THE Tories have been accused of making a "political" choice to postpone making a decision on when to raise the pension age to 68 until after the next General Election.

MPs were told that an independent report recommended the rise from 67 to 68 should take place between 2041 and 2043, four years later than the UK Government previously accepted and earlier than set out in existing legislation.

The planned increase to the state pension age from 66 to 67 is still set to occur between 2026 and 2028 and has been set out in legislation since 2014. 

But now, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the current rules for the increase to 68 “remain appropriate” but also noted he is “mindful a different decision” might be needed once a further review is conducted within two years of the next Parliament.

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This review would assess various factors including life expectancy and public finances. The next election is expected to take place in 2024.

However, the SNP said the decision to delay was a sign of a Government "at the end of days". 

It comes as French President Emmanuel Macron faces protests from furious citizens after he forced through a bill raising the retirement age without a vote.

However, in the UK, plans to raise the retirement age have now been pushed into the long grass and with the decision to be taken after the next General Election. With the Tories languishing behind Labour in the polls, it could be seen as the Tories pushing this off for a future Labour government to deal with, the SNP suggested.

The National: Stride said the decision would not be taken on raising the retirement age until the next electionStride said the decision would not be taken on raising the retirement age until the next election (Image: House of Commons)

Stride, making a statement to the House of Commons, said: “As a society we should celebrate improvements in life expectancy, which has risen rapidly over the past century and is projected to continue to increase.

“Since the first state pension age review was undertaken in 2017, however, the increase in life expectancy has slowed.”

He added: “Given the level of uncertainty about the data on life expectancy, labour markets and the public finances, and the significance of these decisions on the lives of millions of people, I am mindful a different decision might be appropriate once these factors are clearer.

“I, therefore, plan for a further review to be undertaken within two years of the next Parliament to consider the rise to age 68 again.

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“This will ensure that the Government is able to consider the latest information, including life expectancy and population projections, that reflect the findings of the 2021 Census data, the latest demographic trends, and the current economic situation.

“We will also be able to consider the impact on the labour market of the measures we have announced to increase workforce participation and any other relevant factors.

“The current rules for the rise from 67 to 68, therefore, remain appropriate and the Government does not intend to change the existing legislation prior to the conclusion of the next review.”

Stride said Tory peer Baroness Neville-Rolfe, who conducted one of the reviews, was unable to take into account the long-term impact of “challenges” including the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation-linked to Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine.

The National: Brown said the decision was 'political'Brown said the decision was 'political' (Image: House of Commons)

SNP MP Alan Brown said in the Commons: "I realise it's regrettable that this didn’t happen in good time, I’m sure many of us are left wondering why the Government didn’t publish these reports earlier and allow proper parliamentary scrutiny to help [give] a more informed decision.

"Isn’t it the case that this decision now is actually a political decision, because they don’t want another fight before the General Election, because it's a government at the end of days?"

Stride replied: "I have always been clear that we would publish that at around the time my report of the review was released, and that is exactly what we have done."

David Linden MP, the SNP’s social justice spokesperson, added: “Pensioners are getting a raw deal from Westminster who deliver one of the worst state pensions in North West Europe - any plans to force people to work longer would be a further kick in the teeth to those who’ve worked their whole lives.

“We’re seeing a Tory-made cost of living crisis hammer households and force many pensioners into extreme poverty as energy bills, food prices, and mortgage rates rise out of control.

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“We’ll resist moves to increase the pension age and continue to push the UK government to do more for pensioners, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that we can only offer decent pensions, a better standard of living, and more support for struggling households with the full powers of independence.”

For Labour, shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said stalling life expectancy rates are a “damning indictment” of the UK Tory Government.

He said: “Today’s announcement that they are not going ahead with accelerating the state pension age is welcome, and it is the right one.

“But it is the clearest admission yet that a rising tide of poverty is dragging life expectancy down for so many, and stalling life expectancy, going backwards in some of the poorest communities, is a damning indictment of 13 years of failure which the minister should have acknowledged and apologised for today.”

Ashworth claimed that previous work and pensions secretaries had said it was “explicit Government policy to bring forward the increase in the state pension age to 68 between 2037 and 2039”.

He asked the minister: “Can he confirm whether the review that he has announced for the future will still consider bringing forward an increase in the state retirement age to 2037? Does that remain the Government’s policy ambition or is that now abandoned?”

Stride, in his reply, said: “Given that we have made a commitment to a 10-year notice period, that would suggest that if the next review and I say if, it is for others to decide this in the course of time, we are, say in 2026, that would indeed bring those dates as possible, but of course, it wouldn’t preclude decisions being taken for dates further out than 2037-39.”

Stride claimed pensioner poverty “has improved right across the board since 2009/10” adding this was “not least because of the policies pursued by this Government”.