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War Pension Changes

Volume 576: debated on Saturday 17 February 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether as reported in the

Guardian on 5th December 1996, the Government's proposals to "simplify policy and procedures" in relation to war widows' pensions will leave the pensioners

£50 million poorer; and, if not, what is the true position; and

Whether they will ensure that their proposals to "simplify policy and procedures" in relation to war pensions will fully protect the existing rights and benefits of pensioners; and

What will be the impact of their proposals to "simplify policy and procedures" in relation to war pensions upon the existing rights and benefits of pensioners and the claimants for war pensions and war pension benefits.

The recent reports in the Guardian were misinformed and misleading. The changes to war pensions consist of two entirely separate elements.As part of the departments' Change Programme we are reviewing policies to make them simpler to administer and to reduce the cost of delivery. A package of proposals which are intended to simplify the administration of war pensions has been drawn up. The proposals are subject to consultation with members of the Central Advisory Committee on War Pensions. A consultation letter was issued to the members of that Committee on 26th November explaining the proposals and giving the members until 17th January 1997 to comment. A copy of that letter has been placed in the Library. No decisions will be made until after very careful consideration has been given to the responses to the consultation letter.The second change relates to a change in medical opinion. It was previously thought that a service related noise induced hearing loss could intensify the effect of a subsequent hearing loss due to other causes such as ageing. Authoritative medical opinion is now that such an interaction does not occur and that the maximum effect of service-related hearing loss is at release from service.Where a medical matter needs to be determined under the War Pension Scheme, the law requires that part of the claim to be determined by a medical officer appointed by the Secretary of State. Medical officers certify whether or not a disablement is due to or aggravated by service in the armed forces and also the degree of disablement due to service. In doing so medical officers must apply current medical opinion.No war pensioner in receipt of a war disablement pension or a war widow's pension will have their

198919901991199219931994199511996
Defendants dealt with by jury27,80925,72927,00826,24723,94823,78724,38818,991
Convictions216,02914,72915,37914,72812,41311,73712,3049,709
Percentage convicted57.657.256.956.151.849.350.351.1
1 January to October only.
2 Including jury verdicts where the defendant changed his plea to guilty during the trial.
I am sorry that the earlier figures did not make this distinction clear.

pension reduced or taken away as a result of either the simplification proposals or the change of medical opinion on noise induced hearing loss. If all the policy simplification proposals were to be implemented, the savings in 1997–98 would be £5 million. It is estimated that, as a result of the change in medical opinion, expenditure on war pensions will be about £10 million less in 1997–98 than it would otherwise have been. The latest estimates for expenditure on war pensions forecast an increase in overall expenditure from £1,335 million in 1996–97 to £1,342 million in 1997–98.