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Armed Forces: Widowed people

Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many armed forces widows voluntarily surrendered their pensions on remarriage or cohabitation in each of the last five years; and what the associated saving to the defence budget was in each year. (169976)

An exercise is currently underway to provide detailed figures. I will write to the right hon. Member as soon as this exercise is completed.

Substantive answer from Derek Twigg to James Arbuthnot:

Further to my letter of 14 April 2008,1 am writing to inform you that the exercise undertaken by the Government Actuary's Department has recently been completed. I am now in a position to provide you with a full answer to your parliamentary question (PQ00549U refers).

You requested details of how many armed forces widows in each of the last five years voluntarily surrendered their pension on remarriage or cohabitation. The following table provides data in respect of the number of pension cessations due to remarriages and cohabitations over the last 25 years. You may agree that this level of detail provides a more comprehensive overview.

Number

1983-86

32

1987-89

54

1990-92

193

1993-95

200

1996-98

204

1999-2001

171

2002-04

230

2005-07

44

Total

1,128

As you are aware, entitlement to an AFPS 75 widow's non-attributable pension ceases in the event of remarriage or cohabitation and the onus is on individuals to notify the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) should there be a change in their personal circumstances. This is a compulsory requirement to comply with the AFPS 75 scheme rules.

Contrary to these statistics representing a saving to the defence budget, I should point out that costs would have been incurred if these spouses' pensions had not ceased on re-marriage or cohabitation. The estimated capitalised cost of paying back payments (plus interest) to those individuals represented in the table, whose pensions were ceased, as well as the cost of paying those pensions in future would be around £150 million.

The capitalised cost of removing the cessation condition completely for the future would be between £70 million and £350 million. The reason for the range in figures is that the AFPS 75 statistics are not consistent with the UK population remarriage statistics. This could be due to a reduction in the reporting of remarriage and cohabitation in recent years.

I am sorry that it has taken so long to provide a substantive reply, but it has required a bespoke exercise to be conducted to generate sufficient data for the scheme actuary to be able to analyse.

I hope this is helpful.