HC Deb 29 June 1949 vol 466 cc1285-7
45. Sir Ian Fraser

asked the Minister of Defence what steps are being taken or will be taken to improve the position of existing widows and that of those who become widows prior to the inception of the contributory pensions scheme for the Armed Forces.

The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

While making no commitments I have already undertaken to review some of the regulations governing the existing widows pension scheme in the light of the new contributory scheme when that has been worked out. But as regards the rates of pensions payable under the existing scheme I am afraid I can only repeat that that is a matter which must be governed by pensions increase legislation. The Government have taken the view that any increases in basic pensions should, in future, be on a contributory basis and I cannot therefore hold out any hopes of increases for existing widows as a result of the introduction of the new scheme.

Sir I. Fraser

Can the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that existing widows are to have their rates assimilated to the proposed new rates?

Mr. Alexander

I have said that an alteration of rates is not a matter for me at all; it is a matter to be dealt with through the ordinary channel of legislation for general pensions increase. The Pensions (Increase) Act applies to all kinds of pensions, and any matter of that kind must be dealt with through the usual channel.

Commander Noble

But could not the Minister say whether this is to be legislation for the future or for the present widow?

Mr. Alexander

I have indicated that the contributory pensions scheme as a whole is for the future, but I have also undertaken that in regard to the existing scheme we will look into the regulations from the point of view of one or two specific points raised by hon. Members, such as the age of the widow, and things of that kind.

48. Mr. J. L. Williams

asked the Minister of Defence whether the contributory pension scheme for the widows and other dependants of members of the Armed Forces will be compulsory; and when the details of the scheme may be issued.

Mr. Alexander

As I stated on 11th May, the new contributory scheme is being worked out as quickly as possible; a great deal of work is involved. I will make a comprehensive statement as soon as the scheme is ready: in the meantime, as I am sure hon. Members will appreciate, it is difficult for me to discuss particular points.

Mr. Williams

Will the Minister bear in mind in this connection the demand for a flat-rate pension for the next of kin of former Service men?

Mr. Alexander

I do not know the exact extent of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. Perhaps he will let me know what he has in mind.