Report (1st Day)

Part of Pensions Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 24th February 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Hollis of Heigham Baroness Hollis of Heigham Labour 5:30 pm, 24th February 2014

My Lords, I am still slightly baffled by the less than satisfactory response of the Minister. Let me first thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, the noble Lord, Lord Rix, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield and my noble friend Lady Sherlock for their very powerful and moving speeches on something that really matters: trying to protect and support widowed parents for the first 12 months of their bereavement. I welcome the Minister’s offer of a review on distress. However, what he has suggested is so wide that I rather doubt—although I would be pleased to be proven wrong—that he will be able to turn this into effective policy.

I give one tiny example, which I was thinking of as the Minister spoke. He was going to extend this to the distress of cohabiting parents when one of them dies. It is not too far fetched to suggest to the House a situation where a woman was with the father of her child or children in a cohabiting relationship but they then separated. She then had a period of perhaps five or seven years with someone else, to whom the children really connected and related. Then she moved on to a new boyfriend—a new stepfather—for perhaps the past year. Could the Minister tell me which of those three would have to die—forgive the language—for her to be entitled to bereavement benefit under the proposal of distress? Is it the recent stepfather, over whom the children are not especially distressed but the mother is highly distressed; the long-term stepfather, who has helped to bring them up, to whom the children were committed and over whom they are distressed while she is less so; or their natural father, who is giving them financial support and they see regularly? Which is it? I suspect one cannot do what the Minister seeks to do.