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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the amendment, as the noble Lord rightly said, is completely different from the previous one. I hope that your Lordships will manage to make the distinction between the case made on the previous amendment, which was about war widows from the Second World War, and the case on this amendment, which is about the Armed Forces Pension Scheme, which is an occupational pension scheme for people, some of whom—very many perhaps—received some injury while in the forces, but the majority of whom retired fairly hale and hearty and took up other ways of civilian life, subsequently died, and obviously left widows.

It is also fair to point out—it may be a nice point to make—that it is not valid to compare this scheme with provision in other countries. One must compare it with the provision in other public service schemes in this country. Prior to the Social Security Pensions Act 1975, it was a normal and well-established principle of occupational pension schemes, including all those in the public service (including the AFPS), that to qualify for a pension the widow of a pensioner had to be married to him at the time he was engaged in the occupation covered by the scheme. The AFPS was similar in that aspect to other public service schemes. The noble Lord mentioned the Civil Service. I shall throw in education, the health service, doctors, nurses, teachers, police, firemen and local authority employees. That is what this scheme must be compared with.

The effect of the amendment would be to give an open-ended retrospective commitment to the AFPS alone, the full extent of the cost implications of which are difficult to determine. We have no record of the number of post-retirement marriages contracted before

14 Mar 1995 : Column 788

6th April 1978 and only learn of those contracted since should an inquiry be made. However, a very broad brush estimate can be given by estimating some 15 per cent. of marriages take place after servicemen leave the forces. The cost of full retrospection could well be in the region of £60 million. What the amendment seeks to do is to entitle any service widow to a widow's pension regardless of the introductory date applicable to the AFPS and other public service schemes. The government of the day—I invite noble Lords on the Benches directly opposite, not the well-whipped noble Lords on the Cross Benches—

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Shame!

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, surely I must have some sport, given the trials that I am suffering. Your Lordships would not deny me that.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Resist the temptation.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, no, I have decided not to resist temptation, as the noble Baroness is inviting me to do. I remind the Benches directly opposite that the years about which I am talking are the years in which they had some responsibility. They had some responsibility for the decision not to have retrospection. They introduced the improvement. They were well aware that, as usual, there would be those people who would fall on the wrong side of that implementation date and would therefore not benefit from it. The improvement was given a phased introduction in that only service in the relevant occupation from 6th April 1978 would count.

We are now 17 years into the programme of phased introduction. If it was good enough—dare I say?—for the Benches opposite when they were in government and had the responsibility of finding these kinds of sums of money and decided that they did not want to do it either in this scheme or across the public service scheme, then I suggest it is good enough for them tonight to continue the view that they took then; that is, that they should make a cut-off date of 6th April 1978.

The improvements come to all occupational pension schemes. As I argued in Committee, the principle of all occupational pension schemes in these matters is that retrospection is not taken into account; retrospection is not considered to be the proper way forward. Improvements in schemes are made from the day of the improvement onwards. I do not see any basis for the House agreeing to make a unilateral change in this specific occupational pension scheme.

I hope that your Lordships will accept from me the argument that this amendment concerns an entirely different category of people from those with which we were dealing in the previous amendment. I hope the House will agree that it is right to resist retrospection in what is an occupational pension scheme. If the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, insists on putting this amendment to the vote and does not rest on the laurels of his first victory, then I hope that your Lordships will join me in the Lobby against him.

Lord Freyberg: My Lords, I should like to emphasise that I am not proposing that pension

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provision be extended to all widows of post-retirement marriages—a state of affairs that exists in most occupational pensions. I am proposing pension provision for retired servicemen who marry or remarry before the age of 65—the normal civilian age of retirement and the end of recall liability—provided that they have served a minimum number of years (16 in the case of an officer) and have been married for at least three years.

