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Ex-Service Men (Pensions)

Volume 972: debated on Tuesday 30 October 1979

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made by his Department over the question of anomalies in the provision of retirement pensions for ex-Service men.

The Government are still examining this very difficult problem. As I told the hon. Member on 12 June, these anomalies affect not only the Armed Forces but all groups of public service pensioners. In its wider aspects this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Civil Service.

Does the Minister accept that as inflation increases these discrepancies get wider? We now have the ridiculous situation of a man retiring from the Navy aged 55 and doing four years more service to retire in 1977 than some of his colleagues and getting a pension of upwards of £500 less. The situation cannot be allowed to continue in a fair society. Will the hon. Gentleman do something about this matter more quickly than he has done so far?

As I told the hon. Gentleman, these are complex issues which range widely across the whole of the public service. On 12 June I said that I could not hold out hopes of early remedial action. I regret that is still the situation.

Is it not a scandal that those who retired before April 1977 receive about 32 per cent. less in terms of pension and their widows receive about 32 per cent. less in pension than those who retired after that date because of the Labour Government's action in holding down the pay of the Armed Forces? Is not the sensible way to approach the problem to accept the proposal put forward by the Officers Pension Society of providing a floor below which pensions should not fall?

I have had discussions with the Officers Pension Society about these matters which range wider than the Armed Forces, as I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates. We are looking at various solutions, but I cannot hold out hopes of early remedial action.

The situation of regulars under 55 years of age who were demobbed before 1973 is causing consternation among ex-Service men and their pension associations. I think that the numbers diminish yearly. Therefore, is it not worth while looking into this matter to see whether we can bring these categories into the scales as if they were demobbed after 1973?

There are various options that we can consider, and we are certainly looking at all the options. However, there are complexities, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) will know, and there are considerable public expenditure implications too. I am by no means unsympathetic, but I urge hon. Members not to underestimate the difficulties.