‘Clarifying’ pension situation

ON JUNE 30 you published a letter from NUT and ATL representatives at Christ’s Hospital, supporting the strikes called for by a handful of unions on the same day.

As I have not received the letter which they undertook to address direct to me, I am taking this opportunity to reply.

Reform is essential. Former Labour Pensions Secretary Lord Hutton has made it clear that ‘the status quo is not tenable’. The Government is proposing that public service pensions will still be among the very best, with a guaranteed pension which very few private sector staff now enjoy.

They would be paid later, because people are now living longer. And public sector staff would pay more, for a fairer balance between what they pay and what other taxpayers pay.

Public sector pensions now cost the taxpayer £32bn, an increase of a third over the last decade.

The Government has accepted the broad principles set out in Lord Hutton’s Report, and we are in discussions with the public sector unions. These discussions, started at the request of the TUC, are continuing in good faith, and are making progress.

The strike action by a small minority of public sector unions was therefore premature while these discussions are ongoing.

The ballot results from the unions concerned - PCS (civil service) and NUT and ATL (teachers) – showed very limited support amongst public sector workers for such action. Less than ten per cent of the civil service workforce, and only around one third of the teaching profession, voted in favour of strike action.

The report by the County Times focuses on the suggestion that independent schools ‘will be ‘excluded from the pension scheme altogether’. It may help if I provide some context.

Access to public sector pension schemes from non-public sector organisations, such as independent schools, was addressed in the independent Hutton report on public sector pensions.

The Government made it clear that it will review the content of the report and that no decisions have been made about the proposals it recommends.

The current arrangements allow independent school teachers to be members of the TPS. In addition, the terms for independent school teachers in the TPS are the same as for teachers in maintained schools, so that there are no difficulties in transferring between the maintained and independent sectors.

The Hutton report recommended that, ‘it is in principle undesirable for future non-public service workers to have access to public service pension schemes’. This was recommended to ensure that the taxpayer is not liable for the failure of a non-public sector organisation, such as an independent school. The Government has not taken a final view on this specific recommendation by Lord Hutton.

I hope this helps clarify the matter.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham

House of Commons, London