FIREFIGHTERS cheered on MPs as they stuck up for their pension rights in the Commons yesterday even as Tory ministers repeatedly tried to dodge tough questions, writes Will Stone.
Labour MPs accused Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles of providing a “sham guarantee” that firefighters would receive an unreduced pension or alternative role if they failed fitness tests.
Mr Pickles chose not to answer a question from shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn, who pointed out that statutory instrument states that fire authorities must only “have regard” to the guidance.
“Can the secretary of state please explain if that is the case how on Earth does it constitute a guarantee?”
Around a dozen firefighters who had come to watch the debate in the public gallery could be heard applauding as MPs ensured the communities and local government questions debate did not stray off the topic.
Ms Mordaunt insisted there would be “no wriggle room” and that disregarding the so-called guarantee was not optional for fire authorities.
But Easington MP Grahame Morris contradicted her claim, stating that responses from authorities to a survey conducted by firefighter’ union FBU showed they could not provide a guarantee.