If you’re a Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) officer, you work a 12 hour shift carrying around four stone of equipment.
That will include a firearm because MDP officers are firearms trained.
And it will require you to work to the state pension age rather than the normal pension age of 60 that is applied to Home Office constabularies and the armed forces.
Why is the MDP retirement age different? In 2013 the government passed the Public Service Pensions Act that confirmed a normal pension age of 60 for “uniformed services” including Home Office police and the armed forces.
The MDP was excluded from this category – an omission the architect of the Act, Lord Hutton, has publicly acknowledged as a mistake.
The result is that MDP officers have the same pension entitlement as civil servants, not police officers.
That isn’t to say that 66- or 67-year-olds can’t carry out the MDP’s role in securing vital establishments and assets. Some can. But it’s an unrealistic expectation of the majority of people, especially after a 40 or 50 year career that has a cumulative toll on an officer’s health and wellbeing.
There is a need to address what is a mistake in legislation. And the MoD knows there is a problem. But less than six months before the switch to the new Civil Service Pensions Scheme, the MoD is yet to act. And that action is both long overdue and urgently needed.
The Defence Police Federation proposed a compromise to solve the problem, which was that MDP officers should have a pension age of 65 but the ability to make additional contributions so they could retire at 60 if they wished and were able to, without penalty.
This reflects the reality that we are in a period of tight public spending. The MoD has made substantial cuts to its budget, and might have to make more cuts after the general election.
The money isn’t there for the MoD to pay the cost of reducing MDP retirement ages to 60 across the board.
This was why we suggested a compromise. But it’s a compromise in which the cost is split. Our offer involves individual officers picking up the cost of “buying out” the actuarial costs of the last five years of their service, or accepting the penalty.
The MoD would still have to meet a cost, albeit this would be reducing officers’ retirement age by two or three years.
We view this as a fair deal. Both sides contribute, and both get most of what they want. But time is running out to agree a compromise.
By not acting, the MoD would be saying it’s acceptable to have 67-year-old officers protecting its establishments and assets.
The department would be accepting the health risks this presents to officers, and the reality that they are asking what borders on the impossible for the majority of people over a 40 to 50 year career.
And they will be accepting the effect that decision has on the security of their assets.
More than two years have passed since this problem was first raised. MDP officers should be given the certainty of knowing what the future holds, and this can only be achieved if a decision is made urgently by the MoD.