“Shame on you”: Norfolk pensions campaigner’s group storms out of Commons during Conservative minister’s speech
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
A Norfolk pension equality campaigner was among a group which shouted 'shame on you' and turned their backs on a minister before storming out of the Commons chamber.
The Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) members were watching a debate on the increase in the state pension age for women from the public gallery, but left minutes after Work and Pensions Minister Guy Opperman began to speak.
Tory MPs described plans to increase the state pension age for women as 'rushed and wrong' before the Commons backed a non-binding motion asking the Government to publish further transitional arrangements.
Speaking outside the Commons, campaigners told how they felt 'patronised' and 'disrespected' by Mr Opperman.
Debbie Despon, 62, who travelled from Norfolk and runs the Waspi Facebook page, said: 'What is happening is totally unjust, the Government cannot argue for what they are doing. We weren't at all impressed with what the minister was saying.
'He just recited the party line that had been written down beforehand, it was disrespectful. He didn't listen to some of the fantastic speeches that were given, we have heard it all before.'
Waspi co-founder Anne Keen, 62, added: 'We were shouting shame on you because we were incensed by what the minister was saying. He was patronising us, it showed really how they view us. We will not give this fight up, we will be back.'
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Plans to increase the state pension age for women between 2010 and 2020 were initially set out in 1995.
But this process was speeded up by the coalition government in 2011, resulting in the state pension age for women due to increase to 65 in November 2018 and to 66 by October 2020.
Campaigners, led by Waspi, argue that women affected by the changes have been required to rethink their retirement plans at relatively short notice and have suffered financial hardship.
During the debate, Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said: 'It is clear that a particular group of people have been unfairly penalised. I thus support the motion and I urge the Government to find a way forward that is fair, fully considered and affordable.'
Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams asked Mr Opperman to 'acknowledge' that data shows 'life expectancy at 60 is actually going down, and life expectancy at birth is flat-lining', saying the UK was 'the only developed country where this is happening'.
Mr Opperman accused Ms Abrahams of 'genuinely scaremongering', saying the ONS had 'repeatedly made clear' that life expectancy is rising 'across the board'.
He went on: 'The Government listened to concerns voiced in the passage of the 2011 Act ... and the proposed two-year acceleration was reduced to 18 months, benefiting over a quarter of a million women in the process and the concession being worth over £1 billion.'
But he said 'full compensation' would cost 'over £70 billion to the public purse'.