The Police Oracle has reported on the upcoming Government report into MDP pensions. The article mentions that the government report will be published in December and cites the House of Commons adjournment debate in Parliament on Tuesday, highlighting that MPs called the lack of inclusion of the MDP and DFRS in the “uniformed services” category when setting retirement age an “anomaly”. The article also mentions that Defence Minister Anna Soubry acknowledged that defence police and firefighters deliver a professional and valued service to the nation, but claimed that there were significant differences in how they carry out their roles and responsibilities compared to those under the remit of the Home Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government. Chairman of the DPF Eamon Keating said it was “ludicrous” to expect officers in their 70s to be physically fit enough to serve and highlighted that MDP officers carry “four-stone in equipment” of which was “mainly body armour and firearms”. Mr Keating also said that Unite, which represents the DFRS, produced research showing a worker becomes between two-to-four times more likely to be off work between the ages of 60 and 62.
Further details of Tuesday’s adjournment debate on Defence police and fire pensions can be found in this week’s document.
Adjournment debate – Defence police and fire pensions
On Tuesday 26th November, the House of Commons held an adjournment debate on Defence Police and Fire Pensions. Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid introduced the debate by explaining the defence police officers and firefighters had been caught out by what he described as an “anomaly” in the Public Service Pensions Act. Mr Reid highlighted that Lord Hutton, who compiled the report which formed the basis of the Act, said that he had been unaware of the “unique circumstances” of defence police and fire personnel when he compiled his report and had he been aware, he would have recommended they be treated the same as the other uniformed services.
Mr Reid went on to explain that as with all other uniformed services, defence firefighters and police have to be ready to go instantly from a state of rest to 100% alertness and high physical exertion, which puts heavy strain on the body. Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP added that not only does the job require MDP and DFRS officers to be alert at times of crisis but to keep up arduous standards of fitness in preparation for any eventuality.
Speaking on the current review, Mr Reid said that the report should look into the impact on the health and well-being of personnel, the ability of those over 60 to meet strict fitness requirements and the consequences of early retirement for workers who cannot keep up the required fitness standards. Mr Reid went on to ask the Minister:
- what consultation had the Government had with the work force representatives – the Defence Police Federation and the Defence Fire and Rescue Service section of Unite;
- what further consultation will be held with these representative bodies before the review report is completed;
- will the Minister confirm that they will be able to see a draft before final publication and feed their reviews into the process;
- whether the publication of the review will be the final work, or the basis for further consultation and negotiation;
- what research has been carried out to establish whether people over 60 are likely to have the fitness required to carry out duties of defence police and firefighters without long absences from work and what proportion would be likely to retire early on health grounds.
Mr Reid summed up by saying that police, fire and rescue personnel working in the MOD should be allowed to retire at the same age as their counterparts in the country’s other police and fire services. Labour MP John McDonnell added that the whole issue was one of fairness and the he hoped that a draft of the report would be provided to all the parties concerned in advance of publication so they were aware of the likely conclusions.
The Minister for Defence Personnel, Anna Soubry MP, began her response by highlighting that there had been a historical distinction in the roles of the MDP and DFRS to Home Office police forces and local authority fire fighters. Ms Soubry also highlighted that that there was a wider review currently being undertaken on the terms and conditions of service for MDP personnel, noting that abatement and the Net Pay Deduction would be considered as part of this review.
Ms Soubry said that as part of the review of MDP and DFRS pensions, the MOD has consulted the relevant trade unions, the chief constable of the MDP and the chief fire officer of the DFRS. Mr Reid highlighted that the DPF was a professional association and not a trade union and asked the Minister if it had been consulted. Ms Soubry said that the MOD had engaged with the DPF through the quarterly police committee, the monthly MDP management board, and regular meetings in respect of the separate terms and conditions of service review. Ms Soubry also said she would be happy to meet trade union representatives for the MDP or DFRS, including the DPF.
