HC Deb 07 July 1977 vol 934 cc1404-5
7. Mr. Hodgson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further representations he has received about the treatment of widows' pensions.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

I have received a number of representations about the tax treatment of widows' pensions from hon. Members, widows' organisations and others.

Mr. Hodgson

Is the Minister aware of the hardship that is caused by the tax treatment of working widows? Does he consider the present treatment to be fair or equitable? What will he do about it?

Mr. Sheldon

The hon. Gentleman will know that these matters have been debated at considerable length in Finance Bill Committees and that reports of the proceedings are available in the Vote Office. These matters are gone into with very great care. A number of amendments have been moved. We have improved the widows' pension very considerably over the past three years. The hon. Gentleman might find some gratification in knowing that.

Mr. Hooley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that an excellent way of dealing with this problem would be to raise the tax threshold, which would help not only widows but many other people on low incomes?

Mr. Sheldon

I understand the point that my hon. Friend raises. Obviously one is always anxious to increase tax thresholds wherever possible, but that would have the consequence, as my hon. Friend will know, of helping everyone all the way up the income scale and giving most assistance to those on the higher incomes.

Mr. Evelyn King

Has the right hon. Gentleman received any protest from rate-paying widows in Hampshire about the case of Mr. Johnson, who resigned at the age of 42 on a pension of £8,000 a year, drew a gratuity of £20,000, was then re-employed at £8,000 a year by the land authority of Wales and has, I understand, a right to a further pension? As the right hon. Gentleman represents the Department that is ultimately responsible for public finance, will he comment on that case?

Mr. Sheldon

I am not sure what that has to do with the Question, but I look forward with great interest to receiving details of the case.