Boris Johnson has offered no firm help to millions of women hit by rises to their state pension – despite pledging to do “everything I possibly can” more than three months ago.
The Prime Minister waffled his way through a reply in PMQs today as he was asked what he would do for women who’ve been campaigning for years.
Back in July, Mr Johnson promised to “return to this issue with fresh vigour and new eyes and see what I can do to sort it out.”
Yet since becoming Tory leader he has not offered any new help to the women, who later lost a case against the government in the High Court.
Today he would say only that “we are indeed looking at what more we can do to satisfy that issue”. He also said it was a “difficult issue” and that government has already “done our best to try to satisfy that group”.
Mr Johnson’s non-committal remarks could provoke claims he is going back on his word from vocal campaign groups such as WASPI and Back to 60.
It comes after years of battles for around 3.8million women born in the 1950s, who are having their state pension age hiked to reach 66 by 2020.
Ministers say the change is to make women’s retirement age equal to men’s – and would cost £181bn to fully reverse.
Women argued the change was unlawful age and sex discrimination and came with too little notice, but their claims were rejected in court.
Asked how he’d help the women today, Mr Johnson told Labour MP Ronnie Campbell: “As he knows it is a very difficult issue and I know very highly emotionally charged.
“We have done our best to try to satisfy that group. and another billion pounds has I think been allocated to the support of WASPI pensioners.
“But I would just remind MPs opposite who are chuntering at me, under the Labour Party I seem to remember female pensions went up by 75p. That was their approach to pensions rights for women.
“We are indeed looking at what more we can do to satisfy that issue but it is as he knows a very difficult issue.”
The comments are far less uplifting than what Mr Johnson said in July when he ran for Tory leader.
Back then he said: “I have made several representations already on behalf of my own constituents who fall into this category.
“And I must say the answer I’ve got back from the Treasury is not yet satisfactory.
“But I will undertake – if I’m lucky enough to succeed in this campaign – to return to this issue with fresh vigour and new eyes and see what I can do to sort it out.
“Because I’m conscious it’s been going on for too long.”
Asked if he would “commit” to sorting it out, he said in July: “I commit to doing everything I possibly can to sorting it out.
“But you know obviously the Treasury raise some stupefying sum that they say will be necessary to deal with it. I’m not convinced that’s necessarily true. Let’s see what we can do.”
A hike to women’s state pension age from 60 to 65, over 10 years starting in 2010, was first proposed in the 1995 Pensions Act.
But that was accelerated by the 2011 Pensions Act, which laid out plans to hike the age to 65 in November 2018 – followed by 66 in October 2020.
Facing an outcry, ministers agreed a £1.1bn concession in the final stages of the Act, supposedly to limit any one person’s pension age rise to 18 months.
But the women’s lawyer Michael Mansfield QC said: “They have pushed women who were already disadvantaged into the lowest class you can imagine. They’re on the brink of survival.”
The judicial review was brought by the group Back to 60, which says women had a “legitimate expectation” to receive their pension aged 60 and demands “the return of those earned dues”.
Separately, Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) is calling for “fair transitional arrangements” to help women financially, but not a full return to age 60.