MoD condemned by all sides in row over soldiers’ pensions
Sign the Parliamentary epetition:
by Deborah Haynes – Defence Editor of The Times – 25 August 2012
Politicians on both sides of the House called on the Government yesterday to do more for a group of officers who have been sacked just before becoming eligible for an early pension.
Calling the situation “shabby”, Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and former Army officer, suspected that the Ministry of Defence had deliberately targeted the servicemen to save more cash — a charge that the Government denies.
“I would be surprised if this was not a cynical attempt to save money,” he said. “This is a confidence trick that has been played on officers that have given a great deal of service for the Crown and risked their lives.”
The Times revealed yesterday that Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, had to write to a committee of MPs last week to correct a mistake in evidence that he had given on the issue when asked about the redundancy scheme in July.
Relatives of officers who are missing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds of pension have questioned whether his error before the Defence Select Committee was a sign that policymakers did not understand the implications of laying an officer off just before the 16-year service requirement for an early payout.
“If the Secretary of State was not completely clear about this point then let him clear it up for the benefit of those officers and not for the benefit of the Treasury,” Mr Mercer said.
Julian Brazier, a fellow Conservative MP, a former member of the Territorial Army and a member of the Defence Select Committee, did not believe that the soldiers were deliberately targeted to save more money. Instead he felt that they must have been an oversight in what is a massive redundancy programme that will see the Army lose 20,000 posts.
“This [redundancy] process has thrown up this very small number, just 80, of very hard cases,” Mr Brazier said, referring to the number of officers and lower ranks that are known to have lost their job within a year of becoming eligible for an early pension.
“I very much hope that the MoD will be willing, given the small number of people involved and the special circumstances, to look again at this small number of cases.”
Jim Murphy, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said that denying a soldier a pension “is a cold-hearted way to treat brave men and women, many of whom have repeatedly served in Afghanistan” He added:“This Government must now publish all details of the redundancy criteria along with how many members of the Armed Forces have been made redundant within a year of receiving their pension.”
Madeleine Moon, a Labour member of the Defence Select Committee, said that ministers should be aware that the public would not accept or condone the premeditated sacking of officers before hitting their immediate pension point.
“There must be a review of this totally unacceptable practice,” she said.
A civil servant has become the Permanent Under-Secretary at the MoD, dashing hopes of an appointment from the private sector. Jon Thompson, the MoD’s former head of finance, replaces Ursula Brennan. Last year the National Audit Office refused to sign off the MoD’s accounts under his watch.
- Posted in: Uncategorized