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Make police widow pension rules fair

3 min read

Conservative MP, Richard Graham, calls for fairer pensions entitlements for police widows and widowers. 

Like every MP I’ve been lobbied by my local Police Federation on many things since 2010. I haven’t agreed with them often. But this week I have a debate on an issue where I do agree with a campaign led by police widow Cathryn Hall and supported by the Fed.

Her campaign is primarily an issue of fairness. Before 2006, police widows, widowers or surviving civil partners would automatically lose their pension if they remarried or lived with a new partner.  This effectively compelled them and their dependents to choose between future financial security, but loneliness at home, or the opportunity for happiness if they wish to marry or cohabit, but with the financial loss and security that the pension provides. But society and our perception of fairness moved on and the new scheme in 2006 recognised this.

All new recruits since 2006 and anyone who transferred to the new scheme now knows that should the worst happen their loved ones will receive their pension for life, irrespective of whether the survivor remarries or forms a new partnership and it applies to unmarried but cohabiting partners too.

But the new regulations did not apply retrospectively to those who had either left the service before 2006 or had died before that date. All those not able to benefit from the regulation change were effectively prevented from re-marrying or obtaining a real family life. The idea of not doing so because of financial incentives must be wrong. The commitment of marriage has enough obstacles without adding a financial penalty to them. For those, like Cathryn Hall, who have remarried the financial disadvantage relative to later widows and widowers must be frustrating.

Last November a very similar rule was amended so that from April this year all widows and widowers of our Armed Forces could remarry or live with a new partner without losing their pension. A precedent has (in my view rightly) been set for further change.

For what is true for soldiers, sailors and airmen and women is also true for our Police. Having to deal with the consequences of a husband or wife killed in the course of duty is no less ghastly because it was on the streets of one of our cities rather than a dusty path in Helmand Province.

So my debate Wednesday calls for the Police Minister to consider the case: to acknowledge the case of fairness for this small group who didn’t benefit from the 2006 change and the precedent of our Armed Forces widows and widowers. The opportunity for the government is to allow this relatively small group to keep their pension regardless of whether they re-marry or not, is a good one. Treating the widows and widowers of ALL those who are killed in uniformed service generously, without caveats, is surely the right thing to do – and this government has a good track record of supporting good causes.

The Police Federation has commented on this article, welcoming today’s debate and saying the current situation is “morally wrong, grossly unfair and this needs to be put right.”  Read the full response here.

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