The Forces Pension Society (FPS) has today welcomed the Early Day Motion (number 1157) put down in Parliament by Katy Clark (Lab).
The Motion seeks to abolish the rule that will strip the vast majority of current, retired and future Service widows of their Service widow’s pension if they live with a man, or remarry, thereby condemning them to a life of solitude.
This is despite the acknowledged barriers they have faced throughout their married lives in building any sort of occupational pension.
The motion was supported by Jim Dobbin (Lab), Jim Shannon (DUP), Alan Meale (Lab), Peter Bottomley (Con) and Sandra Osborne (Lab) and has already begun to attract further significant cross party support.
Air Marshall Sir Christopher Coville, FPS Chairman (pictured), said: 'All Service personnel will be most grateful to Katy Clark and her fellow MPs for taking up the cause of Armed Forces widows, who have to make a deeply unfair choice between either a new relationship or their pension.'
The Society has long argued for a change in the pension rules and has specifically taken the government to task for maintaining a policy which is not only financially flawed on the basis that administration and enforcement costs match any savings made, but which also flies in the face of the government’s own championing of the Armed Forces Covenant.
This exists to redress the disadvantages that the Armed Forces community faces in comparison to other citizens. One of these disadvantages is that the demands and turbulence of Service life uniquely militate against wives of servicemen being able to accrue any sort of occupational pension or even the full state pension. After all, it is not unusual for service families to move postings 15-20 times in the course of a career, often abroad.
The difficulties have been explicitly acknowledged by the government, most recently by the Defence Secretary in December 2013 in his annual report to Parliament on the Covenant.For those widows affected, the unfairness is amplified because not all Forces widows are subject to the same rules and those which do apply is something over which they have enjoyed no control.
The rules therefore place widows trying to rebuild their lives in an invidious position not of their own making. Sir Christopher concluded: 'Decent women with a natural human need for love and partnership are being oppressed when they are at their most vulnerable, by having their pensions removed for no good reason. The government faces an opportunity to do an historic good – or it can duck the issue and let this unfairness endure for another 40 years.'
The text of the Early Day Motion reads: 'That this House expresses sympathy with the military widows and widowers forced to surrender their 1975 Armed Forces Pension Scheme entitlement when deciding to marry or cohabit with a new partner; acknowledges the enormous sacrifices made by military spouses on behalf of the UK, often raising a family single-handedly while a loved one serves overseas; believes it is cruel and unfair to make those who become widows and widowers to make a choice between having a new relationship and financial security; notes that the 2005 Armed Forces Pension Scheme does not require widows and widowers to sacrifice their entitlement if they find a new partner; further believes that the savings to the taxpayer made by widows and widowers sacrificing their pension entitlement is minimal and that in 2013 there were only 10 1975 Armed Forces Pension Scheme 75 widows payments voluntarily surrendered at an annual saving of £31,294; supports the Forces Pensions Society campaign, backed by the Royal British Legion, to abolish this unfair and unnecessary provision; and urges the Government to amend the 1975 Armed Forces Pension Scheme so that widows and widowers no longer have to sacrifice their entitlement when cohabiting or marrying a new partner.'