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Family Allowance

Volume 393: debated on Tuesday 9 November 1943

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76.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has yet made any change in the conditions under which family allowances are paid to soldiers' families where domestic differences arise?

It has been decided that, in future, the issue of family allowance to a soldier's wife shall continue notwithstanding that normal domestic relations may have ceased, provided he continues voluntarily to contribute the normal qualifying allotment from his pay. This decision will not affect the special arrangements where there is a Court Order, an Order under Section 145 (2) (b) of the Army Act, or a Deed, making provision for a payment by the soldier for the maintenance of his family, nor the cases where the soldier is making a claim on public funds in respect of other dependents. The decision covers sailors and airmen as well. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a more detailed statement regarding this decision, together with an explanation of its effect on cases where the soldier is not prepared to continue qualifying allotment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while that is a certain concession, this question will require more drastic revision, because, under the present arrangements, it is far too easy for a private soldier and still easier for an officer to desert his wife and leave her without resources?

I think the hon. Lady had better read the longer statement, and then possibly she might put that point again. I think it is another question.

Following is the statement:

Hitherto soldiers whose wives are in receipt of family allowance have been required to report the cessation of normal domestic relations and family allowance has been withdrawn, subject to continuance for a limited period, in suitable cases, during which the Army welfare officers endeavour to effect reconciliation. In future there will be no requirement to report the estrangement and family allowance will continue in issue to a separated (but not divorced) wife and her family provided that the soldier continues the normal qualifying allotment from his pay, that he is not under compulsion to provide for his family's maintenance by a court order, an order under Section 145 (2, b)

of the Army Act or a deed of separation, and that he is making no claim to dependant's allowance in addition. In cases where there is such a court order, etc., the payment, including the contribution by the soldier of a sum equal to qualifying allotment, may not exceed the amount of such order.

Where separation exists already, whether pre- or post-enlistment, the issue of family allowance will be governed by a condition that the man has contributed to the maintenance of his family according to his means and will generally in pre-enlistment cases not exceed the amount of such maintenance. It is considered that when the obligation of a husband to maintain his wife has been allowed to lapse entirely the wife, if she so desires, can seek her remedy in the courts, or by appeal under Section 145 (2, b) of the Army Act, without undue hardship.

The Army procedure of attempting to secure reconciliation, which I am satisfied is in the public interest, will, except in obviously unsuitable cases, continue where normal relations cease and the soldier is not disposed voluntarily to contribute the qualifying allotment which enables family allowance to remain in issue. Further consideration is being given to measures to brdge the gap which occurs, where reconciliation fails, between the cessation of family allowance and the date on which the wife can obtain an order from the court or under the Army Act. There are substantial legal and other difficulties to be overcome, and I am not yet able to state a solution of this difficulty. The decision I have just announced will, it is anticipated, reduce the number of cases in which a gap occurs, while the system in force enabling the officer deputed under Section 145 (2, b) of the Army Act to make interim orders against soldiers on prima facie evidence already substantially reduces this gap in many of the cases where it still arises.