The Pension Act 1995 (s. 126) equalised the State Pension age for men and women by raising it for women from 60 to 65. The change was to be phased in over a ten-year period, to come into effect between 2010 and 2020.

Equalising the pension age (to accord equal treatment to men and women) had been a manifesto commitment made by the Conservative Party in the 1992 general election. However, the measure was controversial because it was regressive, equalised downwards (to women’s detriment), rather than lowering men’s pensionable age. Critics argued that it would exacerbate women’s disadvantaged economic position.

In a joint letter to The Times (as the Pensions Bill was progressing through Parliament), the Fawcett Society, Age Concern, the Equal Opportunities Committee, the TUC and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (amongst other signatories) stated that:

Women are more reliant on the basic state pension than men because their lower earnings and different patterns of work make it harder for them to build up other sources of pension. Because the care of children and of disabled people as well as elder care in the home fall mainly on women they frequently have to move from full-time work into lower paid work or give up employment for a time. (23 January 1995)


On the second reading of the Bill Conservative minister for Social Security, Peter Lilley, told the House of Commons that lowering the age was necessary for financial reasons:


Throughout the world, more people are living longer and enjoying longer in retirement, but there will be fewer people of working age to support them. How to pay for those pensions is the most important single issue facing every Government. … We want a system that offers the best chance of security to pensioners while not placing unsustainable burdens on future taxpayers. (Hansard 24 April 1995)