The fact that 50s women were robbed of their pensions by raising the pension age is undeniable. But the biggest argument against putting this right has been the cost – a fact perpetually used by the present pensions minister, Guy Oppenman, who quotes the £70 billion plus figure.
Recently I discovered that successive governments had taken a decision NOT to top up the fund as originally proposed by William Beveridge when the welfare state was set up in 1948.
What I did not know was how much money was lost. Now thanks to an extraordinary paper prepared for the National Pensioners Convention by a social security expert Tony Lynes,and still on the web, I now know. And it is staggering.
The paper written 12 years ago by a man I personally knew as a fount of all knowledge on the benefit system when I was social services correspondent on the Guardian. He sadly died, aged 85, in a car accident in 2014.
His calculation from beyond the grave is that for every year that the government decided not to contribute to the fund it was deprived of £11.3 billion. As he says: “Restoring the supplement at its pre-1981 level would bring an extra £11.3 billion a year into the Fund, enough to meet the gross cost of a £109 per week basic pension.”
We now know that virtually no money was paid into the fund by the Treasury for around 24 years from 1990 to 2014. I calculate – and this will be a conservative estimate – because it doesn’t count the reduced contributions post 1981 – that an amazing £271 billion yes billion extra would have been in the fund.
This would pay more than three times over the money due to the women – and even allowed higher state pensions for everybody else now.
Why this didn’t happen is because politicians of all three major parties took a decision not to do this. They took the decision knowing that their Parliamentary and ministerial pension pot would mean they would be some of the wealthiest pensioners in the land when they came to retire. And the taxpayer would foot their bills.
They decided the pain should fall on the electorate instead. In 1995 they knew all the arguments about people living longer and that money paid out in state pensions would go up.
They could have changed the rules and informed the Government Actuary Department that they would deliberately build up a surplus in the fund – so it could pay out as people lived longer without changing the pension age.
Instead they chose the cheapest route – raise the pension age so they won’t have to subsidise the fund- but try and keep mum so the women wouldn’t realise what they were doing.
The villains are the late Lady Thatcher, John Moore, Kenneth Clarke, Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Steve Webb and Guy Opperman. There are many others who stood by and did nothing. That is why 50s women have been left in this situation today.