BUSINESS QUESTION – WAR WIDOWS' PENSIONS & SUPPORT FOR BLIND VETERANS – 19 March 2020
Dr Julian Lewis: In difficult times we should remember those who sacrifice most, so may we have a statement or debate on the substance of early-day motion 280 about the scandal of war widows who lost their pensions on remarriage?
[That this House honours and recognises the sacrifices that our veterans and their families make; notes the particular sacrifices that the partners of veterans make and the consequences for them of tragically losing a spouse or partner serving in the armed forces; notes the changes announced in 2014 which allowed war widows or widowers that lost their spouse or cohabiting partner in service in the armed forces before 6 April 2005, and had not remarried by 1 April 2015, to retain their war widow pension for life regardless of ongoing relationship status; notes however that this regrettably excluded war widows bereaved before 6 April 2005 that had already had to surrender their war widows pension upon remarrying or cohabiting; believes that this is unacceptable; notes that the only way this group of war widows could regain their pensions is by divorcing their current partners and remarrying them; agrees with the then Defence Secretary who said on 18 February 2019 that this was a burning injustice, Official Report, column 1187; and therefore supports the campaign of the War Widows Association to rectify this anomaly; and urges the Government to correct this injustice by providing equalisation and compensation for the small number of war widows unjustly affected.]
May we also have a debate on early-day motion 307 – which, more positively, is about the enhanced co-operation between Blind Veterans UK and the Blinded Veterans Association of America, which are setting up a new combined eye trauma taskforce – and look for the Government’s support in that matter?
[The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg): The Government recognise the unique commitment that service families make to our country, and remain sympathetic to the circumstances of those widows who remarried or cohabited before 1 April 2015. However, the Government currently have no plans to reinstall state war widows’ pensions for war widows who remarried or cohabited before the 2015 change took effect. The Defence Secretary stated in the House on 3 February 2020 that the Department is
“examining alternative methods to see whether we can mitigate the impact”—[Official Report, 3 February 2020; Vol. 671, c. 3.]
of these changes. There is always a difficulty with cut-off dates.
As regards the co-operation between the US and the UK in relation to blindness and eye problems, what my right hon. Friend suggests sounds extremely worth looking into, and I will ensure that it is taken up with the Ministry of Defence.]