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Judicial Pensions and Mandatory Retirement Age

Volume 678: debated on Thursday 16 July 2020

I am today launching three Government consultations on proposals for judicial pensions and the judicial mandatory retirement age.

The independent judiciary is a pillar of our democracy and plays a unique role in ensuring our freedoms and prosperity. Every day, judges take decisions on critically important issues that directly impact on people’s lives.

The importance and influence of our judiciary also reaches beyond our shores. Its reputation for integrity and impartiality helps attract international business to the UK, contributing to a legal services industry worth around £25 billion a year to our economy.

As Lord Chancellor, I have a duty to ensure that we have enough judges and that we continue to attract the very best legal practitioners to the bench. In its major review of the judicial salary structure, presented to this House on 26 October 2018, the Senior Salaries Review Body identified clear evidence of growing recruitment and retention issues at all tiers of the judiciary and pointed to pension-related changes as the main cause. The Government response to the major review, published on 5 June 2019, included a commitment to provide a long-term solution to these problems by making changes to judicial pensions.

Proposals for reforming the judicial pension scheme

The first consultation being published today sets out our proposals for reforming the judicial pension scheme to address the significant problems of recruitment and retention that we continue to experience. If we fail to tackle this issue, we put at risk the effective functioning of our justice system and its reputation. Without enough judges, cases will take longer, seriously affecting all jurisdictions. It will also undermine our ability to compete internationally for legal services, which are of such importance to the UK economy.

The proposed approach to pension reform offers a remuneration package which is both fair to the taxpayer and attractive to potential candidates for judicial office. I am confident that it will enable us to attract and retain high-calibre judges, ensuring the proper functioning of our justice system and supporting the UK’s wider prosperity. The aim is that the reformed scheme will come into operation from April 2022.

This consultation document is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-a-reformed-judicial-pension-scheme.

Proposals for responding to the McCloud litigation

Alongside the consultation on future reform of the judicial pension scheme, we are consulting on proposals for addressing the unlawful age discrimination identified in the case of McCloud in respect of the 2015 reforms of the judicial pension scheme.

The consultation proposes that the Ministry of Justice will run a single options exercise, which will give judges in scope of the McCloud judgment the choice of whether to have retrospectively accrued benefits in the 2015 pension scheme or the legacy scheme from 1 April 2015. Membership of the chosen scheme would continue until 31 March 2022, following which the reformed pension scheme is scheduled to come into operation.

Owing to the unique characteristics of the judicial pension schemes, the Ministry of Justice proposals are distinct from the approach being taken to most other public service pension schemes, as set out in HM Treasury’s McCloud consultation, which was also published today.

The consultation document relating to the judicial scheme is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-proposed-response-to-mccloud.

Proposals for increasing the judicial mandatory retirement age

Finally, we are also publishing a consultation on proposals for changing the mandatory retirement age for judges. The make-up of our judiciary has changed significantly in recent years and so have the resourcing needs of our courts and tribunals. We have responded to this change by increasing our recruitment programmes, but challenges remain. At the same time, life expectancy has increased. We are therefore consulting on whether to raise the mandatory retirement age for judicial office holders.

The proposals in this consultation would allow judges, coroners and magistrates to sit for longer and continue to contribute to the justice system. These proposals only relate to those judicial offices for which the UK Parliament has sole competence to legislate. The Ministry of Justice will continue to engage the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on approaches to the mandatory retirement age for judicial office holders across the UK.

This consultation document is available online at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/judicial-mandatory-retirement-age/.

The consultations close on 16 October 2020 and the Government will publish their response to each in early 2021.

The three consultation documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

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