General election likely to 'delay’ Waspi state pension compensation, former pensions minister warns

Waspi campaigners had been hoping for a resolution this summer. But Rishi Sunak’s snap general election could mean there’s a significant delay, according to ex-DWP minister Steve Webb.

Waspi campaigners protest outside parliament (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaigners may have to wait longer to receive compensation as a result of the general election, former pensions minister Steve Webb has warned.

The ex-Liberal Democrat MP, who worked in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as part of the coalition government, told MoneyWeek that there’s likely to be “more delay” as a result of Rishi Sunak’s snap poll. He added that compensation could even be put “on the slow track” after the next government is formed given that political pressure is likely to abate once the election concludes.

Before the election announcement, the Waspi campaign had hoped the DWP would respond to a Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) report released in March. Last week, MPs on the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee had called on DWP Secretary Mel Stride to announce a compensation package - one of the report’s key recommendations - before the Parliamentary summer recess.

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But with the news that the Conservatives will be seeking re-election on 4 July, Parliament will be dissolved on Thursday 30 May. It almost certainly means there will be no concrete action on Waspi compensation until the new government is formed. Most pollsters expect a Labour government will be formed after the national vote.

Next government ‘unlikely to act fast’ on Waspi

When asked about what the general election means for Waspi campaigners, Steve Webb, who was the pensions minister throughout the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, said: “It almost certainly means there will be more delay for compensation”.

Asked about how he thinks the next government would approach the issue in its first 100 days, he said: “Waspi compensation will be on the slow track. I think that the political pressure for a swift resolution is likely to be much lower after people have voted.”

However, not everyone has agreed with Webb’s assessment. Sir Stephen Timms, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs, told MoneyWeek he expected Waspi would “be close to the top of the in-tray for the incoming government”.

His Committee had called on the DWP to respond to the PHSO’s report before the planned summer recess in July. But he said the calling of the general election meant “we won’t have the government’s response before the summer, as my Committee had hoped”.

Waspi votes ‘vital’ to 2024 general election outcome

Asked for Waspi’s reaction to the general election announcement, the group’s chair Angela Madden said Rishi Sunak was taking a “huge gamble” by going to the ballot box “with no plan” for compensation for her voter caucus.

She added: "With the numbers of affected women outnumbering the majorities of MPs in nearly 170 constituencies, the votes of Waspi women are vital in this election.

"Waspi has been overwhelmed with support from MPs across the Commons in recent weeks, who are backing our calls for fair and fast compensation. There is now a clear opportunity for all parties to commit to delivering a fair remedy as soon as possible.”

Before the election date was revealed, the Waspi campaign had already been urging its members to contact their local MPs in a bid to force political parties to act on state pension inequality. Its website contains links to letter templates people can use to apply pressure on their political representatives. The campaign has also launched a petition that has amassed 340,000 signatures so far.

Steve Webb said the election would be “the moment of maximum leverage” for the Waspi campaign. But the former MP added that he expects some or all of the political parties “could say nothing” on the issue over the coming weeks, while others may “give a vague figure” when it comes to compensation.

He added: “The generosity of the offer will be disproportionate to the party in question’s proximity to power.”

MoneyWeek asked all of the major parties if they would make manifesto commitments to compensate Waspi women.

The SNP said it supported the recommendations made in the PHSO report, and insisted its track record showed it had been at the forefront of the Waspi campaign. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats argued they had consistently fought for justice for Waspi women and held a long-standing commitment to compensate them in line with the PHSO report.

Other parties have yet to respond to our request for comment.

Henry Sandercock
Staff Writer

Henry Sandercock has spent more than eight years as a journalist covering a wide variety of beats. Having studied for an MA in journalism at the University of Kent, he started his career in the garden of England as a reporter for local TV channel KMTV. 

Henry then worked at the BBC for three years as a radio producer - mostly on BBC Radio 2 with Jeremy Vine, but also on major BBC Radio 4 programmes like The World at One, PM and Broadcasting House. Switching to print media, he covered fresh foods for respected magazine The Grocer for two years. 

After moving to - a national news site run by the publisher of The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post - Henry began reporting on the cost of living crisis, becoming the title’s money editor in early 2023. He covered everything from the energy crisis to scams, and inflation. You will now find him writing for MoneyWeek. Away from work, Henry lives in Edinburgh with his partner and their whippet Whisper.