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waspi maclean
Credit: WASPI/parliamentlive.tv

A Tory MP has suggested that earning £3.50 an hour is a ‘great opportunity’ for women aged over 65.

Her comments came during an Opposition Day debate on women affected by state pension age increases – so called ‘WASPI’ (Women Against State Pension Inequality) women – whose age of entitlement to a state pension was increased with very little notice, throwing the retirement plans of millions of women into disarray.

During the debate, Rachel Maclean, Conservative MP for Redditch, said:

‘I would like to ask the honourable member opposite what exactly is wrong with a woman aged 65 taking an apprenticeship…I know women who are 65 who find that a great opportunity.’

She didn’t mention that the rate of pay in the first year of an apprenticeship – no matter whether you are 16 and living at home with your parents, or 65 and trying to meet all your living costs – is just £3.50 an hour.

That’s the equivalent of £6,700/year, or slightly less than 9% of Rachel Maclean’s MP salary of £75,000 a year.

It would be interesting to meet the women that Rachel Maclean claims are excited by the prospect of being paid less than 50% of the minimum wage at a time in their lives when they thought they would be able to retire.

The Opposition Day debate, brought by the SNP, was debating the motion:

That this House calls on the Government to improve transitional arrangements for women born on or after 6 April 1951 who have been adversely affected by the acceleration of the increase to the state pension age.

As with the recent vote on Universal Credit, the Tories boycotted the vote in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat, and the motion was passed 288 to 0. However, the vote is symbolic and the government is not bound by it.

waspi
Credit: WASPI

An estimated 2.6m women born after April 1951 will be affected by the changes to state pension age. The WASPI campaign says that:

WASPI agrees with equalisation, but does not agree with the unfair way the changes were implemented – with little or no personal notice, faster than promised, and no time to make alternative plans. Retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.

No matter, though: Rachel Maclean will be charging to the rescue with offers of apprenticeships. It’s an extraordinary idea, that after a lifetime of work, millions of women should consider taking up £3.50/hour apprenticeships at the age of 65, because the government moved the goalposts after they’d made plans for their retirement.

It shows a total lack of concern for these women and the fact that, through no fault of their own, they’ve found themselves in extremely precarious financial situations. As Patricia Gibson, SNP MP for North Ayrshire and Arran put it:

The message is, “Don’t worry if you’re short of money now. Don’t worry if you can’t pay the rent. One day, if you hang on long enough, the Queen might send you a wee card.”

The Tories are so out of touch with the reality of people’s lives, it’s truly scary.

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