Policy and Press – January 2015
During the past month, the Defence Police Federation has met with and briefed members of the influential House of Commons Select Committee. The subject of the meeting was the ongoing issues of officers’ pensions and retirement ages, as a means of adding further weight to the calls of the Federation and numerous parliamentarians for a decision by the Government.
This meeting has been in addition to ongoing communication with parliamentarians and with the media.
There have been suggestions during the past month that the size of the Armed Forces could be cut even further as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) that is to be published later in 2015. This suggestion, mooted by former Defence Minister Sir Nick Harvey MP, was swiftly dismissed by the Prime Minister but adds to numerous suggestions in recent months that the Ministry of Defence may face significant pressure to further reduce its budget. This is in part based on the MoD falling outside the group of government departments set to have their spending ring-fenced in the next parliament.
There has also been continued speculation as to how various political parties might collaborate with each other to form a coalition government following the General Election. This has included the suggestion that Labour could join forces with the Scottish National Party (SNP) – with the SNP’s price for participation in a coalition likely to be the end of Trident. However, Labour has indicated that it is unlikely to agree to such conditions.
The political approach
The Defence Police Federation has remained in continual dialogue with parliamentarians and with both the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office regarding officers’ pensions and retirement ages.
We have included the Cabinet Office in our correspondence on the basis that the decision on officers’ pensions will not be made by the MoD in isolation, but will be influenced by other government departments including HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office. This is because any change to MDP pension provisions is likely to be noted and acted upon by other public sector workforces.
The principal point of our parliamentary engagement during the past month has been a meeting of members and the clerk of the Defence Select Committee. Following this meeting, the Select Committee committed to writing, under the name of its chairman Rory Stewart MP, to the MoD ministerial team, calling for the pensions situation to be urgently resolved. This is very significant. The Select Committee is extremely influential and scrutinises the decision making process of the MoD. While a letter from the Committee to the Secretary of State and Minister does not obligate the MoD to progress the solution proposed by the DPF, the acknowledgement of the merits of our arguments by a group of parliamentary defence experts is helpful in underlining the credibility of the Federation’s position and in putting further pressure on the MoD to take action.
The meeting additionally served as a helpful opportunity to brief the Committee on the risks of any further cuts to the MDP as part of the SDSR later in the year. This again is significant, as the Committee will rigorously examine the content of the SDSR.
Separately to this engagement, the Federation has written to both the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon MP, and Cabinet Secretary Frances Maude MP to call for an urgent resolution to the pensions issue. This has been supported by helpful interventions, in the form of parliamentary questions, from MPs including Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP. While these questions have received rather vague answers from the Minister (who was unwilling to commit to a timeframe for a decision), these are valuable in continuing to show the Government that it will face considerable parliamentary scrutiny if it continues to delay a decision on officers’ pensions.
During the past month, the Federation’s concerns have been reported twice in the national media. Firstly in The Times, which published a letter from National Chairman Eamon Keating in response to a report in the newspaper about local authorities spending millions on rehiring staff.
The letter from Eamon noted that such spending was not limited to local authorities, and made the case for government departments – including the MoD – having an understanding of future needs before instigating budget and personnel cuts. A copy of the letter can be accessed via link below, although this is unfortunately only available to those members with a subscription to The Times.
Separately, the Federation has also commented for the Mail on Sunday, raising concerns about cuts to the policing of married quarters and the effect this might have on security. A copy of the article can be accessed via the following link:
The Federation remains in close dialogue with national defence correspondents and with Police Oracle. The purpose of this engagement is to highlight issues of concern – notably regarding pensions – and also to ensure scrutiny over any MoD decisions for further cuts to the MDP.
We are grateful to all those members who have taken the time to write to their local MP using the template letter that was previously circulated by the Federation.
We would like to remind officers who might still wish to write to their MP that any correspondence is subject to regulations.