§ Mr. Andrew Bowden
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list those instances in which a retrospective amendment has been made to public sector pension schemes.
§ Mr. Ryder
A distinction has to be drawn between, first, amendments where the effect is backdated to cover the elapses of time between agreement on, or the announcement of, a change and the making of regulations to give effect to it and, secondly, amendments which have effect prior to an agreement on, or announcement of, a change.
There have been many amendments of the first kind. They are acceptable because they ensure that scheme members are not deprived of agreed improvements in benefits for the time that it may take to finalise the necessary amendment of the scheme's rules. It would entail disproportionate cost to provide a complete list of such amendments.
It has rarely been possible to amend schemes to provide for retrospection of the second kind because of the costs that may be involved and considerations of equity and administration. It has, therefore, been the policy of successive Governments not to allow such retrospection, save in the most exceptional circumstances. In the past 20 years, the only major instances of which I am aware have been the amendments made in the 1970s to bring the public services generally into line with the Civil Service by 538W allowing war service to count at half rate for pension purposes; and, in 1979, for the armed forces pension scheme to provide pensions for pre-1950 widows.