HL Deb 11 October 1999 vol 605 cc141-52

(" .—(1) A widow in receipt of a widow's pension under any of the enactments mentioned in subsection (2) ("the DSS pension"), and in receipt of a pension paid under the Armed Forces Pension scheme shall on remarriage or when living together as husband and rife with a member of the opposite sex, only relinquish the DSS pension if the Forces Family Pension (attributable) is retained.

(2) The enactments referred to in subsection (1) are—

  1. (a) the Naval, Military and Air Forces etc. (Disablement and Death) Service Pensions Order 1983, and any order reenacting the provisions of that order,
  2. (b) the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme 1983, and any subsequent scheme made under the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions Act) 1939,
  3. (c) any scheme made under the Pensions (Navy, Army, Air Force and Mercantile Marine) Act 1939 or the Polish Resettlement Act 1947 applying the provisions of any such order as is referred to in paragraph (a),
  4. (d) the order made under section 1(5) of the Ulster Defence Regiment Act 1969 concerning pensions and other grants in respect of disablement or death due to service in the Ulster Defence Regiment.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, having read the splendid way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, moved a similar amendment in Committee, and the massive and eloquent support she had from my noble kinsman Lord Russell, from the noble Lords, Lord Morris of Manchester, Lord Campbell of Croy and Lord Higgins, the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, and, indeed, from the Minister, it might be better if I were not here today. Such flattering, lovely—though possibly not very true—and delightful to read things were said about me that I felt I had to reply in person.

It is also possible that this is the last chance I may have of righting a very considerable injustice to the post-1973 war widows. Therefore I have to speak.

As I stated before, on the death of her husband a post-1973 war widow receives two pensions; one from the DSS and a second one, the attributable forces pension, from the MoD. It is called an attributable pension, not because the husband has contributed towards it—although of course he has—but because his death is directly attributable to his service life either through fighting for his country in a theatre of war, or through his work as a peacekeeper, or indeed his training to fulfil those roles. All over the world our Armed Forces are at risk even today. In July a British officer and a Gurkha sergeant were killed in Kosovo. Our forces are still involved in East Timor. They are at risk in Northern Ireland. We are still carrying out sorties against Iraq and we are training in Sierra Leone. They must have the emotional security when going on dangerous operations of knowing that their loved ones will be provided for if they do not return. Without that security, it will become even more difficult to recruit or to retain highly trained personnel.

There is nothing new about this amendment. The War Widows Association has been campaigning ever since I have had the good fortune to be associated with them. The attributable forces family pension should be for life regardless of future marital status. We believe that this pension, an occupational pension to which the husband contributed, should be the wife's for life. There are no more than 2,700 post-1973 war widows to whom this could apply. We all hope that there will not be any more. The amendment seeks to keep the attributable forces family pension for life for all those 2,700 post-1973 widows who have not so far remarried, and for any subsequent war widows. It is not retrospective and it does not seek to provide pensions for any post-1973 war widows who have in fact remarried. However, after speaking to friends of mine, I wish that it would. Even some of those who do not remarry can be penalised. I know of at least one lady who has had a mortgage application turned down on the grounds that her pension is not secure for life and could disappear if she changed her marital status.

Less than 1 per cent of these ladies have remarried. It may be that few will, but many of them are young, with young children who grow and eat and always seem to need new shoes. To lose a secure income is rather like shutting your eyes and jumping out of the window. They are thinking very carefully about remarrying or indeed forming a permanent relationship. They cannot afford to lose their pension. On the other hand, with pension splitting on divorce, which is also in the Bill, a divorced person will get a share of the pension for life regardless of future marital status. It does not seem fair that war widows should receive less favourable treatment than divorcees. Both the Goode and the Bett Reports recommend that the attributable forces family pension should be for life regardless of future marital status.

Perhaps I could make a small plea on economic grounds. No government wants to spend money, certainly not new money. This amendment would not cause the expenditure of any more money at all. The Government are already paying the DSS pension and the MoD pension to post-1973 war widows. If the attributable pension could be for life and could be retained on a second marriage, some ladies might remarry, thus giving up the DSS pension. The Treasury would then save on one whole pension. I am sure that the Minister will find that an attractive idea. I am sure that the Treasury would too, if they thought about it. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

My Lords, when Barry Goldwater stood for the presidency of the United States, a story went around that he was about to be signed up by 18th Century Fox. When I look at the attitude towards women in the 1973 Act which this amendment seeks to repeal, I cannot help feeling that it is just about as old fashioned as Barry Goldwater.

