By Chris Riches and Jan Disley
Daily Express – 27 December 2018
Britain’s "forgotten" war widows have pleaded with Theresa May to agree to meet them to discuss their plight. They are caught in a tangle of red tape that means they cannot claim their husbands' pensions because they have remarried.
The Daily Express last month launched a Justice For War Widows crusade after 300 military spouses told how they had been cruelly robbed of their War Widows' Pension. Since 2015 grieving spouses have been allowed by law to keep their husbands' pensions if they find new love. But 300 widows who had remarried before that date were excluded when the change was made.
The only way under the law that they can obtain their widows' pensions – worth on average £7,000-a-year – is by divorcing their new spouses and making themselves single once again. Our joint crusade with the War Widows' Association (WWA) has won backing from MPs, the Ministry of Defence and Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss. But despite repeated pleas the WWA has so far been snubbed by Number 10.
Yesterday, the WWA's chairwoman Mary Moreland – widowed when husband John, 37, was killed by the IRA in 1988 – said:
"War Widows are all too often the forgotten group in the Armed Forces. Once the ultimate sacrifice is paid the war widow should not face unfair treatment or suffer a disadvantage. Instead they should be treated fairly, equally and with sensitivity."
In July Mrs Moreland wrote to the Prime Minister saying:
"You will be aware of the campaign to have the War Widows' Pension reinstated for the few excluded in 2015. We are now four years on from the original announcement – surely it is long overdue to bring these few war widows into line. The War Widows' Association appeal to you and your government to do the right thing. I would appreciate it if I and a few of the war widows could meet with you at the earliest possible date."
Her letter has been acknowledged and she has been told it is "receiving attention". But Mrs Moreland said the "holding reply" is not good enough. The Daily Express has repeatedly contacted Theresa May's staff at Number 10 but they have failed to respond to the widows' meeting request.
Dr Julian Lewis, Tory MP for New Forest East, said:
"In 21 years in Parliament I have regularly seen outrageous miscarriages where ministers defend the indefensible. In the end the Government always has had to give in – so why don't they save everyone the aggravation and conclude the matter now? The War Widows' Association must meet the PM and she must sort this out."
Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood has vowed to take on the issue and voice the widows' concerns to Treasury officials. And Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss wept at a meeting with the WWA last month over the issue. The MP broke down after hearing from Mrs Moreland and two other remarried widows, Maureen Jarvis, 63, and Raqual Harper-Titchener, 43. Maureen married Graham in 2014 after the plane crash death of her husband Alan who was in the RAF in 1990. She described the meeting as "emotionally draining", adding:
"Liz Truss visibly welled up."