In the Media

Clarke presses on with judges? pension cut

PUBLISHED July 17, 2012

Wednesday 18 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi

The lord chancellor has confirmed government plans to cut judges' pensions to bring them in line with other public sector workers.

In a written ministerial statement today Kenneth Clarke said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne had confirmed to the House that the government would take forward legislation to introduce changes to pension schemes for the NHS, teachers and civil servants.

Clarke said: 'I have been considering the necessary reforms of the judicial pension scheme [JPS] in line with these wider public service pension reforms.'

He said: 'The JPS is a critical element of the remuneration offered to the judiciary. Nevertheless we must ensure that the pensions provided are fair, sustainable and affordable.'

Accordingly, he said he has written to the heads of the judiciary setting out proposals that 'will ensure that the pension provision for judges compares fairly with that offered to others in the public service'.

Clarke said the changes will also meet government 'expectations for reform' and that he will be discussing the matter with the judiciary over the summer. The move follows the recommendations made by Lord Hutton in his report on public service pensions, published in March last year.

Hutton said there needed to be 'comprehensive reform' balancing the legitimate concerns of taxpayers about the cost of public service pensions with the wider need to ensure decent levels of retirement income for public service workers. His main recommendation was to replace existing final salary pension schemes with career average schemes.

From April this judges have for the first time been required to contribute towards their pension, at the rate of 1.28% of their salary.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: 'We are developing proposals to reform judicial pensions so they are fairer to the taxpayer and consistent with wider public sector pension change.'

A spokesman at the Judicial Communications Office said discussions between the lord chancellor and the lord chief justice are ongoing, and that he could not comment further at this time.

Meanwhile part-time judges have come a step closer to receiving pensions following a preliminary judgment from the Supreme Court in the case of retired recorder Dermod O'Brien against the MoJ.

As a part-time judge, paid a fee rather than the salary received by full-time judges, O'Brien was not given a pension when he retired. He challenged the position, arguing that under EU law as a 'worker' he should be entitled to a pension.

The MoJ claims that recorders are not entitled to the same pension rights as full-time judges as they work part-time and they are paid a 'fee' rather than a 'salary'.

In March, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of O'Brien and returned the matter to the Supreme Court.

In light of the European court's ruling, the Supreme Court gave a preliminary ruling that O'Brien was a part-time worker. A further hearing in November will clarify what issues will go back to be determined by the employment tribunal.