Many representations have been received about the taxation of widows, from hon. Members, from widow's organisations and from others. Naturally, my right hon. Friend has given them careful consideration in preparing his Budget. The Government's view remains that increases in widows' pensions are a more effective way of helping all widows than providing special tax reliefs.
Has my right hon. Friend seen Early-Day Motion No. 245, signed by 83 hon. Members from all parts of the House, which demonstrates the concern that is felt about widows' taxation? Will he ask my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, when drawing up the Budget, to bear in mind the deep and justified sense of grievance that national insurance widows feel about the tax burden that they bear compared with married women and war widows?
I understand the sense of concern that everyone feels for those whose lives have been shattered by widowhood. This is a matter that must always be present in the minds of all of us, but there is the problem of widows' pensions. If we were to produce tax allowances to assist them, more money would be made available to those who have most. That is the way the tax system works. We believe that the right way to approach the matter is through the social security scheme, which is expressly designed to give most to those who have the greatest need. That is the way in which we should make moneys available to those in the greatest need as described by my hon. Friend.
I realise that the Minister cannot divulge any of the Budget proposals, but I remind him of the letter that I have sent from my constituency concerning a widow with total earnings of £28 a week who has been taxed at £5 a week, leaving her with less spending power than if she were on social security. Will the Chancellor bear in mind the urgent necessity of raising all tax thresholds well above the social security level?
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about levels of tax thresholds. This is obviously a matter that my right hon. Friend will have at the forefront of his mind in the Budget Statement that he will be making next week.