Minister Guy Opperman faces anger in Waspi debate

Westminster Hall

MPs have lined up to criticise the government for failing to do more to help 2.6m women who have lost out because of changes to pension law.

In a packed and rowdy debate, MPs claimed women born in the 1950s were suffering “hardship” and “indignity”.

The SNP’s Mhairi Black said it was “laughable” the problem could not be fixed when the government had found £1bn to fund its deal with the DUP.

Minister Guy Opperman said he would look at cases of financial hardship.

But he faced shouts of “shame on you” when he said the government was “actually doing a significant amount” to address the individual difficulties of older workers trying to enter the labour market – including by offering them apprenticeships.

The debate centred on the plight of the so-called Waspi women – Women Against State Pension Inequality – whose aim is to achieve fair transitional arrangements for women born in the 1950s, for whom the state pension age is being raised from 60 to 66 by 2020.

Ms Black said she had been contacted by a woman who said her friend had committed suicide after the general election result “because she could not face what was going to happen to her”.

“Citizens committing suicide over an issue that could be solved like that – an issue the government could do a U-turn on at any given moment,” she said.

Image caption

SNP MP Mhairi Black said it would cost £8bn over five years to fix the anomaly

Ms Black said it was “an absolute disgrace” that a debate on the issue was having to be held again.

Turning to Mr Opperman, a pensions minister, she said it was “laughable” that the government “can find a billion pounds for a deal to cling on to power, but we cannot find the money to give women the pensions that they are due”.

“The only other two things they are guilty of is being born in the 50s and the fact they are women.”

Labour’s Caroline Harris said the government “has betrayed these women – they’ve stolen their security and they’ve shattered their dreams without time to prepare and make the necessary alternative arrangements”.

Mr Opperman, setting out the government’s work on “lifelong learning” said: “The reality is over 200,000 people over 60 have entered further education since 2014/15.

“We have also extended apprenticeship opportunities as one of the best routes to skilled employment for people of all ages and gender.

“Such apprenticeships in England, for example, in 2014/15… 12% of the starting apprenticeships were for those aged 45.”

Mr Opperman was heckled by MPs as he outlined the details.

Labour’s Graham Jones (Hyndburn), raising a point of order, said: “I’m struggling to hear the debate, did the minister just say that women aged 64 could go on an apprenticeship course?”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *