HC Deb 16 June 1997 vol 296 cc12-3
9. Mr. Gray

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the defence review will include a comprehensive review of service pensions. [2048]

Dr. John Reid

The strategic defence review will deal with many aspects of defence policy, but it is not expected to cover service pensions. The Government will, however, keep personnel issues relating to the armed forces, including pensions, under full consideration.

Mr. Gray

In that case, will the Minister take urgent steps to examine the case of British prisoners of war from the second world war whose pay, as he will know, was cut by a half from the day they were captured until the day they were released? Will he take that fact into account when he considers their pensions and their widows' pensions?

Dr. Reid

Although it is not related to service pensions, I understand the problem to which the hon. Gentleman refers. It is being considered at present, and I thank him for the representations that he has made. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will be bringing news of any decision to the House in due course, and in the not too distant future.

Mr. MacShane

The Minister will be aware of the deplorable indifference of the Conservative party when in government to the problem of war veterans, their pensions and so on. He will also know of the calls from the Labour party when in opposition for a Minister to be responsible for veterans' issues. Can the Minister say which of his distinguished colleagues is the point of contact when we want to take up matters concerning veterans who served, in one way or another, in the armed forces?

Dr. Reid

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He will be aware that many of the issues, including some of those relating to pensions, are under the control and administration of the Department of Social Security. However, he is right to refer to the deplorable record of the last Government and their treatment of personnel issues and of service men and women before, during and after their service to this country. We shall be considering how best to meet the requirement for a veterans' unit in the Ministry of Defence, and I can tell him that the distinguished member of the defence team to whom he referred will be me.