The battle for 3.8 million women to be compensated due to a rise in the pension age continues, reports David Hencke, despite yesterday’s High Court ruling dismissing their case.
The campaigning group BackTo60 is looking to appeal a High Court judgment which has dismissed its calls for the 3.8 million women, born in the 1950s, who faced a six-year delay in getting their pensions to be compensated.
The group is also planning to launch a fresh parliamentary initiative to get its money back, following renewed backing from the country’s two largest unions, Unison and Unite, and a number of new prominent MPs signing a motion calling for full restitution for the women.
There are now 211 MPs – almost a third of the House of Commons – backing the women. They were joined after the judgment by the former Conservative and now independent MP Sir Nicholas Soames; MP Ed Miliband, former leader of the Labour party; and Sir Vince Cable, the former Liberal Democrat leader.
Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple comprehensively rejected BackTo60’s claims that the Government increasing the pension age from 60 to 66 amounted to sex and age discrimination for this particular group of women. They also rejected the group’s claim that it not been adequately consulted about the change, arguing that the 1995 Pensions Act had no provision for people to be told about the change.
The judges’ ruling was a victory for the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government’s top lawyer, Sir James Eadie.
“It has always been our view that the changes we made to women’s state pension age were entirely lawful and did not discriminate on any grounds,” the department said yesterday. “The court decided that arguments the claimants were not given adequate notice of changes to the state pension age could not be upheld. This follows the extensive communications that [the Department for Work and Pensions] made to publicise these changes over many years”.
However, Michael Mansfield QC, representing BackTo60, said: “They have pushed women who were already disadvantaged into the lowest class you can imagine. They’re on the brink of survival, and I’m not overstating that. This group – especially the percentage of the group affected born in 1953 onwards – are increasingly having taken away from them four to six years’ worth of state pension. We’re dealing with very serious sums: £37,000 to £47,000. I think any citizen would be concerned by that withdrawal.”
The judges did provide one lifeline for the women in their conclusion. They said: “We are saddened by the stories we read in the evidence lodged by the claimants. But our role as judges in this case is limited. There is no basis for concluding that the policy choices reflected in this legislation were not open to government. We are satisfied that they were. In any event they were approved by Parliament. The wider issues raised by the claimants, about whether these choices were right or wrong or good or bad, are not for us; they are for members of the public and their elected representatives.”
Jack Dromey, Shadow Minister for Pensions, suggested that the Labour Party would support the women if elected. “We will consult further with the 1950s women affected as to what future support we can put in place once in government to help ensure that all these women have security and dignity in older age,” he said.
Two union leaders, Dave Prentis of Unison and Len McCluskey of Unite, issued statements backing the women. Gloria Mills, Unison’s equalities national secretary, said: “The fight must go on and they must get full restitution through a parliamentary order.”
Joanne Welch, BackTo60 coordinator, said yesterday that she would launching a new crowdfunding appeal for the 1950s women to “ramp up our parliamentary initiatives and prepare for an appeal once lawyers had consulted the claimants”.