HC Deb 22 June 1964 vol 697 cc28-9
31. Mr. Doig

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many widows are in receipt of either a pension of 10s. or no pension as a result of the raising of the operative age from 40 years to 50 years.

Mrs. Thatcher

I estimate that the number is of the order of 10,000. I remind the hon. Member that the age test for a National Insurance widow's pension was always 50 for widows with no dependent children. Widows who fail to qualify under the age test and who cannot get work or are sick can now get unemployment or sickness benefit.

Mr. Doig

Does not the hon. Lady realise that women in this age group have the utmost difficulty in finding employment? In view of this fact, does not she consider that a change should be made?

Mrs. Thatcher

One of the changes made after the National Insurance Advisory Committee reported in 1956 was to give widows with no title to a widow's pension a right to get unemployment benefit and sickness benefit. This was an improvement on previous legislation.

Dr. King

While there may be argument in the House about the age at which a widow ought to qualify for widow's benefit, does not the hon. Lady agree that it is a terrible hardship that a widow who just by days or even by hours comes below the age of 50 is debarred from a benefit which her fellow widow receives by virtue of being over 50? Will the Government, at least, consider introducing some flexibility at the end of the scale when considering the eligibility of widows for the widow's pension?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that anyone who misses a particular benefit very narrowly is bound to feel a grievance. I am sure that I should myself. I shall bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said and pass on his representations to my right hon. Friend.