§ Mr. Cartwright
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services on what criteria his Department bases decisions to withdraw widows' pensions on grounds of cohabitation; and how the necessary evidence is obtained.
§ Mr. Prentice
The Social Security Act 1975 provides that a national insurance widow's pension is not payable for any period during which the widow is living with a man as his wife. If doubt about entitlement arises on this ground, the method of obtaining evidence and the sources of that evidence depends on the circumstances of the individual case, but, in any event, the widow herself is interviewed by an experienced interviewing officer and has the opportunity of giving any information she wishes. Benefit is disallowed only after very careful consideration of all the evidence by the insurance officer, the first of the independent adjudicating authorities appointed to decide benefit entitlement. If the widow is dissatisfied with the insurance officer's decision, she can appeal to the local tribunal, and there is a further right of appeal against the tribunal's decision to the National Insurance Commissioner, the final appellate authority under the Act.