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Armed Forces Pensions

Volume 522: debated on Monday 31 January 2011

2. What estimate he has made of the number of armed forces personnel and their dependants who will be affected by proposed changes to the uprating of armed forces pensions; and if he will make a statement. (36735)

The change in the future uprating of public service pensions to the consumer prices index applies to all new pensions coming into payment, those pensions currently in payment and to the future uprating of deferred pension rights. CPI is deemed more appropriate than the retail prices index because the Bank of England uses it to measure inflation and it is an internationally standard measure. We understand the concerns that have been raised about this matter, but such is the scale of the economic problems that we inherited that no part of society—not even the armed forces—can be fully exempt from the need to find ways to reduce the budget deficit.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He will be aware that the change to CPI will mean a lower pension for those currently on one, which will be particularly difficult for service personnel who are retiring early because of grievous injuries caused in conflicts we are currently undertaking. Will he confirm to the House whether the change is intended to be temporary for the purposes of deficit reduction, or whether he intends to short-change our personnel on a permanent basis?

We most certainly do care about those whose pensions may be affected. In April 2010, RPI was less than CPI—it was actually negative—so RPI is not always better than CPI for pension uprating. The move is intended to be permanent because it will go forward for all public sector pensions and will be how public sector pensions will be determined in the future. If the Opposition wish to change that, perhaps they should announce now that they will change all public pensions back to RPI, should they ever—God forbid—be re-elected to office.

There is increasing anger about this policy, and that has now been joined and taken up brilliantly in a campaign by the Daily Mirror. Yet the Government will not say how much the move will save them; they will not admit that it could cost a young Afghan war widow £750,000 in payments; and they have not explained that although the deficit is temporary, this cut is permanent. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to offer a direct answer to a direct question: given that, as we now know, this is not about deficit reduction, has he consulted the armed forces families federations, and what have they told him about this permanent cut?

I shall be meeting the armed forces families federations in the very near future. However, I have been reading an article by the right hon. Gentleman in which he said that his pride in the armed forces was “lined with anger”—an interesting use of English! I was proud of the armed forces throughout the 18 years I served, and I, too, am angry—I am angry that we are faced with a financial situation that is damaging this country and our armed forces.