1. ITV Report

Hexham MP defends comments suggesting women over 60 should become apprentices


Hexham MP Guy Opperman has defended comments suggesting women over 60 hit by changes to the state pension could take up apprenticeships.

The Work and Pensions Minister has been widely derided for comments made in a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, as he defended the Government's policy for women to increase the state pension age from 60 to 65.

Speaking at women's and equalities questions in the Commons, Mr Opperman was again pressed on the issue of the so-called Waspi women and his comments on apprenticeships.

He said: "Many companies like the Co-Operative, Barclays, Aviva, Centrica and others have committed to older workers by recruiting and retraining.

"The employment rate for 50 to 64-year-olds is up 48,000 this quarter, 213,000 on the year, and that includes 57,000 people who started apprenticeships aged 45 to 59, and 3,500, 60,000 people on recent records, who started apprenticeships when over the age of 60."

It came as Tory former minister Tim Loughton called for action on the "injustice".

"I'm afraid the minister, as he knows, was on a hiding to nothing in the packed debate in Westminster Hall yesterday," he said.

"And whilst his offer to meet representatives from the all party group was very welcome, as he's heard, his promotion of apprenticeships for 64-year-olds was perhaps less wise.

"This is clearly a matter of injustice, this is is clearly a matter of inequality for a group of women who have been treated disproportionately.

"So could we please get everybody back round the table with some genuine discussions about find solutions that won't break the bank but will bring us some justice and some solution to very hard pressed women who are suffering now."

Mr Opperman replied: "I do look forward to meeting with the all party group when it is reformed.

"But I do make the point that revisiting the 1995 Pension Act, and the 2001 Act, would cost well in excess of £30 billion, as he knows.

"However, I do look forward to those meetings and those discussions."

Labour MP for Blaydon, Liz Twist was also critical. In an interview with ITV News Tyne Tees, she said: "He was explaining the reasons to these women that they could get apprenticeships, at the age of 60, that they could return to life long learning and when I realised what he was saying, I felt that this was really unfair to the women who are in this position.

"I think it was outrageous"