Woman killed herself over pension worries after election, MP claims

A woman killed herself after the British general election result heightened her pension worries, an SNP MP has claimed.

Mhairi Black, the SNP's pensions spokeswoman, said she was "absolutely scunnered" - meaning annoyed - with "banging on about the injustice" done to women by moves to increase the state pension age from 60 to 65.

She urged the British Government to perform a U-turn and give extra financial help to those affected, adding Theresa May's £1 billion deal with the DUP to prop up her minority administration diminishes ministerial claims about a lack of cash.

Plans to increase the state pension age for women between 2010 and 2020 were initially set out in 1995.

But the coalition government decided to speed up the process 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 the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) group, argue women affected by the changes have suffered financial hardship and been required to rethink their retirement plans at relatively short notice.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, SNP frontbencher Ms Black said: "I got an email today from a woman, a Waspi woman ... and she was telling us that her friend committed suicide after the general election result because she could not face what was going to happen to her.

"Citizens committing suicide over an issue that could be solved like that.

"An issue that the Government could do a U-turn on at any given moment.

"So when the Government manages to fork out a magical £1 billion to cling on to power, first of all you must really want the job of being the one that has to fix these things.

"Second of all, you don't get to claim that money is the reason you can't help when you can find £1 billion for self-interest.

"The Government quite rightly dropped the manifesto pension plans, I think two of them in total, because they have seen how damaging, unworkable and unpopular they would be.

"Now that was wise for the Government to do that and, in actual fact, I have a bit of respect for them to be able to go 'Aye, we got that wrong guys so we're pulling back, we're listening to you'.

"What I would say, for hopefully the last time, just drop one more plan.

"Realise this is cross-party, this is across different backgrounds, different areas, this is people's mothers, this is your aunties, this is your sisters and cousins.

"So please can we do the right thing, do the job of Government and fix the problem and start looking after your people."

Work and pensions minister Guy Opperman was accused of suggesting women aged 64 could complete apprenticeships as he defended the Government's policy.

Addressing the Government's work around "lifelong learning", Mr Opperman said: "The reality is over 200,000 people over 60 have entered further education since 2014/15.

"We have also extended apprenticeship opportunities as one of the best routes to skilled employment for people of all ages and gender.

"Such apprenticeships in England, for example, in 2014/15... 12% of the starting apprenticeships were for those aged 45."

Mr Opperman was heckled by MPs as he outlined the details.

Labour's Graham Jones, raising a point of order, said: "I'm struggling to hear the debate, did the minister just say that women aged 64 could go on an apprenticeship course?

"I couldn't hear because of the noise, perhaps he could clarify that."

Labour MP Grahame Morris also said: "As a nation, we owe a debt of honour to the Waspi women who have paid their contributions, who are not looking for apprenticeships at 64, they're looking for some recognition of their contribution - sometimes over 44, 45 years or more - many of them whom are now in ill health."

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