This week saw yet another debate on the WASPI issue in the House of Commons.
For those who have been living in Mars for the last few years, this issue revolves around changes to the state pension age for women where successive Labour and Tory UK Governments failed to give them proper notification of changes to their pension. Essentially a decision was taken to equalise the state pension age between men and women in 1995 but the UK government did not start properly informing women of these changes until 2009 – one year before the changes started taking effect. The changes were then accelerated in 2011, leaving little time for many of the women to make adequate financial preparations. These changes have primarily affected 2.6 million women born in the 1950s.
This week’s debate – the 12th since Mhairi Black was first elected in May 2015 – followed the same old pattern. SNP, with growing support from Labour, the Lib Dems and others, continued to highlight the impact WASPI is having on women and yet the Tories still look for excuses for their continued inaction.
Once again, the Tories brought up the false argument that the Scottish Government should pay to fix the problem. Despite the fact we don’t have the powers or even the money (we’re on a fixed budget and to sort this would mean closures of schools, hospitals etc) you have to ask what then is the point of paying any taxes (and National Insurance) to Westminster if the UK Government is absolving itself of all its responsibilities? If the Tories want Scotland to sort the problem, then how about all taxes raised in Scotland stay in Scotland and each year Westminster can send us a bill for any shared services? Of course, if the Scottish Government did have the powers to do this, and did find the money, then the Tories would quickly claim that Scotland is getting too much funding and we would see the Scottish block grant slashed.
The next line by the Tories was to encourage those women facing having to work longer – even though there are fewer jobs available for them – is to encourage them to take up apprenticeships! I’m sure things haven’t changed that much since I did my apprenticeship when apprentices were the lowest paid members of the workforce. This is just another ill thought out policy by the Tories to deflect attention from their inactivity on this issue. After all, who wants to see 65 year apprentice plumbers wandering about a building site?
However, at least a couple of Tories did accept there was a problem with the communication between the UK Government and the WASPI women. However, that’s not enough. We all understand that but accepting that there was poor communication isn’t enough, the UK Government has to put money aside to deal with the problems that this poor communication has created.
It was good to see part time politician Douglas Ross MP actually appear in the debate. However, this Tory MP was more concerned about what an SNP press release said about him than about the plight of the WASPI women. I find it hard to believe that someone who is an assistant referee is so thin skinned and easily hurt – I can’t help but wonder what his reaction is to football fans when they shout the almost obligatory comments to the referees?
As usual the star of the debate was Mhairi Black MP. Not only did she sum up the frustration of everyone who has supported the WASPI women but she managed to do it with far more dignity and flair than all the Tory MPs combined, especially Ross Thomson MP who looked like he was halfway to a heart attack with his contribution to the debate.
Mhairi’s summing up of the SNP motion can be seen here:
The debate in the UK Parliament on the WASPI issue saw yet again that the Tories have no interest in this issue.
Well done Mhairi and the SNP team for keeping the pressure up for the WASPI women.