Maintaining SPA at 66 is ‘simply unaffordable and cannot be justified’ – Opperman

Written by Talya Misiri
09/02/2018

The opposition party’s suggestion to keep the state pension age at 66 is “simply unaffordable and cannot be justified,” Undersecretary of State for Pensions and Financial Inclusion Guy Opperman has said.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, 8 February 2018, Opperman critiqued the opposition’s proposal to maintain the state pension age at 66 and to award a full compensation package for those affected by historic changes to the state pension age.

These amendments would cost “over £250bn more than the government’s preferred timetable of 2045-46,” Opperman said and added that “payments on this scale are simply unaffordable and cannot be justified”.

“The key choice the government faces when seeking to control state pension spend is to increase the state pension age or pay lower pensions, with an inevitable impact on pensioner poverty. The only alternative is to ask the working generation to pay an even larger share of their income to support pensioners,” Opperman continued.

He added that: “Successive governments have made appropriate but difficult decisions to equalise and increase the state pension age…. To increase costs for the working population would be unfair and unaffordable.”

Addressing further proposals from the Commons debate, the Minister highlighted that the Scottish National Party’s desire to achieve a compensation package for those who underwent increases to their state pension age would cost the public and the government significantly more than the public had proposed.

“In relation to SNP seeking compensation package, of at the very least a reversal of the 2011 Act – SNP costed this at £8bn – but we suggest that this is a vast underestimate,” Opperman said.

“This would actually cost the taxpayer over £30bn and potentially even more. And there is no doubt that the Scottish act gives the Scottish government the powers it needs to address this issue.”

Moreover, representing the opposition, Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions Jack Dromey argued for the rights of women born in the 1950s. “The government has had multiple opportunities to act, so why is the Minister again refusing to use this opportunity for a motion to be passed by this House to do so to take further steps?

“It is unacceptable that we have to make the same argument and raise the same points again, because the government refuses to help these women who are suffering and losing out due to the acceleration of the state pension age and lack of proper notice. This issue is not going to go away Mr Speaker.

“This statement is sadly but not unsurprisingly another example of the government’s failure to give women born in the 1950s the dignity and respect they deserve. It is a missed opportunity to take real action.”

Dromey added that there are “several immediate actions” that could be taken by the government, “but they have refused”. As a result of this, the Labour MP questioned why women affected by the state pension age changes cannot be at least given a “cost neutral option” whereby they can draw their state pensions at the age of 64, two years earlier than currently planned.

This was not completely acknowledged by Opperman in his response, and instead it was highlighted that the necessary recommendations had been made by the independent Cridland Review last year.

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