Home Office reviews police widows’ pensions rules

Posted on February 26, 2015 | Category :Uncategorized | Comments Off

Windows at Westminster

A REVIEW has been ordered into the “feasibility and affordability” of allowing police widows and widowers to remarry without losing their pensions.

Mike Penning, Police Minister, (pictured far right with campaigners) told MPs in a Parliamentary debate there was a compelling case to close the loophole that can hit the bereaved financially if they find another partner.

The move follows a long-running campaign by the widows and widowers of police officers killed in the line of duty.

Under current rules, the pensions of 22,000 serving police officers in Britain would be cancelled if they died on duty and their partners later remarried or moved in with someone.

Kate Hall, whose husband Colin died of a heart attack while serving with West Midlands police in 1987, sacrificed his pension of £300 a month in 2001 when she moved in with her partner after years of living alone. “Although I could ill-afford to lose the money, living apart was becoming intolerable,” she said.

A petition started by Kate has more than 73,000 signatures since its launch last summer. You can see it and sign it here http://chn.ge/1AtSlw4

Richard Graham MP, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on pensions, is a vocal supporter of the campaign and led a parliamentary debate on the issue on Wednesday 25 Febriary. He said closing the loophole was “primarily an issue of fairness”.

During the debate, Mr Penning confirmed that he and the Home Secretary Theresa May had commissioned a review by Home Office and Treasury officials into the cost of changing the rules, reported The Guardian.

Mr Penning said he empathised with the widows’ campaign in a “very personal way” as one of his constituents, PC Frank Mason, was shot dead when he intervened in a bank robbery while off-duty walking his dog.

“Frank, like all officers, was a warranted officer, so when he was off duty he was really still on duty. He could be called in. His warrant was with him all the time,” he told MPs.

“That’s why I say there is such a compelling argument. If you are a full-time police officer in England and Wales, if you are at warranted service of the Queen, then when you’re off duty you are still responsible. That brings pressures and responsibilities on you.”

Mr Penning said if the rules were changed, PC Mason’s widow would be helped. But, he said, if an officer was killed in a road traffic accident while off-duty, they would not be eligible.

The campaign was strengthened in November when David Cameron announced plans to close a similar loophole affecting thousands of military widows.

In July 2014, Northern Ireland reinstated pensions for widows and widowers whose spouses died in service from 1 January 1972, a move campaigners hope is a positive step towards reform elsewhere.

A Home Office spokesman said: “This Government is committed to ensuring that public service pensions are affordable, sustainable and fair, both for the members of those schemes and other taxpayers.

“Officers who join the 2006 police pension scheme do benefit from life-long pensions for widows and widowers. All serving officers were offered the opportunity to transfer to this scheme when it was introduced.

“The 1987 pension scheme was not designed or funded to provide such benefits and any attempt to backdate this or any pension of this type would have implications across the whole public sector. The home secretary has therefore commissioned research into the feasibility and affordability of such changes, in conjunction with other departments.”

 

 

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