McCloud Judgement: Police Pensions

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 14th December 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP 3:00 pm, 14th December 2020

4. Mr Storey asked the Minister of Finance how he will ensure the proposed remedy to discrimination established by the McCloud judgement is subject to an impact assessment for members of the police pension schemes. (AQO 1349/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

My Department has undertaken an equality-screening exercise on the remedy proposals. That will be updated as necessary in response to the issues raised in the recent consultation on the matter. Responsible authorities for the individual public service schemes, including the Department of Justice for the police pension scheme, are also expected to undertake their own assessment of scheme level equality impacts in accordance with the existing commitments in their departmental equality schemes. My Department is monitoring scheme preparedness on all remedy-related matters as part of its regular interdepartmental engagement on the issue.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I thank the Minister for his response. Will he clarify what he sees as the distinction between an equality screening and carrying out an equality impact assessment (EQIA)? He will be aware that the Scottish Government have already commissioned a specific EQIA on behalf of the Scottish police pension scheme advisory board. He will also be aware that there are a number of schemes in Northern Ireland, not just one that affects police officers in particular. Will the Minister ensure that there will be no inequalities in relation to how that is rolled out and, ultimately, how it will affect police officers?

I take this opportunity, just in case it passes me by — I may not have the opportunity tomorrow — to wish Members a very happy Christmas, ever remembering that the message at this time of the year is that, unto us, a Saviour was born. That is what we all need in these critical days.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for his good wishes.

The Department of Finance screening exercise is generally in relation to section 75 matters. I presume that the Department of Justice, which has responsibility for the police pension, will go in to the individuals involved in that scheme. It is a more generic approach from the Department of Finance; we have a responsibility to monitor all of that and to engage with the other Departments. I am sure that the points that he made will be picked up by officials as they engage with other Departments. I assume that the responsibility for the impact and the issue of what has been done in other jurisdictions lies with the responsible Department, which, in this case, is the Department of Justice.

Photo of Liz Kimmins Liz Kimmins Sinn Féin

What will the next steps be for implementing the remedy to the McCloud judgement?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

The Department of Finance consultation closed on 18 November. It received 443 responses. Feedback to the consultation is being analysed, and a response will be published early in the new year. Following the publication of the Department's response, I will write to Executive colleagues with firm proposals to progress a legislative solution in order to implement the removal of unlawful age discrimination in public service schemes.

Photo of Mike Nesbitt Mike Nesbitt UUP

What assessments are being made of the potential implications for other organisations, not least the other emergency services?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

There are substantial implications under the judgement, right across the public sector. I assume that each Department is going to have to assess that. My Department is responsible for interdepartmental liaison, but there are significant implications. We have done the consultation and we have received responses to it. There are implications for people's employment as regards the schemes that they have been in and in which they choose to continue working into the future. We will want to assess the consultation responses, and it will be up to each Department to inform us about the particular issues that face them and the public-sector bodies that are under their broad umbrella. The Member is right; there are significant implications that will challenge us in the time ahead.