Long-delayed justice for war widows is not retrospective - but MoD may 'have another look'

BAFF welcomes the announcement that war widows covered by the 1975 armed forces pension scheme will, from next April, no longer lose their widow's pension if they find a new partner.

The change is not yet in force, nor is it retrospective. It appears that those who have already had their pension withdrawn, because of finding a new partner, will not get it back.

UPDATE: An Army widow whose husband lost his life in Northern Ireland, and who lost her entitlement to service widow's pension on her remarriage, has now started an online petition here: DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WAR WIDOWS/ THE WRONG TIME TO DIE!

The now-discredited rule applies to those in receipt of a service widow's or widower's pension under the 1975 pension scheme who remarry, cohabit or enter into a civil partnership (a status which did not even exist at the time the rule was originally drawn up). It does not apply to the current (2005) pension scheme, which is due to be replaced in 2015.

The Government believes the changes will cost around £120 million over the next 40 years.

What is not known is how many MoD minutes, papers, briefs and parliamentary answers had been produced over the past 40 years to justify the withdrawal of pension from service widows and widowers who remarry.

According to one media report, "only four" widows are understood to have remarried between 2008 and 2013, foregoing their service widow's pension.

It is not known how many service widows and widowers might have remarried and lost their pension before 2008, or how many considered remarrying but decided not to do so.

Making the change retrospective would have cost relatively little in relation to the Department's total pension budget, but the MoD did not want to create a precedent for those affected by the so-called pre-1975 Regular Other Ranks pensions injustice.

The now-discredited remarriage rule is conveniently described as a "loophole", but of course it was nothing of the kind.

It was a conscious, deliberate decision at the time to remove the pension from a certain class of pensioners, and it took conscious, deliberate action to decide on repeated occasions to reject growing calls to abandon the rule. The injustice continued for 40 years under Conservative, Labour and Coalition governments alike.

While sharing in the credit for the change, there has not been a word of shame from the Ministry of Defence, as an institution, in acknowledgement that it got this one wrong.

BAFF congratulates The War Widows' Association of Great Britain and other campaigners on this victory. If representation of service personnel had been allowed this miserable rule would have been properly examined at the time, and would certainly not have stood for 40 years.

Update 08 Nov: MoD may 'have another look' on retrospectivity

Defence Minister Anna Soubry MP has told BBC Radio 's Today programme that she was 'quite happy' to have another look at whether the changes should be applied retrospectively.

The Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans told the programme:

'I think the argument that would be put forward is that many people will say that this is retrospective pension changes and every Government will tell you that you shouldn't do that and that's why we have been able to apply the covenant we believe and it's the right thing to do.

'Looking at why people who haven't been able to claim it in the past I think that would be, some would say, a step too far because you are doing retrospection retrospectively.
'I know that probably doesn't make an awful lot of sense but I can see and understand that argument. 'But, hey, I'm quite happy to go away and say to people, let's have another look at that as well.'

The Forces Pension Society (FPS) has accepted the situation that the change will not be retrospective, but has information which may benefit some beneficiaries who have already lost their entitlement.The FPS also warns against anyone taking steps which may risk their entitlement before the change comes into force on 1 April 2015. See Justice for Widows - A Solution.

Service families

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