The DPF are concerned with Ms Soubry's responses and have written to her directly to request a meeting in order to clarify as we’re of the position that we have not been consulted in any terms whatsoever.
Answers to written questions
- Scottish National Party MP Angus Robertson asked the Secretary of State for Defence:
- on how many occasions he or his officials have met the Chairman of the Defence Police Federation in relation to his Department’s Report on MDP Pensions; and
- whether he has any meetings planned with the DPF Chairman before the publication of his Department’s Report on the MDP pensions.
Defence Minister Anna Soubry MP responded that there have been a number of meetings with the Defence Police Federation as part of the MDP Terms and Conditions of Service Review. These have included discussions regarding pensions. Ms Soubry said the MDP review team have an undertaking to meet with the DPF informally at least every six weeks as part of that review.
Ms Soubry added that a copy of the Department’s final report into the likely effect of section 10 of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 on the MDP and Defence Fire and Rescue Services will be made available to the Defence Police Federation prior to publication.
- Labour MP Dave Anderson asked the Secretary of State for Defence:
whether the review of MDP and DFRS pensions will include examination of the MDP Net Pay Deduction; and
which stakeholders were consulted as part of the review of MDP and DFRS pensions
Defence Minister Anna Soubry MP replied with reference to the answer given by the Minister for International Security Strategy to Dr Andrew Murrison MP’s question on 31 October 2013 and to Gemma Doyle MP’s recent question. Ms Soubry said that the Department has consulted with the relevant trade unions while preparing this report.
Ms Soubry went on to say that the MDP Net Pay Deduction is not part of the current MOD review of MDP and DFRS pensions, but is under review as part of the wider review of MDP terms and conditions due to conclude in spring 2014.
- Conservative MP Peter Luff asked the Defence Secretary what assessment he has made, during his Department’s consideration of a possible transfer of the Defence Equipment and Support organisation to GoCo status, of the characteristics and freedoms of the DE&S Plus model that differentiate it from the status quo.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne responded that the Defence Equipment and Support Plus (DE&S+) model is currently being developed and highlighted that the Defence Secretary has previously provided a detailed proposal to be evaluated alongside the GoCo model shortly.
- Labour MP Kevan Jones asked the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the report on Viability of the Material Strategy Procurement:
- what assessment he has made of the conclusion of the report’s authors that any failure of one or more parties within any consortia could fundamentally impact the competition;
- whether his Department undertook a formal stop/go decision after one of the consortia withdrew from the GoCo bidding process on 15 November 2013; and how that decision was taken;
- what governance processes his Department has established to ensure that the negotiated deal does not become unbalanced by the need to maintain a competitive process; and whether his Department has adopted any of those processes;
- whether his Department had contingency plans in place for a further reduction in the market before the withdrawal of one of the bidding consortia on 15 November 2013;
- what steps his Department has taken to dedicate senior commercial leadership and capacity to the deal process in the GoCo bidding process;
- what steps his Department has taken to engage in regular senior stakeholder discussions at International Board and PUS level on the GoCo bidding process;
- what steps his Department has taken to require bidders to maintain contingency plans aligned to their risk profile in the GoCo bidding process;
- what steps his Department has taken to ensure the risk profiles around each bidder are actively-managed in the GoCo bidding process.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne said that the Government has already made significant progress on implementing the recommendations outlined in the Viability of the Materiel Strategy Procurement report that was placed in the Library of the House on 19 November 2013. Mr Dunne said the Material Acquisition Partners Bid Team is being actively managed, including for contingency planning and risk – and will ensure that these are review regularly as the Government progresses through the competition.
On GoCo, Mr Dunne reiterated the written ministerial statement of 19 November 2013, from Philip Hammond, which said the government will take a formal stop/go decision now that one consortium has withdrawn, once the MOD, with the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, have studied the detailed commercial proposal and the DE&S+ proposition. Mr Dunne said a further statement will be made once this process is complete.