Prison Officer Pension Age Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Prison Officer Pension Age

Lord Woodley Excerpts
Monday 18th March 2024

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, on the first question, the Treasury has overall responsibility for setting pension arrangements for the Civil Service; that is not an MoJ responsibility, and my noble friend correctly makes that point. As for “lock until you drop”, can we please distinguish between the age at which you get a full pension and the age at which you can retire, which is something quite different? A prison officer does not have to work to the age of 68 to qualify for any pension; he can retire earlier on a smaller pension and then, unlike most situations in the armed services, he can return to work—in a less front-line role, typically. He will continue to work and earn a pension, as well as the other pension he has already accrued. It is not at all clear that prison officers under the present scheme are worse off than they would be if they were in the armed services, especially given the higher contributions the latter have to make.

Lord Woodley Portrait Lord Woodley (Lab)
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My Lords, prison officers are, unfortunately, banned from taking industrial action and the Government are, in my opinion, exploiting this unjustifiable restriction. Lifting the pension age to 68 is a classic example of this, and looking after violent, overcrowded and understaffed prisons is not a job for older workers. Does the Minister agree that this policy, which is “lock until you drop”, is reckless, dangerous and plain wrong?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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The Government are unable to agree with the somewhat colourful language used by the noble Lord. The Government have the highest regard for our prison officers, who stand on the front line in prisons and are some of our finest public servants.

However, it is as well to remember that the pension contributions paid by prison officers are much lower than those paid by other uniformed services—between 4% and 6% for prison officers, as against 12% to 15% for other services. These days, if you are a young person in your 20s or early 30s entering the prison service, you are not necessarily thinking about what you are going to get when you are 68. You may be more than satisfied with a lower pension contribution now.