My noble friend will know that the specific differences in treatment between male and female scheme members for the purpose of survivor benefits in public service pension schemes for service prior to 1988 were held to be lawful in 2011. This judgment was made in the Cockburn case, which specifically discussed a widower whose partner was a member of the National Health Service Pension Scheme. The judgment effectively said that there was in that case,
“an objective and reasonable justification”,
not to make retrospective changes in relation to new policy being introduced.
Benefits for widows were introduced much earlier than for widowers. The Social Security Act 1975 first imposed obligations on contracted-out schemes to provide a surviving female with a survivor pension. In those days it was usual for the man to be the partner who was working, with a dependent female partner. A female worker with a dependent husband was not the social norm. The scheme funding would have been based on the expectation that a female member would not have a dependent survivor, whereas the male would have a dependent survivor.