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Death Benefits

Volume 406: debated on Monday 9 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many death benefits for (a) single servicemen, (b) married servicemen and (c) servicemen with unmarried partners in a substantial relationship have been paid since 1997; what the cost was for each category; and if he will make a statement. [116145]

Under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS), number of single, and married service personnel who have died in service since 1 January 1997 and death benefits paid are as follows:

Single servicemen/women1 541
Married servicemen/women2 503
1 A lump sum is payable to the estate of single personnel with no dependants. This would be a sum equivalent to three time the national pension calculated up to the date of death, or two times the full career pension rate whichever is the greater.
2 A lump sum is payable when the death occurs is service. A short-term team Family Pension equal to the service person's daily rate of persionable pay is payable for a period of 91 days or 182 days (if there are children or the death was attributable to service). Thereafter, either a Long-term Forces Family Pension or an enhanced Attributable Forces Family pension is payable to the widow(er). Children's benefits are payable for up to a maximum of four children, and are paid until age 17 or full-time education ceases.
On 20 March, I announced in a Written Statement that, from that date, unmarried partners, including same sex partners, of service personnel whose death was related to conflict would be eligible for ex-gratia benefits equivalent to those awarded to spouses under the AFPS. Partners would need to demonstrate that the relationship was substantial. We have received five claims for ex-gratia benefits under these arrangements but to date no decisions have been taken. Prior to the policy change, the Department offered an ex-gratia award to one unmarried partner; this was a response to the exceptional circumstances of the case. It would not be appropriate to discuss the value of the offer, which was a matter for the individual concerned. Under the War Pension Scheme (WPS) the number of death benefits paid in respect of deaths in service, and retirement since 1 January 1997 are as follows:

Single servicemen/women3 Nil
Married Servicemen/women4 9,711
Servicemen/women with Unmarried partners5 Nil
3 No benefits payable under the WPS.
4 Standard rate of war widows/widowers pension is £93.85 per week. Other elements such as age/rent allowance or supplementary pension can also be paid. In addition to widower(ers) pensions, figure includes 91 awards of child allowances/orphans pensions paid: these are awarded in respect of the child regardless of whether the parents were married.
5 Although no awards have been implemented since 1997, pensions for unmarried dependants are available where the relationship began six months prior to the start of the deceased's entry into the Service and the unmarried dependant has in their charge a child of the deceased.
Information about the number of death benefits paid where the death occurred in retirement under the AFPS, and the costs of death benefits under the AFPS/WPS are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.