Durkan vows to continue '˜pension justice' fight for 1950s women

Mark Durkan, SDLP candidate for Foyle in June 8 Westminster election, pledges to battle for compensation for women born in the 1950s unfairly hit by rises to the state pension age

Friday, 26th May 2017, 11:07 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:28 pm
Mark Durkan addresses a WASPI rally in London.

I am delighted to support today’s WASPI National ‘Local Day of Action’ and to reiterate my pledge to campaigners that I will do everything in my power to challenge the invidious denial of state pension entitlements for which they have made every contribution required from them.

I, and the other SDLP MPs at Westminster, have been the most active and vocal of all NI MPs on this issue.

Going back to the 2011 bill and amendments, I have consistently challenged what I termed the Tory government’s “intentional injustice” and have spoken out strongly in all debates and rallies at Parliament. Along with the SNP, the SDLP also secured the first debate about the WASPI campaign in the last Parliament.

Not content on betraying 1950s women pensioners, Theresa May also now wants to renege on the ‘triple lock’ pledge to the wider pensioner population in the next Parliament. Indeed, it is clear that the Tories now want to roll back on this guarantee on pension increases.

Awareness of the WASPI campaign is growing every day and valid anger is not ebbing as government ministers presume.

This determination and the new awareness which will be reflected today shows that this issue is not simply going to go away and must continue to be fought in Parliament and in the campaign channels developed by the WASPI women.

When Desmonds & Sons was wound up in 2005, 300 former employees were left with only 53% of their pension. I made a promise to them I would do all I could to remedy their injustice.

I took their campaign inside Parliament to remove an anomaly in pension protection law. As a direct result, most of the pensioners received their 90% Financial Assistance Scheme payments.

All parties made commitments to the Desmonds’ pensioners but only the SDLP held to its commitment and held out for a fair deal.

Yet, to get this result took years of work on the Commons floor, in bill committees and in meetings with ministers.

The continuing fight against the Tories’ betrayal of 1950s women pensioners will, therefore, only be successfully fought by MPs who take their seat at Westminster and a strong stand against pension injustice.

That is why it is important that Derry continues to have a strong, clear and principled voice in Parliament making the case, ready to be counted and taking a stand, even if others do not.

I, therefore, pledge to continue to speak out and vote against this egregious change and the Tory government’s new curbs on pensions.

That is the positive choice I am offering the people of Derry in this election and the democratic service I promise everyone in Foyle.