David Hencke reports from the extraordinary second and final day of a judicial review over the Government’s decision to remove the pension rights of the #BackTo60 women born in the 1950s.
The 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who lost billions of pounds by the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66 had no right to expect to be told about the changes, lawyers for the Department for Work and Pensions told a judicial review today.
Sir James Eadie QC, on behalf of Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, argued that the women had no legal remedy to get their money back because the judges hearing the case could not challenge the primary legislation which authorised the change.
Sir James Eadie QC criticised the decision of 63-year-old Hon. Ms Justice Lang for granting the judicial review.
He said constitutional grounds prevented the judges challenging any major primary legislation passed by Parliament.
Sir James also argued that the women’s cases were not covered under European law because – classed by the EU as a welfare benefit – pensions were exempted from discrimination cases and the EU has not yet developed a policy on age discrimination.
He criticised the decision of 63-year-old Hon. Ms Justice Lang for granting the judicial review to ‘Back to 60’ – the group campaigning for full compensation for the women – claiming that, as the original change was initiated by legislation in 1995, there had been “undue delay” in bringing the action.
All of these points were challenged by the three barristers representing ‘Back to 60’ – Michael Mansfield QC, Catherine Rayner and Adam Straw.
Mr Mansfield argued that the changes to the women’s pensions meant a “subclass – of women, not men, has been created by this discriminatory legislation”.
He said that many had lost up to £47,000 each by the raising of the pension age. One woman attending the hearing, which was packed with supporters, told Byline Times that she had lost £60,000.
The QC also said that the fact the Department for Work and Pensions had no duty to inform individuals about the changes amounted to a “19th Century” view of legislation. He emphasised that it was the Government – not Parliament – which should have provided “an individual, tailored response” to each of the 3.8 million women who suffered as a result of the change.
Sir James conceded that the Government did indeed have the power, if not the duty, to inform the women, but argued that it had done everything it could.
Both Adam Straw and Catherine Rayner cited human rights cases to show that the change could be subject to European law.
Mr Mansfield also repudiated the idea that there had been “undue delay” over the judicial review, pointing out that the individuals involved – not a big corporation – had to exhaust every means possible before going to court because of the expense.
He also pointed out that there was “a continuing situation” of discrimination because of the effect of the legislation which had taken between 15 and 25 years to implement.
One of the claimants had been reduced to what she described as a “degrading and humiliating life” visiting food banks and subsisting on “tinned food and biscuits”. She was eventually forced to sell her house
The day ended with Mr Mansfield reading out a poignant letter by one of the claimants – known as PS – who, after a lifetime of working and never claiming benefits, has now been reduced to what she describes as a “degrading and humiliating life” visiting food banks and subsisting on “tinned food and biscuits”. She was eventually forced to sell her house.
The three judges said that they would reserve judgement on what Lord Justice Irwin described as a “difficult and interesting” judicial review.