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Lord Astor of Hever: I thank the noble Baroness for that full answer and I thank my noble friend Lady Carnegy for her support.

In respect of the Minister's answer, I am not convinced that the reasons that we have heard are good enough to reduce the appeal time-limit on the face of the Bill to six months. However, I shall read Hansard carefully and I shall discuss the matter with the Law Society of Scotland and the service organisations. In the mean time, I shall not press my opposition to the Question.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Clause 59 [Constitution and procedure of Pensions Appeal Tribunals]:

Lord Astor of Hever moved Amendment No. 170:

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 170, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 171 and 172. The purpose of Amendment No. 170 is to retain an ex-service member as a member of the tribunals. That is essential to maintain the credibility of the PAT as seen by the appellant. It would not be right to have only civilians sitting in judgment. The purpose of Amendment No. 171 is to remove the option of not having a service representative on the tribunal. We want to ensure that both service and disability representatives are included. Amendment No. 172 would give credibility in the eyes of the claimant that members of the tribunal understand the nature of warfare and service life. Even many widows do not know exactly what their late husbands did.

These amendments have the support of the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and the RAF Association. I declare an interest as a former Army officer who received a lump sum compensation for noise-induced hearing loss and as president of the Earl Haig branch of the Royal British Legion. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: I support my noble friend, Lord Astor, in this group of amendments. In matters of this sort, as in all matters of justice, it is important not only that justice should be done, but that it should be seen to be done. It is more likely to be seen to be done in fixing service pensions, especially if they are pensions which result from injuries on active service, if those who have the responsibility of awarding and fixing the pensions have the sort of sympathy and understanding needed. Claimants are more likely to get that from people who have themselves served in the Armed Forces.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: These amendments seek to maintain many of the current arrangements that apply to the composition of the pensions appeal tribunal. Amendment No. 170 would require the Lord

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Chancellor to appoint a service member to the tribunal. Amendment No. 171 would place a requirement on the Lord Chancellor to appoint lay members with specific experience to the tribunal, and Amendment No. 172 seeks to prescribe the military service the lay member should have.

The intention of this part of Clause 59 is to enable the Lord Chancellor to create a pool of people with the expertise required to hear all the appeals within the jurisdiction of the pensions appeal tribunal. Pulling together the expertise that is necessary to deal with individual appeals will be a matter for the presidents of the pensions appeal tribunals. As such, the clause provides that each of the tribunal's jurisdictions should have a pool of people with the skills, expertise and experience to decide the issues.

Subsection (3) of Clause 59 provides that the schedule to the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act 1943 will include a new paragraph 2A. The first sub-paragraph--that is, paragraph 2A(1)--defines three categories of tribunal members; that is, those who are legally qualified, those who are medically qualified and those termed as "other persons". The following sub-paragraphs stipulate the qualifications required of the tribunal members, describing the legal, medical and other qualifications. As such, it is not appropriate to introduce a definition of "other persons" into that sub-paragraph, particularly in an amendment which does not recognise other expertise that could be helpful to the tribunals. Amendment No. 170 is therefore unnecessary and I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.

Amendment No. 171 would amend paragraph 2A(4) which deals with the definition of "other persons". As written, the clause requires the Lord Chancellor,

    "to have regard to the desirability",

of appointing persons with knowledge or experience of service in Her Majesty's naval, military or air forces and matters relating to the disability of persons. Amendment No. 171 would make those appointments compulsory.

It is the intention of the Lord Chancellor always to include people with knowledge or experience of service life and of disablement in the pool of people to hear appeals. The legislation has been phrased in this way to provide for the smaller jurisdictions, such as Northern Ireland, where the number of appeals are low (around 100) and therefore the number of tribunal members is small. In those instances, the unexpected loss of a tribunal member could result in the jurisdiction being incomplete and therefore unable to operate. It is solely to provide for that eventuality that the clause has been phrased in this way.

But the concerns of the Committee have been heard and I assure Members that the Lord Chancellor will appoint people with service experience to the tribunal. If it helps, and in response to the speeches made by both the noble Lords, Lord Astor and Lord Renton, I am happy to come back on Report with an amendment

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placing a duty on the Lord Chancellor to appoint persons with knowledge or experience of Her Majesty's naval, military or air forces to the pool of tribunal members; in other words, putting a duty on the Lord Chancellor in the Bill, if that would meet the Committee's concern. I appreciate at the moment it is an understanding. If the Committee is willing, I am willing to respond with a government undertaking.

Amendment No. 172 also relates to the sub-paragraph which deals with the appointment of "other persons" and provides for people with "similar military experience" to be appointed. Unlike the previous amendment, the problem here is that we are dealing with a group of people who are diminishing in number. The phrase we use in the Bill,

    "knowledge or experience of service",

will enable the Lord Chancellor to appoint people with a wide range of service experience to the pool of tribunal members. It will be for the independent presidents of the tribunals to allocate people to the individual tribunals. Again, I am more than happy to write on the Committee's behalf to the presidents of the pensions appeal tribunals to ensure that they are aware of the concerns of the Chamber.

