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Mr. Howarth: Is that not changing? Under the new scheme the pension will be based on final salary; it is based on representative pay at present.

Mr. Caplin: That is what I said. The current armed forces scheme is based on representative pay and reckonable service. The new scheme will be based on length of service and final salary. I was comparing the two schemes.

Post-retirement widows' pensions were introduced in 1978 for service after 1978, following the introduction of the Social Security Pensions Act 1975. If my memory serves me right, the late Baroness Castle was responsible for that splendid piece of legislation, and we all know who her special adviser was at the time—our current Foreign Secretary.

The change was introduced non-retrospectively in schemes across the public sector, so there is no distinction between servicemen and public sector employees in this instance. The cost of extending post-retirement widow and widowers' entitlement to all current and deferred pensioners would be more than £50 million, according to our current calculations, as I indicated to my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West. Such an extension would be contrary to the policy of successive Governments.

In conclusion, the Conservative party had 18 years in power to deal with such issues, but it never once introduced a proposal in the House to do so. It now finds it convenient to do so—the convenience of opposition, the convenience of opportunism and the convenience of increasing public spending when it well knows that its shadow Chancellor is looking for major and significant cuts in the defence budget.

Mr. Howarth: The Minister is completely wrong: there are no planned Tory cuts in defence expenditure, so he is just trying to mislead the public again. I am genuinely disappointed.It is very pleasant to see that the Secretary of State is now present.

The Minister referred to the right hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin), who made a very useful contribution to these proceedings. He said that she should write to him, and he would try to do something about the case that she raised. He said that everyone is writing to him, saying, "Let's do something about this." Well, let us do something about it.

The hon. Gentleman cannot stick £500 million on us because that figure is simply not true. The people who currently receive pensions are being paid by his Department. They cease to be paid if they remarry. I put it to him that he cannot quantify how many will elect to remarry, thereby forgoing the pension that they now receive. The Minister is adducing a disingenuous argument. My commitment to the House and to those in
6 May 2004 : Column 1560
the country who are concerned about such matters is that the next Conservative Government will review the issue with a determination to do something about it.

To accommodate some of those people, the Secretary of State introduced a new scheme to enable attributable widows to benefit if they remarry, but he did not do so by telling the House that there was a compensating cut elsewhere in his pension provision for our armed forces. He was not reslicing the cake; he was just providing a welcome addition. We welcome the fact that he has done that. We believe that the funds should be made available to meet the requirements, certainly given the 1.7 per cent. saving that the Government will make from rejigging the mortality and longevity issues.

There is another, final point that I want to nail in what the Minister said. He keeps on saying it, and it is unfortunate that the Government keep on doing so because they believe in supporting our armed forces. As I said before the Secretary of State arrived, I believe that the Government have the interests of our armed forces at heart. I do not claim a monopoly of that for the Opposition. There are differences of view. Certain things could be done better than the Government are doing them, but I am not suggesting that they are cavalier about our armed forces. However, constantly to equate them with other public sector services and say that if we did something for the armed forces we would have to do it for everybody else is not acceptable. The public believe that our armed forces are different, and we do too. Most Members of Parliament, whatever their party, believe that the armed forces are different, and it is because of that, because their commitment to our country is unique, and because they put their lives on the line for our country—they are doing so as we speak—that we ought to give them the best that we can offer them. They certainly deserve that, and it is the very least that they are entitled to expect. It is the very least that we can do for our armed forces, and it is irrelevant to suggest that we must compare them with other public sector workers. If the current rules mean that we have to do so we should make special provision in law—

It being Five o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker proceeded to put the Questions necessary to bring proceedings on consideration to a conclusion, pursuant to Order [22 January].

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The House divided: Ayes 132, Noes 252.

Division No. 162
[5:00 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, David
Carmichael, Alistair
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flight, Howard
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hancock, Mike
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Holmes, Paul
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jack, rh Michael
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Leigh, Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
May, Mrs Theresa
Mercer, Patrick
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Portillo, rh Michael
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John Randall and
Mr. Hugo Swire


Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Stephen
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheridan, Jim
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Soley, Clive
Spellar, rh John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. John Heppell and
Charlotte Atkins

Question accordingly negatived.

6 May 2004 : Column 1563

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