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Naval And Military Pensions And Grants

Volume 148: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1921

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Northants Regiment (Private S Peters)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will inquire into the case of Mr. S. Peters, late No. 3937, private, 1st Northants Regiment, who enlisted in 1893 and, after serving in India, fell sick, and suddenly, whilst on guard, became deaf and dumb; is he aware that this man was discharged with a pension of 7d. per day for 18 months and beyond this has had no pension at all; that he is a married man with five little children dependent on him; and will he take steps to have the proper award of pension, with arrears, paid to Mr. Peters?

I am informed that Private Peters was discharged medically unfit with the pension and in the circumstances stated, but it is necessary also to point out that he had served in the Army for six years only, and that in the opinion of the medical authorities his disability was not caused or aggravated by military service or climate. Private Peters' records indicate that he was married after discharge and when already suffering from his dis- ability. I much regret his circumstances, but the case is not one where an equitable claim to further assistance from Army funds can be made out.

Pensions Refused


asked the Minister of Pensions whether the refusal of Appeal Court 23 to grant a pension to Mrs. Wadsworth, of St. Agnes Mount, Leeds, was clue to the failure of the local doctor in the first instance to recognise her son's illness as due to Addison's disease; and whether, as there is evidence to show that the deceased soldier was suffering from this fatal but rare disease on discharge and continuously thereafter until he died, he will have the inquiry reopened?

The appeal of the mother of the late Private Thomas Wadsworth, Labour Corps, 281399, was heard on the 1st instant by a pensions appeal tribunal sitting at Leeds. After giving the fullest possible consideration to the evidence of the appellant and that contained in the documents, the tribunal came to the conclusion that the appeal mast be disallowed. The fact that the local doctor in the first instance failed to recognise deceased's illness as due to Addison's disease in no way affected the decision. The tribunal were not satisfied upon the evidence that the disease commenced during service. Section 8 of the War Pensions (Administrative Provisions) Act, 1919, provides that the decision of a tribunal shall be final.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether this young man was employed in the building industry?


asked the Minister of Pensions, in regard to the case of Hugh Ralph, Bridgeton, reference No. 1/MR./2952, whether the medical board appointed by the Ministry definitely found that the soldier was suffering from disability due to varicose veins which had been aggravated by service, although it was doubtful to what precise degree it had been aggravated; whether the pre-War doctor of the soldier certified that to his knowledge he did not suffer from varicose veins before enlistment and his general health was good; on what medical grounds did the Ministry upset the finding of its own medical board and refuse the pension; whether it is the practice of the Ministry to reject the findings of its own medical boards without expert medical advice obtained after a fresh examination? and whether any further medical examination was made before the case was submitted to the appeal tribunal?

This man was discharged from the Army early in 1915. It was not till March, 1920, that he applied for a pension on account of varicose veins. The medical board which examined him said that the disability had been aggravated by service, but added, "it is not clear if the present degree of disablement is due to aggravation from service or post-demobilisation." The Ministry had to consider all the relevant facts before granting pension. They rejected the claim, and their rejection has been upheld by the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. whose decision is, by Act of Parliament, declared to be final. I may remind my hon. Friend that entitlement to pension is not solely a medical question, a fact which has been recognised by Parliament in the composite character of the statutory tribunals by whom appeals against rejection are heard and decided.

I did not quite catch the answer. Did the medical board which examined the man find definitely that his disablement had been aggravated by service, although it was uncertain to what degree the aggravation amounted?

There is a distinction between assessment of pension and entitlement. It is no part of a medical board's duty to consider the question of entitlement; its duty is to assess.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that I did not ask any question about entitlement at all? I asked merely whether the board did find, as a matter of fact, that the man's disablement was aggravated by service?

My hon. Friend could not have heard my answer. I said that the medical board which examined the man said that the disability had been aggravated by service, but added "it is not clear if the present degree of disablement is due to aggravation from service or post-demobilisation."

Hong Kong (Treatment Of Children)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has yet received any report from the Commission set up in Hong Kong in reference to the system of mui tsai; and, if not, when he expects to receive a report?

I presume my hon. and gallant Friend refers to the Commission recently set up by the Governor to enquire into the industrial employment of children in Hong Kong and which bears no special reference to muit sai. Its report has not yet been received, but I understand that it should be available shortly.

Is there any intention whatever of moving in reference to muit sai in Hong Kong? Surely the buying and selling of children under the British flag ought to be abolished?

If I have heard my hon. and gallant Friend rightly I do not think he could have appreciated what I said in my reply, which was that the question into which the Commission was to inquire had no reference to the question of muit sai, on which, as he knows, there is a great deal to be said.

Proletarian Sunday Schools


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the seditious doctrines taught in the proletarian Sunday schools, which undermine the youth and adults of this country by the teaching of revolution, rebellion to the Crown, and such teachings as that Christ is a failure; whether there is any legislation under which these schools may be closed; and, if not, whether the Government will consider the desirability of introducing legislation which will enable them to do so and abolish this source of danger to the Constitution?

My attention has been drawn to the existence of such schools. There is no power to close them, and I am afraid I cannot hold out any hope that legislation will be undertaken.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in these schools ethical doctrines are taught as sound as any doctrine could be?

In view of the teaching in these schools, does the right hon. Gentleman not think it is important to have a special branch of the police to deal with them?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the songs sung in these Sunday schools is, "England, arise!"

Police Court Clerks (Press Commun Ications)


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that on a recent occasion the chief clerk of a Metropolitan Police Court communicated to the newspaper Press, in his official capacity, on a controversial matter such as licensing hours and drunkenness; and can he take any steps to stop such practices?

