Mitch Batt, General Secretary of the Defence Police Federation, outlines why a Government that has pledged to listen must do just that on our member's pension age
“We are not deaf, we are listening to your concerns”.
This was the message from Police Minister Nick Hurd a few weeks ago to the service.
And yet if this is the case, when it comes to Ministry of Defence Police Officers’ pensions, why are our very valid concerns being ignored by this Government?
So what are we worrying about?
The majority of our police officers are armed – and rightly have to maintain the highest standards of fitness and training to maintain their demanding roles of protecting sites of national importance and the public when called upon.
When The Public Service Pension Act became law in 2013, our officers, depending on their date of birth, were moved to the new Civil Service Pension Scheme, effectively meaning that their retirement age had gone from 60 – up to the state pension age.
So now this could be 67 or 68 – but we are very aware that this could change.
Let’s just spell that out – men and women potentially patrolling the streets carrying lethal weapons as they approach age 70…
It’s a crass decision for the Government not to actually look at the pension ages of our officers and consider why would you want an armed firearms officer carrying out his or her duties at 67+ when, for instance, a terrorist is probably going to be 19, 20 years old.
That’s a huge safety and security risk for the country.
And as we have sadly seen very publicly in 2017, our officers are on the front line of combatting and deterring terrorism.
It can’t be right that we have been sending our brave officers out to cover Operation Temperer, along with our Home Office colleagues, and yet we’re seeing those officers they stand beside have a better pension age… and yet were asked to hold to the same standard and to carry out the same role and face the same risks.
There is also an issue over fitness levels and frankly fairness.
There are obviously officers out there who would be able to maintain the high fitness levels that are required of an authorised firearms officer above the age of 60, but realistically there are going to be a majority of officers that can’t.
Having a pension age of 67 is going to actually mean that those officers will probably need to retire early and lose a proportion of their pensions or have to wait until they hit the state retirement age to claim it.
It’s so obviously unfair and the Government – if it is indeed not deaf and listening to the concerns of the service – should be doing something about it.
When we asked Lord Hutton, the architect of public service pension changes, why our members were not protected as “uniformed services” in the 2013 Act, he said he excluded the Ministry of Defence Police by accident.
But the Government will not rectify this mistake.
As a result, we have taken this to a Judicial Review. Unfortunately, that’s been stayed until the outcome of the judges and the fire brigade’s pension cases which will be held, we hear in December. After that we will know more.
The bottom line is we cannot ask our officers to carry on working to a pension age of 67 when their Home Office colleagues are retiring at 60.
And our members can rest assured that the Defence Police Federation will be doing everything we can to get them a fair pension age.
Forcing armed police officers – our members – to retire aged 67+ is not fair for our members, it puts in danger the valuable national assets we are tasked with looking after and it is not safe for the public that we are currently – and will be called on in the future – to protect.
It is time for a Government that pledges to listen to actually just do that.
In fact, not just listen but hear what we are saying.
And then act.