17th March 2015
As you may have seen, a letter has been published in today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph calling for the Ministry of Defence to urgently announce its decision with regards to Ministry of Defence Police pensions.
This letter has been co-signed by the DPF and the Defence Fire and Rescue Service, along with three members of the Defence Select Committee and Alan Reid MP.
I appreciate that the issue of pensions has been a continuing source of frustration and uncertainty to members. I fully share this frustration and the Federation has communicated to the Department that it is unacceptable that a decision on this matter is yet to be announced.
We have received indications as to what the MoD’s position will be, although not a formal offer or confirmation of when the MoD would make its position public. This circular provides an indication of what the MoD’s position might be, although I must caution all members that this is far from confirmed. This circular additionally provides an outline of the work the Federation has undertaken on this issue over more than two years.
To briefly summarise the issues involved – before outlining our expectations as to the Department’s decision and the Federation’s work on this matter – MDP officers were excluded in error from legislation passed in 2013 that afforded a Normal Pension Age of 60 to the Armed Forces, Home Office constabularies and firefighters. This error was subsequently accepted by the architect of the legislation and by the government. However, we have been forced into protracted dialogue with the Department to resolve this issue, despite there being a clear understanding that it is unreasonable to expect officers to work to the age of 67 and potentially later.
There have been a number of complicating factors in addressing this matter. These have included an unwillingness of Departmental officials to negotiate; a requirement for the MoD to involve the other government departments (HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office) in the decision making process; and concern amongst ministers from various departments that granting the MDP a pension age of 60 might set a precedent for other public sector workforces in a similarly invidious position, such as paramedics.
To help break any potential logjam, the Federation proposed a compromise that recognised the difficulty to the MoD of reducing the pension age and incurring expense at a time when ministers are under pressure to cut costs. This compromise was that the Department would offer officers an Enhanced Effective Pension Age of 65, with officers then having the ability to make additional contributions that would allow them to retire at 60 should they wish.
Possible MoD position
As noted above, the Federation has been given initial indications as to what the MoD’s position might be – although it must be stressed that this is not confirmed and that the MoD has not given any indication of when it might either make its decision public or present the Federation with a formal offer.
Our expectation is that the MoD will confirm the retirement age for MDP officers will be lowered to an Enhanced Effective Pension Age of 65. It is to be confirmed as to how costs associated with this change would be met. However, it is also our understanding that the MoD will not enable officers to make additional pensions contributions to allow them to retire at 60.
As the Department has not provided the Federation with a formal offer, it is difficult to get a sense of the thinking behind such a decision, although we suspect this is the product of pressure being put on the MoD by other government departments not to set a precedent that could be used by other workforces in a similar position to the MDP.
The Federation will have a reserve judgement until we receive a formal offer from the Department, but clearly we would be concerned by any decision that did not ultimately bring the MDP into line with ‘uniformed services’ such as Home Office constabularies. We remain firmly of the view that it is unfair and unrealistic to expect MDP officers to work to the age of 67. While we would welcome any movement from the MoD, we would be concerned if this didn’t offer officers the option of retirement at 60 without incurring any actuarial costs.
The pensions issue has been a source of frustration and uncertainty for officers. The Federation’s representatives have been similarly frustrated by the very slow progress of negotiations with the Department.
I feel it is helpful to set out below an outline of some of the work undertaken by the Federation on members’ behalf with regards to pensions. There have been times over the last two years during which the Department has asked us to engage with them in confidence – requests we have adhered to in order to facilitate discussion and secure a positive outcome for members. However, a summary of the Federation’s work on behalf of members is as follows:
· Identified the error in the then-Public Service Pensions Bill that excluded the MDP from the category of ‘uniformed services’ and highlighted the error to the MoD.
· Engaged in briefings with MPs and Peers, ensuring discussion of the Bill and the public acknowledgement by its architect, Lord Hutton, that the MDP was excluded in error from the category of uniformed services.
· Briefed Members of the House of Lords who subsequently tabled an amendment to the Bill requiring the MoD to report on MDP pensions within 12 months (end of December 2013). While an amendment to have the MDP included amongst the category of ‘uniformed services’ was defeated, the secondary amendment allowed the Federation to continue campaigning on the issue.
· Briefed journalists in the national media, securing an article in The Times regarding the anomaly of MDP retirement ages.
· Highlighted concerns regarding pensions in the speech to the Minister at the Federation’s annual conferences in 2013 and 2014.
· Briefed parliamentary supporters including the former Defence Select Committee Chairman James Arbuthnot MP.
· Ensured the publication of a MoD review of MDP pensions, while also highlighting the Federation’s dissatisfaction with the quality and content of the report to parliamentary supporters and the media.
· Briefed supportive parliamentarians in advance of a House of Commons debate on the specific issue of MoD pensions.
· Maintained dialogue with MoD officials regarding pensions – including meeting requests to limit internal/external communications to facilitate negotiation.
· Met with the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans to discuss the pensions issue. The Federation also secured follow up meetings with the new Minister following a reshuffle.
· Met and briefed the Shadow Defence team, which subsequently tabled parliamentary questions and wrote to the Minister.
· Met and briefed parliamentarians to ensure regular correspondence to the Minister and regular parliamentary questions regarding MDP pensions.
· Drafted and circulated a toolkit to support Federation members in contacting their local MPs.
· Met and briefed the Defence Select Committee, ensuring a letter from the Committee Chair to the Minister.
· Drafted and secured the publication of comment articles in Police Oracle.
· Liaised with Select Committee members and Alan Reid MP to submit a letter calling for an urgent decision from the MoD to the Daily Telegraph.
We will of course alert members as soon as the MoD has formally told us its position and will advise members as to what actions we will be taking.
We remain grateful for members’ patience. I hope the summary above provides a helpful outline of some of the work the Federation has been continually undertaking on this issue, but please do not hesitate to contact us if you’ve any queries.
Defence Police Federation