HC Deb 25 April 1972 vol 835 cc239-41W
Mr. Buck

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement about the current review of the National Health Service superannuation scheme.

Sir K. Joseph

The Joint Superannuation Consultative Committee, which is composed of representatives of the staff interests and of the Health Departments, has now completed its review of the National Health Service superannuation schemes for England and Wales and for Scotland. Copies of its report have been sent to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself and to the staff associations concerned. A copy has also been placed in the Library.

The Committee has recommended a number of improvements including the reduction of the qualifying period for pension from 10 years to five years, the basing of benefits on final year's pay and the reckoning of service in years and days; enhanced accrual rates for those who are forced to retire prematurely because of permanent ill-health; half-rate widows' pensions (based, where death occurs in service, on the improved ill-health pension) enhanced for the first three months of widowhood to the husband's rate of pay or pension; higher rates of children's allowances; immediate death cover for all on joining the scheme; preserved benefits—with guaranteed inflation proofing—for persons leaving after five years' service payable at age 60;extension of the facilities for transferring pension rights on change of employment; some relaxation of the rules governing the abatement of pension on re-employment; extension of superannuation cover to certain part-time staff on an optional basis; and a facility for the purchase of added years by late entrants.

Comparable improvements in the special superannuation arrangements for doctors and dentists in general practice are currently the subject of separate discussions between the health Departments and the British Medical Association and the British Dental Association.

The Committee recognizes that these proposals represent significant and costly improvements and that it will be necessary for members of the scheme, as well as their employers, to meet part of this cost. It is proposed, therefore, that contribution rates be increased by ¾per cent. a side to 5¾ per cent. by manual workers (6⅔ per cent. by the employer) and 6¾ per cent. by other members of the schemes (8¾ per cent. by the employer).

The Committee's proposals are subject to ratification by the staff associations; once ratified, they can be implemented without delay.

On behalf of my right hon. Friend and myself I should like to thank the Joint Superannuation Consultative Committee for the work they have done in producing this report.