I propose to take Questions Nos. 406, 418 and 419 together.
The civil service operates Contributory Pension Schemes which provide benefits to spouses and/or children of deceased members. In summary, when a member dies after retirement, a spouse's pension of up to one-half of the former member's pension is payable. Dependent children are also entitled to a child's pension.
Changes in legislation following the introduction of civil partnerships in 2011 and the proposed legislation to allow for same sex marriages do not necessitate a scheme member revising their superannuation arrangements as these are automatically catered for under the existing Revised Scheme rules.
The original pre-1984 scheme did not allow for the payment of a spousal pension where the scheme member married or had children post retirement. Thus, the scheme allowed a refund of contributions if the scheme member had not been married up to the point of retirement.
In 1984, a Revised Scheme which extended eligibility for benefits to spouses of members who married or had children after retirement was introduced and membership was compulsory for all new appointees after that date. Members of the original scheme, certain retirees and those who had not joined the original scheme were given the option of transferring to the Revised Scheme.
The Revised Scheme allowed for payment of spousal pension where the marriage occurred post retirement. Therefore scheme members do not have to make special arrangements to have their civil partner or same sex spouse made a beneficiary as it will happen automatically. The Scheme did not contain the facility for repayment of contributions on retirement if the scheme member concerned did not have a spouse and would not therefore be in a position to avail of any benefit under the Scheme.
For members who remained in the Original Scheme there was an entitlement to claim a refund of contributions in the event that the member remained unmarried at the date of retirement. Many members of the Scheme availed of this option and received a refund.
Across the entire public service approximately 30,000 staff who were not members and an unquantified number who had been members of the Original Scheme opted not to join the new Revised Scheme. Their reasons for doing so were presumably varied, including not expecting to get married, being in a relationship with a separated person who was not then able to divorce or that it was personally more beneficial to them not to join the scheme. For example, prior to 1981 women were not entitled to join the pension scheme and therefore did not pay any contributions. Some of those may have decided that continuing that arrangement was better financially for them.
In recent years, some individuals have sought to reverse the decision they made at that point and have sought a new opt-in. More specifically, a number of people have argued that they could not have envisaged that same-sex civil partnerships would be legalised in the state. While I understand that the number of enquires in this area is relatively low, I do not have precise statistics to hand. My Department's position has always been that if decisions freely made about pensions or other matters could be reversed at any time this would have grave consequences for public administration. Where changes have been made to pension schemes, individuals have only been allowed to opt in to the new arrangements at the time of the introduction of the new scheme. This approach is in line with that of the Commission on Public Service Pensions. I do not propose to make any changes in this regard.