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Territorial Army Soldiers (Widow's Compensation)

Volume 974: debated on Tuesday 27 November 1979

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11.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what compensation is payable to the next-of-kin of a territorial soldier killed on duty.

The Ministry of Defence would award an attributable pension, at current rates, of £803·81 to a widow. This would rise according to the number of children. An unmarried Reservist's estate would receive a gratuity of £535·90. From the Department of Health and Social Security a widow would receive a pension dependent upon her age and the number of her children. The present rates are £6·99 per week for a widow under 40 years of age and £10 per week for each child.

I am grateful for my hon. Friends' remarks, but does he agree that that there are considerable grounds for improvement for Territorial Army soldiers, on whom the country depends so much for the defence of the realm?

I know that my hon. Friend, as a lieutenant-colonel in the TA, is deeply involved in these matters. There has been concern amongst reservists for some time about this issue. I have had discussions with the council of the territorial auxiliary and voluntary reserve associations, and we are now conducting a complete fresh review of the reservist scheme. This will consider, among other things, whether reservists' pensions should be more closely comparable with those payable to injured regular Service men and their dependants. I heartily underline and reinforce what my hon. Friend has said about the importance of the Terriers.

Will the Minister tell me how many recommendations of the Shapland committee have been accepted by the Government and when they will be implemented? Does he accept that it is wrong that Territorial Army soldiers should, in any circumstances, suffer worse conditions than those applied to regular soldiers?

The position is the one that we inherited from our predecessors. The hon. Gentleman will know that there have been discussions on these matters for a considerable time. So far as the Shapland report is concerned, the main recommendations were accepted by the Government. My right hon. Friend made that clear early in August. The most important of those recommendations is an increase in training bounties. I am delighted to learn from members of the Territorial Army that these are already having a significant effect.