Meeting of APPG WASPI officers with Rt Hon. Damian Green MP, Secretary State DWP, on November 23rd 2016, at Caxton House.
APPG represented by Tim Loughton MP, Barbara Keeley MP, Jason McCartney MP, Carolyn Harris MP and Tom Elliott MP
The officers of the All Party Parliamentary Group met Damian Green at his Departmental office after several unsuccessful attempts to meet the new Secretary of State to discuss latest developments regarding the WASPI campaign. The Secretary of State was joined by Pensions Minister, Richard Harrington MP, special advisers and officials from the Department.
The Secretary of State reiterated the long maintained line from the Government that WASPI women had benefitted from transition arrangements after the 2011 legislation and that there were no proposals to make any further changes. He also stated that the minimum substantive proposals he had seen from campaigners would cost at least £9billion and he also challenged the costings which formed the basic of the ‘Landman’ report commissioned by the SNP Westminster Parliamentary Group as being a substantial under estimate. There followed a brief discussion about the plethora of other options that had been looked at ranging from near cost-neutral to well over £30bn.
We then focussed on the very real cases of hardship which MPs are increasingly seeing in their constituency surgeries and asked if some special provision might be targeted at them. Again no obvious solution was forthcoming other than the best remedy would be for women to stay in employment longer or find a job in their sixties. We were then told about the ‘older people champions’ in job centres specifically to provide age appropriate advice to WASPI aged women. None of the MPs had actually heard of this and on subsequent questions tabled by TL it transpired there were only 7 such champions in place across the country, representing one for each region. Colleagues have also subsequently asked about these champions on visits to job centres and so far no one has known what or who they are.
Barbara and Carolyn gave a number of examples of women forced back into work in their sixties and for example asked to look for jobs in bars in the centre of Manchester or stacking shelves in the middle of the night, which were hardly appropriate. The SoS asked to be given specific examples of poor practice in job centres and he would chase this up. Fellow MPs have been asked to contribute details of similar cases.
All in all there was little new from this meeting but we certainly made the new Secretary of State aware the extent of the growing problem for a significant number of our constituents and how many MPs are sympathetic to WASPI. The following day the SoS provided a comprehensive letter in response to most of the issues we had discussed which is published here. This was followed by yet another debate on WASPI initiated this time by the SNP in the main House of Commons chamber on November 30th and there is a link to the Hansard report on this website.