HL Deb 09 February 1978 vol 388 cc1170-3

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the compensation payable to the surviving dependants of members of the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve killed on duty is less than that payable to the surviving dependants of members of the Regular Army killed under similar circumstances.


My Lords, I have already given, in my Answers on 10th December 1975 and 3rd March 1976, the reasons why the compensation paid to dependants of TAVR members varies from that paid to dependants of members of the Regular Army killed in similar circumstances. The war widow's pension payable by the Department of Health and Social Security represents the industrial injury benefit, and it is the same for dependants of Regular Servicemen and reservists alike. Under a scheme introduced in April 1974, the Ministry of Defence pays to the widow of a reservist killed in the course of peacetime exercises or training, and whose death is attributable to service, an additional pension in recognition of hazards not normally encountered in civilian life.

The Ministry of Defence scheme also allows for pensions or gratuities to be paid to reservists who are injured attributably. These payments are not, however, as high as those made to Regular Servicemen or their widows and dependants whose awards, in the event of death or disability, are part of the occupational pension scheme of the Armed Forces, which is the full-time employment of the Regular Serviceman.


My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord for that fairly detailed reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that he has told us very largely what happens, but not why it happens? What I am asking, and what your Lordships would like to know, is why it is assumed that those who survive somebody who has died in part-time employment need less support, or indeed sympathy, than those who survive those who have died similarly in full-time employment?


My Lords, the reason is this. It is quite possible under the present system for the widow of a reservist killed attributably to receive a war widow's pension from the Department of Health and Social Security, an attributable benefit for reservist's pension from the Ministry of Defence, and a pension from her late husband's civilian employment. The right to receive an occupational pension from one's main employer applies no less to the Regular Serviceman than to his reservist counterpart. Comparisons of Regular Army and reservist benefits are, therefore, neither accurate nor meaningful.


My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us how the compensation paid to soldiers who die in Her Majesty's Service compares with the compensation paid to IRA men who do not die under interrogation?


My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that, however valid his arguments about the pension may be, there is also the matter of a lump sum payment, which for a private soldier in the Regular Army is £3,810 and for a private in the TAVR is nothing; similarly for a subaltern in the Regular Army it is £6,768 and for a subaltern in the reserve it is nothing? Does the noble Lord's Answer cover that?


My Lords, this is really an extremely technical matter. I think it would be better debated at greater length than at Question Time. I do not think the noble Lord is quite right. He was good enough to give me advance notice of the question, and it seems to me that, in answer to the second part of the question he sent to me, based on the number of TAVR men who have died attributably since April 1974–32 men—the cost in the first year of applying Regular Army rules would be in excess of £60,000, and about £11,000 in pensions for each subsequent year.


My Lords, I am sure the House would agree that this is a very difficult and complex subject. However, a number of Servicemen volunteers are killed in the course of carrying out the orders of superior officers. As this matter is extremely complicated, would the noble Lord be willing, instead of pursuing this matter across the Floor of the House, to meet a number of Members of the House who have an interest so that the matter can be explored further?


My Lords, I am certain that the Secretary of State would be only too glad to receive a deputation on the matter.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that at any rate I support my noble friend Lord Elton and think it very important to have a full debate on the subject? In the part of the world which I represented in another place I happen to have a special position in the Territorials. It is extremely important that the Territorials as well as the full-time Services should have everything they possibly can, and I see no reason why there should be a division. I do not agree with the Answer given by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. Will he give a better one? May I have an answer to that?


My Lords, I am certain that the noble Baroness, Lady Ward of North Tyneside, will be included in any deputation to the Secretary of State.


My Lords, will the noble Lord give the House an assurance that the Government would be concerned to put this anomaly right in the future, and, in spite of the regulations today, they would like to see a position where a Territorial dependant would be no worse off than a Regular Serviceman's?


My Lords, on three occasions I have tried to convince your Lordships' House that it is not an anomaly. However, a longer debate and discussion on the matter would be of value.