View the article online at http://citywire.co.uk/money/article/a874587
Altmann tells women there's no magic pot of money
Women's state pension age will not be reduced because it is too expensive, pension minister Ros Altmann tells campaigners.
Pension minister Ros Altmann has declared there is no ‘magic pot of money’ to help women whose state pension age has increased and said she ‘has never’ supported a call for women’s retirement age to be returned to 60.
Altmann (pictured) told the Work and Pensions Committee that the government would press ahead with the planned state pension age rises for women despite the growing call for change by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign group.
The Waspi group of women has seen their state pension age rise from 60 to 65 as part of pension equalisation changes made in 1995 and again to 66 under changes to 2011 rules.
SNP MP Mhari Black asked whether the minister would make transitional arrangements for women who believed they would retire at 60 only to find out they would not receive their state pension until 66. The women are particularly aggrieved as they believe the government did not communicate these changes to them.
However, Altmann said there would be no changes to the age at which the women will retire and that in 2011 a transitional arrangement was already brought in that saw the maximum increase of the state pension age reduce from two years to 18 months.
‘I have been looking at whether we can do anything, we haven’t found a way,’ she said. ‘I feel for these women and I would love to say I have a magic pot of money. But this is taxpayers’ money, this is the decision for government to make. This is about equality and equalisation.’
Altmann added that it was ‘not sustainable’ for women to retire at 60 meaning they would spend 41% of their working life in retirement, compared to 32% for men.
She also argued that transitional arrangements had also been put in place back in 2011, when Altmann campaigned on behalf of Waspi to win a £1.1 billion concession.
‘This was all taken into account in 2011,’ said Altmann. ‘This legislation has been in place since 2011. It was passed. I made representations to the government at the time. Consideration was given to transitional arrangements…it was looked into if the best way to mitigate the impact was to use pension credits…or to change the maximum increase…and the decision was taken to reduce the maximum increase from two years to 18 months at a cost of £1.1 billion and that was considered to be preferable.
‘It was voted on by parliament and thoroughly debated. We live in a democracy.’
Altmann has received criticism from the Waspi campaign, with which she was aligned before she became pension minister last year, who feel she is not affecting the change from within that they believe she should.
However, Altmann used the committee meeting to make clear her position on the Waspi proposal to return women’s state pension age to 60.
‘I would like to say something,’ she said. ‘I was reading over evidence given to the committee and I am astonished. What it is calling for and which I never supported, is the undoing of the 1995 pension act.
‘It would cost £30 billion to undo the 1995 act.’
Quoting from the evidence Altmann said: ‘’What we are asking, and we think it is a fair ask, is state pension from age 60’: I can’t support that.
‘I understand why they are asking but that is never something that has been on the table.’
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