DWP lawyers lose legal bid to declare #Backto60 pensions case unlawful
Lawyers representing the Department for Work and Pensions have made an unsuccessful attempt to have the judicial review affecting 3.8 million 1950s born women seeking full restitution of their pensions declared unlawful.
The extraordinary move by Sir James Eadie, the Treasury counsel, representing the DWP, was thrown out by the Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, at a Court of Appeal hearing last week. He was one of three judges hearing the appeal.
The case involves the plight of the women who saw their pension age rise from 60 to 66 and have suffered hardship as many were not informed of the change. The first judicial review was rejected but BackTo60, which campaigned for the women, won the right to appeal the decision on all grounds.
The women have received backing from UNISON, Unite and warm words from the GMB’s pension officials for their plight.
Gloria Mills, national secretary equalities at UNISON sent a tweet to Joanne Welch, organiser of the BackTo60 campaign on the eve of the hearing saying: “Thank you for the excellent work you and your team are doing. #50sWomen deserve Full Restitution.”
Sir James argued that the first judge, Ms Justice Dame Beverley Lang, should not have granted the judicial review in the first place.
But the Master of the Rolls pointed out that the DWP had already had two opportunities to try and get the review stopped but had failed to apply to do so. Sir James then argued that the case should have been bought in 1995 when the Pension Act raising the age was passed. His case was challenged by Michael Mansfield QC who represents the women.
The clash between Sir James Eadie and Michael Mansfield came over various case law but their difference in approach was stark.
Sir James suggested that the aim was to put back all women’s pensions to 60 but the country could not afford it economically because people were living longer. He conceded that some 50s women were disadvantaged but said it had nothing to do with the rising pension age.
Michael Mansfield told the judges: “We have a group of essentially, economically and emotionally, disenfranchised women. So it is against that background that we do submit that there are grounds for discrimination.”
Mr Mansfield said people were living an “economic, almost poverty line existence” and facing “psychological mental stress placed upon them”. He cited one case where the woman had contemplated suicide. He said their situation was “catastrophic”.
He argued that the women had a case under Common Law to be properly notified and also pointed out that over 4 million men over 60 had their national insurance contributions paid by the state if they decided not to register as unemployed.
Women were not allowed to receive this after their pension age began to rise in 2010 until the scheme was dropped in 2018.
The judges reserved a decision on the case. It is not expected to be announced until the autumn.
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