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War Widow Pensions

Volume 546: debated on Monday 11 June 2012

War widows have our deepest respect for their loss. War widows today span the generations, from those who have lost their husbands in world war two through to those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the War Widows’ Association, whose tireless help and support is invaluable. Payments are made through either the armed forces compensation scheme or the former war pensions scheme. In addition, pensions may be paid through one of the occupational armed forces pension schemes.

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. My constituent, Iris Thorogood, is an 85-year-old former chairman of the War Widows’ Association, an organisation founded in 1971, at a time when war widows received very little by way of a pension. I am sure that Iris, and indeed the War Widows’ Association, would appreciate confirmation from him that, contrary to some rumours being peddled, war widows have received the full increase of 5.2% this year, in line with disability benefit, and will continue to do so?

First, I pay tribute to Mrs Thorogood and reassure her about the 5.2% uprating of her pension, in line with the Department for Work and Pensions disability benefit. I was very surprised at the recent comments by the shadow Defence Secretary about

“veterans’ and war widows’ pensions being frozen year-on-year.”—[Official Report, 14 May 2012; Vol. 545, c. 265.]

That is completely incorrect, and it is a pity that he does not know a little bit more and is not a little bit better informed of such important issues in his brief.

Given the unveiling of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command memorial later this month to remember the 55,000 airmen who died during the second world war, does the Minister agree that when we are talking about war widows’ pensions, we must give accurate information and not engage in the skulduggery of misleading people about this?

I certainly do, as I believe I have already made clear. I am proud to be an honorary member of the Bomber Command Association, and I look forward to the opening of that memorial at the end of June. We need to remember the debt that we owe to those 55,000 people from Bomber Command who died and to all the others who died in the second world war, as well as to their dependants and their surviving widows.