Pension row: petition goes to Parliament
The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign has been gaining remarkable amounts of attention after the success of local group demonstrations and events held right across the country on 16 September this year, with articles on radio, TV and in the newspapers in all regions.
The WASPI campaign is working to lobby the Government to introduce transitional arrangements for the women affected, many of whom took early retirement – often due to ill health, or because of increased caring responsibilities – in anticipation of reaching State Pension age at 60, and have been left without any income, in some cases until the age of 66.
Perhaps not surprisingly in the face of the now clearly widespread support, Richard Harrington, the pensions minister, felt he needed to make a statement to the effect that the government was not diverting from its usual line of “no plans to revisit the arrangements”.
Sadly for him, it is clear from the response on social media that this statement has only served to stiffen the resolve and determination of WASPI women to continue their fight for a fair resolution to the pensions debacle.
At a Derbyshire County Council meeting, for example, WASPI supporter Tricia Clough gave a short speech and got a standing ovation, and the Council passed the following motion:
“The Council calls upon the Government to make fair transitional state pension arrangements for all women born on or after 6th April 1951, who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age (SPA) with lack of appropriate notification.”
Subsequently councils nationwide are showing their support for WASPI by passing motions calling for transitional arrangements, and so far over 30 local and county councils have passed resolutions in support of WASPI, often with Conservative councillors voting in favour too.
The government must now begin to see how isolated it is becoming with its “no plans to revisit the arrangements” on this issue.
Many Conservative MPs have joined the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the WASPI campaign, and WASPI local groups continue to work hard to persuade other Conservative MPs to support the campaign.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) recently launched research they had commissioned regarding the costs of making fair pension arrangements for 1950s women.
This was aimed only at putting right the failings of the 2011 Pensions Act, and thus fell short of the aim of the WASPI campaign, which is for a fair outcome for all women affected by both the 1995 and 2011 Acts.
However, it was a useful first step in showing the government that, despite their statements to the contrary, money is available in the National Insurance Fund for 1950s women’s pensions and that government ministers have been mistaken in their calculations as to how much various solutions could cost.
This will put additional pressure on non-supporting MPs and the government.
And more recently, a paper petition collated by WASPI groups around the country was presented to Parliament on the evening of the 11 October 2016.
This was a historic day for WASPI, as it brought the campaign to the heart of Government – especially with the inestimable cross-party support which the Campaign has garnered.
And it really was quite an emotional event, WASPI News recounts, ‘listening to the amazing Members of Parliament, each presenting their own – and in some cases neighbouring – constituency Petitions’.
You can watch this here – starting around 18:46.
WASPI women up and down the country have also been given the great of honour by being asked to speak at or present a workshop at numerous conferences.
There was a WASPI presence at both Labour Conference on 27 September and the Conservative Conference on 4 October, and Lorna Binnie will be at the SNP Conference Fringe meeting on 14 October.
Patricia Clough is at the TUC Midlands Equalities Conference and the Labour Regional Conference on 29 October and Heather Cook at Unison Women’s Conference in Cambridge on 1 November.
If you have any doubts whatsoever about what the campaign is about, click here to read stories about women who have paid their pension contributions as requested, only to find they are, in their late fifties, supposed to replan their lives – or face poverty.
Commenting after the petition was presented in the House of Commons, Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, who joined almost ninety of her Parliamentary colleagues to formally present the paper petition, said: ‘The Government is very sadly mistaken if they think the WASPI women are going to give up, or go away.
‘They are not going anywhere – and yesterday’s presentation by so many MPs, from all parties, was yet another powerful reminder that neither are we.
‘The Prime Minister has talked about tackling burning injustice. Well, she has an opportunity to do so by providing this group of women the fair transitional arrangements they were promised in 2011.
‘The WASPI campaign and APPG won’t stop fighting until she does.’