The 1973 Act attempts to provide, like a Tudor husband making his will, that the widow shall live sole, chaste and unmarried. That is, first, a gross impertinence, and secondly, it rests on the view of women as people who are to be kept by some man. That is grossly out of line with the facts of the present day.

The thinking of the 1973 Act appears to be that a woman needs compensation for her husband being killed in war if she has no other man to keep her, but as soon as she has another man to keep her, "Well, that's all right, isn't it? We don't need to worry about it any more". That is not the way we think these days.

The compensation to a war widow must be occupational, as the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, said. However, that compensation must also be for the pain, the suffering and the loss, and not just be provided as a substitute income. If that kind of compensation for loss is not recognised, all armies in all periods will have to face up to the fact that it will be very hard indeed to get people to fight. There is here something that is urgently in need of attention. I hesitate to say that the Government need to be brought into the 20th century. It has been left a little late for that. But they might at least come into the 18th in time to catch up with the 21st.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, on her speech in moving this important amendment. She is held in the highest regard by war widows and rightly so. No parliamentarian in either House has striven, or strives now, harder to enhance the well-being of war widows than the noble Baroness. Her presidency of the War Widows Association of Great Britain is but one mark of their regard and deep affection for her.

Jenny Green, in a statement for the association in support of the amendment, describes the "iniquity" of treating war widows who remarry less favourably than they would be treated in other schemes. As Jenny knows, I have given it as my view that, of all the duties that it falls to Parliament to discharge, none is of more compelling priority than our bounden duty to act justly to men and women who were prepared to lay down their lives for this country and to the dependants of those who did so. That is the case for making provision for Britain's war widows at least as good as that in any other scheme.

I am sure that my noble friend Lady Hollis, who in Opposition campaigned long and hard for war widows, will want to reply as helpfully as she can to this debate for I know that her commitment is as genuine now as it was then. In particular, I hope that my noble friend will give due weight to the fact that significantly less than 1 per cent of the war widows affected by this amendment remarry; and to the clearly expressed insistence, both of Sir Michael Bett's independent review team and the Goode report, that all service widows' pensions should be for life regardless of any change in marital status.

Lord Freyberg

My Lords, I, too, support the amendment put forward by my noble friend Lady Strange. As the Government have recognised on many previous occasions, the Armed Forces are unique in that members are called upon to put their lives at risk because of the nature of their work. As the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, said, at the moment there are British forces in Kosovo, East Timor and other high-risk locations around the world. Their pensions are occupational and contributory. If they are killed in the line of duty, their widows quite rightly become recipients of this pension, but only so long as they remain single and do not cohabit, in which case they lose all their pension. It seems quite wrong that should a widow wish to remarry a few years after her serviceman husband has died, she loses any right to the pension, regardless of how many years he may have paid into it and regardless of the children who may have been left fatherless and without their father's potential income.

In addition, the nature of service life ensures that the majority of service widows are unable to pursue their own careers or accrue the occupational benefits of their own profession. That they should further be denied the security of the spouse's pension seems doubly wrong.

It should be noted that, while only 21 per cent of all public pension schemes in the UK are for life, 84 per cent of all private pension schemes in the UK are. What happens in the private sector is of relevance, as the principle of comparability is the basis of the Armed Forces salary rate and pension benefit, as pensions are really deferred pay.

Furthermore, the Bett independent review recommended that all service widows should receive a pension for life, regardless of any change in marital status. At present, the Treasury pays both the DSS and the MoD pension to post-1973 war widows. Through this amendment we ask only that the attributable forces family pension be paid for life. The DSS pension would be relinquished on remarriage.

It is wrong that young widows with young children should be denied the opportunity to bring up their children in the family units of their choice. As has been mentioned, there are currently 2,650 post-1973 war widows. The current policy on their husbands' pensions ensures that 99 per cent do not remarry or even cohabit. If the Government were to institute pensions for life for post-1973 war widows, there would therefore be no substantial cost to the Government, and they would enable these widows to form relationships and live in a manner which most people would consider a basic human right.