This is a necessary provision because of the habitually early compulsory retirement from the Army, far more so than in any other profession. Indeed, no less a person than John Major made this point in relation to early retirement and pension anomalies to the House of Commons on 2nd May 1980 when he said:

    "Service men, by virtue of their profession, are in a special position and should be treated accordingly".—[Official Report, Commons, 2/5/80; col. 1846.]

He went on to ask the Minister to promise that

    "the door is not closed on justice for these pensioners and their widows".

It is a plea with which I am in complete agreement and I echo it in the hope that the amendment will be accepted.

The Minister argues that pensions for post-retirement marriages will be costly to implement. Cost alone is no excuse for robbing servicemen of the pensions they earned for their widows. The Minister also says that pensions for widows of post-retirement marriages would have costly knock-on effects. That ignores the special circumstances of army retirement. Policemen and members of the fire brigade retire at around 55, while in the Civil Service, in the 1970s—the period under discussion—almost all civil servants worked until they were 65. There would therefore be no significant read-across. For that reason the Armed Forces, with their far earlier and compulsory retirement dates, must be treated as a separate case.

To sum up, I want to stress that pre-1978 service widows of post-retirement marriages do not simply receive inadequate service pensions; they receive no Armed Forces pension whatever, regardless of their husbands' years of service. Moreover, the pre-1978 cut-off date penalises the most elderly widows. That is indefensible. Their husbands served the country just as long and, in the Second World War, just as hard as the servicemen who came after them. It is for that reason that I must test the opinion of the House.

7.14 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 186) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 121; Not-Contents, 135.

Division No. 4


Acton, L.
Airedale, L.
Alanbrooke, V.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashbourne, L.
Attenborough, L.
Avebury, L.
Bancroft, L.
Birkett, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Brookes, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Chalfont, L.
Chorley, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Coleridge, L.
Combermere, V.
Cornwallis, L.
Craigavon, V.
Cross, V.
Darcy (de Knayth), B.
David, B.
Davies, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Derwent, L.
Desai, L.
Diamond, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Ennals, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Foot, L.
Freyberg, L. [Teller.]
Geraint, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Healey, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L.
Henniker, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Iddesleigh, E.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jeger, B.
Judd, L.
Kitchener, E.
Lawrence, L.
Macaulay of Bragar, L.
MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L.
McCarthy, L.
McConnell, L.
McGregor of Durris, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McNair, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Meston, L.
Milne, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monson, L.
Moore of Wolvercote, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Kenwood, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Ellesmere, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Portland, E.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ranfurly, E.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Richard, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Robson of Kiddington, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Seear, B. [Teller.]
Serota, B.
Shannon, E.
Shaughnessy, L.
Simon, V.
Slim, V.
Smith, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Stallard, L.
Stedman, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strafford, E.
Temple of Stowe, E.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Westmorland, E.
White, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Wolfson, L.


Aberdare, L.
Ackner, L.
Addison, V.
Ailsa, M.
Aldington, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Annaly, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Astor, V.
Barber of Tewkesbury, L.
Barber, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Bethell, L.
Biddulph, L.
Blake, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Blyth, L.
Borthwick, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Bruntisfield, L.
Buchan, E.
Buckinghamshire, E.
Butterworth, L.
Cadman, L.
Caithness, E.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chelmsford, V.
Chesham, L.
Chilver, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Coleraine, L.
Colwyn, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dudley, E.
Dundonald, E.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Falmouth, V.
Ferrers, E.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gage, V.
Gisborough, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Hacking, L.
Haddington, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Hogg, B.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hood, V.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L. [Teller.]
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Layton, L.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Long, V.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Marlesford, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mersey, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Morris, L.
Mottistone, L.
Moyne, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Noel-Buxton, L.
Norrie, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Orkney, E.
Oxfuird, V.
Parkinson, L.
Prentice, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Savile, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Stevens of Ludgate, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Sudeley, L.
Teviot, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Wakeham, L.
Wise, L.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

14 Mar 1995 : Column 791

7.23 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 187 and 188 not moved.]

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