HC Deb 18 January 1940 vol 356 cc201-2
15 Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

asked the Minister of Pensions (1) whether some form of temporary rent allowance can be granted to widows of sailors killed in action, as their financial position renders life impossible for them and their children, and causes acute distress; and whether he is aware that this treatment is having a deleterious effect on the morale of all concerned;

(2) whether he will take action to relieve the anxiety caused to all ranks serving in the Royal Navy at the inadequacy of the pensions granted to their widows or dependants in the event of their being killed in action, and by the feeling that they will not be properly provided for, and that the sudden stoppage of pay and allowances together with demands for refunds of any amount overpaid owing to delays in announcing deaths make conditions unnecessarily hard and add to their sufferings?

Sir W. Womersley

After the death of a man serving in the Royal Navy not only are marriage allowance and children's allowance paid to the widow for a period of 13 weeks, but also an amount equal to the qualifying allotment which the man must have declared in order to obtain such allowances. Similarly, if dependant's allowance has been awarded to a dependant other than a wife or child, such allowance with the qualifying allotment continues for 13 weeks. There are no allotments in the case of officers, but if a marriage allowance is paid in respect of an officer, it is continued for 13 weeks after the announcement of his death together with an amount equivalent to two-sevenths of his pay.

These payments following death are interim allowances paid while the widow's or dependant's entitlement to pension is being investigated. Should the pension awarded exceed the payments already made by the Admiralty arrears are paid, but if the converse is the case, the difference is not recovered from pension. The provision thus made for meeting the needs of the period immediately following death is considered reasonable and I can find no justification for adopting the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion that some form of temporary rent allowance be added to the pension payable by my Department in these cases.

Sir J. Lucas

Does the Minister not think that the reduction of £2 17s. a week to £1 a week is one of the hardships, and is he aware of the intense feeling in Portsmouth on the matter?

Sir W. Womersley

I think my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to one of the skilled artificer classes who make an allotment in excess of the usual allotment. In that case the amount paid to the widow is the usual allotment and not the extra one.

Miss Rathbone

Will the hon. Gentleman say what is done in a case where there has been a hardship allowance by the Hardships Committee? Is that also continued or does that stop?

Sir W. Womersley

The hardship allowance is not payable for the 13 weeks.