asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation to ensure that a woman pensioner separated from her husband derives at least the same benefit from her husband's National Insurance contributions as a divorced woman.
No, Sir. A wife separated from her husband is treated for retirement pension purposes in the same way as any other married woman and is at a general advantage compared with a divorced woman.
Is the Minister aware that this is a difficult problem and that he is quite right in saying that generally the separated woman does at least as well, but that there are cases in which she does substantially worse? Will he not consider the particular cases which have been directed to the attention of his hon. Friends the Joint Parliamentary Secretaries and see whether amending legislation should not be put in hand to bring these difficult cases within the scope of the law?
As the hon. Member knows, the difficulty time and time again in National Insurance is that we are dealing naturally with large groups of people, and it is difficult always to take account of particular cases within those groups. I believe that it is the case, as I think the hon. Member admits, that in general separated women have an advantage over divorced women; but there may be hard cases. I know that the hon. Member has been in correspondence with my hon. Friend and I am certainly prepared to look at any individual cases which he likes to send me.
No, I cannot go as far as that. Although separated women may, in certain cases, be getting a smaller amount than divorced women, they are eligible for other benefits, such as the widow's pension, for which the divorced woman is not eligible.