Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Questions (810, 811)

John Lahart

Question:

810. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Defence the way in which he plans to bridge the gap of ten years between forced early retirement on age grounds in the Defence Forces and access to the State pension. [15960/21]

View answer

John Lahart

Question:

811. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Defence his plans to extend the supplementary pension provision to post-2013 new entrants to give them the option of a lengthy career in the Defence Forces. [15961/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 810 and 811 together.

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the absence of the concept of “supplementary pensions” from the provisions of the Single Public Service Pension Scheme.

The occupational pension scheme terms of post-1 January 2013 new entrants to the public service, including the Permanent Defence Force (PDF), are governed by the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012.  All first-time new entrants to pensionable public service employment on or after that date are members of the Single Scheme. 

The Single Scheme is a key structural fiscal reform introduced to help significantly reduce the cost of public service pensions in the long term, while at the same time continuing to provide valuable pension benefits for employees. In the general context of that policy objective, the terms and rules of the Single Scheme – which are fundamentally different to previous superannuation public service arrangements – make no provision for the concept or award of supplementary pensions for any new entrants joining any public service group from 1 January 2013 onwards.

Notwithstanding the distinguishing features of the Single Scheme, members of the PDF in that Scheme retain the minimum pension age of 50 to reflect operational needs, as already applies to new entrant military personnel recruited since April 2004. Importantly, the Single Scheme also retains ‘fast accrual’ pension terms for groups such as the Defence Forces.

Under the 2012 Act, overall statutory responsibility for the Single Scheme pension terms and rules rests with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.  In that regard, the absence from the Single Scheme of provision for the concept of supplementary pensions for any new entrants joining any public service group – including the PDF – on or after 1st January 2013, has previously been confirmed by the Official Side, which includes the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to the Defence Forces Representative Associations. 

Access to the State Pension is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Social Protection.   As the Deputy will be aware, the Government have established a Commission on Pensions under a Programme for Government commitment. The Commission’s remit is to examine sustainability and eligibility issues with the State Pension and the Social Insurance Fund and also consider the issue of retirement ages in employment contracts and consider how the pension system can further accommodate carers.

In accordance with its terms of reference, the Commission will submit a report on its work, findings, options and recommendations to the Minister for Social Protection by 30 June 2021.

I am also advised that the Public Service Pay Commission considered certain aspects of military superannuation provisions, which were submitted as an influencing factor on military recruitment and/or retention outcomes. The Commission’s report on recruitment and retention in the Permanent Defence Force which was accepted in full by Government in July 2019 considered the concerns expressed by the military Representative Associations in relation to various aspects of pension scheme provisions for the Defence Forces. The Commission made no recommendations advocating any improvements to the pension scheme terms of the PDF.

However, the PSPC report did recommend a range of measures relating to pay and non-pay aspects that would result in immediate and future benefits for members of the PDF.  The High Level Plan- "Strengthening Our Defence Forces" provides for actions or projects to be undertaken to deliver on the PSCP recommendations. A project to consider options to tackle barriers to extended participation in the PDF (including the possibility of extending retirement ages for members of the PDF) is underway. This project is divided into two phases. The first phase, focusing on reviewing mandatory retirement ages for officers and the second phase to review contracts of service for enlisted personnel. As this review is currently underway, it would be inappropriate to pre-empt any recommendations that may arise regarding mandatory retirement ages in the PDF.