Telegraph Article on Pensions: Why it’s time to protect Armed Forces pensions

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War Hero
"Never mind, for now, all the fuss about how Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative Chief Whip, showed disrespect to a handful of policemen guarding the gate at Downing Street. A much bigger scandal, which has received much less attention, will have a massive financial impact on hundreds of members of the Armed Forces who guard our country.

Those affected are soldiers and officers being stripped of their right to receive immediate pensions because they are made redundant just a few months – or even days – before they have sufficient service records to qualify to receive them. As a result, experts calculate that some of those made redundant will be nearly £300,000 poorer by the time they reach state pension age.

The Ministry of Defence began announcing redundancies this summer, as part of a cost-cutting strategy to reduce the Army’s strength by a fifth from 102,000 to 82,000. The MoD denies that anyone has been selected for redundancy in order to avoid paying them immediate pensions. But Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence, has admitted misinforming the House of Commons defence select committee about redundancy terms and conditions.

You might think that puts Mr Mitchell’s petulant outburst in the shade but Mr Hammond blames civil servants for failing to brief him properly.

When Jayne Bullock of the campaign group Pension Justice for Troops wrote to the minister pointing out his mistake, Mr Hammond’s secretary wrote back: “You will appreciate that this is a complex topic, not least because there are two Armed Forces Pensions Schemes (AFPS) and two Armed Forces Redundancy Schemes in operation.

“This, together with the unusual level of turnover and leave within the department, meant that the briefing the Secretary of State received in advance of the committee was not as complete as he would have liked and led to him making a comment that was inaccurate in this area.”

Clearly, no buck will stop on Mr Hammond’s desk if he has anything to do with it. Let’s hope he can be as quick on his toes defending the interests of the brave men and women who work at the sharp end of the department he heads.

By contrast with the official obfuscation above, Ms Bullock’s account of the problem is relatively straightforward. She told me: “The Government should reconsider its treatment of these soldiers because it is against the standards and values of the Army, set out in the Queen's Regulations.

“These state that all soldiers, and their families, must be confident that the Army and the nation will treat them with loyalty and fairness. The Army’s loyalty to the individual is expressed in the Military Covenant — it manifests itself in justice, fair rewards, and lifelong support to all soldiers.

“All the soldiers known to me have seen numerous tours of active service in Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, and risked their lives to carry out government policy on the promise that they and their families would be looked after.”

Senior actuary Alan Higham of Annuity Direct agreed. He explained: “Because these servicemen and women are a few days, weeks or months short of the service required to receive an immediate pension, they will lose 25 years of income.

“In the case of an army major who might have expected to receive an immediate pension of £15,000 a year, that means he or she will lose almost £300,000 by the time state pension age is reached. Offering them a higher lump sum on redundancy is like the Government paying one extra year’s pension, rather than 25 years’ pension.

“The Government’s position seems to be that they have to draw the line somewhere, but it would be much more reasonable to have a taper or gradual slope, rather than a cliff edge where nearly all the immediate pension can be lost if you leave or are made redundant just a few days, weeks or months too soon.”

If, like me, you agree with that view, you might want to sign Pension Justice for Troops’ e‑petition, which states: “These redundancies do not honour the original employment contract or covenant between soldier and the MoD. Given future planned redundancies in the Forces, this issue is likely to affect many more service personnel.

“We call on the Government to urgently review these cases to ensure natural justice and provide the opportunity for all affected personnel to serve the extra year, or less, to reach their immediate pension point as set out in their original contracts of employment.”

You can sign the petition at or simply Google “Pension Justice for Troops” to see full details of the campaign. If 100,000 people sign up, the proposal could be debated in the House of Commons.

Plenty of MPs are keen to wrap themselves in the Union Flag when it suits them and it seems that few have missed the chance to be photographed in the safer parts of Afghanistan.

Now our politicians must help the brave men and women for whom patriotism means more than talk, by protecting the pension rights they and their families were promised."

Taken a while, but the issue has finally taken off......