The Ministry of Justice is showing no signs of backing down over the issue of judicial pension reform – despite legal action being started against its plans.
The department confirmed this week that a challenge has been made to proposals to force younger members of the judiciary to accept revised terms for their pension.
A statutory instrument laid in parliament in February stipulated that changes will not apply to anyone aged 55 years or over on 1 April 2012. It is thought legal proceedings hinge on whether this restriction is lawful, with The Times reporting that up to 190 judges have instructed solicitors to bring legal action.
The dispute is set to be one of the first tests for new justice secretary Michael Gove, along with the reforms left over from the previous administration.
But the MoJ this week stated there can be no reversal of February’s position.
A spokesman said: ‘Our judges are rightly held in high regard but with widespread changes already made to public sector pensions, and given the current economic climate, the judiciary cannot be immune.
‘In the last five years, the number of judges receiving pensions has risen by almost a third.
‘While we are very clear good quality pensions must be available, which properly reflect the valuable work our judiciary do, taxpayers must also have confidence that the scheme is sustainable.’
The reforms include a payment based on average career earnings rather than a final salary sum, with the pension age for judges in the new scheme rising in line with the state pension age.
Senior judges have warned that changing the provisions will make it more difficult to recruit new judges – many of who will take a cut in their income to sit on the bench.
A recent survey of the judiciary found only 2% of judges feel valued by the government, with the majority saying working conditions have got worse in recent years.