There is “no causal link” between the disadvantages women born in the 1950s face and the government’s decision to raise their pensionable age to 66, a court has heard.
High Court judges today (June 6) heard the Department for Work and Pensions (DwP) respond to accusations that its efforts to level the difference in pensionable ages between men and women have resulted in unlawful discrimination against the latter.
The review was brought by claimants Julie Delve, 61, and Karen Glynn, 62, who were both due to receive their state pensions in 2018 and 2016 respectively but, following legislative changes, must now both wait until they are 66.
Yesterday, their barristers argued the changes in law resulted in a “proportionately much greater drop” in women’s income in relation to men.
The changes, said to affect nearly 4 million women, allegedly hurt women born on or after 6 April 1950 most and have been introduced without adequate notice.
The barristers alleged this constitutes a breach of Article 14 of the Human Rights Convention, which guards against discrimination on the basis of age and sex, as well as being contrary to the general principles of EU law.
Representing the DwP, James Eadie QC insisted that the “fundamental purpose” of raising women’s pensionable age has been to “equalise the position between the sexes”.
This move was introduced to “remove the direct discrimination on the face of the legislation” introduced in 1940 which lowered women’s pensionable age to 60, while staying at 65 for men.
“Women are and were economically disadvantaged compared to men,” he acknowledged.
But added: “We would make a claim, about indirect discrimination, on the extent to which persons with the protected characteristics are left at a disadvantage by the measures in question.
He said: “We submit that there is no causal link between the fact of equalised state pension and the disadvantage of which they complain.
“Those disadvantages, unfortunate as they were, existed before and will exist afterwards.”
Mr Eadie said that the purpose of the state pension age is “not a mechanism for correcting ills by other causes.”
“The proper use of state pension age is to avert poverty in old age.”
Protest group BackTo60 packed out the court room at the Royal Courts of Justice. Image Credit: Aaron Walawalkar
Justifying the changes, he added the court can only interfere in Acts of Parliament on the basis of the Human Rights Convention if they can be shown to be “manifestly without reasonable foundation”.
“Here we have big decisions about social issues with major economic implications,” he said. “It is for these reasons that the court will not interfere in these judgements unless it is jolly clear they got it wrong.”
He highlighted that Parliament introduced the Acts after a process of draft bills, green and white papers and consultations – taking into consideration the disadvantages woman face.
It also had to balance this with “intergenerational fairness”, he added, in relation to the fact that pensions are funded through the National Insurance contributions of the working population.
‘They Are On The Brink Of Survival’
Mum-of-two Mac Hawkins, 63, was told she would have to wait five extra years to receive her pension only 18 months before she turned 60. Image Credit: Aaron Walawalkar
Michael Mansfield QC, representing the claimants, responded with incredulity.
The [government has] pushed women already disadvantaged into the lowest percentile you can imagine.
Michael Mansfield QC, Barrister for Julie Delve and Karen Glynn
“No, the government did not cause the inequality that existed before,” he said. “But that is irrelevant.”
“When [the changes] came to apply to this group, they did not recognise that what they were doing was creating a sub-class of people.”
He said: “They have pushed women already disadvantaged into the lowest percentile you can imagine.
“They are on the brink of survival.”
He said that the changes introduced by the government mean that women born between 1953 and 1960 stand to lose £37,000 to £40,000 from the pension as a consequence of the age rise.
Mr Mansfield then read aloud a statement from a woman known only as PJ, who was forced to sell her home as a consequence of the changes.
“The decision on state pension has been absolutely catastrophic for me.
“I am forced to survive on tinned food and biscuits.”
He spoke of how the woman had to resort to going to food banks, an experience she described as “very degrading”.
Mr Mansfield told the judges: “You are quite entitled to say to a government you got it wrong.”