Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

MP Heckled by Protest Group at Debate on Pensions

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

MP Heckled by Protest Group at Debate on Pensions

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor jon.walker@trinitymirror.com jonwalker121

THERE was uproar in the House of Commons when Pensions Minister and Northumberland MP Guy Opperman told women forced to wait years longer than expected for their pension that the government would offer them an apprenticeship instead. Members of the public shouted "shame" as Mr Opperman spoke in a debate about pensions for women born in the 1950s.

He said: "I do accept the government must do all we can to assist everyone affected into retraining or employment, or to provide support if that is not possible."

But Easington MP Grahame Morris urged the government to provide financial support for women affected by changes to the state pension age, and insisted they were "not looking for apprenticeships at 64".

Laws passed in 1995 and 2011 equalised the pension age for men and women, ending the old system in which women retired at 60 and men at 65.

It meant everyone now receives their pension at the age of 65, and this will rise to 66 by 2020.

But critics, including the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign, say many women were not made aware of the changes in time to plan ahead, and now face years of retirement without their pension.

A House of Commons motion calling on the government to introduce a temporary "bridging pension" to help the women affected has been signed by 124 MPs from the Labour Party, SNP, DUP, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrats and Green Party, and one Conservative.

Mr Opperman, Conservative MP for Hexham, had the task of setting out the government's case in his role as a pensions minister.

And he sparked an angry response as he said there'd be no change in policy, but the government would help women affected to get a job.

He said: "It is not the government's position that they are going to make further concessions to those affected by the '95 or 2011 act.

"But I suggest there is a massive amount that this government has done on a progressive basis to get people back into employment or retraining in their pre-pension years."

This included offering training to older people such as teaching them computer skills, he said. …

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