HC Deb 25 May 1949 vol 465 cc1262-3
49. Mr. M. Philips Price

asked the Minister of Defence whether, in the case of retired officers of the Armed Forces, who on account of age or other reasons are not eligible for the new contributory pension scheme, a pension will be granted to a widow on his death irrespective of her age.

Mr. Alexander

I cannot anticipate what the conditions governing the new contributory scheme will be, but the widows of any officers who may be ineligible for it will, of course, remain eligible for consideration under existing regulations. Those regulations debar a widow who is more than 25 years younger than her husband: otherwise her eligibility is not affected by her age.

Mr. Philips Price

Is not it a fact that these widows are suffering, or will suffer, from a means test; and would it not be possible to make arrangements whereby they received a pension which was not subject to a means test?

Mr. Alexander

I think it would be best if we could first come to a decision upon the reconstruction of the general system on a contributory basis, and then pay attention to any points which hon. Members might wish to raise with regard to the existing situation.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the 25 years' rule, as it is perfectly arbitrary and causes great hardship and anxiety? The implication behind it is that these widows married these officers with the object of getting a pension, which is a most unworthy implication, and in 99 cases out of a 100 completely unjustified.

Mr. Alexander

There are aspects about it which certainly cannot be popular, and many consider them not to be very fair; but this is of very long standing.

Mr. Nicholson

Even such a conservative argument as that need not necessarily be right.

Mr. Alexander

If the hon. Member had listened, he would know that I have already said that as soon as we have finished the details of the contributory scheme we shall give further attention to the other matters; but I cannot enter into any commitments.

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