This is not a new issue. I tabled a similar amendment as part of the Victory Widows Campaign in 1995. I therefore wholeheartedly support the amendment.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I, too, strongly support the amendment for reasons which have already been stated, but which perhaps bear restating. First, I believe it is right that if a young widow wishes to give her children the opportunity to have a father again and a man in the family, that is extremely important to family life. Secondly, I need hardly say that I believe that members of the forces and their wives, given the life that service wives have to lead, are particularly deserving of support. Thirdly, and not least, I note that the Ulster Regiment is covered by this provision, and I am sorry to say that there have been grave dangers to life and limb and there may well continue to be. I therefore hope very much that, for reasons of humanity and common sense, the amendment will be supported.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

My Lords, I, too, support the principles behind the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Strange. This is not the first time that the issue has been debated. I well remember debating it, when we were on the other side of House, alongside my noble friend the Minister.

We are discussing a welfare Bill, and I accept that this is an issue for the MoD. But one equally has to accept that, when dealing with a major piece of legislation relating to pensions, one cannot avoid the opportunity of bringing out this issue. The present situation is grossly unfair and it is wrong.

I must declare an interest as chairman of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. However, I have no conflict as we do not deal with pensions. What we do deal with within our remit is comparability. The pension referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, is not the DSS pension. It is what I as a lay person would call an occupational pension scheme, for which there is an abatement from the salary of those Armed Forces personnel of, currently, 7 per cent. That is a 1 per cent larger abatement than MPs currently have on their salary for their pension scheme.

Nor is it any use employing the argument that this does not happen totally in the public sector. There is no other part of the public sector that is like the services. Wives in the services are told that they must move their home. They do not have a job, they cannot build up a career and pension; if they do not go their husbands do not get promotion.

The issue should be considered with "joined up" government thinking. I am delighted to see my noble friend the Minister with the MoD portfolio on the Front Bench tonight. This pension is paid for. It involves a small number of people. But that is not the real argument for saying that it should be paid. It is perhaps a factor in weighting. I congratulate the noble Baroness on bringing the matter forward. if it is not dealt with under this Bill there will be no opportunity to consider it. I know that a review of pension schemes in the services is taking place at the moment, but there is no guarantee that it will deal with the matter. Nor is it highly likely that it will deal with retrospection. It will deal with widows in the future but not the group of women many of whom were widowed at a young age. One would think that because they were widowed at a young age they would remarry; 1 per cent remarry because they do not have the confidence to do without the pension in the future. I gather that percentage is lower than in civilian life.

I know that the Minister has understanding and compassion on the subject, particularly the divorce point mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Strange. My noble friend on the Front Bench was instrumental in getting the law changed in that regard. I suggest there will be an anomaly if we have the pensions of divorced servicemen's wives treated as an asset. They receive half of that under the general legislation on divorce and pensions, yet if the husband dies the wife receives nothing. I ask my noble friend to consider the matter. I know it will be difficult for her to concede the point this evening because it is not covered by the Bill. However, is she prepared to have discussions with her colleagues in the MoD? The two departments are separate but it is one issue.

Perhaps we may hope that in the current pensions review the matter will be considered seriously. The noble Baroness put forward the argument in a compassionate way. But it is not a matter of compassion; it is a matter of right and wrong. What is going on at the moment is wrong.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I have not taken part in any social security debates since the election. I decided on that course for two reasons: I thought it was unfair on my noble friends on the Front Bench who had taken over the responsibilities that I should look over their shoulders. It was also a tinge unfair to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, to have her predecessor always breathing down her neck. Perhaps I had also had enough of what had become known as the Hollis-Mackay show and decided to break at least one leg of it.

