Changing police pensions would cost £144m

Changing police pensions would cost £144m

Aligning rules for police pensions across the UK would cost an additional £144m, the government has stated.

The estimation was made by the Home Office and government actuary department in response to a question posed by former Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron, who asked how many widows of police officers whose spouses were killed on duty have had their pensions revoked as a result of remarriage or cohabitation before April 1, 2015.

The 1987 Police Pension Scheme provides a pension for the widow, widower or civil partner of a police officer who dies but the benefits cease to be paid if the surviving spouse remarries or cohabits with another partner.

The rules were amended for pensions of police officers who died as a result of an injury on duty so that from April 2015 those spouses were allowed to remarry and could still keep their pensions.

But the problem is that following the changes there are now three different approaches to survivors’ pensions in the UK and calls are growing to align these to one.

Were the rules to be widened to all survivors, as called for by the National Association for Retired Police Officers, it would cost £144m, the government stated, while retaining pension benefits for all, including reinstatement of pensions already surrendered, would increase the police scheme's liabilities by £198m.

Currently in Northern Ireland all police widows retain their survivors’ pension upon remarriage, co-habitation or civil partnership irrespective of the circumstances of the death of their spouse.

Whereas throughout the rest of the UK, the pension is only retained if the death of the spouse occurred on duty or as a result of an injury on duty. 

Also, in England and Wales the pension is only retained if the remarriage or cohabitation occurred after April 1 2015, whereas in Scotland there is no such restriction.

According to a parliamentary briefing document from Narpo, published on May 1, the association has sought legal advice to align the approaches.

The document states: "As a result of repeated government inaction on this issue, Narpo have reluctantly sought legal advice from a leading human rights barrister in an effort to get justice for those women, men and children who are victims of this archaic and unfair regulation, which severely restricts their life choices.

"We have now received positive legal advice that indicates we have a sound case to pursue this matter under the Human Rights Act. 

"We are asking the government finally to put this matter right and give the victims what they rightly deserve."

Chief executive of Narpo, Steve Edwards, said that costs associated with this change to regulation "should not come into it as it is the right thing to do".

"These rules are already in place in Northern Ireland so it is only right that it is extended to all countries in the UK," he said.