Our problem is that there is a shrinking number of people with an exact match of appropriate service. That is why we are seeking to establish a pool on which the Lord Chancellor may draw and from which the presidents of the tribunals may appoint to any specific tribunal. If it meets the Committee's concern, I shall bring an amendment forward on the face of the Bill for the Lord Chancellor to appoint such a pool, and I shall write to the presidents of the appeal tribunals drawing attention to the anxieties expressed today. With those undertakings, I hope that I have met the noble Lord's concerns and that he will be content to withdraw the amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever: I thank the Minister for that helpful reply and my noble friend Lord Renton for his support. I was comforted by the Minister's reassurance that the Lord Chancellor normally appoints people to tribunals with knowledge and experience of service life. I am sure the Committee will be happy for the Minister to come back with an amendment on Report as she suggested. I shall consider her words in detail and discuss them with the service organisations with whom I have been in touch, for I know this is a matter of great concern to them. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 171 and 172 not moved.]

Clause 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 [Composition of central advisory committee]:

[Amendments Nos. 173 and 174 not moved.]

Clause 60 agreed to.

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Baroness Strange moved Amendment No. 175:

    After Clause 60, insert the following new clause--

War widows' pensions--entitlement

.--(1) The Secretary of State shall review the operation of this section when--
(a) a report on the armed forces pension scheme has been laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State for Defence; and
(b) the results of any public consultation upon a report as cited in paragraph (a) above have been published;
and a report of any review carried out under this section shall be laid before Parliament.
(2) Subject to subsection (3), a widow in receipt of a widow's pension under any of the enactments mentioned in subsection (4) ("the DSS pension") and in receipt of a pension paid under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme shall on remarriage or when living together as husband and wife with a member of the opposite sex only retain the Forces Family Pension (attributable).
(3) Subsection (2) does not apply to a widow in receipt of a basic pension under section 44 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992; and a widow in receipt of such a pension who has remarried or is living together as husband and wife with a member of the opposite sex may not retain the Forces Family Pension (attributable).
(4) The enactments referred to in subsection (2) are--
(a) the Naval, Military and Air Forces etc. (Disablement and Death) Service Pensions Order 1983, and any order re-enacting the provisions of that order,
(b) the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme 1983, and any subsequent scheme made under the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act 1939,
(c) any scheme made under the Pensions (Navy, Army, Air Force and Mercantile Marine) Act 1939, or the Polish Resettlement Act 1947 applying the provisions of any such order as is referred to in paragraph (a),
(d) the order made under section 1(5) of the Ulster Defence Regiment Act 1969 concerning pensions and other grants in respect of disablement or death due to service in the Ulster Defence Regiment.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment puts me fair and square on the horns of a dilemma. I do not know what sort of animal a dilemma is, but I suspect it closely resembles a patchwork, painted, fibreglass cow. A friend of mine jumped on one in Florida last week to celebrate her eightieth birthday and cracked her ribs most painfully. Although not as spry as an 80 year-old, I feel that with this amendment I am being pressed very closely by the dilemma's horns.

On the one hand this amendment refers to the Armed Forces family attributable pension, which is created by prerogatory instrument and is totally in the domain of the Ministry of Defence. To move it at all in a Bill on social security is therefore irrelevant--and unfair to my noble friend the Minister, who already has a massive Bill on her plate. She has always been a warm and sympathetic friend to the war widows and I hope will continue to be so--as she is to me.

What makes it worse is something which I discovered only on Thursday: that my noble friend the Minister of State for Defence, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, is unavoidably away in Washington today and so is unable to answer for her department. That is one horn of the dilemma. It is aggravated by the

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fact that, even now, the Ministry of Defence is conducting its pension review which should come out this summer. Whether summer starts on May Day or when the cuckoo singeth loud or whether we should "cast no cloots till May be oot" or whether summer is some late, movable feast which waits for the House to rise before deliberations are announced, as has happened before, I do not know. I am a natural optimist and I know that the Ministry of Defence will consider the case of these few ladies with care and with sympathy.

Some of these ladies, however--and this is the other horn of the dilemma--would like to remarry. I know of at least 10 who would. With the splendid advent of the Prime Minister's baby, we are all thinking about babies. Perhaps these ladies have children who would like to have a baby brother or sister themselves. This second pension has been contributed to by their husband. Both the Royal British Legion and SSAFA support us in our belief that this pension should be for life.

I know that this is not the time or the place to move the amendment, but these ladies are not proud, arrogant and pushing themselves forward. They are gentle, brave and restrained. I have a clear duty to them to move the amendment so that others can speak on their behalf. I beg to move.

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