HC Deb 09 July 2003 vol 408 cc804-5W
Phil Sawford

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when contributory pensions were introduced for members of the armed forces; what criteria have to be met to qualify for a pension; and what changes have been introduced in these criteria since 1970. [124509]

Mr. Caplin

Members of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) pay no direct contribution towards their pension entitlement, although the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body abates comparator pay, currently by 7 per cent. to take account of the value of the pension relative to those of selected comparator schemes. An individual qualifies for a preserved pension and tax-free lump sum of three times the pension at age 60, provided they have been members of the AFPS for at least two years. Immediate pensions are paid after 16 years (officers) or 22 years (other ranks) and a full pension after 34 and 37 years respectively, at age 55.

The only significant change to the criteria for members' pensions since 1970 has been the introduction of the preserved pension in 1975 for those leaving the Armed Forces too early to receive an immediate pension. Armed Service Pensions were awarded to those who served before 1975 but only to those who completed the necessary qualifying periods of 22 years (from age 18 for other ranks) and 16 years (from age 21 for officers). Prior to 1975 there was no requirement for pension schemes to preserve benefits for those who left the scheme early. The qualifying periods for the AFPS were much less than for most other schemes at that time and, in addition, those who left before qualifying for pensions, but who had completed nine years (for officers) or 12 years (other ranks), were paid a gratuity. The provisions were changed in 1975 to meet with the requirements of the Social Security Act 1973 but in keeping with the policy of successive Governments, the provisions were not made retrospective. A number of changes have been made to other scheme criteria, notably to the eligibility criteria for widows' pensions and recently those for unmarried partners.