said that victims of the Post Office and infected blood scandals would just have to lump it because the Treasury is short of cash. Waspi women have worked hard, looked after families and paid into the system all their lives. We deserve better from both the big parties.”

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