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Widows' Pension

Volume 893: debated on Monday 9 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will request the Law Commission to consider why all widows whose second marriage is declared null and void are not allowed to resume their widows' pension by virtue of their first husband's insurance.

If a widow remarries and the marriage is declared void she can resume her widow's pension by virtue of her first husband's national insurance. Under Section 16 of the Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973, however, a decree of nullity granted after 31st July 1971 in respect of a voidable, as distinct from a void, marriage operates to annul the marriage only as regards the period after the decree absolute. The marriage is to be treated as if it had existed up to that time; and, for national insurance purposes, a widow who has contracted such a marriage does not regain her status as a widow when the decree is granted. Section 16 was based on a recommendation of the Law Commission in its Report on Nullity of Marriage (Law Commission No. 33) specifically to avoid complications and uncertainties which had existed as to the status of a voidable marriage.