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War Widows

Volume 634: debated on Monday 15 January 2018

12. If he will reinstate the war widows’ pension for widows who were required to surrender that pension due to remarriage or cohabitation. (903266)

I think I might go out and buy a lottery ticket, Mr Speaker, as I seem to be doing well here—

I think the right hon. Gentleman is getting a little confused. I know that his responsibility is for defence rather than arithmetic, but the grouping was between Questions 14 and 21, so it is rather difficult to put Question 12 with Question 21. The right hon. Gentleman should satisfy himself with what I am sure will be a high-quality answer to the hon. Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield).

Mr Speaker, that is why you are the Speaker and I am just a Minister.

While much attention in defence debates focuses on those in uniform, we must recognise the unique commitment that families make to our country in supporting those who actually serve. I have met the War Widows’ Association of Great Britain on several occasions and have listened carefully to its case for the reinstatement of war widows’ pensions for those widows who remarried or cohabited before 1 April 2015. The Secretary of State is already apprised of the issue, and we are now considering a way forward.

I should just say that the right hon. Gentleman is a respected Minister. On a very serious note, and in recognition of the fact that I will have the whole House with me, we discovered not that long ago that the right hon. Gentleman is also a very brave man.

As the Minister will know, arbitrary and unjust transitions in pension status can have dire consequences for those who depend on them, and it is particularly shameful when those affected are the families of those who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Members of my own family have been affected, so will the Minister please meet me directly to discuss this issue?

I would be delighted to meet the hon. Lady, particularly given her experience of this matter. It is a very difficult issue, and we must recognise that war widows’ pensions are not compensation for the loss of a spouse but are paid to assist with maintenance. We must pay tribute to any family who have undertaken the burden of losing somebody in uniform to the service of this country.