House of Commons call for law change following Supreme Court Win

Laura Banks

24 September 2018

A parliamentary discussion took place at The House of Commons to discuss the current law on bereavement benefits, just a week after our client Siobhan McLaughlin won her landmark legal challenge

There was widespread support across all parties for urgent reform of criteria for bereavement benefits so that children should no longer be penalised for the marital status of their parents.

The Parliamentary under- Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Justin Tomlinson, confirmed that the Department for Work and Pensions were carefully examining the judgement to assess what their next steps should be and undertook to return to the House with a further update in due course.

Margaret Greenwood (Labour) paid tribute to Siobhan and her family for having the courage to pursue this important case and pointed out that the current restriction is out of step with society -the Government having ignored previous calls for reform as a result of this specific case. She added that the number of children now living with cohabiting parents has more than doubled in recent years and asked; “What message does that send to those children about how they are valued by this Government?”

Her sentiments were echoed across all party politicians including Tory Grandee Sir Mike Penning who called for “compassion” “natural justice” and “fairness”

Stella Creasy (Labour) stated that this restriction is “unforgivable”, adding that “Legislation written in 1958 should not mean that children in 2018 live in poverty. We have cases of parents having to get married in intensive care units to avoid the humiliation that this legislation entails. Will we learn from Germany, where the money follows the child through orphan’s pensions and parenting is the requirement, not marriage?

Laura Banks, Francis Hanna & Co said: “ It is very encouraging, both that the Government are considering this issue so promptly following the Supreme Court judgement, and also that there has been such a strong call for urgent reform across all parties. This case has always been focused on the rights of children to be treated equally regardless of their birth status. That is a basic right of any child in our society, which the Supreme Court has confirmed. We trust the government will now take heed of the clear messages coming from both the Supreme Court justices and our politicians. They must take immediate steps to finally rectify this and put an end to this almost Victorian discrimination of grieving families at a time when they most need support.”

The full transcript of the House of Commons discussion is available here