§ 24. Sir J. Langford-Holt
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware that a woman who is widowed at the age of 49½ has to wait until she is 60 for a pension, although a woman who is widowed at the age of 50½ receives a widow's pension at once and whether he will seek powers to introduce a scale to bridge the disparity between the two.
§ The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. Richard Wood)
I take it that my hon. Friend is referring only to childless widows or widows whose children have grown up. The object of the provisions for widows is to give benefits to those widows who cannot be expected to support themselves by earnings. Pensions of women widowed over 50 are therefore subject to an earnings rule. Those widowed under 50 are eligible for sickness or unemployment benefit at the same standard rate if they cannot find a job or are prevented by illness from working.
§ Sir J. Langford-Holt
Will my right hon. Friend be assured that most people realise that there has to be a dividing line in all these matters, that dividing lines are inevitably unfair, and that in this case the position would be made much better if my right hon. Friend could institute some form of graduated 22 scheme? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that the age of 50 is unrealistic, because it is quite impossible for a woman who has been married, say, for 20 years to recommence at the age of 50 and expect to be in exactly the same position as somebody who has not left work at all?
§ Mr. Wood
The age of 50 was examined by the National Insurance Advisory Committee a few years ago, as my hon. Friend knows, and it came to the conclusion that that age was reasonable. The difficulty of my hon. Friend's proposal to have a graded scheme which would qualify women for widow's benefit is that this presupposes that employment opportunities vary exactly according to age, which is not the case. In fact, if we adopted my hon. Friend's suggestion we would be paying benefits to a number of widows under 50 most of whom are in work and, therefore, this priority would not be justified.
§ Sir J. Langford-Holt
Would my right hon. Friend consider the other point that I raised, namely, that the age of 50 is quite unrealistic?
§ Mr. Mitchison
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there really is a hardship here and that there is a case for a sliding; scale? Would not he reconsider hi:; decision and follow his hon. Friend in adopting Labour Party policy?