HC Deb 06 March 1941 vol 369 cc1010-2
40. Captain Sir Ian Fraser

asked the Minister of Pensions when present war disability pension rates were first fixed what was the cost-of-living figure and what was the amount of the pension; when he raised these pensions what was the cost-of-living figure and how much was the increase; and what is the present cost-of-living figure?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

The basic rate of pension for total disablement provided in the Royal Warrant of September, 1939, was 32s. 6d. per week. The rate was that laid down in 1921 for the peace-time Army. The average cost-of-living figure in 1921 was 226; in September, 1939, it was 155. The figure was 181 in June, 1940, when the rate of disability pension was increased to 34s. 2d. per week. Allowances for wife and children were also at the same time substantially increased. The latest index figure for the cost of living is 197.

Sir I. Fraser

When does the right hon. Gentleman contemplate making a further adjustment to conform with the rise that has taken place?

Sir W. Womersley

I am keeping a very careful watch on the cost-of-living figure. As soon as it appears to me that it is high enough to warrant an increase, I shall make it.

43. Major Vyvyan Adams

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that the widow of a private soldier killed as a result of enemy action receives, if under 40 years of age and childless. a pension of 15s. 6d. a week; and whether he will substantially raise the rate of pension payable to such widows?

Sir W. Womersley

The rate of pension is considered appropriate for the case of a young childless widow who is not incapable of earning a livelihood through infirmity. The Royal Warrant of June, 1940, was issued after full consultation with my statutory Advisory Committee and there has not been since then any such change in circumstances as to justify an alteration in rates.

Major Adams

Does the right hon. Gentleman really consider that this rate of pension ensures that freedom from domestic anxiety to which a. soldier is entitled?

Sir W. Womersley

Yes, I do, taking into account all the circumstances and bearing in mind that when a widow, owing to sickness, is unable to earn a living we grant her a higher pension, and that in the case of an expectant mother we increase the pension immediately. We feel that a young able-bodied woman can do a useful job of work in these times.

Major Adams

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that a widow of 38 or 39 may be quite disinclined to remarry?