I return to the subject tonight because I remember your Lordships bruising and battering me on it and defeating me when we put through the pensions Bill. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, that the MoD is absolutely wrong in the attitude it has taken. I agree with whatever the noble Baroness will say about the DSS war widow's pension. I do not resile from a word I said from the Government Dispatch Box on the subject. I have no doubt the same words will be used by the noble Baroness later about the DSS war widows' pension. I believe she agreed with me when she was the Opposition spokesman on that pension. There is no doubt that, like the other DSS pensions, they are related to the status of the applicant. If someone is no longer a widow, they can no longer have a widow's pension. Whether it is the DSS widow's pension in general or the war widow's DSS pension in particular, the principle does not change.

However, when we come to the Armed Forces pension scheme, the matter is entirely different. Arguments have moved on from where they were four or five years ago because of pension splitting on divorce. If I may describe it in general terms, the Armed Forces pension scheme, as the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, said, is a normal occupational pension scheme. In a good number of occupational pension schemes the widow keeps her pension regardless of whether her status changes. I fully accept that there are differences. I understand that about 84 per cent of the private schemes in the UK pay a widow's benefit regardless of whether she remarries. The public position is different. About 20 per cent of schemes continue to pay regardless of a change in status.

I understand the argument of the Government about read-over. I was aware of that argument when I was inside government. I only say that, as I thought at the time, the read-over is without foundation. The Armed Forces are completely different. One could perhaps argue about the police and fire services but not to the same degree as the Armed Forces, in which men, and now women, are expected to put their lives on the line at a very early age, whether in earnest or in training, and can be killed. The widow, and now widower, is left dependent on the Armed Forces attributable pension scheme and the DSS scheme.

Many of these people are young. I recall going to Belfast to meet the widows of members of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I said to your Lordships on an earlier occasion that a more sobering event could not be imagined. Many of these young women with young children were told that if they remarried they would lose the pension that their husbands thought would be for their wives' benefit if they were killed. When I was Minister I wrote a number of letters to my ministerial colleagues in the MoD to suggest that they look at the position on pensions. The Bett review helped me a bit. I had little confidence then, as now, that the MoD would change its position. I believe that it should do so.

It is the MoD which should be targeted tonight. I feel sorry for the noble Baroness. Perhaps she will, like me, have to defend an MoD position with which she is not entirely happy. I was not entirely happy with it. I went from your Lordships' House and wrote some very blunt letters to my colleagues in the MoD. I am not sure that I am supposed to say that, but I am not too bothered about it. I am absolutely certain that the MoD should look again at its position on pensions.

I believe that the position has been made much worse because of another part of the Bill; namely, that which deals with pension sharing on divorce. I have not spoken about that. I am pleased to see that the Government have taken on board most of what was contained in the Green and White Papers which I was instrumental in producing. But we end up with the following situation. For simplicity, I take the case of two married men who are both employed in the military. One couple decides to divorce. In future the wife will be able to take a portion of the pension pot and keep it whether she remains a widow, remarries or even cohabits. However, in the case of the other couple, if the husband is killed in active service, in practice or in any other attributable way his widow will lose the pension the moment she remarries. I do not believe for a moment that that is fair.

I do not know whether this amendment is properly worded, addresses the issue or whatever. I am aware of all the things that Ministers say. I never liked to hide under the protection of a badly drafted amendment. I can see that the Government may not like the fact that there is a fallback in the sense that the DSS pension should continue to be paid. I fully agree—if the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, says it—that the DSS pension must be lost on remarriage or cohabitation, but the MoD must face up to its responsibilities. I am pleased to see that the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, is on the Front Bench listening to the debate. The MoD has a responsibility for the men and women it employs, for whom it has a pension scheme, and to be fair to attributable war widows thanks to the service. That is why I have come today to support the noble Baroness, Lady Strange. I was about to call her my noble friend; I hope that she is still my noble friend despite where she sits in the Chamber. I hope that the Government will listen to the plea from around your Lordships' House that the MoD should now change its pension scheme so that it is paid to war widows for their lifetimes regardless of whether they remarry or cohabit.

Baroness Buscombe

My Lords, I, too, have considerable regard for the spirit of the amendment. It amplifies the determination which the War Widows Association has shown in its will to change an outdated and iniquitous rule.

