HC Deb 24 May 1962 vol 660 cc649-50
8. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what grounds commutation rates have been made less favourable as from 2nd April for officers wishing to make provision for their wives against widowhood; and what consultations took place with the representative organisation's concerned before this decision was made.

Mr. Brooke

The table of commutation rates has been brought up to date so as to take account of recent more favourable mortality experience and of the higher rates of interest paid by the Government for their own borrowing. I do not think it would be appropriate to consult non-Governmental bodies on matters of this kind. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Service pension code includes non-contributory pensions for widows; commutation of retired pay is not the normal way of making provision for them.

Dame Irene Ward

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most people, including myself, think that if ever the Government can have a go at Service widows they seem inclined to do so? If he thinks that the Government ought not to consult, that would not be the view of those who have to do what they can to remedy the very low pensions of widows, which the Government fail to accept as their proper responsibility. I am very annoyed about this decision.

Mr. Brooke

I am sorry to be in controversy with my hon. Friend after the nice things she said about me in the House the other day. Until recently commutation was producing a lump sum which was worth more than the annual sums so commuted. When Parliament passed the Pension Commutation Acts I am sure that was not Parliament's intention.