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Fire Brigades, Judges, Widows and Social Media

The Society has received a slight kicking on social media, over recent challenges to the 2015 public sector pension changes and about the War Widow’s campaign for reinstatement of pensions surrendered on marriage before the 1 April 2015 rule change, (a practice that ceased from that date following our successful 2014 Justice for Widows Campaign). The charge is that we have in both cases turned a Nelsonian blind eye to the issues, we refute this, as explained below.

  •  Judges and Firefighters. The December 18 newsletter reported that both judges and firefighters had won a Court of Appeal ruling against the legality of the transitional protection that was put in place for their schemes in 2015, on the introduction of new pension schemes. Both had particular gripes relating to the way their particular schemes were handled – and both of their schemes and the transitional arrangements for them are fundamentally different to the Armed Forces scheme. Furthermore, no one has challenged the right of the government to introduce a new scheme – simply the fairness of these particular transitional arrangements. The case is not over because the government is seeking leave to appeal. Meanwhile, most other public sector organisations – including ourselves, maintain a watching brief. If there are implications for us, they are likely to emerge in due course. In the circumstances we feel, like others, that ‘wait and see’ is the only sensible approach – not least because whatever the final outcome there are likely to be losers as well as winners.
  •  War Widows. The Daily Express is currently campaigning on behalf of War Widows - seeking reinstatement of war widows’ pensions surrendered on remarriage prior to the 1 Apr 2015 rule change which allowed all widows who remarried from that date to keep their pensions. We have been asked why we are not doing more to support their campaign. The answer is that we represent the interests of the whole Armed Forces community and their families, not simply one section of it. We are not overtly supporting the Express campaign because it is limited to war widows only. We think that is wrong, and if successful we believe could even be subject to a successful legal challenge – because other Armed Forces widows are in exactly the same boat- or in an even worse position. When our Justice for Widows campaign succeeded in 2014 it did so on behalf of all widows, and it did so because the Government accepted our logic that this was an Armed Forces Covenant issue. That same logic applies today as it did then – to all widows.

We are on public record as supporting a change for all Armed Forces widows; nothing has changed in that respect (and indeed we have covered this in previous newsletters).

In 2014 we accepted ‘no retrospection’ (in reinstating pensions) as a reality, because we had fought very expensive and protracted cases on this issue in the past – in both British and European courts and lost. Had we not done, it is doubtful if any change would have occurred at all. 4 years on circumstances have changed and from our discussions with MOD and government, we know that some, but by no means all officials and Ministers are sympathetic to a further change for all Widows. So we are actively pursuing that – but it must be for all - on the basis of the Armed Forces Covenant, which applies to all.

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