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Immigration Detainees: Children

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The detention of families with children is very regrettable but it is sometimes necessary as part of maintaining an effective immigration control and in removing from the United Kingdom those who have no lawful basis to stay. It does not happen in the vast majority of cases and, where it does prove necessary, it is kept to the minimum period possible, often for only a few hours or days prior to removal. It would not, however, be appropriate to set an arbitrary time limit on such detention. To do so would take no account of the circumstances of individual families and would serve only to encourage those concerned to frustrate immigration and asylum processes in the hope of reaching a point where they would be released.

Racial Discrimination: Political Parties

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): While it is not unlawful for such a political party to register under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, it is unlawful to discriminate on racial grounds. The Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone on grounds of race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), or ethnic or national origin. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 created nine new racially aggravated offences which carry significantly higher penalties. It is also a criminal offence under the Public Order Act 1986 to use threatening, abusive or insulting language or behaviour in order to stir up racial hatred, including distributing racist leaflets. I would hope that the law was powerfully enforced against any organisation that behaved in these ways.

Gulf War 1990–91: Vaccines

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Researchers who have undertaken or are undertaking work on Gulf veterans' illnesses issues funded by the Ministry of Defence and commissioned through the independent Medical Research Council are responsible for ensuring that they are aware of all the information relevant to their work. Information about the medical countermeasures taken to protect personnel during the 1990–91 Gulf conflict has been in the public domain for many years and readily available on the Ministry of Defence's website. This includes my letter of 9 October. In addition, researchers at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, who are undertaking work to establish whether combinations of vaccines administered with and without pyridostigmine bromide give rise to adverse health effects were given information about the medical countermeasures taken in 1990–91 in November 1997.

War Widows

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord Bach on 27 October (Official Report, cols. 1–4), what proportion of war widows whose husbands died before the advent of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme are in receipt of their own state retirement pension; and, for those widows not in receipt of their own state retirement pension, what is the maximum pension they can receive.[HL5270]

Lord Bach: The information requested on the proportion of war widows whose husbands died before the advent of the Armed Forces Pensions Scheme who are in receipt of their own state retirement pension is not available. It could be obtained only at disproportionate cost, involving the clerical examination of over 40,000 individual war widows' files to identify where the husband died before 31 March 1973 and then by seeking information on payment of retirement pension in each case.

With regard to the amount of pension payable, a war widow who is aged 70 or over and whose late husband left service before the advent of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme on 31 March 1973 receives a tax-free war widow's pension of £175.37 a week. At age 80, this increases to £185.37 a week. If she is

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entitled to a state retirement pension based on her own national insurance contributions, this is payable on top of the war widow's pension. A pension and lump sum was also payable under Armed Forces occupational scheme arrangements provided that certain qualifying criteria were met. A minimum period of service by the spouse of 12 years (other rank) or 10 years (officer) was required for eligibility for a widow's pension though a gratuity was payable below this. The value of the payment depended on a number of factors, notably rank.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What benefits are payable to war widows aged 70 or over who are:


    (a) pre-1973 war widows with their own state retirement pension;


    (b) pre-1973 war widows without their own state retirement pension;


    (c) post-1973 war widows with their own state retirement pension; and


    (d) post-1973 war widows without their own state retirement pension.[HL5271]

Lord Bach: A war widow aged 70 whose husband's military service ceased before 31 March 1973 receives a tax-free war widow's pension of over £175 per week, rising to over £185 per week at age 80. A pension and lump sum may also be payable under Armed Forces occupational scheme arrangements provided that certain qualifying criteria were met. Notably, a minimum period of service by the husband of 12 years (other rank) or 10 years (officer) was required for eligibility for a widow's pension, though a gratuity was payable below this. The value of the payment depended on a number of factors, notably rank.

A war widow whose husband's service ceased after 31 March 1973 can receive a tax-free war widow's pension of almost £115 per week, rising to almost £125 per week at age 80, and an attributable pension under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS). The qualifying criteria and levels of pension paid under the AFPS were generally significantly more generous than the pre-1973 occupational provisions.

In addition, widows in both groups are eligible for the full range of social security benefits, subject to the normal rules on entitlement and abatement. These fall into three main categories. Benefits may: be paid on top of the war widow's and occupational pensions (for example, state retirement pension based on the widow's own national insurance contributions, attendance allowance and winter fuel payment); or be reduced by the amount of the war widow's pension (for example, widow's retirement pension based on the late husband's contributions; carer's allowance); or take the war widow's and occupational pensions into account as income, with disregards for the war pension (for example, with respect to pension credit; housing and council tax benefits). The first £10 of a war widow's pension is disregarded as well as all of the supplementary pension (£60.97) paid to a pre-1973

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widow. In the case of housing benefit and council tax benefit, local authorities have the discretion to apply a further disregard up to the full amount of any war pension in payment.

Armed Forces: Review of Pension and Compensation Arrangements

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Ministry of Defence has now taken a decision to replace the current burden of proof ("reasonable doubt") with "the balance of probability" in the pension and compensation scheme to be introduced in April 2005; and, if so, whether they accept the Royal British Legion's estimate that this could eliminate up to 60 per cent of claimants for both war pension and war widows' awards.[HL5350]

Lord Bach: I refer my noble friend to my Written Answer of 16 September, (Official Report, cols. WA 166–167) announcing new Armed Forces pension and compensation arrangements. The "balance of probability" standard of proof will be used in the new Armed Forces compensation scheme (AFCS). This standard of proof is used widely elsewhere in occupational schemes and by the civil courts. The new scheme has been designed to ensure fair, evidence-based decision-making, with the standard of proof as only one factor affecting consideration of claims. Modern systems for keeping service and medical records provide a high level of confidence that reliable evidence will be available of how an injury or illness may have arisen. Equally, the causes and likely prognosis of ill-health and injury are now much better understood than when the current standard of proof was introduced in the war pensions scheme in 1943. Any individual who is unhappy with the outcome of a claim will have right of appeal to a fully independent tribunal. We are aware of no basis for the Royal British Legion's estimate of claim elimination rates and I can confirm that we expect no reduction in the costs of the scheme as a result of the changes in design. We are confident that the new scheme will be successful in ensuring compensation in all cases where there is reasonable evidence that a condition was linked to service, as well as providing a better focus on the more severely disabled.


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