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Pensions (War Widows)

Volume 975: debated on Tuesday 11 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what are the surviving numbers of war widows of the 1914–1918 war; what is their average age; and whether he has any plans to improve their pension payments.

There are some 16,350 pensions in payment to war widows of the 1914–18 War, most of whom are now in their mid-eighties. We look upon war widows as a special group who are entitled to preferential treatment. At age 70 they receive an additional age allowance which brings their standard weekly pension up to £36·10, which is £12·80 a week more than that payable to a national insurance widow. In addition, war widows have the added advantage that we recently made their pensions entirely tax-free. All rates are reviewed annually and last month these elderly war widows received an increase of £6 a week. However, in the present economic circumstances we have no plans for additional improvements outside the annual review.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many war widows from the 1914–18 war still survive; what is their average age; what is the current annual cost of their war widows' pension; and what would be the annual cost of each £1 a week by which the rate of that pension might be raised.

As at 28 September 1979, the latest date for which figures are available, the number of pensions in payment to war widows of the 1914–18 war was 16,350; the average age of these widows is about 84.The current annual cost of these pensions is about £31 million and to raise them by an extra £1 a week would cost a further £0·85 million a year.