Hilary and Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins with firefighters at the House of Commons on Monday
A Fair Deal for Firefighters
Yesterday in the House of Commons, there was a large contingent of firefighters from right across England in the public gallery. They had come to listen to a debate that Labour had called about the firefighters’ pension scheme, following industrial action over the last 12 months.
All public sector pension schemes are having to change because we are living longer, but there are particular issues in the case of firefighters because of the dangerous and strenuous work that they do which requires a certain level of physical fitness.
In my speech, I called on the Government to scrap their proposed scheme and think again because it is unfair to firefighters. It is built on an assumption that all firefighters will be able to maintain operational fitness into their late 50s when Ministers can’t even tell us what the fitness standard will be, and when the Government’s own expert report says that some firefighters simply won’t be able to do this. And yet Ministers have planned on the basis of a fitness standard that is dangerously low.
They then claim that firefighters who aren’t able to maintain fitness will be redeployed to other jobs, even though the Minister has had to admit that she has no idea how many of these redeployment opportunities are in fact available. And it would make firefighters who have to retire at the age of 55 through no fault of their own lose a fifth of their pension. How is that fair?
In Scotland and Wales, however, they’ve taken a different approach and come up with a fairer scheme. So the point I made in my speech to the House of Commons was simply this: “if Scotland and Wales can offer firefighters a fairer deal, then why can’t this happen in England?”
At the end of the debate, we voted to scrap the pension regulations to try and force the government to think again, but unfortunately we lost. However, I think all the firefighters in the gallery felt that their case had been given a public hearing.
As one firefighter tweeted “Thanks for speaking up for firefighters”.