Home > Cases > Challenge to Eligability for War Pensions for Unmarried Partners

Mrs Ratcliffe was the unmarried partner of a deceased member of the armed forces, whose death in April 2005 was caused by his service. She was refused a war pension because she did not fall within the very limited class of unmarried partners who qualify (in practice those with children and pre-service relationships). She argued that the refusal of a war pension was contrary to the Human Rights Act, because she was being unfairly discriminated against, by comparison with married partners.

Her case was rejected in front of the Pension Appeal Tribunal and she appealed to the Court of Appeal. She relied on article 14 and article 1 protocol 1 of the European Convention.

The Court of Appeal found that whether married and unmarried partners were in an analogous situation depended on the particular scheme in issue. Because of the Ministry of Defences changes in policy they had accepted post 2005 that the two groups were in an analogous situation. However, the Court went on to find that the differential treatment was justifiable. The Court said that the Secretary of State was not obliged to produce evidence of the cost of making any changes. The decision as to at what point of time any amendments to the scheme, to put married and unmarried partners in the same position, was a matter for the government and not the courts. Parliament had been entitled to take into account the competing claims on public funds.

Nathalie Lieven QC appeared for the Secretary of State for Defence.

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