West Norfolk MP calls for fire pension debate ahead of latest walkout

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Lynn MP Henry Bellingham has called for a House of Commons debate on controversial reforms to fire service pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are staging a 24 hour strike from 9am tomorrow, Tuesday, December 9, in protest at the government’s proposals, which it claims will force its members to work longer for a lesser return.

Mr Bellingham made the request to Commons leader William Hague during a session on forthcoming debates on Thursday.

He said: “I recently met a large delegation of firefighters from King’s Lynn who do a superb job in protecting our community.

Does he agree that this subject warrants a debate on the Floor of the House, or at least a full debate in Committee?”

Mr Hague said Mr Bellingham was right to pay tribute to the area’s fire crews, but added: “I remind him that the reformed pension scheme for firefighters remains one of the very best in the public sector.

“The firefighters pension scheme is the most expensive in the public sector, and that has to be reformed.”

But Peter Greeves, chairman of Norfolk’s FBU, has urged Mr Bellingham to back a Commons motion calls for the reforms to be axed, before a 40 day deadline is reached this Thursday.

So far 260 MPs have signed Early Day Motion 454, though no Conservatives are among them.

Mr Greeves said the government has still not addressed the union’s argument that forcing firefighters to work until they were 60, instead of the current 55, would lead to as many as 90 per cent of the force leaving the service without a full pension.

Asked if he was encouraged by Mr Bellingham’s comments, Mr Greeves said: “I’d be encouraged if MPs signed ED 454.”

He also insisted there remained strong public support for the union’s stance.

Fire service chiefs say contingency plans are in place to cope with today’s industrial action, but have urged the public to take extra care to ensure their own safety.

Around half of the county’s fire stations will be temporarily closed during the stoppage, though officials say an emergency response service will be maintained.

The service has also warned that calls will be prioritised if necessary.