of the Category B Pension
With the compliments of
British Age Pensioner Alliance
We need to have a better understanding of
the history of wives' pensions.
I have been doing some reading in an old
textbook published in 1950 for the benefit of actuarial students sitting
the exam subject, Social Insurance in Britain.
The original old age pension was
non-contributory and was paid to men and women from age 70 on a means
tested basis. By 1925 it was 10/-.
It was paid entirely from taxpayer funds.
When the contributory scheme was introduced
in 1925 it covered all manual workers and clerical workers with low
salaries. The contributions were calculated to cover the years from age 65
to 70, when the old scheme would take over. It was to be assumed that
anyone who qualified for the pension at age 65 would satisfy the means
test at age 70.
Provision was made for increases in
contribution rates at 10-year intervals. Of course these were not made in
1945 or 1955!
The pension was still 10/- and was paid to
all contributors and to wives of men who qualified. So the wife actually
got her pension at age 65 on the back of the husband's pension, but of
course from 70 it was payable to all women anyway as it had always been,
subject of course to the means test.
The pension remained at 10/- until 1946,
when it was increased to 26/-. However, the increased pension for wives of
pensioners was only 16/-. This was less than women who had contributed to
the 1925 scheme would get, which was 26/-.
This is, if you like, the first appearance
of category B pension. But in fact women had always had the 10/- means
tested pension from age 70, and had it from age 65 if their husband had
earned a contributory pension.
This "category B" pension was a little more
than 60% of the basic rate. The rates now paid are just a tad lower than
When Webb first announced the
abolition of the category B pension, he tried to give the impression that
the only women who would suffer were non-British women living in overseas
countries, women who had never lived in Britain and never paid "taxes".
This was a blatant attempt to capitalise on the attitude of British voters
to immigrants. He later corrected this, by making it clear the new rules
would apply to all wives, even British-born wives living in Britain with
By the way, the new rules will not
deprive you of your existing category B pension.