Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (England)

Part of business of the house (today) – in the House of Commons at 5:40 pm on 15th December 2014.

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Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Labour, Blaydon 5:40 pm, 15th December 2014

Let us try and get to some of the facts. The people who did the medical assessments said quite clearly that almost none of the women assessed would be able to work after the age of 55, and that 90% of the men would be unable to work after that age. My right hon. Friend Hilary Benn made that point earlier, but it was not mentioned at all by the Minister when she was asked what she was going to do. She said nothing about reducing the figure from 42 to 35, but to do so would be a classic way of getting round the wrong that would be done by getting unfit people to do work that should be done by fit people.

We have an agreement in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but we will have no agreement in this country unless people agree to go without 22% of their pension. The figure in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is only 9%, and the unions agreed to that after proper negotiations, but those on the Tory Front Bench clearly do not want such an agreement in this country. People are also talking as though the contributions come from nowhere, but the people who are paying into their pensions are paying at least £4,000 a year. They are paying 14% of their wages. They are paying £61 a month more now than they were three years ago, despite the fact that they have not had a decent pay rise in the past four years.

We have been here before, in the early 1980s and the 1990s when we were dealing with cuts in local government and thousands of people went out of the back door on ill-health retirement as a way of ameliorating the effects of redundancies. The difference then was that the money was there to do it. It is clear that the squeeze on councils and fire authorities today will not allow people to be able to go in that way. The Government keep talking about redeployment opportunities. I would love the Minister to explain all this to the fire service in Tyne and Wear, where we are facing a 35% budget cut. The part of the service laughingly known as the back-room chunk of that represents 17% of the budget. We are going to have to find twice as much money as those back-room costs, which is ludicrous.