Government suffers defeat over police and firefighters' pension age

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The government has been defeated after peers voted that Ministry of Defence police and fire service personnel should be exempted from planned changes to the state pension age.

Labour tabled an amendment meaning MoD firefighters and police would have their pension age reduced to 60, in line with other fire brigade and police staff, during report stage of the Public Service Pensions Bill on 12 February 2013.

The retirement age for those employed by the MoD stands at 65 and would go up with the increase in the state pension age, which is set to rise to 68 under government plans.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Lord Eatwell asked: "How does their job differ from that of local authority firefighters? In what way is it less onerous, when these firefighters have to work on military establishments dealing with on occasions extremely dangerous materials and also occasionally work in war zones."

Labour's former Defence Secretary Lord Hutton of Furness, author of the report on which many aspects of the bill are based, gave his support to Lord Eatwell.

He said: "This is fundamentally a question of fairness... I don't believe there is any substantive technical reason why we can't look again at the role of the MoD firefighters and police."

But Treasury spokesman Lord Newby protested that MoD employees enjoyed benefits not open to their counterparts outside the civil service.

"Such a reduction in pension age does run counter to the government's aim of countering the risks associated with increasing longevity and would make these workforces unique in seeing a five-year fall in their pension age as a result of these reforms," Lord Newby stated.

In a vote, the amendment was carried by 216 votes to 193.

To become law, the amendment reducing MoD emergency service workers' pension age would have to be agreed by MPs when the bill returns to the Commons.

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