The government is reported to have delayed an announcement on changes to the state pension age that was due next week.
Section 27 of the Pensions Act 2014 reads as follows:
“(1) The Secretary of State must from time to time – (a) review whether the rules about pensionable age are appropriate, having regard to life expectancy and other factors that the Secretary of State considers relevant, and (b) prepare and publish a report on the outcome of the review.
(2) The first report must be published before 7 May 2017 [our italics].”
You might think that sounds quite categorical – the word “must” occurs twice – but reports, including from the BBC, say that the government will not meet the deadline. There is no indication of this on the DWP website, but “sources” are claiming that pre-election ‘purdah’ rules prevent any announcement from being made.
A somewhat similar argument was thrown out by the High Court last week. In that case, the government argued that purdah prevented it from publishing draft air pollution plans, even though the High Court had ruled last November that DEFRA should publish its plans by 24 April 2017. In giving his decision, Mr Justice Graham said that the government could not simply use purdah as a “defence...not to comply with court orders…It is not a trump card to be deployed at will by one litigant”. While purdah is an established practice, it has no specific legislation behind it.
Given the controversy already surrounding the future of the pensions “triple lock”, it is understandable that the government might want to divert attention away from state pension issues. Bringing forward the increase in state pension age to 68 by seven years, as was proposed by the final Cridland Report, will not be a popular move with most voters.
The High Court refused the government right to appeal in last week’s case, although the government could still go directly to the Court of Appeal. The DWP may be awaiting the next steps in the DEFRA case before making any (non-) announcements about state pension age.
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