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12.30 am

As the hon. Member for Havant said, in earlier discussions the Minister of State virtually told us that we were right but that he was not allowed to say so. I hope that he will reiterate that intimation this evening. I hope that we shall not hear figures bandied about from the brief as we have on previous occasions. At one point, we were told that this rather modest measure would cost £3 billion. I do not believe that to be the case, or that anyone believes that to be the case. It may have been an inappropriate suggestion.

3 Apr 2000 : Column 773

I am very glad that the Secretary of State for Defence is in the Chamber. I know that he will be listening carefully to what is said and will wish the new clause to be pressed to a Division to assist his deliberations in the review.

We have been entirely consistent on this matter. If I have one small criticism of Conservative Front-Bench Members, it is the fact that I do not recall two consecutive debates in this and another place in which they have taken a consistent position. [Interruption.] Sadly, that is the case. Before 3 November, the Conservative Front-Bench team in another place voted against; when the measure came to this place, the Front-Bench team voted for; when it went back to the Lords, the Front-Bench team abstained; when it came back to this place, the Front-Bench team voted for again.

I hope that the hon. Member for Havant will communicate to his colleagues in another place the importance of the amendment; that the House will support it tonight; and that, even if it is not passed tonight, it will return to us from the House of Lords and we shall be able to put it into law.

Mr. Quentin Davies: I think that it will be in accordance with the mood of the House if I am extremely brief. This, as my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) said, is a cause that has been with us for some time, and which the late Mr. Michael Colvin made his own. He did a magnificent job.

I want to speak to this issue both from the point of view of justice and from the point of view of practicality. From the point of view of justice, there is no doubt that the present situation is illogical, anomalous and, frankly, hypocritical. It has never been suggested that widows should wear their widows' weeds permanently. A widow who formed, for example, a permanent lesbian relationship or a widow who had a kaleidoscopic series of heterosexual relationships would be allowed to retain her pension, but a widow who forms a permanent relationship or gets remarried loses the totality of her pension. As a constituent who is a war widow put it to me, "We really have a choice between celibacy, dishonesty"--that is to say, concealment of the actual position--"and promiscuity." That is an absurd situation in which to place war widows. From the point of view of justice, there is absolutely nothing to be said for the present situation, and it is shameful that it has not already been righted.

From the point of view of practicality, the issue of cost always arises--quite rightly--but in recent wars such as the Falklands war, Operation Desert Storm and so on, the number of our casualties has been very limited, so, fortunately, the group of war widows with which we have to deal post-second world war is relatively small and, we trust, will remain that way. It therefore seems to me that the cost of justice is not very great; and when the cost of justice is not overwhelming, there is absolutely no excuse for the House not to choose the road of justice.

Mr. Rooker: About eight hours ago, when I was discussing national insurance contributions, I alluded to the fact that at that time I was speaking on behalf of my right hon. Friends in the Treasury, and that later in the day, I would be doing the same for another Department. I have been asked to be really brief. This is the time when,

3 Apr 2000 : Column 774

on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, I have to tell the House that this matter is under consideration and that the situation has not changed since we last spoke. I am not going to bandy about figures. The cost of the new clause is £3 million for the 2,500 war widows.

My right hon. Friend will report to the House. I have raised the matter personally with him, as I said I would in November 1999, when I drew the short straw during consideration of Lords amendments to the Bill that became the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999. Defence Ministers take the issue extremely seriously. The review will come to the House this summer. There will be adequate consultation on it, and I hope that we can reach a satisfactory conclusion on behalf of this very important group of people. I do not want to enter into the debate about how we feel about them, but there is a serious issue to be dealt with, and I hope that it can be dealt with as soon as possible.

Mr. Willetts: We appreciate that the Minister believes that there is an injustice that needs to be corrected. To help him on his way and in his negotiations with the Ministry of Defence, we propose to press the issue to a vote to show how strongly we feel that war widows are entitled to a better deal.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 141, Noes 265.

Division No. 140
[12.35 am


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Butterfill, John
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jenkin, Bernard
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Mates, Michael
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sanders, Adrian
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Webb, Steve
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Peter Luff and
Mr. John Randall.


NOES


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
(Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ennis, Jeff
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. Graham Allen.

Question accordingly negatived.

3 Apr 2000 : Column 777

Schedule 9

Repeals and revocations

Amendment made: No. 58, in page 130, line 7, at beginning insert--


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