The following minutes are from a recent meeting between members of the All-party parliamentary group on State Pension Inequality for Women. The meeting was conducted on the 20th of September and was attended by MPs from across the House, with the purpose being to discuss and scrutinise the recent findings of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudman’s investigation into communications of State Pension changes.
Andrew Gwynne MP
Peter Aldous MP
Dr Philippa Whitford MP
Barbara Keeley MP
Alex Davies-Jones MP
Marion Fellows MP
Simon Fell MP
Yvette Cooper MP
Gavin Newlands MP
Derek Twigg MP
Emma-Lewell Buck MP
Office of Ruth Cadbury MP
Office of Nia Griffith MP
Office of Liz Twist MP
Office of Kate Osborne MP
Office of Kim Johnson MP
Dr Julian Lewis MP was attending business in the chamber.
Jack Dromey MP
ANDREW GWYNNE opened the meeting and thanked those for attending during a busy week. He expressed the urgency for parliamentarians to discuss the report prior to conference recess and assess the possible ramifications the report will have on the work of the APPG.
PETER ALDOUS then went over the key facts of the report, and referenced the briefing that had been sent to MPs prior to the meeting. Peter highlighted the key findings of the PHSO report, namely that between 2005 and 2006 maladministration took place, and that the DWP failed to take adequate account of the need for targeted information.
It also committed maladministration in 2006 when it did not act promptly enough on its November 2006 proposal to write directly to affected women. The PHSO report stated that if the DWP had taken the reasonable decision in August 2005, it would have written to affected women to tell them about changes by at the latest December 2006. That extra 28 months would have given 1950s-born women the opportunity to discuss their retirement plans accordingly.
Peter said that he and Andrew enquired about the current timeline of the second stage of the PHSO investigation and received an answer from the Ombudsman stating that it cannot say how long the second stage would take, as this varies on the complexity and amount of evidence to review. Peter expressed his hope that this second stage is completed as soon as possible.
Peter highlighted that if the PHSO does decide that injustice occurred in the second stage, and that financial remedy is appropriate in the third stage, it will use a ‘Severity of Injustice’ scale to assess the amount of compensation recommended. Level 1 is a remedy amount of £0, Level 6 is £10,000 or more. The PHSO cannot recommend any reinstatement of the prior pension age or recompense lost pensions.
- COLLEAGUE RESPONSES AND Q&A.
Andrew thanked Peter for his overview, and made the point that despite the PHSO investigation not yet being completed, the Ombudsman have advised the Government to be proactive in its response to the initial findings. Andrew argued that this undermines the Government’s position of not commenting on the Ombudsman’s report prior to its completion. Andrew also raised his frustration at the Government repeatedly referencing the High Court and Court of Appeal decisions in any discussions. He stated that the Government is conflating two separate things and should be made aware of this.
Andrew then handed over to colleagues for any responses or questions on the report.
DR PHILLIPPA WHITFORD stated that the initial Ombudsman’s findings do not take into account that for money women, the delay is far longer than 28 months, and that some women only found out their pensions were changing as late as 2011. Phillippa suggested that the APPG should challenge the Ombudsman about this.
Phillippa also raised the wider economic implications of the maladministration, and its effect on 1950s-born women personally, but on jobs more broadly. Andrew recognised these points, and stated that the APPG should make a formal representation to the Ombudsman raising these issues.
BARBARA KEELEY asked if the APPG could find information on whether or not the Ombudsman had ever recommended compensation within Level 6. She also reiterated the urgency of the need for compensation, and highlighted the fact that whilst this investigation is ongoing, women are dying whilst still not receiving compensation. GAVIN NEWLANDS indicated his agreement with Barbara’s statements.
Barbara also suggested that the APPG should invite former DWP Minister’s who have expressed concern over 1950s-born women and DWP inaction since leaving office.
Peter and Andrew agreed, and Peter stated that the APPG should focus on calling for the top level of compensation to be recommended by the PHSO. Peter also expressed his concern that no administration has managed to get a grip on this issue, and that the DWP has successively tried to ignore this issue. He also agreed with Andrew about the PHSO contradicting the Government, and that this needs to be raised in further discussions and questions to Ministers.
- MOVING FORWARD AND NEXT STEPS
After this discussion, APPG members expressed their agreement with the points raised, and Andrew and Peter agreed to action them accordingly.
Andrew then moved on to the next session, which he advised members would be an evidence session. This evidence session will allow various 1950s to present on their perspective of the PHSO report, and any evidence they deem pertinent to the work of the APPG.
Andrew made it clear that because this is a reformed group, he and Peter feel that it’s important that all stakeholders are given an opportunity to present to the new group and are given a fair hearing on what actions they feel need to be taken. This is not to say that the APPG will endorse any particular course of action, but instead will use the evidence session to get an idea of where the various 1950s-women’s groups are at, and whether or not any evidence given can further inform our work programme.
Andrew stated that the evidence session will take place remotely, due to geographical constraints, and that there may need to be more than one, dependent on logistics. He stated that this is in the process of being organised, and he and Peter would let members know as soon as it was in the diary.
Andrew asked if there was any other business to discuss. Peter and Andrew thanked all attendees for their contributions and closed the meeting.