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Incapacity Benefit Claimants

Volume 406: debated on Monday 9 June 2003

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11.

What the impact is on an incapacity benefit claimant of the receipt of an armed forces pension. [117293]

Armed forces pensions paid on cessation of service, rather than because of disablement in service, are treated in the same way as other occupational pensions, whereby the first £85 of income is totally disregarded and only 50 per cent. of the excess is taken into account. However, basic war pensions, paid because of disablement in service, are completely disregarded and do not affect incapacity benefit. Incapacity benefit is intended to provide a source of income for sick and disabled people of working age. We believe that it is therefore right to take some account of income from their occupational pensions.

Does the Minister agree that for this particular category of person, that particular means-testing is the most mean-spirited of them all and should be got rid of?

We are in danger of repeating the exchange that took place during the Department for Work and Pensions questions in February. The fact remains that we disagree on the matter, but I re-emphasise the point that basic war pensions, paid because of disablement in service, are completely disregarded.

Having heard the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) trying to say that means tests do not really take money away, is this not yet another example of a nasty little means test invented by the Government? The only redeeming features are that in this particular case it hits a relatively small number of people, albeit people who have served the Crown, and that it appears not to be characterised—a rather greater redeeming feature—by the same administrative shambles that has already hit the Chancellor's child tax credit and is doubtless about to hit the Minister's own Department's pension credit in the autumn.

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's analysis. Those who have served the armed forces and have occupational pensions are being treated no differently from anyone else. It is more likely nowadays that people leave the armed forces early and move into some other walk of life. It is right to treat them the same way as anyone else. If the hon. Gentleman is committing the Conservative party to repealing the measure, will he clarify how extensively the party intends to act and how much money it intends to spend?