asked the Minister of Pensions for an estimate of what would be the cost of paying pensions, irrespective of the date of marriage, to widows whose husbands died as a result of active service before 3rd September, 1939; and what steps he is taking to remove the present anomaly.
I regret that there are too many unknown factors to permit me to give a reliable estimate of the number of such widows and, therefore, of the cost of paying pensions to them. With regard to the second part of the Question, I do not think I can usefully add to the reply given by my Parliamentary Secretary to the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), on 19th June.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that a great deal of difficulty and misunderstanding was caused by this anomaly, and would he not carefully consider whether he and his right hon. colleagues could authorise the expenditure of what, presumably, would be an ever-decreasing sum of money in order to put the anomaly right?
There is, of course that anomaly, which arose from the decision taken in 1946 to deal with so many of these people who had been in need of assistance for a great time before that. I assure the hon. Member that we are not without sympathy towards this particular application, but in the circumstances I do not think we can take any action at the moment.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how it was possible for him to give his first answer when one of the reasons always given before for not paying these pensions has been their cost?
I asked how the right hon. Gentleman can ally his answer to the Question with the statement that one of the reasons for not making the concession hitherto was that it would be too costly.
I must point out that that difficulty of cost was mainly overcome by the decision in 1946. The argument before 1946 was that of cost, and I suppose that was why it was never tackled.
As the reply is rather long and contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the reply:
There have been some variations of rates according to the circumstances of the officer's death or whether the widow is receiving an allowance for a child or is over 40 years of age or is incapacitated.
The yearly basic rates for a 1914 War widow of a subaltern were £75 or £100 in 1917, £90 or £120 from January, 1919, £90, £120 or £140 from April, 1920, £110, £130 or £150 from November, 1944, and £130 or £150 from June, 1949. For 1939 War widows, the relative rates were £90 in September, 1939, £110 from February, 1942, £130 from August, 1943, and £130 or £150 from May, 1944.
Higher rates are applicable for widows of officers of higher ranks.