HC Deb 04 May 1995 vol 259 cc309-10W
Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his oral statement of 24 April,Official Report, column 532, if he will give full details of the calculations made to arrive at his estimate of £40 million in a full year as the costs of the Lords amendment to the Pensions Bill restoring war widows pensions to war widows who were widowed a second time, divorced or legally separated including, with particular reference to (i) the gross costs of this change, (ii) the amount of money saved by consequential non-payment of old age pensions, (iii) the amount of money saved by consequential non-payment of other benefits, listed by benefit and (iv) all assumptions about the net savings made as a result of war widows pension not being disregarded for the purpose of other benefits, including the number of local authorities and the number of war widow pensioners in each authority where minimum or only partial disregard is given. [22660]

Mr. Arbuthnot

The available information is in the following table:

£ million
Gross Cost 120
Retirement pension/widow's benefit offset 50
Income support offset 10
Housing benefit offset 20
Council tax benefit offset 5
Total income-related benefit offset 30
Net cost 40


1. Figures are based on restoring war widows pension to an estimated 16,500 former war widows. It is estimated that about 16,500 might gain; 15,000 of whom are estimated to have been widowed again, and 1,500 divorced or legally separated.

2. Figures are provided at 1995–96 prices; rounded to the nearest £5 million, but are estimates rather than being accurate to that degree.

3. Gross figures are based on an average WWP of £140 a week.

4. The estimate assumes that around 40 per cent. of the gross cost of restoring WWP would be offset through consequential non-payment of retirement pension widows benefits, and that around a further 25 per cent. would be offset through reductions in income related benefit expenditure. The income support offset ratio is estimated to be around 10 per cent.; the housing benefit offset at around 15 per cent.; and the council tax benefit offset at around 5 per cent.—rounded to the nearest 5 percentage points, but are estimates rather than being accurate to that degree. Figures may not sum due to rounding.

5. These offset ratios are based on information from the 1991–92 family expenditure surveys, uprated to 1995–96 prices. Due to the uncertainties contained in these estimates, they should be treated as indicating broad orders of magnitude only.

6. No assumptions were made about the war widows pension not being fully disregarded for housing benefit and council tax benefit. Had the law provided for such a disregard, the estimated cost of the Lords amendment to the Pensions Bill would have been greater.