During the last month, the Defence Police Federation has continued its communication with the Ministry of Defence following our meeting with the Minister, Anna Soubry MP, in January. At that meeting the Minister committed her officials to engaging fully with the Federation to discuss how the likely cost of a Normal Pension Age (NPA) of 60 for MDP officers would be calculated and the MOD’s decision making process on the issues of officers’ retirement ages and pensions.
Further details are outlined below for members’ information, but we have been dissatisfied with the MOD’s level of engagement and willingness to communicate with the Federation. We remain convinced that the issue is one with departmental officials and that the Minister understands the Federation’s position and appreciates our willingness to communicate constructively with the Department, rather than turning the issue into a very public one by engaging the Federation’s Parliamentary supporters and journalists. We have now written to the Minister to ensure her officials meet the commitments made to us in January.
The Government’s approach to the Armed Forces has again been publicly challenged during the last month, with General Sir Richard Shirreff (outgoing NATO deputy supreme commander) claiming cuts had “hollowed out” the Royal Navy – a claim swiftly denied by Secretary of State Philip Hammond. Sir Richard’s criticisms follow those expressed by former US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates – which were noted during the last month in a report on military deterrence by the Defence Select Committee – and former Head of the Army Lord Dannatt, who described an increased reliance on reservists within the Armed Forces as being “one hell of a risk”.
The MOD has also been challenged over how the Armed Forces, principally the Army, manage complaints, including those of bullying and harassment. The MOD has announced plans for the creation of a new service complaints model, although The Times (which has regularly published articles on such complaints) has argued that the MOD plans fall short of what is needed.
Separately, the Secretary of State has announced plans to appoint a private sector partner (the preferred bidder for which is Capita) to drive value for money within the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. We are continuing to monitor developments in the event in it might have implications for members.
The political approach
During the last month, the Federation has met with James Arbuthnot MP, the current Chairman of the Defence Select Committee. Mr Arbuthnot will be standing down as Committee chairman in the next few months in anticipation of his standing down as an MP at the next General Election. He remains an extremely influential figure in defence policy and the meeting served as an opportunity to ensure the Select Committee was fully informed of the Federation’s ongoing engagement with MOD on the subject of officers’ pensions and retirement ages.
As noted above, the Federation has continued to engage with the MOD regarding a NPA of 60. The MOD’s approach, unfortunately, has been extremely unsatisfactory.
Members will recall that the Federation met with the Minister in January and was given assurances that MOD officials would engage fully on the subject of the NPA. The Federation has been disappointed by the lack of communication from departmental officials despite repeated requests for information.
The MOD has now received data from the Government Actuaries Department (GAD) setting out an assessment of the cost of a NPA of 60. The Federation has been given little sight of this information, which officials have passed to the Minister for her consideration. The Federation rejects the content of the report submitted to the Minister as incomplete, insufficient and inaccurate. We are of the belief that GAD has undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the relevant figures and evidence, but that this information has been used in an extremely subjective way by the Department using a flawed methodology to reach a predetermined conclusion.
The Federation is firmly of the belief that the Minister has engaged with us very transparently. We have written to her to express our disappointment at the level of engagement by her officials, in addition to highlighting the fundamental flaws in the report she has been presented with. We have recommended that an additional month of consultation take place to ensure the Minister receives complete and accurate information.
The issue of the NPA still requires a Ministerial recommendation, after which a final decision must be made by the Secretary of State – potentially also involving HM Treasury. As such, this is a far from closed issue and the Federation will continue to communicate with the Minister and pressure for an appropriate level of engagement with her officials. We will also be continuing to brief Parliamentary supporters. We have recommended thus far that supportive MPs and Peers take no action while we communicate with the MOD – however, further issues with the Department will result in the Federation revising that recommendation.
Members will be aware that following what was a positive meeting with the Minister in January, the Federation committed to engaging fully with the MOD and refraining from media engagement on the NPA to allow these discussions to take place privately, constructively and in a responsible manner.
We retained our right to brief our media contacts should the Department not honour its commitments. We await a response from the Minister to our letter outlining our concerns at the Department’s approach and the GAD report. If necessary, we will be briefing media contacts on this subject to make the issue as public as possible for the MOD.
We would recommend in light of our meeting with the Minister that members refrain from contacting their local MPs at present, while dialogue with the MOD over the NPA is ongoing.
We would ask any member wishing to contact their MP that any correspondence is subject to MDP regulations.