Facilities for service men to make additional voluntary contributions to enhance pension benefits in particular categories have been available from earlier this year. Action is in hand to extend the range and scope of those facilities as far and as quickly as is practicable.
Does my hon. Friend accept that his answer will be widely welcomed in the armed forces, not only because it will maintain the quality of the pension, as is the case in civilian life, but because it will be especially good for morale? It will also help in the matter of retention.
I agree that the armed forces pension scheme is excellent. It costs the taxpayer £1 billion a year and enables a service man after, for example, 22 years' service to retire with an immediate and indexed pension. That must contribute to the excellent morale of our armed forces.
Has my hon. Friend learnt from the experience of other Government Departments that in the coming year there is scope for improving the arrangements for members of the armed forces to take up additional voluntary contributions? Does he agree that the need for flexibility in pension provision—however good the armed services pension scheme—is one of the great advances, especially for the armed forces, of the Social Security Act 1986?
I agree with my hon. Friend. It was not just the 1986 Act but the 1987 Act that made provision for additional voluntary contributions, both free-standing and in-house, for service men and, indeed, for civilians. I confirm that we are making rapid progress on completing the introduction of facilities for additional voluntary contributions for pensions for service men.