The following platform article appeared in Saturday’s News Letter.
Since police pension regulations were reformed a few years ago there has been a glaring inequality affecting RUC widows. Under the new regulations a new police widow can retain her pension rights for life. Thus on remarriage she does not forfeit her pension. In contrast widows covered by the earlier regulations do lose their pension if they remarry.
The essence of the disparity and inequality is that a widow from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s or early 2000s who wants to remarry has a very considerable financial price to pay, whereas a widow from more recent years who wants to remarry has no financial price to pay. She retains her pension. That was the essence of the inequality which my amendment to the Pension Bill on Monday addressed.
My amendment ensures that any police widow who remarries after the 1st July this year will not lose her pension while those who have remarried and lost their pension will have it restored to them from 1st July 2014.
The unfairness that I sought to address was brought home to me when I was lobbied by a RUC widow who 20 years ago was widowed while still in her twenties. She was left with three small children. Twenty years later, while trying to put those children through university, she met someone whom she wanted to marry, but couldn’t because the financial circumstances were such that she could not afford to forfeit the pension on which she was reliant. Yet, someone widowed today could remarry with no financial loss.
The purpose of my amendment was to help people like that.
Of course, the amendment does not discriminate on the basis of how one becomes a police widow. Whether one was widowed by virtue of a terrorist act, a road traffic accident or other causes they will benefit. But the vast majority of beneficiaries will be RUC widows who lost their husbands as a result of IRA terror so I see this not just as an issue of bringing equality to all police widows, but as also doing something else, after Ann’s Law, for innocent victims.
As a legislator it is remarkably rewarding to bring justice to a situation such as this. The response from several RUC widows, who saw themselves as forgotten, is most gratifying.
I noted from some DUP contributions to the debate on Monday that some of their MPs and MEP have been trying to resolve this issue, but without success. Interesting, then, that once again, as with the Special Adviser problem, it was TUV that found the solution!