BETWEEN us, we've paid out about £8bn and got precious little in return, but don't count me among the complainers.

"We" are the millions of working wives who opted to pay reduced rate National Insurance contributions, better known as the "married women's" rate.

In return for being allowed to keep a little more of our hard-earned, we received no benefits except cover for industrial injury and, back in 1968, it never occurred to me to carry on paying a full stamp once I married; few women did.

My contributions record was already halfway to hell in a handcart as I hadn't started my first job until I was almost 22 and hadn't had a hope then of affording to repay the five years or so I was told were missing.

In addition, in those far-off days, I didn't plan to work once we had a family so, at best, I'd have seven or eight years of any sort of stamp under my belt.

The one thing I did know about the reduced rate was that it didn't carry a pension, so any pension I received would have to depend on, and wait for, Sir's allocation.

And that lack of pension is where the complainers come in.

They now claim they didn't know they were paying for nothing. No? In those days I wasn't the inveterate reader of small print that age and cynicism have made me, but friends, never mind the Ministry of Whateveritwasthen, warned about that.

Surely all those women now complaining can't have had their heads in the sand, but they say the Government didn't tell them they'd have no pension.

Did only a few of us receive the explanatory leaflet when we notified "them" of marriage, with a request to be put on to the reduced rate?

I was a full-time mum in 1977 when women paying reduced rate were asked if they wanted to switch to the full "class 1" contribution but, when I returned to work for just one day a week in the following year, the clerk in the office of the Department of Health and Social Security congratulated me on returning to work "just in time" to carry on paying the reduced rate.

With my contributions record by then demanding a small fortune to catch up, there seemed little point in paying the higher rate out of one day's pay.

There wasn't a leaflet that time, not even the certificate of election I should have received.

That came in 1994, when I discovered, via a Government form about something else entirely and addressed to Sir, that I should have had one, applied for it, and it came, complete with leaflet.

If I do have a grumble, it's that nowhere along the line, once I began to pay reduced rate, did anyone, or any leaflet, point out that my few years of paying full rate would be money down the drain.

That was left until last autumn when, with the birthday looming, I was notified that £1.93 a week would be mine, a relic of the long-abandoned graduated pension scheme, and told, in heavy type in the accompanying booklet, that any full contributions amounting to less than a quarter of the years required for a full pension would earn nothing at all.

Making up my full record to ten years would, it seems, have earned me a quarter of the state pension in the five years before Sir gets his state allocation, when any of mine (and here's a genuine injustice for women who have paid full whack) would be absorbed into his.

If someone, somewhere, had told me that making up those few years would get me a quarter-pension, I'd have done that.

Never mind. I'm fortunate to work for an employer who, decades ago, allowed part-timers into the pension scheme - and that will remain mine when Sir hits 65.