HC Deb 06 May 1970 vol 801 cc395-6
15. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he will announce his proposals for improving pensions of retired officers and officers' widows consequential upon the current study of the arrangements for increase in public occupational pensions.

Mr. Hattersley

The study of existing pensions to which I referred in the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) on 3rd November, 1969 is in progress, but this is a complex matter and I am unable to say when the review will be completed.—[Vol. 790, c. 39.]

Mr. Iremonger

Is not this intolerably dilatory? Is the Minister aware that these officers and their widows have nobody to fight for them but himself? Is he not rather ashamed of the way he is handling this?

Mr. Hattersley

I am not remotely ashamed of it, nor am I ashamed of the way in which the previous Government handled it, which was exactly the same.

I accept entirely that, with the provision of the new sort of pension brought in by my right hon. Friend, we have an obligation to bring Service pensions as near into line with that as possible, but this is a very complex matter and we are right to deal with it with some caution.

Dame Irene Ward

When will something be done for the benefit of the officers? Why should everything always be complex? Surely to goodness, are not there enough Ministers, civil servants, admirals, generals and other people to advise the Minister properly on this matter, so that he can get on with it and not always give this wretched answer which is destructive of the morale of those who have served this country so well in the past?

Mr. Hattersley

The answer to why so many things are complex is a matter with which philosophers have wrestled for the last 200 years, and it would be inappropriate for me to add my suggestions this afternoon. The hon. Lady can accept our absolute assurance that we share with her an anxiety to sort this matter out properly as quickly as possible, but she must accept our assurance that to do the job properly speed is not the overriding consideration.

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