HC Deb 04 December 1967 vol 755 cc923-4
5. Mr. Hamling

asked the Minister of Social Security what steps she will now take to deal with anomalies in the payment of social security benefits to widows.

Mr. Loughlin

The provisions for widow's benefit are being carefully considered in the Government's current review of social security.

Mr. Hamling

Is my hon. Friend aware that in many cases widows in identical circumstances are being treated quite differently, in terms of social security?

Mr. Loughlin

I appreciate that the situation is that if we forget the age factor even some widows who are receiving pensions are treated differently. We have to be careful about this because, as my hon. Friend will know, there are for example the war widows' preferences, and many hon. Members would resent any reduction in those preferences. We are carefully examining the whole question of widows.

14. Mr. Farr

asked the Minister of Social Security if she will seek to reduce to 50 years the age at which a widow is placed in receipt of the full widow's pension.

Mr. Loughlin

I think the hon. Member has perhaps confused the conditions for widow's pension with the conditions for retirement pension. A woman widowed at 50 already gets a widow's pension. Reduction of the minimum pension age of 60 for retirement pensions, which applies to all women, would not seem justified for widows more than for other women.

Mr. Farr

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have not confused the question at all, and that what is of great concern to me is that a widow whose husband dies 10 days before she reaches the age of 50 will have to wait over 10 years before she receives a widow's pension? There is no confusion in this, and I ask that the Minister should look at this anomaly.

Mr. Loughlin

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for assuming that he was confused on this point. I only raised it to enable him to raise the subject of retirement pensions, and I had no other intention. I am afraid that the demarcation factor is one of the features of any setting of age, and that, wherever the line is fixed, there are bound to be some just below it, leading to anomalies. It is very difficult.

Lord Balniel

Could there not be a sliding scale?

Mr. Loughlin

It is possible to have a sliding scale, but there would still be anomalies—we must face this—at the bottom end of the sliding scale. This is something which is worth looking at, but I would remind the House that we are dealing with a very long tradition of age levels for widows' pensions.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Would my hon. Friend consider the possibility of paying all widows the same pension when they reach the age of 50, whether or not they were eligible before that?

Mr. Loughlin

I answered this point on an earlier Question.