Army pension injustice must be reversed, MPs urge
MPs are to urge the Defence Secretary to reverse a policy that has cost some servicemen hundreds of thousands of pounds after they were made redundant before qualifying for an early pension.
Members of the Commons Defence Select Committee will appeal to Philip Hammond as nine out of eleven majors, whose plight was reported by The Times last month, lost their appeals against the timing of their redundancy. Two other officers are awaiting a decision.
One of the wives of the affected men, who have dubbed themselves “The Unpensionables”, warned young people against seeking a career in the Armed Forces. “My husband received his long-awaited letter from the Army Redundancy Appeal Board last week,” she said. “We had been warned by everyone that the appeal process was a complete waste of time and energy and, yes, they were correct.”
The wife, who asked to remain anonymous, added: “I am left with the even stronger taste of betrayal in my mouth. The much-talked-about military covenant does not exist.
“My message is to all those young, eager people who are thinking about joining up and the partners of these people. Please, please do not join. Your sacrifices are not valued enough. If you must join then put your family first because the MoD will not.”
Madeleine Moon, a Labour MP, and Julian Brazier, a Conservative MP, both members of the Defence Select Committee, as well as Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and former army officer, have met the families of some of the officers affected, who are lobbying ministers for a fairer deal.
The MPs agreed that the Ministry of Defence’s decision to make an officer redundant months or even weeks before he had served for 16 years, the minimum point at which an immediate pension is payable if an officer leaves the Army, was unjust, particularly as the minimum service time for other army ranks who were made redundant had been reduced to 18 years from 22 years.
“There was unanimous agreement that this was unacceptable and should be dealt with,” Mrs Moon told The Times. “It is imperative that the injustice is resolved quickly for, although numbers are currently small, they will increase quickly as more redundancies are implemented.”
It is estimated that up to 80 army officers and other ranks have been made redundant so far within a year of reaching their immediate pension point as part of a cost-saving initiative to shrink the size of the military.
A major who is dismissed before he or she has served for 16 years will lose up to £269,000 in pension payments. As compensation, the MoD plans to pay each affected officer a higher redundancy payment worth £20,000, according to family members who point out that this is a mere fraction of the amount that they would otherwise have received.
The early pension offered to military personnel is to compensate for the sacrifices that they and their families are expected to make. For example, military wives, particularly those with children, often give up their jobs and pension contributions to move with their partners.
An MoD spokeswoman said that Armed Forces pensions were among the most generous in the public or private sector. “Only 1.2 per cent of individuals who have been selected for redundancy are within one year of qualifying for their immediate pension,” she added.
“These personnel will receive a significantly larger tax-free lump sum, which could total over £100,000, and still get all their accrued pension rights at the age of 60 or 65.”