Skip to main content

Service Personnel (Gulf)

Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


What measures he is taking in support of widows and partners of service personnel who died in the Gulf conflict. [112227]


What measures he is taking in support of widows and partners of service personnel who died in the Gulf conflict. [112233]

I pay tribute to all those who gave their lives serving in the recent conflict in the Gulf and to their families. The country owes them a deep debt which we are determined to meet.

Long-term financial support is provided to widows and dependants under the armed forces pension scheme and the war pension scheme. Where a service person died as a result of the conflict, and left a partner with whom there was a substantial relationship of interdependence, ex-gratia payments equivalent to benefits paid to a surviving spouse will be awarded to unmarried partners under the armed forces pension scheme.

In addition to the financial support, my Department is providing emotional and administrative support and assistance to the families. That support will be maintained for as long as the families require it.

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, but he will be aware that, on top of the measures to which he has referred, for a modest monthly sum, generous pay-outs can be received from PAX, the private insurance scheme. The difficulty is that that is a private insurance scheme, so it costs servicemen to buy it. Secondly, not every serviceman is enrolled in the scheme. Is it not now time for the Government to take on that burden to provide proper insurance for our servicemen so that their widows have a generous settlement?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that a review of pensions and compensation is being undertaken. I hope to return to the House in the near future to discuss some of the changes that we shall be making. However, the hon. Gentleman hit the nail on the head. For a modest payment, additional insurance can be provided. We always recommend to our people that they should take that out. Whatever we provide for them, it will always be essential for people to take additional cover for themselves to provide for their families. It would be prudent for them to do that, and something that we would encourage them to do.

The Minister will know how important holidays are to our service personnel and their families, who necessarily endure long periods of separation. Family holidays not only bring quality time but also, when booked significantly ahead in the year, give something for servicemen and their families positively to look forward to and to focus on. Does he have any plans to compensate the many hundreds of servicemen who have lost out significantly in financial terms because of the Iraqi war or the firemen's strike? If he has any such plans, has he compensated any servicemen to date?

Order. That supplementary question has nothing to do with the main question.