The amendment, so eloquently moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, seeks to maximise the pressure that can be placed upon the Government to require at least one of its departments to respect the position of war widows who may wish to form a stable relationship, or remarry, without financial penalty. In considering the implications of the amendment, it is important to make clear the distinction, as others have done this evening, between the DSS pension and the forces family pension. As we understand it, the DSS pension specifically compensates the 'widows for loss of financial maintenance by a husband who has died as a result of service. It is not an occupational pension. In contrast, the forces family pension is an occupational pension: a contributory scheme that is currently under review by the Ministry of Defence.

With regard to occupational pension schemes, the lot of widows who subsequently cohabit or remarry varies from scheme to scheme, some allowing an individual to retain that occupational pension once she ceases to be a widow and some not. Indeed, at Committee stage the Minister gave specific examples in the public sector, including the police service, the National Health Service, the fire service and Members of Parliament whereby an individual loses her right to an occupational pension once she ceases to be a widow.

In local government the position has recently changed and I sensed from the Minister at Committee stage that, as she said, the world is changing and others may follow suit. The question now is whether the Ministry of Defence will follow suit. The many reasons why the Ministry of Defence should follow suit have been fully rehearsed both at Commit tee stage and this evening. It is now indefensible to support a position which is in effect a deterrent to marriage.

The challenge now is how to force the hand of the Ministry of Defence to change its position. I wonder whether the Minister is able this evening to give an inkling as to the current thinking of those at the Ministry of Defence who are undertaking this review, given, we understand, that recommendations as a result of the review will be forthcoming shortly.

Further, given the wording of the amendment and the reference to the DSS pension, I believe that it is also appropriate to ask whether the Minister can confirm whether there are any other cases whereby the DSS continues to pay a pension as a result of widowhood in the event that the individual ceases to be a widow. ask that question given the drafting of the amendment. It could mean that if in the event of the review the Ministry of Defence does not change its position, a war widow who has a DSS pension would hold an advantage over others with DSS pensions who remarry. As we understand it, war widows would be the only recipients of a DSS pension who would continue to receive that pension upon remarriage.

We are very sympathetic to the amendment and fully support its principles. However, we have doubts about the drafting.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I too want first to pay tribute to the work carried out by the War Widows Association of Great Britain and its president, my noble friend Lady Strange. I know from meeting its members regularly how vigorously and unselfishly they work t o help those service widows who suffer the pain of widowhood and the difficulties that can follow.

The occasion which comes home to me most was the war widows' march to the Cenotaph and the lunch afterwards on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday. Last year, the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, and myself led that group and it was a day of both pride and sadness for what they and their former husbands had achieved on behalf of this country. We also know how tenacious the association is in fighting for improvements in the various pension schemes which provide for servicemen's widows.

In Committee, we debated a similar amendment. It sought payment of the DSS war widow's pension for life, regardless of whether she remarried or was living with a man as his wife. It would be paid regardless of income. As the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, suspected, there is no situation in DSS in which someone who acquires a widow's pension continues to keep it when she is no longer a widow. I am sure that your Lordships are well aware of the situation, but in case there are any difficulties, I should point out that we are talking about two separate pensions. War widows are currently entitled to the war widow's pension, which is the war widows' equivalent of the civilian benefit. It is also the case that certain war widows are eligible for the equivalent in civilian terms of an occupational pension which is run by the MoD.

Of those two pensions, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, suspected and as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said, it would be without precedence and the implications would be enormous if one were to suggest that someone who received a state pension by virtue of being a widow should continue to keep that when the state of widowhood no longer applied. It would be as though my noble friend Lady Turner—she will forgive me for being personal—or myself in receipt of widow's benefit were to keep that in remarrying. It would he regarded as inappropriate because the state of widowhood at which it became no longer existed.

However, that is very different from the occupational pension which increasingly applies not just to widows but to unmarried partners and, in some cases, same-sex partners. That is a totally different pension.

In Committee, the amendment was withdrawn by the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, on the grounds that the noble Baroness had intended an amendment to seek continuous payment not of the DSS pension—because everyone here accepts that you could not do that—but of the equivalent to the occupational pension, the attributable widow's pension paid under the Armed Forces Pensions Scheme. But, unfortunately, today's amendment seeks to retain the DSS pension when the widow is living with another man, unless the MoD attributable widow's pension is paid for such tames.

