State pension campaigners 'gutted' but defiant as High Court case is lost

Campaigners outside court
Campaigners outside court

State pension campaigners in the borough have described their disappointment but vowed to fight on after losing a case in the High Court against the Government.

The campaign group Backto60 took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to judicial review over what it says are unfair transition arrangements for women born in the 1950s.

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However, the decision went against the claimants.

That represents a bitter blow to campaigners from Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi), which has branches covering Wigan and Makerfield and Leigh.

However, despite the major setback the group has vowed to continue their battle.

Ann Edwards, joint co-ordinator of Wigan and Makerfield Waspi, said: "We are all gutted and very disappointed that people can't see we have been treated unfairly.

"Looking online a lot of women are wanting to give up. People had desperately put their hopes on today.

"We won't be going away and will be carrying on fighting. Waspi will look at bringing back up the cases of maladministration with the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

"We're not complaining about the rise in the state pension age. Our complaint is that we weren't given proper notice. We were only told right at the last minute."

Political supporters of Waspi have also spoken in support of the women in the wake of the High Court ruling.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said: "Today’s judgement, while disappointing, signals to me that renewed efforts must be made by Government to introduce measures that will assist those women who due to historical factors faced inequalities in the workplace.

"For too many women the decision to accelerate the state pension age rise has left them the poorer and in the worst cases facing real hardship.”

Leigh MP Jo Platt said her thoughts were with the borough's campaigners after the court defeat.

Ms Platt wrote on social media: "Their courage and determination is inspirational and their hard work will pay off eventually. The fight goes on!"

Wigan Council's Waspi champion, Coun Pat Draper, said: "Everyone is a bit deflated but we will have to regroup, wait for a statement from Waspi headquarters on how to go forward and then get back out fighting for all our 1950s-born women."

Wigan and Makerfield Waspi will be at parliament on October 30 to meet and lobby MPs.

Nearly four million women born in the 1950s have been affected by the changes, introduced by successive governments in an attempt to ensure "pension age equalisation", which have raised the state pension age from 60 to 66.

Two claimants - Julie Delve, 61, and Karen Glynn, 63 - brought the case, arguing that raising their pension age "unlawfully discriminated against them on the grounds of age, sex, and age and sex combined".

The pair, supported by Backto60, also claimed they were not given adequate notice in order to be able to adjust to the changes.

But, giving judgment in London on Thursday, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple dismissed the claim.

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".