Jeremy Corbyn issues pension promise to Notts WASPI women and mineworkers

Jeremy Corbyn on his visit to Vision West Notts College
Jeremy Corbyn on his visit to Vision West Notts College

Jeremy Corbyn has made a promise to the WASPI women and former miners of Mansfield and Ashfield that a Labour government would repay their longstanding pension "debts".

Visiting West Nottinghamshire College in Kirkby with Ashfield's Labour candidate Natalie Fleet, Mr Corbyn pledged Labour's full backing to both the WASPI cause and the Mineworkers' Pension Campaign - two policies the party has unveiled in the last week.

Labour's manifesto has already vowed to shift the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme to 90 per cent in favour of mineworkers, who feel they have been "robbed" by the government after £4.5 billion was taken from the scheme over 25 years.

And now the party has revealed its new £58 billion WASPI pledge, which would see women born in the 1950s compensated for lost pension funds as a result of a rise to the state pension age.

WASPI - Women Against State Pension Increase - is a campaign launched in 2015 by the affected women that aims to regain lost state pension funds as a result of the changes.

Figures released by the government estimate that there are 6,600 WASPI women in Ashfield and 2,300 women in Mansfield who are affected.

And Labour's new policy would see the women who fall into that bracket receiving tens of thousands of pounds in compensation - the key demand put forward by campaigners.

Mr Corbyn says the policy is a "moral question" about the plans and lives of the women, and that it is a "contract" central government should "fulfll".

He said: "It obviously varies depending on their year of birth, but I met a group of WASPI women this morning in Bolsover and they were varying between £30,000 and £50,000 each.

"This is money that was taken from them, quite wrongly, from the government and I think it's a debt we have to repay.

"It will be tapered over time so that those who were born later, and therefore lost the least, will be slightly further down the line.

"But a number of other questions have been raised, particularly on behalf of some of them who have life-threatening conditions - clearly they must be tended to immediately.

"So we will do it as soon as we can. But it is a moral question actually, that these women expected a pension, didn't realise that the system had changed and it was sped up again in 2011, and some of them are living in very difficult conditions.

"[The policy] is a lot of money, but it's money they were expecting to get because they paid into the system, paid their taxes and their national insurance, and it's a contract we've got with them that we've got to fulfil."

Mr Corbyn was also questioned on the party's policy to shift the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme from 50/50 with the government into a 90/10 arrangement in favour of former mineworkers.

Asked whether the party would look to compensate the scheme with the £4.5 billion taken from it over the last 25 years, including more than £500 million in 2018, he said it is something the party would "look at".

He said: "We will look at that, but the important thing is the principle of going from 50/50 to 90/10, to make sure the mineworkers that they, again, thought they were entitled to from working in a very dangerous industry.

"Over many years it's actually been a robbery of the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme by central government and it's got to change."