§ 10 and 11. Mr. Abse
asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) whether she is aware of the hardship falling upon the unmarried woman partner of permanent cohabiting unions whose male partner, on falling sick or suffering injury, cannot claim any extra sickness or industrial benefit in respect of his partner even although he has been living with her and making insurance contributions since 1948; and whether she will follow the Scottish practice of giving recognition to the reputed wife;
(2) whether she is aware of the hardship falling upon the unmarried woman partner of a permanent cohabiting union who is unable to obtain any retirement pension even although the male partner while living with the woman has been making National Insurance contributions since 1948; and whether she will follow the Scottish practice of giving recognition to the reputed wife.
§ Mr. Pentland
In some of the circumstances in which couples are cohabiting it is possible to pay benefit under the National Insurance Acts and, where this cannot be done, the National Assistance Board would help if the need arose. 15 My right hon. Friend cannot therefore accept that hardship necessaily arises. In any event, a marriage arising from cohabitation by habit and repute under Scots law can only come into existence where both partners are free to marry.
§ Mr. Abse
Is my hon. Friend aware that considerable hardship is falling upon a woman who has no children, who might have been living with a man for 20 or 30 years, who finds that she has to live and endure on the benefit for only the one, for the man? Is it not extraordinarily hard that women in those circumstances should suffer as a consequence of the absurdities of the divorce law?
Secondly, is it not appalling that a woman who has been living with a man for decades should find in the evening of her life that, because of the disability of one of them having been married, she is not entitled to an old-age pension? Should not a more compassionate attitude now be taken towards this problem, which is very widespread?
§ Mr. Pentland
We are aware of these cases, and I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern, but this is a very complex problem. If my hon. Friend is prepared to meet my right hon. Friend and myself to discuss the problem, we shall be glad to do so.
§ Mr. Gurden
Spinsters have no such union and some are obviously worse off than many widows who never had children.