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Legislative clauses in the Public Service Pensions Bill: the Henry VIII legacy

Legislative clauses in the Public Service Pensions Bill are unconstitutional and could 
lead to human rights claims, argue Alex Fox and Jonathan Waters

22 March 2013

In Autumn 2012, the Public Service Pensions Bill was presented to parliament with publically made government guarantees that it represented a “generous deal” and a “settlement for the generation”, fixing pensions for the next 25 years. The bill contains a breathtakingly wide-reaching Henry VIII clause, which gives this and future governments unprecedented powers to amend any legislation and to make unilateral and retrospective changes. Where exercised, this could adversely affect hundreds of thousands of people.

The current public pensions legal framework (and existing safeguards) is set out in the Pensions Act 1995 and Superannuation Act 1972. These soon to be replaced acts prevent such retrospective amendments. However, the bill has the potential to adversely affect accrued pension rights. This is likely to result in legal challenges to the bill if enacted, including challenges under the Human Rights Act 1998. ...

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