Women lose landmark High Court fight against state pension age rise for millions.
Women shouted ‘shame on you’, demanded Boris Johnson intervene and warned they could appeal over rises that have hit millions of women born in the 1950s
Dan Bloom Political Editor-Daily Mirror.
4 OCTOBER 2019
Campaigners have lost a landmark High Court battle against state pension age rises for more than 3million women.
Women shouted “shame on you!” outside the Royal Courts of Justice as their legal fight was “dismissed on all grounds”.
They demanded Boris Johnson fulfil his vow to help them, urged MPs to intervene – and warned they may yet lodge an appeal.
Today’s ruling comes after years of battles for around 3.8million women born in the 1950s, who are having their state pension age hiked so it reaches 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.
Two women took legal action saying the rises were unlawful age and sex discrimination and came with too little notice.
But two judges at the High Court dismissed their claim on all grounds.
Instead, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple said the rise from 60 to 66 “corrects historic direct discrimination against men”.
Campaigners were upset and angry outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
And they ruled successive governments had held “extensive consultation” over the changes since 1995.
Sandi Gregson, 65, from Manchester, was in tears as she told the Mirror outside court: “It’s devastating. It’s so abhorrent.
“I started work at 15 and I worked for a full 50 years with no unemployment and I’ve paid National Insurance for 50 years.”
Wearing a sash and rosette in suffragette colours branded “Votes for Women”, the grandmother-of-three said: “We’ve had a lot more discrimination against women along the way.
“Also producing the next generation – I had three babies and had to miss out on work and income whilst I’m looking after my babies. That doesn’t happen with men – not many, anyway.”
Former NHS psychotherapist Ms Gregson said she resigned but then had to seek new work to pay the bills. She said: “I have no income. No pension.
Sandi Gregson, 65, from Manchester, was in tears as she told the Mirror: “It’s devastating. It’s so abhorrent”.
“I put together every reference I’ve ever had from being 15. I took it into a work agency and I very nicely said to the young lady, look – what chance would you estimate, percentage wise, that I would get a job?
“She looked at me with fear in her eyes and put her hand on my elbow and said ‘I can’t bear to tell you this, but you’ve not got any chance.”
Angela Badcock, 64, a former nursing home nurse from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said: “We’re gutted – and this isn’t the end.
“We understand equality but we have not had equality all of our working lives.”
Carol May, 64, from Hertford, was forced to live with friends and acquaintances for 18 months after struggling to pay rent.
The former cookery teacher, weight loss counsellor and grandmother told the Mirror: “My daughter now pays for my phone.
“I have had to use food banks. I have had friends go and do me a week’s shopping in order to eat.
Sandi added: “We’ve had a lot more discrimination against women along the way”.
“I have one of my heaters on in my flat when it’s really cold – otherwise I can’t afford to use my heating.”
She slammed the judges for saying the old system discriminated against men. She added: “When I first got married I wasn’t allowed a bank account or a mortgage in my name unless a man verified it. That’s how life was when I was in my 20s.”
Just before he became Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said he would “commit to doing everything I possibly can to sorting out” the issue which “I’m conscious has been going on for too long”.
But he has not yet promised any firm action or help for the women affected.
But he has not yet promised any firm action or help for the women affected.
Joanne Welch from the Backto60 campaign, which led the case, said outside court: “Boris Johnson has already said he will look at this issue with new eyes and fresh vigour and do everything he can to sort it out.
“We’ll be holding him to that.”
218 MPs have backed a motion demanding a “temporary special measure” in law to provide “restitution” to 3.8million women hit.
Campaigners said: “Boris Johnson has already said he will look at this issue with new eyes and fresh vigour. We’ll be holding him to that”.
Ms Welch said: “MPs and Parliament have allowed this issue to languish for so many years with false promises about what they are going to do.
“We are hoping now that, given the judiciary have said that Parliament must look at this … that they will do that because women are suffering.”
Supporters chanted “the fight goes on” after she added: “There is no doubt – this is discrimination.”
Lawyer Marcia Willis Stewart of Birnberg Peirce, which represented the women, did not rule out appealing to the Court of Appeal.
She told the Mirror the changes have caused “lasting and untold damage” and “sadly, that injustice remains.”
She added: “We are meeting to consider detailed reasons contained in the judgment in order to assess how to progress these pressing issues further within the legal process.”
Court 1 was standing room only with more than 50 women in the case brought by Julie Delve, 61, and Karen Glynn, 63.
BackTo60 members were joined by people from the separate WASPI campaign – many wearing their purple sashes.
There was a shocked sigh as the ruling was announced.
In their ruling, the two judges said the previous pension ages of 60 for women and 65 for men were “direct discrimination” in women’s favour “which reflected the circumstances of the day and created a relative disadvantage for men.”
An estimated 3.8 million women had been affected by the changes.
They said the rise in women’s pension age would “equalise a historic asymmetry between men and women; it is to correct historic direct discrimination against men.”
And the judges said the government, and previous governments, had “engaged in extensive consultation with a wide spread of interested bodies”.
They concluded: “The court was saddened by the stories contained in the claimants’ evidence.
“But the court’s role was limited. There was no basis for concluding that the policy choices reflected in the legislation were not open to government. In any event they were approved by Parliament.
“The wider issues raised by the claimants, about whether these choices were right or wrong or good or bad, are not for us – there are for member of the public and their elected representatives.”
Politicians and union leaders blasted the judgment.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said she was “disappointed” and would continue backing the “fight against pension inequality.”
Shadow Pensions Minister Jack Dromeypledged Labour would “consult further” with 1950s-born women on “future support” if Labour gets into government.
He added: “The 1950s women helped build Britain and were let down by the government’s pension changes.
“They will understandably be very disappointed.”
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis branded it “a terrible blow” that left women “struggling to make ends meet” after their pension was “cruelly snatched away”.
50 women had packed the benches in Court 1 of the Royal Courts of Justice for the judgement.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas added: “The gross pensions injustice for 1950s women remains – I will continue to support their fight.”
Lib Dem MP Tim Farron voiced hope that a separate Ombudsman case, which is still ongoing, might yet produce a victory.
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 furore sparked several separate campaigns.
Back to 60 – which brought the case – 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.
A DWP spokesman said: “We welcome the High Court’s judgment. It has always been our view that the changes we made to women’s State Pension age were entirely lawful and did not discriminate on any grounds.
“The Court decided that arguments the claimants were not given adequate notice of changes to the state pension age could not be upheld.
“This follows the extensive communications that DWP made to publicise these changes over many years.
“The government decided in 1995 that it was going to make the State Pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality. Raising State Pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”
What is the state pension and when will I qualify for it?
The state pension age is the earliest age you can claim your Government pension. It depends entirely on when you were born.
Under previous guidelines, the age at which you could claim it was 65 for men and 60 for women.
In 2017, the Government announced that a planned age increase to 68, due to happen between 2044 and 2046, would take place between 2037 and 2039 instead. However this is yet to be made official.
Currently, the retirement age is approaching 66 for both men and women.
It will reach 66 by 2020 before climbing to 67 between 2026 and 2028 through a series of gradual increases, with those born in 1961 and beyond being the first to collect their state pension at 67.
The Government has said it would not look to enshrine the change in law to bring it to 68 until 2023, after the date of the next general election in 2022.
Labour, meanwhile, has been opposed to pension age increases, so if it wins the next election the pension age could remain at 66.