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1914–18 War Widows (Pensions)

Volume 526: debated on Monday 5 April 1954

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he is aware of the financial difficulties of widows whose husbands were killed in World War I, and whose pensions were frozen; that many of the concessions allowed to old-age pensioners are not available to these widows; and, in view of the concessions recently allowed to other categories of pensioners, whether he will now consider improving the pensions of widows of the 1914–18 war.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Brigadier J. G. Smyth)

I assume that the hon. Member refers to widows in receipt of alternative pensions. These pensions are higher than the standard rates of widows' pensions and my right hon. Friend does not feel justified in increasing them.

As regards the second and third parts of the Question, if the hon. Member will let me know what concessions he has in mind I will write to him.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether a widow who is receiving the alternative pension can transfer to the standard rate if it would be of benefit to her to do so?

Yes, Sir. The alternative pension was discontinued many years ago, but widows in receipt of the alternative pension have the right to draw that pension as long as they like to do so and if the standard pension becomes more beneficial to them they can then transfer to that pension.

Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that there is a great deal of feeling on the subject of the pensions of widows of Service men and will he have a look at the matter over a wide field? He will agree with me, will he not, that widows should not have to go to the National Assistance Board in any circumstances if they have lost their husbands in either of the world wars?

This Question refers to widows' alternative pensions, which is not quite the same thing. These pensions have been and still are in most cases greater than the standard pension and, therefore, the question put by my hon. Friend does not arise.