Well, here we are again! Only two years ago we were in election mode and now we are back there again.
So what are the issues that we should be looking out for in discussion of Armed Forces pensions? Last time round in 2015 there was hardly a mention of pensions (or indeed defence generally) in the campaign, and this time the main focus is likely to be once again on Brexit, immigration, refugees, and the NHS and other social expenditure.
But at least the possibility of wide ranging and unpredictable public debate could mean that issues are aired, and that politicians are forced to confirm or deny things. So here are a few things to be watching for:
- The world is now more dangerous place than it was even two years ago; there is a looming crisis involving a nuclear armed North Korea, a real risk of America and Russia supporting different sides in Syria, and of course an untested and unpredictable US President. This might mean that defence is more centre stage (not least because the Prime Minister will think this a weakness in her opposite number and will wish to confirm her own party’s trustworthiness with our defences).
- Will this mean that our political parties are keener to commit to maintain or even increase defence expenditure? We shall see. The Prime Minister will certainly be asked to confirm her commitment to the NATO target of 2% of GDP. And will plans for future cost reduction (including quite possibly a new and less generous pension scheme) be challenged and have to be denied? It will be a good question to put to those standing for office where exactly they stand on this.
- In terms of the State Pension the “triple lock” is bound to come under scrutiny. The Prime Minister has promised that she was committed to this but only for the existing Parliament, which is now coming to an end. She will be pressed to give new assurances, but is unlikely to do so.
- Will there be talk of futher changes to Lifetime Allowance threshold – which came down to £1M as recently as 2016: the outgoing government declared an intent to peg this to the rate of inflation (which will mean it is likely to rise) as from 2018: will this still be the plan? Again, watch this space.
- As to the day-to-day business of the Society, we are, as ever, discussing a number of tricky issues with the MoD and some of these may well have to go to Ministers for agreement. But we will soon be entering a period of “purdah” when non-operational decisions are unlikely to be taken. This might mean a slowing down of some of our work – not because we have stopped doing it but because we can’t get the answers.
So there’s a lot to look out for. Please follow us here!