Skip to main content

Widowers' Pensions

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

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

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will make a statement on the factors underlying the Government's decision not to make a statement on widowers' pensions to the European Court of Human Rights on 15 May; [116294](2) what plans the Government has to settle widowers' claims to benefits predating 9 April 2001. [116808]

Before April 2001, there was no statutory basis to make payments of widow's benefits to men. The Government, in introducing its reform of support in bereavement from April 2001, said, following earlier findings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that similar cases were admissible, that its obligation was to future widowers. The reforms of 2001 met that obligation and went further by making the new Widowed Parent's Allowance available to existing widowers from its introduction.

In June 2002, the European Court of Human Rights found that the UK Government had violated the Convention in respect of Mr Kevin Willis by not paying him the Widowed Mother's Allowance and Widow's Payment that he would have been entitled to he been a woman in the same circumstances. The Court ordered a payment equivalent to the benefit that he would have received had he been a woman and an amount in respect of interest. The Government is not contesting that judgement.

The Court did not consider the question of widow's pension and litigation remains before the domestic and Strasbourg Courts. The Court of Appeal heard arguments in the domestic cases during week commencing 7 October 2002 and judgment was reserved. The European Court of Human Rights decided to adjourn further hearings of two applications by widowers concerning widow's pension until the completion of the domestic litigation.

There are important matters to be settled in both jurisdictions that will affect the Government's decisions in dealing with all the widowers affected. The Government is continuing to respond to the European Court of Human Rightsl requests for written observations on individual applications from widowers but, until the litigation is resolved, the Government cannot speculate about the outcomes of these cases or the decisions that it may take in the light of them.