I am making inquiries, and will communicate further with the hon. Member.

Police Pensions


asked the Home Secretary whether a person who served during the War in a police force attached to a Government munition factory would be entitled to reckon such service as approved service for pension under Section 10 (iii) of the Police Pensions Act, 1921?

Weymouth Institute

asked the Home Secretary whether he will have a full inquiry conducted by non-official people into the management and conduct of the new Weymouth Institute, alias Portland Prison, where the boy Bucking ham committed suicide and other attempted escapes have occurred?

The Medical Inspector of Prisons and Dr. Pearson, who has special experience of Borstal inmates, visited the Portland Institution last week, and, in consultation with the Visiting Committee, inquired into the arrangements of the institute and the medical care and treatment of the inmates. I hope to have their report shortly. I also hope to visit the institution very shortly with my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. I will then consider whether any further inquiry is necessary.

In view of these two suicides—I understand since my question was put down there has been another case—and the number of attempts to escape from this institution, would it not be possible to have an independent inquiry?

I have told the hon. and gallant Member I intend to visit the institution, and I will consider whether it is necessary to have an inquiry. As far as the attempted escapes are concerned. I do not attach great importance to them. Our system is to give the boys a great deal of freedom in order to try to develop their sense of honour, and, of course, you will get cases of attempted escapes. As to the cases of suicide, that, of course, is an entirely different matter.

Can you combine the Borstal system, which is intended to give a certain amount of liberty, with Portland Prison, which was established and organised for quite other purposes?

Yes. The girls have been most successful in the Ailesbury Convict Prison for some time.

Disturbances (London)


asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to the fact that a ticket meeting under the auspices of the British Empire Union, held at the Central Hall, Westminster, on the 28th October, was broken up by a Communist and Sinn Fein mob who gained admission by forged tickets, the principal speaker, the Earl of Derby, being howled down and prevented from speaking, while German stink-bombs were thrown among the audience, the platform being ultimately stormed and the Union Jack torn down and trampled on to the accompaniment of the singing of rebel songs; whether any of those who broke up the meeting have been apprehended by the police; whether he is taking any action to prevent law-abiding citizens from being attacked by seditious mobs; and whether it is with his approval that the Sinn Fein flag receives police protection in London but not the Union Jack?

It was understood that admission to this meeting was to be by ticket only, but a party of police patrolled outside and was augmented at 8 p.m. At 8.50 p.m. the officer in charge was informed by the Secretary to the Central Hall authorities that men inside the building were attempting to storm the platform and damage the flags, and he feared that some persons would be assaulted. The officer in charge immediately entered the building with his force of police, ejected the ringleaders, and the others left. No persons were arrested. The duties of the police are confined to entering a building when called upon to prevent breaches of the peace, or to arrest persons charged with offences for which there is power to arrest. The police take action in the streets to prevent law-abiding citizens being attacked, whether by seditious mobs or any other person. The suggestion at the end of the question is unfounded.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain then, why a man was recently arrested in Whitehall for seizing a Sinn Fein flag and no one was arrested when the police were called into this hall where a mob was engaged in tearing down and trampling underfoot the Union Jack?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is a fact, that the followers of the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) a short time ago, entered a public hall where a labour meeting was being held and mobbed the meeting and assaulted the speakers with the approval of the hon. Member and his friends?


asked the Home Secretary whether the police have carried out any investigation to ascertain who was responsible for the recent encounter between the police and the unemployed in Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus, and as to who was responsible for breaking up the recent meeting of the British Empire Union at the Central Hall; if so, with what result; do their investigations disclose the payment to certain individuals of sums of money to produce these results; and, if so, from what sources, both in these and other cases?

The Commissioner of Police is of opinion that the disturbance in Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus was a spontaneous outbreak on the part of the procession when they learned they would not he allowed to proceed to Trafalgar Square to hold a meeting. I have dealt in reply to a previous question with the disturbance in the Central Hall. The police believe that that disturbance was engineered by Communists, but they have no evidence of what particular person or persons were responsible, or of the payment of money to any persons.

What is the use of keeping up this expensive Department?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was publicly stated in the Press that aliens were responsible for the encounters in Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus, and also for what took place in the Central Hall, and has he any evidence to substantiate that?

What is the use of this expensive Department if it cannot prevent occurrences of this sort?

St Andrews Mental Hospital (Northampton)


asked the Home Secretary whether it has been brought to his notice that the Lunacy Board of Control have been informed of allegations made against the administration of St. Andrew's Mental Hospital, Northampton; and whether, in face of the fact that the general public are at present much exercised about the management of mental hospitals, particularly private ones, he will order a very strict inquiry to be made into the matter?

A number of complaints have been made to the Board of Control as to the dismissal from this institution of certain officers, and in connection with these some general allegations have been made in regard to administration. The Board have informed the complainants that they have no power to intervene between the Committee and their servants, but that they would give careful consideration to any complaints as to the treatment of patients which might be brought before them. The hospital was visited and thoroughly inspected by two commissioners on the 16th and 17th May last, and they reported that the institution continued to be very well maintained, that all the patients were seen and were found to be properly and kindly cared for.

Police (Waterproof Suits)


asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider providing police constables on point duty with white overalls or oilskins, such as are worn in certain cities in the country?

An improved waterproof suit is being introduced for the use of men on point duty in wet weather. White overalls are not considered suitable for point duty under the conditions of London traffic.

Before coming to a final decision in the matter, will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into what is done in the City of Manchester, for instance? I understand the police there wear white overalls when on point duty.

May we not have exemption of Members of Parliament for overrunning people?