Taking the 50s women protest to the doors of the Department of Work and Pensions
The campaign for justice for the 50s women denied their pensions has come home to the Department of Work and Pensions.
A group representing all shades of opinion demanding redress for the 3.7 million women who have lost out hired an old London bus to protest outside Parliament, Downing Street and Caxton House, the DWP headquarters to drive the message home.
Under the banner #One Voice it included a number of #Waspi groups from London, Chichester, Bognor Regis to name but a few. On board backing the campaign was the Barnet blogger, Theresa Musgrove, who runs the @brokenbarnet website.
The campaign was supported by lawyer Michael Mansfield who wants to bring a legal case against the DWP presently represented by Guy Opperham, the pensions minister and MP for Hexham,. who is implacably opposed to giving any concessions to anybody.
He appealed for unity among the campaigners - warning that divide and rule between various factions - would mean they could be picked off by ministers.
The 50s women used a battlebus obtained by Angela Taylor to make as much noise as possible particularly in its thrice trip round Parliament Square, causing both tourists and MPs to turn their heads. No doubt the message would have got back to Japan given the number of pictures taken.
The choice of the bus added to the occasion. It was a London RT model - the workhorse of London Transport for decades - and built pretty much at the same time as many of the 50s women were born. Reliable, dependable and capable - it was very much symbolic of the women who have been robbed of their pensions. Of course the government is still saying it will do nothing. A letter sent to Pauline Hinder by the DWP ministerial correspondence unit ( ministers like Guy Opperham have better things to do than reply to the general public like watching the Eurovision song contest) says :
" The Government has no plans to revisit the policy on women’s State Pension age and does not intend to make further concessions....
And according to the ministers they are striking a blow for equality.
"Changes to the State Pension age put right a long lasting inequality which was based on an outdated rationale that women were dependent on their husband’s incomes."
Bizarrely this is exactly what many of the 50s women were dependent on - the minister is just rewriting history to suit himself.
And mindful that the ministry may soon to be taken to court for not telling people about the change they are on the defensive..
"In the years after the 1995 legislation (1995 to 2011) this equalisation was frequently reported in the media and debated at length in Parliament. People were notified with leaflets, an extensive advertising campaign was carried out, and later individual letters were posted out. Throughout this period the Department has been providing individuals with their most up-to-date State Pension age when they have requested a Pension statement."
And also you aren't entitled to a pension and we can't afford to pay it anyway. We just take your contributions and do what we like with it.
"The National Insurance scheme operates on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis. It is inaccurate to characterise the State Pension as an individual contract where people get out what they pay in. It is today’s contributors who pay for today’s pensioners.
"There is no surplus in the Fund that can simply be drawn upon. The Government Actuary recommends a surplus is kept in the National Insurance fund to cover day to day variations in spend. The surplus is lent to the Government while that happens - it cannot simply be spent again."
I have a feeling that ministers may not get away with this if people continue to press them - the Conservative government can't afford to lose 3.7 million votes when it is neck and neck with Labour.