Orders of the Day — Service Widows (Pensions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1976.

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Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby 12:00 am, 3rd May 1976

The Minister has said that this would be too expensive. Does he realise that 6,000 war widows die every year, and that that is a saving to the Government of over £7 million? Cannot that sum be spread amongst those who do not receive pensions now? The argument that it is too expensive is cheese-paring by the Government, because the unfortunate death of widows each year saves money, and the numbers involved will increase. In both 1973 and 1974, 3,000 war widows died. In 1975, 6,000 died, and this year the figure will be higher. That means a saving of between £7 million and £8 million a year. Why cannot that money be devoted to these war widows?

Why do the Government have to save here without meeting the demands of war widows whose husbands died in service in the First and Second World Wars, or before 1950? The Government are putting into the taxpayers' pockets money which should go to these widows. They must look again at the case and not argue that it is too expensive because it is not.

It would cost about £100 million to bring these war widows into line with those whose husbands have been killed in Northern Ireland. That sum does not take account of the tax position, because it is the gross figure to be paid out. The sum of £100 million is small compared with the sort of figures talked about in the Budget, and it is a small amount to pay to those whose husbands gave their lives in service. They are not recognised in the same way as war widows in almost every part of the world. All the European countries, the old Commonwealth countries, and nearly all the new Commonwealth countries give war widows better pensions than we do.

It is wrong to discriminate between those whose husbands retired before 1950 or were killed in the two world wars by giving them £22 a week less than those whose husbands were killed in service since 1966.

I wish that the Government would think again and not use the excuse that it would be too expensive. Nothing is too expensive for those who give their lives for their country. We have disgraced our country by not recognising them.