Women vow to continue fight over pension changes

A campaigner on the pension issue
A campaigner on the pension issue - (Copyright PA Archive)
13:07pm, Tue 15 Sep 2020
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Women affected by controversial changes to the state pension age have vowed to press on with their campaign after the Court of Appeal ruled the reforms were not discriminatory.

Nearly four million women born in the 1950s have been affected by reforms introduced by successive governments to ensure “pension age equalisation”, which have raised the state pension age for this group from 60 to 66.

Julie Delve, 62, and Karen Glynn, 63 – supported by campaign group BackTo60 – brought a Court of Appeal challenge over the changes after losing a landmark High Court fight against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last year.

The women argued that raising their pension age unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of age and sex, and that they were not given adequate notice of the changes.

But in a judgment published on Tuesday, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, Lord Justice Underhill and Lady Justice Rose unanimously dismissed the women’s claim.

They found that introducing the same state pension age for men and women did not amount to unlawful discrimination under EU or human rights laws.

As part of their ruling, the senior justices said that “despite the sympathy that we, like the members of the Divisional Court (High Court), feel for the appellants and other women in their position, we are satisfied that this is not a case where the court can interfere with the decisions taken through the Parliamentary process”.

This isn't over by any means.

They said that “in the light of the extensive evidence” put forward by the Government, they agreed with the High Court’s assessment that “it is impossible to say that the Government’s decision to strike the balance where it did between the need to put state pension provision on a sustainable footing and the recognition of the hardship that could result for those affected by the changes was manifestly without reasonable foundation (MWRF)”.

Following the ruling, Joanne Welch, founder of the BackTo60 campaign, said the group’s legal team is “actively looking” at taking the case to the Supreme Court.

She also told the PA news agency “this isn’t over by any means”.

Ms Welch, who described the decision as “unconscionable”, said there is “no doubt in our minds that it’s discrimination”.

She also said that separately, BackTo60 is involved in contributing to work under the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty.

A DWP spokesperson welcomed the ruling, saying: “Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have supported the actions of the DWP, under successive governments dating back to 1995, finding we acted entirely lawfully and did not discriminate on any grounds.

“The claimants argued that they were not given adequate notice of the changes to state pension age. We are pleased the court decided that due notice was given and the claimants’ arguments must fail.

“The Government decided 25 years ago that it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality.

“Raising state pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “For a generation of women, this is nothing short of a disaster.

“Raising the state pension age with next to no notice has had a calamitous effect on their retirement plans.”

At a remote hearing in July, the Court of Appeal was told Ms Delve expected to receive her state pension at age 60 in 2018, but as a result of the changes, she will not receive it until she is 66, in 2024.

Ms Glynn expected to receive her state pension at age 60 in 2016, but will not receive it until she is 66 in 2022.

At the High Court last October, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple dismissed the women’s claim, rejecting their argument that the policy was discriminatory based on age, adding that, even if it was, “it could be justified on the facts”.

The two judges also dismissed their contention that they were not given adequate notice of the changes.

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