We simply cannot have a war widow's pension—that would be unreasonable—the equivalent to the war widow's benefit paid when someone remarries. The problem is that the widow's attributable pension ends also when the widow remarries or lives with another man as his wife.

The quality of attentiveness to the speeches made tonight shows how sensitive the House is to these concerns and how it recognises the force and the power of the arguments put in particular by my noble friend Lady strange. I cannot accept the particular argument as it applies to the DSS because it breaches the basic DSS principle that a widow's pension is to compensate for the state of widowhood. We cannot justify paying a war widow's pension in those circumstances to someone who has remarried.

I would emphasise that should a war widow be unfortunate enough to become widowed again, or the second marriage ends in divorce, she is eligible to have her war widow's pension reinstated. The point is that rather than have the civilian equivalent, she receives the much more generous war widow's pension. That amendment was moved in 1995 by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, with our enthusiastic support. We knew even then that the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, was not fully in the words which he was uttering on behalf of the then government's position.

It is clear that the DSS situation is not of concern to Members of your Lordships' House, but it is the situation of the MoD attributable pension. Like many other public service occupational schemes, the armed forces scheme ceases to be paid of the widow remarries or cohabits. That policy is increasingly out of line with private sector schemes, but not out of line with most public sector schemes.

I should add—this was referred to by the noble Lady, Baroness Buscombe—that although the local government pension scheme has introduced provisions to award spouses pensions for life, that is being paid for out of local authority pension funds, and therefore by members' contributions.

As I mentioned in Committee, the armed forces pension scheme, which is the occupational pension scheme, is currently the subject of a major review announced by my honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on 23rd September last year. That review is primarily the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence. It would be wrong for me to try to predict the outcome of that review, although I assure your Lordships that he has been made aware of the concerns raised tonight.

However, we are keeping in close touch with the work. Many noble Lords have said tonight that they appreciate the fact that my noble friend Lady Symons, the Minister in this House responsible for defence, is attending the debate tonight and listening to the views expressed. She has made it clear to me—and I am authorised to say it—that she would welcome a meeting with the War Widows Association and with representatives from the DSS, which would probably be myself, to pursue the matter further and to make sure that the review currently being undertaken pays full weight to the concerns being expressed tonight. The amendment was a device, not to change matters in relation to the DSS, but to get at the MoD occupational pension. I hope that in the light of what I have said, my noble friend—I insist on using those words—Lady Strange will feel able to withdraw her amendment, and that she will join me in seeking and taking further those talks.

11.45 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I thank the Minister warmly for what she has said. Before she sits down, I ask whether she will consider how much of the resistance to the amendment would collapse if one were to take the word "pension" out of the attributable forces family pension, and to describe it as an "industrial injuries compensation"?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl will understand if I insist on passing on that question.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have supported me tonight; that is, my noble kinsman Lord Russell, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, my noble friend Lord Freyberg, my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth, my noble friend Lady Dean—there is nothing written in Erskine Mar about Cross-Benchers having noble friends, so I think that they can all be my noble friends—and my noble friends Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and Lady Buscombe, who supported me. I thank them very much indeed. What they said was very moving and made me feel quite tearful and a little bit like jumping on to the Floor and falling behind the Benches. I am not going to. It is quite clear to me, and I hope that it is also quite clear to my noble friend Lady Hollis, what the opinion of this House is. I am very greatly tempted to divide the House.

However, despite listening to my noble friend Lady Hollis, I feel a bit as if I were a kitten enmeshed in a ball of wool when one pension is called against another pension. I know exactly what I am talking about and I think probably that she does too. I should like to thank her very much for what she has said and for her promise to arrange a meeting with the MoD, with the ladies and me, preferably. We may therefore be able to put pressure on the MoD and explain the situation very clearly because we do feel that this is a great injustice. Perhaps the MoD may be able to see its way to putting the matter right. It would also help it a great deal with its recruitment. Having said that, I also think that it is rather late at night and I have apologies to make to the Captain of the Gentlemen at Arms, who was very persuasive. It is a long time since I caught the 6 o'clock train this morning from Dundee. Therefore, I shall return to fight another day. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Morris of Manchester moved Amendment No. 52: After Clause 18, insert the following new clause—