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Parliament hears Civil Nuclear Police officer pension issue 'matter of national security'

A cross party group of MPs has called on the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to resolve the Civil Nuclear Police officer pension issue 'as a matter of national security'.

SNP MP Patricia Gibson (SNP North Ayrshire and Arran) raised the issue at a Westminster Hall debate as part of her ongoing support of the Civil Nuclear Police Federation as it battles to bring members' pension ages in line with other forces.

MPs Jamie Stone (Lib Dem), Mike Hill (Lab), Martin Whitfield (Lab), and Trudy Harrison (Con) all of whom have nuclear sites in their constituencies, are backing the Federation's campaign.

Ms Gibson told responsible Minister Richard Harrington that CNC officers were jumping ship to other forces because they will only be able to retire on a full pension from the age of 67/68, under the terms of the Public Service Pensions Act 2013.

She said it was unrealistic to expect officers to carry firearms and 30kg of kit at that age and be an effective force protecting nuclear assets and acting as a vital armed reserve unit.

"The issue is one of national security and is causing real concern to CNC officers and their health and wellbeing" she said.

"And the CNC Chief Constable is concerned that the retirement age is making the service unsustainable and creating insurmountable difficulties for them.

"This unrealistic retirement age is already damaging recruitment, turnover is at 12% with recruitment numbers reducing by half.

"Alarmingly, one in eight officers are leaving for other forces or heading for civvy street. Does the Minister think the disparity between CNC officers retirement age and other officers is fair? CNC officers don't want platitudes, they want action,"
she said.

Mr Harrington said he was 'doing his best' to resolve the issue and offered to meet the MPs again but he didn't agree that the pension issue was driving officers out of the force.

"Everybody knows how important the Civil Nuclear Police are to national security and I accept fully the level of fitness required [by officers] and that there are equality issues.

"I have met with the Federation and parties involved and as soon as the issues were brought to my attention I met with the Treasury and other Government departments to try and resolve this issue which I accept needs to be done as quickly as possible.

"I am very aware of the retention issues but I don't think there is a strong enough link between them and the move to the new pension scheme."

CNC Federation Chief Executive Nigel Dennis has welcomed the cross party support in the debate and Mr Harrington's acknowledgement that the issue needs urgent resolution.

However he is disappointed that the Minister has yet to concede that the viability of the CNC is being by jeopardised by - amongst other matters - the impending impact of an unattainable pension age and also the adverse impact this issue has on the following protected characteristics of age sex and race which surely the Minister has a public duty to protect?

The Department was warned three years ago by the Chief Constable Mike Griffiths about the inevitable unsustainability of the CNC. It remains a continuing concern that this professional advice is being ignored

To view a recording of the debate visit https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/37d46d42-8d8b-4580-b56d-6c903d054264