2. PROVISIONS OF THE FUND
2.1 The Fund was set up by the House of
Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, which provides for discretionary
grants to be made by the Trustees to former Members of Parliament
who have attained 60 years of age, to their widows, and to orphan
children under 16 years of age. A subsequent Act of 1948, which
was amended in 1991 (see paragraph 2.3 below), provides for the
Trustees to authorise grants to any former Members or their dependants
having regard to their circumstances.
2.2 The House of Commons Members' Fund and
Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981 introduced a further category
of award, payable as of right to former Members, or their dependants,
who satisfy certain conditions. To be eligible for an award under
this provision, former Members must normally have attained the
age of 65, with no service after 15 October 1964. I understand
that there are no more possible beneficiaries in this category
who are not already in receipt of an award.
2.3 Section 7 of the Ministerial and other
Pensions and Salaries Act 1991 amended the 1948 Act as follows:
(a) It widened the powers of the Trustees
to make payments under the 1948 Act. Instead of making payments
for the purpose of alleviating special hardship, the Trustees
may now have regard to the circumstances of the person to whom
payments are to be made.
(b) It is no longer a requirement for payments
under the 1939 and 1948 Acts that the former Member must have
served for at least 10 years.
2.4 The Trustees used these powers to make
payments to a new class of beneficiary: widows of former Members
of Parliament who were members of the Parliamentary Contributory
Pension Fund before 6 April 1988 (the "pre-1988 widows").
The payments from the Members' Fund were such as to increase the
total pension to the widow from one-half of the relevant Member's
pension to five-eighths (an uplift of 25%).
2.5 In recent years, the level of grants
has been increased on each 1 April. These increases have been
similar to those awarded each year under the Pensions (Increase)
Acts. At the date of this assessment, 30 September 2006, the amounts
payable under the 1981 Act were set at the level of £2,822.02
a year for a former Member and £1,764.37 a year for widows
and widowers. An award payable under the legislative provisions
other than the 1981 Act has no specific limit.
2.6 Income to the Fund is derived partly
from statutory contributions from Members under the 1939 Act,
which since 1961 have been £24 a year, and partly from Grants
in Aid. The amount of the Grant in Aid is determined by the Treasury
under the Members' Fund Act 1957 "having regard to the amount
for the time being of the payments to be made out of the fund
and of the income of the fund from other sources".