As campaigners took their fight to the House of Lords, Baroness Fookes, president of the War Widows’ Association (WWA), declared: “I am enraged. Is it the Government’s intention to procrastinate for so long that these few elderly widows will all be dead?” Labour’s Lord Touhig urged the Ministry of Defence to “park their tanks on the Treasury lawn” to resolve the matter once and for all. The Lord Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister, said the policy “betrays those who have served our country…and undermines the institution of marriage”.
The WWA campaign – backed by the Daily Express – wants justice for the women who were stripped of their pension when they remarried.
In 2015 David Cameron changed the law so the pension was for life – but failed to backdate it, so 300 widows were excluded. Around 100 have since died. In a ridiculous anomaly the surviving women could be eligible for up to £7,500 a year if they divorce their partner and marry them again.
Baroness Crawley – a vice-president of the WWA – tabled a question on the scandal in the House of Lords.
Defence minister Baroness Goldie replied they were “exploring options” but it was “complex” because of “established government policy on retrospective payments”.
Although she, along with the Secretary of State, the Permanent secretary, and the Chief of Defence staff, all wanted to find a solution, the MoD was unable to act unilaterally, she said. She was met with fury across the House.
Baroness Crawley said: “It is shameful that 200 war widows are still waiting for their pensions to be instated. What has happened to the plan that was meant to have gone from the Secretary of State for Defence to the Treasury – and when will we see a timetable for meaningful action?”
Baroness Garden of Frognal, a Lib Dem peer and vice-president of WWA, said: “As a military wife I moved 24 times so had no chance of a career. Military wives are dependent on their husband’s incomes and pensions.”