To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the oral contributions of the Minister for Defence People and Veterans and the rt hon member for New Forest East of 30 January 2020, official report cols 1037-1044, if he will establish a task group for the restoration of pensions to war widows who have remarried or co-habited; and if he will take steps to ensure that task group considers the (a) armed forces covenant, (b) recognition of such pensions as an award of compensation for sacrifice and not a benefit, and (c) need for legal safeguards against setting precedents for claims by other groups; and if he will make a statement.
The Government recognises the unique commitment that Service families make to our country and remains sympathetic to the circumstances of those widows who remarried and cohabited before 1 April 2015. However, the Government currently has no plans to reinstate war widows’ pensions for war widows who remarried or cohabited before the 2015 changes took effect.
As the Secretary of State for Defence said to the House on 3 February 2020, we are examining alternative methods to see whether we can mitigate the impact. However, this is a complex policy area and it is taking time to carefully consider the potential options within both financial and legal constraints. This work is ongoing, and any recommendations will have to first be agreed with other Government Departments. As a Department, we make sure the Armed Forces Covenant is reflected in all our work.
The War Pensions Scheme is a no-fault scheme which provides compensation for Service personnel who are disabled or die due to injury caused or made worse by service in the UK Armed Forces before 6 April 2005. There are also a range of supplementary benefits and allowances payable, including for dependants. A War Widows Pension is an example of a survivor’s benefit. The War Widows Pension is paid to assist with maintenance and is not the same as compensation for the recipient having been injured as a result of service or for the loss of a spouse.