MORAY WOMEN CAMPAIGNING for a fair pension deal from the UK Government have received a major setback with a ‘no U-turns’ pledge being issued.
Hopes of the Moray branch of WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) appear to have been fatally dashed by comments this week from Richard Harrington, who was appointed as pensions minister when his old friend Theresa May became Prime Minister last year.
WASPI launched a national campaign seeking a change of direction over the pension retirement age for women, which saw thousands born in the 1950’s having their retirement age delayed twice by as much as six years.
Hundreds in Moray are affected by the change from a total of 243,900 throughout Scotland, with the SNP backing the WASPI campaign and forcing several debates on the issue at Westminster. Last year Moray WASPI members met with local MP Angus Robertson who has pledged his support for their cause.
However, Mr Harrington’s comments this week offers little hope for campaigners – the minister commenting that he saw no reason to seek a change, claiming that in any case it would be too expensive to do so.
“This will not make me popular but I do not believe in giving people straws on which to cling to,” Mr Harrington said, adding: “My only change from the previous regime is that I thought it’s better to tell people clearly – there is not any hope.
“The Government has made its mind up – and I think quite correctly. The alternatives are very expensive, we are talking billions. Luckily, we have a benefits system which helps those in need.”
SNP politicians at Westminster are likely to react furiously to the contention that the current under-fire benefits system will in any way help women who find themselves in serious trouble as a result of the pension changes – and the manner in which they were introduced.
Angus Robertson last month insisted that there was an affordable method of compensating women affected by the changes: “Debate after debate in the House of Commons has demonstrated the strength of public opinion on this matter and women across the country are struggling to make ends meet because they have been denied the pension they are due.
“The SNP’s independently-researched report shows that relaxing the rapid increases to the state pension age for women born in the 1950s back to the timetable set out in the 1995 Act would – at £8billion – be significantly more affordable than the Tories’ claim that it would cost £30billion.
“Not only that but the National Insurance Fund has a substantial surplus at present, which could quite easily cover this cost.”