HC Deb 14 February 2002 vol 380 cc572-3W
Ms Atherton

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what underlay the decision for service pensions to be inherited by the person who was the spouse at the time of service; [35309]

(2) what plans he has to review rules for the inheritance of service pensions by surviving spouses. [35310]

Mr. Ingram

It was a normal and well-established principle of occupational schemes, including those in public sector, that to qualify for a widow's or widower's pension, the widow or widower of the pension had to be married to him or her at the time he or she was engaged in the occupation covered by the scheme. The Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) was similar to other public service schemes in this aspect. At the time, it was seen as reasonable to limit pensions to those widows or widowers who had shared at least some of their husband's or wife's service life.

Post-retirement widow and widower pensions (PRWP) were introduced as a requirement of the Social Security Pensions Act 1975. Provision was made in the AFPS for the payment of pensions to widows or widowers of service pensioners who married (or remarried) after retirement, but this change benefited only the widows of those giving service on or after 6 April 1978, and the widowers of those giving service on or after 6 April 1989. Only service on or after those dates was taken into account when calculating the level of pension and there is no distinction between servicemen and other public sector employees in this respect.

The armed forces pension review has looked at PRWP but has no plans to extend the provision to those who left before the qualifying dates. The review, however, has recommended, under the new scheme, paying a pension to a child born after the pensioner's retirement. Under the current scheme only children born, or conceived, while the member was serving are covered.

In divorce settlements, pension sharing has been available in respect of divorce and nullity proceedings that begin on or after 1 December 2000. Under pension sharing, a percentage of the capitalised value of the pension rights which an AFPS member has accrued to date may be allocated to his or her former spouse to provide that former spouse with pension rights of her or his own. Pension sharing is not available to unmarried partners.