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Labour and Conservatives both refuse to commit to compensating Waspi women

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour would commit to compensating Waspi women on Sunday morning – despite the publication of a damning report that called on the government to pay billions to those who were not told about the state pension rise.

Both the chancellorJeremy Hunt and the Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds declined to say if they would compensate those who were found by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to have lost out financially after the Department for Work and Pensions failed to adequately communicate changes to the state pension age.

The chancellor said the issue highlighted by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign was “genuinely more complicated” than others in which compensation has been promised, such as the infected blood disaster and the Post Office Horizon scandal, and said: “There’s no secret vault of money.”

Jeremy Hunt refused to commit to compensation for Waspi women when questioned on the BBC (PA)
Jeremy Hunt refused to commit to compensation for Waspi women when questioned on the BBC (PA)

The Labour Party chair also refused to commit to compensating the women impacted. Talking to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, Ms Dodds said: “Those women deserve respect, that’s the most important [thing].”

She added: “I think Laura, if I was to sit in your studio and I was to say, plucking out of the air, this is exactly how, for example, compensation should work or other elements of the response to the Waspi women … I don’t think they would believe me, frankly, and nor should they.”

The comments are likely to enrage campaigners and MPs within their own parties who have called for compensation for the women involved.

Campaigners have demanded action over the report, warning that Rishi Sunak will be on a “sticky wicket” seeking votes from Waspi women when he goes to the country later this year if he ignores the Ombudsman’s findings.

Asked whether it was responsible for the government to leave “huge unpaid bills” to the next parliament, Mr Hunt said: “We had the ombudsman’s report on Thursday, but we’ve also had a report from the High Court and Court of Appeal in 2020 that says the Department for Work and Pensions behaved completely within the law and didn’t discriminate.

“So it appears to say something different and we do need to get to the bottom of that apparent difference between the two.”

Anneliese Dodds refused to commit to compensating the Waspi women (PA)
Anneliese Dodds refused to commit to compensating the Waspi women (PA)

He added: “We want to resolve it as quickly as we can, but there’s no secret vault of money. The money we would pay in compensation has to come from other taxpayers, so we do have to take time to get this fair.”

The PHSO suggested compensation could cost between £3.5bn and £10.5bn, although campaigners are pushing for a higher figure.