Armed Forces (Pensions and Benefits)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:43 am on 8th March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 11:43 am, 8th March 2011

The hon. Gentleman is making two different points, and I shall address each in turn. The question of the deficit must be boiled down into the structural deficit and the cyclical deficit. If all the measures that we are taking during this Parliament to eliminate the structural deficit are reversed at some point in the future, the country will simply return to square one. This Government are attempting to address the cyclical deficit through economic growth over a period, but we must eliminate the structural deficit. The structural deficit is not a temporary phenomenon. It existed before the banking crisis. It is perfectly true that the banking crisis blew the lid off it and put the entire global economy into turmoil, but the fact is that the UK was in a serious deficit situation before the banking crisis hit. That is why measures taken now to address the deficit cannot be viewed as temporary. If we start reversing prior decisions when the cycle improves and the cyclical deficit is also eliminated, we will simply return to square one.

The hon. Gentleman’s second point is a fair one. On average, people leave the military and begin drawing pensions from the age of about 40. I am sceptical about some of the figures that he and Gemma Doyle quoted, and I need to examine them in depth to see how on earth they were arrived at, but the general point that the pension is drawn from an earlier age is valid. However, in the vast majority of cases, people who draw a military pension from the age of about 40 do not then live on it exclusively for the rest of their days. My hon. Friend Dr Murrison acknowledged that he receives a service pension, but that has not prevented him from going on to do other things. Of course, some will not have further opportunities, but for the vast majority of people who leave the services at about 40, the service pension augments what they can earn in other walks of life for a long period. It is not really comparable with an old age pension in the sense that I think the hon. Gentleman meant.