Sometimes we do not have a collective memory in Parliament. I will briefly go through some of the history of the last 10 years in which I and others have been dealing with this issue, because we need to learn its lessons.

In debates held here in 2015 we recognised the immense suffering people had gone through and the injustice of the case itself. Between 2015 and 2017 we tried to get cross-party agreement for a compensation scheme, but it was rejected. As shadow Chancellor at the time I met with all the various campaigning groups, including the WASPI women, and we asked Bryn Davies—now Lord Bryn Davies—a prime pensions expert in the field, to develop a scheme, which we brought forward in 2019. In a normal electoral cycle it would have been implemented by agreement, hopefully by 2020-21, but it was not, as we had an election campaign at that time.

The scheme balanced compensation with ready implementation and was relatively straightforward and simple. However, at the time the argument against it was cost—that at £12 billion a year over a four-year period it was too expensive. The Government had already saved £200 billion from those affected women; £48 billion may well have seemed expensive, but I remind people that at that time interest rates were on the floor.

The compensation scheme was relatively cheap, would have been paid over a limited period of time and would have delivered compensation to those women. I believed it was a legal contingent liability anyway and that it should have been brought forward from the Contingencies Fund, even if we were then forced to borrow, relatively cheaply. Had that happened, that scheme would have been paid out by now and the affected women would have been compensated. The 216,000 women who have died would have received something—but tragically they are now lost.

The conclusion is that I do not want to be here in another five or 10 years’ time arguing the case. I agree with the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely): we have the autumn statement. A relatively simple scheme should be brought forward so that the money can get out the door very quickly. I fear there is no sense of urgency from the Government, so we must create a cross-party sense of urgency. My other fear is that the ombudsman will bring forward its final report and the compensation levels offered will be trivial, which would be unacceptable given the suffering that people have gone through.

I appeal to the Government to listen to hon. Members on both sides of this House. The Government rejected and opposed our earlier scheme, and by doing so they have probably enhanced the cost of compensation now. Let us grasp the nettle. Sometimes tackling injustices can be expensive, but it is right.


Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search