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February 2015 | 10.02.2015
Why Lord Hutton got it wrong on prison officer retirement age
It would appear that Lord Hutton never fully understood the history of prison officers and various Acts of Parliament. Since the survey, conducted by Bedford University, and the publicity and debate in the House of Commons I am pleased that ‘without prejudice’ discussions have begun with the employer and indeed, Minister for Prisons, Andrew Selous, in relation to the retirement age for prison officers.
No one in their right mind would believe that prison officers should have a retirement age linked to the state pension age.
We will continue to work at national level to get pension justice, but it might also be helpful to look at the history of prison officer pension age. In 1877, Parliament chose to bring the operation and control of prisons under the control of the Home Office and introduced a national staffing structure. This effectively made all prison staff Crown employees for the first time.
Prison officers have been entitled to centrally funded pensions through Acts of Parliament dating back to 1878. Further examples dating back prior to this relate to the provision of pensions through the recommendations to individuals by boards of superintendents to grand juries at local assizes.
One of the successes of the strike action, called by the National Union of Police and Prison Officers in 1919 was that the government set up the Prison Officers’ Superannuation Committee, which reported the following year.
The unanimous recommendation was the introduction of doubling after 20 years’ service and the normal retirement age of 55. The Superannuation (Prison Officers) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 27 October 1919 and completed through the House of Lords on 11 November 1919.
It would appear from the unanimous nature of the committee recommendations and the lack of opposition, or even proper debate on the matter, that both Houses of Parliament clearly understood the need to these proposals to be passed. The Superannuation (Prison Officers) Act received Royal Assent on 20 November 1919.
These arrangements received little change from this date, though other grades were added to those covered, until 1965. The provisions of the 1919 Act were then included at Section 26 of the Superannuation Act 1965.
In 1970, following the recommendation in the Mountbatten Report, the new rank of senior officer was introduced to the service. This rank was also included into Section 26 of the 1965 Act through the Statutory Instrument 588 in 1970.
Following publication of the report of the Civil Service Joint Superannuation Review Committee, the government passed the Superannuation Act 1972. It was this Act of Parliament that allowed the Minister for the Civil Service under Section 1 to 6 of the Act produce, by order, a pension scheme which was to be the Principal Civil Service Scheme.
The rules for this scheme were published the same year. The provisions fi rst laid down in the 1919 Act and subsequently in the 1965 Act were continued within the new PCSPS giving prison officers a retirement age of 55. Numerous amendments were made to these rules and each amendment is laid before Parliament.
The most notable of these for prison officers was laid on 30 September 1987. This amendment followed the changes ensuing from the Fresh Start negotiations and saw the removal of the provision for a retirement age of 55 for new entrant prison officers. The retirement age was set at 60.
However, those on pre-Fresh Start retained the right to retire at 55. Further revisions of the scheme took place in 2002 with the introduction of the Classic plus and Premium schemes, and from 30 July 2007, the change to the NUVOS scheme.
Surely if Lord Hutton had done his research, he would have recognised that those prison officers who had a retirement age of 60 should be honoured in line with his other recommendations for uniformed services. I have asked for a meeting with Lord Hutton for an explanation but I wonder if he will wish to meet?
POA General Secretary