Great Britain

'Where's WASPI women costing?' Andrew Neil skewers Labour's Powell on borrowing for funds

Andrew Neil asked the Labour candidate: “Where is the costing of the WASPI women in your grey book?” The question put Ms Powell on the spot who claimed the BBC Politics Live host had already received an answer to such question by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during his car-crash interview on Tuesday. But as she claimed the recompense would be a "one-off" payment, Mr Neil snapped: “It’s not a one-off, it’s going to be almost £60 billion to be paid off over a number of years.

“Billions and billions per year, it’s current spending because it’s pensions.

“And you haven’t costed that at all.”

The Labour candidate replied: “Some of that will obviously have to come from additional borrowing and there is some headroom in our grey book for that additional borrowing.”

Gobsmacked by Ms Powell's response, the BBC host said: “Really? The grey book already has lines over £600 billion of borrowing.

“Where is the headroom?”

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“But I don’t see I have got your grey book here, the costings for it. I don’t see any sign of how you are going to pay for it?”

Mr Corbyn then ducked the question and said: “I have got a grey book here if you want.”

Mr Neil undeterred by the Labour leader said: “No I have got yours that is fine. Where do you pay for it?”

The Labour leader again refused to give a straight answer and said: “First of all, let's deal with the issue.”

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Mr Corbyn was then put further on the back-foot by Mr Neil who continued to press the Labour leader for a concrete answer on the finances.

Flustered, he once again refused to answer and insisted the WASPI women pension fund was a “moral issue”.

Mr Neil said he acknowledged his concerns but said that was not his question and proceed to ask Mr Corbyn a further six times.

Eventually, Mr Corbyn was forced to admit the party may have to resort to further long-term borrowing to cover the cost.

In its election manifesto, Labour promised to compensate an estimated 3.7 million women who believed they lost out financially due to changes in the state pension age - however, it did not publish its full costing.

The party has estimated the payout could amount to £58 billion over five years - with individual payments averaging £15,380 running to a maximum of £31,300.

It follows a lengthy campaign by the so-called "WASPI women" who said they were given insufficient time to prepare for the changes brought in by the former coalition Government.

Appearing on the Andrew Neil Show on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn refused to answer several times how he would find the £60 billion to compensate the women.

Mr Neil said: “At the weekend you said you were going to compensate the WASPI women and they are the ones who feel they have been hard done by state pensions.