While making no commitments I have already undertaken to review some of the regulations governing the existing widows pension scheme in the light of the new contributory scheme when that has been worked out. But as regards the rates of pensions payable under the existing scheme I am afraid I can only repeat that that is a matter which must be governed by pensions increase legislation. The Government have taken the view that any increases in basic pensions should, in future, be on a contributory basis and I cannot therefore hold out any hopes of increases for existing widows as a result of the introduction of the new scheme.
I have said that an alteration of rates is not a matter for me at all; it is a matter to be dealt with through the ordinary channel of legislation for general pensions increase. The Pensions (Increase) Act applies to all kinds of pensions, and any matter of that kind must be dealt with through the usual channel.
I have indicated that the contributory pensions scheme as a whole is for the future, but I have also undertaken that in regard to the existing scheme we will look into the regulations from the point of view of one or two specific points raised by hon. Members, such as the age of the widow, and things of that kind.
As I stated on 11th May, the new contributory scheme is being worked out as quickly as possible; a great deal of work is involved. I will make a comprehensive statement as soon as the scheme is ready: in the meantime, as I am sure hon. Members will appreciate, it is difficult for me to discuss particular points.