Sunday, July 21, 2024

This is an ARCHIVED article at Information and/or links may well be out of date.

The pre-1975 service pensions grievance relates to British ex-servicemen and women who served as regular "Other Ranks", and left the armed forces before April 1975 without completing a 22-year 'full career'. They have no pension for their years of service in the Royal Navy or Royal Marines, British Army or Royal Air Force. The issue also affects the widows or widowers of pre-1975 service personnel.

Following recent unexpected enquiries to BAFF about the issue, this article has now (Apr 2024) been updated and temporarily re-published.

The unfairness to "early leavers" was not unique to armed forces personnel, or to the UK. Until the 1980s the US military, for example, had to serve for a minimum of 20 years before qualifying for a preserved pension.

For reasons explained below, BAFF never campaigned about this. BAFF has no connection with the disbanded "Combined Armed Forces Federation UK" (CAFFUK), a veterans' association which did campaign about it.

The pre-1975 pension situation applied to a small number of veteran members who were understood to have joined BAFF for other reasons, so this article was for some years presented for information.

In the course of our own contacts with MPs and media about other matters, it became apparent that some efforts to promote the cause of pre-1975 veterans were actually undermining the work of other campaigners, as well as misleading veterans themselves.

Some quotes about this

The Armed Forces Pension Group (AFPG) [disbanded 2015] explained that:

Our aim is to secure equality of pensions for former regular members of the Armed Forces who served for fewer than 22 years at any time to April 1975 and who were discharged before 5th April 1975. This also applies to those regulars who were discharged prior to 1981 who do not meet the criteria of length of service and age. We ask Her Majesty's Government for pension rights based on years of service and related, pro rata, to pensions received by contemporaries who completed 22 years of service.

According to the official MoD agency Veterans UK:

Service deferred pensions. Prior to 6 April 1975 there was no provision for a preservation of pension benefits and service personnel who left the armed forces had to have completed 16 years from age 21 (officers) or 22 years from age 18 (other ranks). Those who left before that date without completing the above criteria, lost all pension entitlement. The rules changed on 6 April 1975...

"Deferred pensions" are also known as "preserved pensions". 

For a fuller explanation of deferred/preserved pensions and the changes which took effect in 1975, see:

Some veterans expressed disappointment with this briefing paper when it first came out, but its account of the basic history has not been seriously challenged. The House of Commons Library is independent of Government.

Another demonstration of the need for an independent armed forces federation

According to a BBC News story in 2002, a Pensions Advisory Service expert, reacting to a campaign about pre-AFPS 75 forces leavers, argued that

The loss of these servicemen's pension rights is now becoming important to them 27 years on but they should have been campaigning back in 1975.

One of the most troubling aspects of the pre-1975 service pensions grievance is that the service authorities made no realistic attempt to inform personnel after the Social Security Act 1973 had been introduced in Parliament, and then passed into law, but not yet fully implemented.

Although the legislation was passed in September 1973, having been in preparation long before that date, disgracefully it was not until the last moment - March 1975 - that the MoD got round to producing a leaflet to explain the main features of preserved pensions, and give notice that they would apply from April 6 1975. Given the time typically taken to distribute such material in UK or overseas, very few (if any) personnel can have seen the leaflet before the changes had already taken place.

Some personnel were discharged against their will when the authorities well knew that the changes were pending. Many others left voluntarily without knowing that they or their families would be missing out on significant pension benefits in later life.

If an independent representative armed forces federation had existed at the time, service personnel would at the very least have been better informed about their options before leaving the service voluntarily.

Those faced with discharge against their wishes in order to evade their pension entitlement could have found an independent champion, which the chain of command did not - and could not - provide.

Why didn't BAFF campaign about this pension issue?

As a British armed forces veteran, any ex-serviceman or ex-servicewoman affected by this issue has always been welcome to join BAFF.

But we always left active campaigning about the pre-1975 pension injustice to the various groups which were formed for that specific purpose.

Because BAFF made that clear from the start, it had only one early enquirer about representation on that issue, to whom we provided contact details for "Combined Armed Forces Federation" (CAFFUK).

BAFF offered friendly contact in a purely supportive role to CAFFUK, which unfortunately responded with published threats of legal action, resulting in a tedious prolonged trademark dispute, which CAFFUK lost at every stage.

BAFF also offered friendly contact in a purely supportive role to "Armed Forces Pension Group" (AFPG), which readily accepted research assistance using BAFF contacts in allied countries, and we were represented at an AFPG regional meeting.

A third campaign group was formed in 2010: "Equality for Veterans Association" (EFVA).

AFPG organised a successful parliamentary petition which was signed by more than 300,000 people, securing a Westminster Hall debate on 16 March 2015 led by Katy Clark MP (Lab):

The debate took place in the latter days of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government, which stuck to the policy of previous governments.

Both AFPG and EFVA decided to wind up later in the same year.

In 2023 CAFFUK also announced a decision to disband.

Online petition

An online petition was still actively running when we last checked:

There may be a related private group on Facebook. There was also a popular 'Campaign' on the Forces Reunited website, but that site appears at present (Apr 2024) to have closed. That, combined with the disbandment of CAFFUK, may have prompted the recent unexpected enquiries to BAFF.