By Laura O’Callaghan
Daily Express Online – 11 March 2020
In 2015 the Government ruled war widows could keep the £7,500-a-year "killed on active service" pension if they remarried. But around 265 widows missed out as they had remarried before then and the law was not backdated. During Prime Minister's Questions, Julian Lewis called on Mr Johnson to address the issue which affects 265 people who lost spouses who were in the Royal Navy, British Army and RAF.
He asked Mr Johnson to meet with members of the War Widows' Association to discuss how the policy is impacting women in their daily lives. And he called out the existing policy which means if a remarried widow wants to access her pension they must first divorce their second spouse and marry again.
Mr Johnson said he would instruct his Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to meet with widows and assured Dr Lewis, MP for New Forest East in Hampshire, that the Ministry of Defence was looking into the issue. He stopped short of promising to meet with the widows himself. Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson said he had "heard from the war widows themselves about their own concerns".
"The Ministry of Defence is looking at what can be done to provide meaningful support to those who have lost their loved ones."
Dr Lewis pointed out that the previous Defence Secretary had
"sought and was refused permission from the Treasury to help the estimated 265 war widows whose pensions were cancelled when they remarried".
He slammed the process which says the pensions "can be permanently restored only by their going through a divorce and remarriage to their second husbands". He appealed to the Prime Minister to take action "finally to put an end to this deplorable and dishonourable situation".
Mr Johnson responded:
"The MOD is looking at this very problem and I am conscious of the issue that he raises, it's been raised with me."
He said he had asked Mr Wallace to meet the chairman of the War Widows' Association "to discuss further what we can do".
In February 2019, Theresa May's defence secretary Gavin Williamson described the issue as a "burning injustice". He said he was "committed to finding a solution". Last month the issue was raised in the House of Lords. Baroness Crawley, vice-president of the War Widows' Association, called on the government to
"reinstate the war widows' pension for those widows who were required to surrender that pension due to marriage or cohabitation".
She dubbed the policy "bonkers". She said:
"I am extremely disappointed that after five years, the government are still dragging their feet on reinstating these widows' pensions. We are talking about 200 to 300 war widows whose former partners served in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and the first Gulf War, among other theatres and whose only course of action today, if they want their pension reinstated, is to divorce and remarry their present partners. How bonkers is that?"
The War Widow or Widower's Pension is paid to the wives and husbands of members of the armed forces who died before April 6 2005. The funds are aimed to compensate for loss, pain and suffering caused during the distressing time. The money is paid under the War Pension Scheme.