Coalition narrowly avoids Lords defeat on pension changes

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The Telegraph and the Mail have today covered the story that the government will unveil a new universal state pension in an imminent green paper. The £140/week pension (rising to £155 in four years’ time) is roughly as anticipated when the story first broke last autumn. It is a less complicated system than the current basis state pension which can be topped up with additional benefits such as the pension credit.

What has barely been noted, however, is that the coalition nearly endured a defeat in the House of Lords on Wednesday night over its long-standing plans to lift Britain’s retirement age.

The pension age will rise to 66 by 2020 – faster than previously planned – which means a particularly acute increase for women. It is a move described as a “cruel blow” by Saga, the pensioners group. Those hardest hit are women in their mid-50s (half a million of them) who will now have to wait a further year for their pension. (Some 30,000 will have to wait two years). That will be particularly tough for those who took early retirement on the expectation of an earlier entitlement.

Saga director general Ros Altmann said the group has been inundated with letters and emails from women “desperate and furious” about pension age increases. “Many explain that they have already retired to care for relatives, or that they are very ill and cannot keep working,” she said.

The coalition won this week’s debate by only a dozen votes after more than 40 cross-benchers backed Labour amendments to water down the proposals.

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