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Today I secured a debate on the plans to increase the pension age of Civil Nuclear Constabulary officers (CNC).

Whilst we are all expected to work for longer, these officers are required to reach exacting and demanding levels of fitness, beyond what is required of conventional police officers and are also required to be heavily armed and are deployed as armed officers alongside armed police in terror situations. These officers are expected to carry five different weapons and 30kg of heavy equipment. Conventional police officers continue to have a pension age of 60 years old, whilst Civil Nuclear Police Officers face having their retirement age raised to the age of 68.

As a result of this change to their pension arrangements, the turnover in these officers has risen to 12% and the force is 142 authorised firearms officers understrength. Recruitment numbers have halved and the numbers of these officers leaving the CNC to serve on other forces or for other employment.

This matters because these officers deter any attacker whose intent is the theft or sabotage of nuclear material whether static or in transit. They will defend such material and recover it should it be seized. Their work is extremely dangerous and a retirement age has been set for them which these officers will simply not be able to reach, instead facing being forced out of their job when they are in their 60s and too old to meet the physical exacting standards required of them. There is also the matter of female officers being discriminated against as only an “elite” standard of fitness for those over 60 is expected to be sufficient for them to continue their duties.

The UK Government has dithered and delayed on this issue for too long and now the service is becoming increasingly “unsustainable” according to the Chief Constable of the CNC.

This is an extremely serious situation and ultimately is a matter of nuclear safety, national security and the safety of the public. The consequences of not addressing this if the service can no longer protect our nuclear sites at home or in transit.

This issue is not just about pensions, it is about the value we place on nuclear security, national security and public safety and this must be addressed by the UK Government as a matter of urgency.

Click below to hear my speech and the Minister’s response:

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