Replying to queries raised by two of Mr Skinner's women constituents, Ann Widdecombe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Social Security, sent him two copies of a letter saying that no final decision had been taken.
Miss Widdecombe said that a common state pension age of 60 was one option, but cost was a significant factor - as it was when considering the raising of women's state pension age to 65.
But the minister's two letters differed significantly when it came to time-scale. In one letter she said that if the first woman who had queried government policy was 'only 18 months from retirement she cannot possibly be affected by anything we decide. She may be completely reassured.'
She wrote in the second that if that woman was 'only four years from retirement, it is extremely unlikely that she will be affected by any decision we take. She may be reassured on this point.'
Mr Skinner said there was a significant difference between reassurance and complete reassurance - opening up the possibility that the Government was considering earlier-than-expected changes.
In BBC Television's On the Record last November, Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, said: 'We should be clear that we're talking about a change which is only going to be introduced probably in the next century.'Reuse content