BackTo60 Lose High Court Challenge But Remain Defiant

BackTo60 Lose High Court Challenge But Remain Defiant

3rd October 2019 2 By Alex Tiffin - @RespectIsVital
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The BackTo60 campaign suffered a set back today after their case was dimissed by the High Court in London. The group backed two women seeking a judicial review into womens state pension age rises. Their legal team had argued that the changes were unlawful on grounds “unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of age, sex, and age and sex combined.” The two judges took less than two minutes to dismiss the case thus finding in favour of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Today was a highly anticipated day for women born in the 1950s. It was the the culmination of their legal battle to overturn the Government’s State Pension age rises for women born after 1950.

Julie Delve, 61, and Karen Glynn, 63 had launched the legal action backed by campaign group; BackTo60.

At the hearing in June this year, their barrister Michael Mansfield QC told the judges that “roughly 3.8 million” women had been affected by the changes.

Mansfield had argued that raising the state pension age discriminated against women born after 1950 on the grounds of their age

One of the main grounds for the challenge was that “the claimants and many other women born in the 1950s” had not been told about the change “until shortly before their expected state pension age at 60.” Due to this, it was argued that it left the women at a disadvantage as they had not planned for working past 60 and it caused undue emotional distress.

Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), told the court that the changes, made in 1995 and 2011, were done

“to equalise the state pension age between the sexes ensure intergenerational fairness as between those in receipt of state pensions and the younger taxpayers funding them”.

Another main arguement the government made was that it was done to cut costs.

In relation to the claims that the women had not been adequately notified of the changes, Eadie argued that “personal notification would have been very difficult if not impossible prior to 2003”.

Case Dismissed

The Royal Courts of Justice which houses The High Court of England & Wales

This morning as the two senior judges; Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple entered, a lengthy ruling was expected regardless of the outcome. However in less than two minutes the judges announced that they had dismissed the two claims finding in favour of the DWP.

In a summary of the court’s decision, the judges said:

“There was no direct discrimination on grounds of sex, because this legislation does not treat women less favourably than men in law.

“Rather it equalises a historic asymmetry between men and women and thereby corrects historic direct discrimination against men.”

The court also rejected the claimants’ argument that the policy was discriminatory based on age, adding that even if it was “it could be justified on the facts”.

Speaking outside The Royal Courts of Justice in London BackTo60 Campaign Director Joanne Welch said:

“Where do we go from here? Well, where will the Government go from here is the better question.”

Referring to Boris Johnson’s pledge during the Tory leadership campaign to look at the state pension age issue, she said:

“We will be holding you to that undertaking.”

“MPs and Parliament have allowed this issue to languish for so many years with false promises about what they are going to do. We are hoping now that, given the judiciary have said that Parliament must look at this … that they will do that because women are suffering.”

DWP Response

DWP - Department for Work and Pensions sign

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was quick to release a statement in light of the ruling. A spokesperson told the media;

“We welcome the High Court’s judgment. It has always been our view that the changes we made to women’s State Pension age were entirely lawful and did not discriminate on any grounds.

“The Court decided that arguments the claimants were not given adequate notice of changes to the state pension age could not be upheld.

“This follows the extensive communications that DWP made to publicise these changes over many years.

“The government decided in 1995 that it was going to make the State Pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality. Raising State Pension age in line with life expectancy changes has been the policy of successive administrations over many years.”

Campaigns Mixed Up

Throughout the day on Twitter WASPI was trending. This is due to people not being aware that BackTo60 and WASPI are two very different campaigns.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) have different goals to Backto60, so it was not involved in the High Court case.

  • Waspi are calling for “fair transitional arrangements for 1950s-born women”.
  • Backto60 are seeking repayment from the DWP for the years of state pension they have missed out on.

Implications

The implications of this ruling could be severe in future. The court ruled that the women were given enough notice. It also ruled that even had they not been given notice, it would not be unlawful.

This means in future, governments may impliment big changes, with little notice. This is a scary prospect in an age when governments want to cut costs. Whats to stop them now doing the same thing again should they raise the retirement age further? Nothing.

The Barrister for BackTo60 said that they will look at the full ruling before deciding their next steps. Going by the outpouring of support on Twitter, it is likely they will Appeal this ruling.

Whatever the outcome, as a son whose mother is affected by these changes, I wish both BackTo60 and WASPI, all the best for the future.

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