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Media update: 16 January 2013

FDA mentions

16 January

FDA general secretary Dave Penman was interviewed this morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, about recent public criticism by politicians about the civil service, and whether a major reform of the current civil service model is needed.

Penman said: "The reality of it is that the civil service is there to give impartial advice to ministers, and sometimes ministers don't like that advice, but that's what makes good government.

"If a minister simply surrounds themselves with people who believe, rather than people who can do, as Lord Hennessy put it, then that makes for poor policy."

Referring to the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who was also questioned, Penman said: "Francis, as a minister, wants robust, evidence-based policy advice and he wants that challenge. And it's the best of ministers who recognise that that's what the civil service delivers."

Listen to the full interview at:
FDA general secretary Dave Penman on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme - 16 January 2013
(One hour, 20 minutes and 36 seconds into the programme)

The interview was also mentioned on the BBC website:

Francis Maude: Ministers sometimes left in the dark
BBC News website

Yesterday's Lords' debate on the Public Service Pensions Bill was published today as part of Hansard, the edited verbatim report of proceedings from both Houses.

Baroness Donaghy is quoted as mentioning the FDA during the discussion on negative revaluation:

"According to the First Division Association, the current wording of the Bill does not reflect the discussions with the unions on revaluation, and seeks to extend the Treasury's control far beyond that which is necessary and prudent. In the light of the FDA and others v the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and others in 2012, there is no need for this clause to be in primary legislation, as it is better suited to the scheme regulations that will lay down the parameters for each distinct scheme. There is no similar clause setting out the terms of the indexation of pensions in payment, even though that element is consistent across all schemes.

"Fundamental to the agreement reached with the Civil Service was the understanding that, as with indexation of pensions in payment, revaluation would never be negative. If the relevant index was negative, as has been the case in recent history, the figure of zero is used and there are no increases or decreases applied. This is vital to the confidence of pension saving. Just as pensions in payment should not fall from one year to the next, a principle held by successive Governments, so pensions being accrued should not similarly be reduced. That reflects existing practice.

"The FDA was not informed at any stage that the Government intended to deviate from that approach in the new scheme, and to do so now would be a fundamental challenge to the agreement. The continued inclusion in the Bill of a provision allowing negative revaluation to occur could have a profound effect on member behaviour, and specifically opt-outs. Scheme members are likely to react to an announcement that their whole pension is to be revalued downwards as a result of a negative figure for the consumer prices index in September; their response is likely to be one of mass opt-out. This is a hugely counterproductive approach for the Treasury to take on the pretext of share and risk, and the cost of management mechanisms already accounts for inflation-yet the Treasury wants additional cost to be accepted by members through this provision, which puts participation at risk."

The full discussion can be read via the clause 8 debate at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/index/130115.html.

General interest

16 January

David Davis MP: Why are civil servants running rings round the Coalition? Because it doesn't know its own mind

15 January

Labour should take up the mantle of radical civil service reform
New Statesman

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