WPC calls for more detailed update on underpaid state pension progress

Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) chair, Stephen Timms, has written to Pensions Minster, Guy Opperman, seeking a more detailed update on the underpayment of state pensions by 8 April.

In the letter, Timms emphasised that, when giving evidence to the committee on 27 January, Opperman had confirmed that he would provide an update to the house “in detail” by March "without a shadow of a doubt".

However, whilst he also acknowledged that the minister published a written statement about the exercise on 4 March, he clarified that this did not answer the questions previously raised by the committee in January.

Furthermore, although Timms has since tabled written questions to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in relation to the issue, the response directed readers to the previous written statement laid on 4 March, as well as a further topical statement made during oral questions on 8 March.

The response stated: "Parliament was updated on this issue through a written statement laid on 4 March and a topical statement by the Secretary of State during DWP oral questions on 8 March.

"I have committed to updating parliament as the correction exercise progresses."

In light of this, the letter includes a query as to why the department has not answered questions about the amount of arrears paid so far and the number of people who have received repayments.

It has also queried whether the DWP was the source of recent figures seen in the media, namely that “around 200,000” women will receive letters from the DWP to tell them their state pension has been underpaid, as well as requesting a template of this letter.

The committee has also asked whether divorced people are included in the scope of the government exercise, noting that they were not mentioned in a previous government statement.

In addition to this, the WPC has highlighted concerns from LCP partner, Steve Webb, that women have been unable to get through to the department, questioning whether there will be a separate contact number for people affected by the exercise in light of this.

Commenting in response, a DWP spokesperson said: “The action we are taking now will correct the historical underpayments that have been made by successive governments. Anyone impacted will be contacted by us to ensure they receive all that they are owed.”

Figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility previously confirmed that the government was facing a £3bn bill over the six years in order to address the underpayment of state pensions.

Such issues around the underpayment of state pensions were first highlighted by Webb in March 2020, after a freedom of information request revealed that "tens of thousands" of women were not receiving the correct state pension uplifts.

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