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Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 27 May 1943

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40.

asked the Minister of Pensions what advice he has given to the British Legion about their attitude towards the policy of trade unions representing their ex-Service men and women members on pension questions; and whether he will make a statement on the matter?

My right hon. Friend has not given, nor would he presume to give, advice to the British Legion as to their policy in this matter.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the "British Legion Journal" for May reports a speech by his right hon. Friend, in which he states that the British Legion should prevent trade unions from interfering with the question of pensions of ex-Service men and women? Will he look at that journal, and ask his right hon. Friend whether he is prepared to withdraw that statement?

My attention has been called to that report, and I can give the assurance that it was never intended to apply to trade unions as understood by my hon. Friend. It was intended to apply to ex- Service associations catering for these people.

Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend, when making speeches on such occasions, to make his meaning more clear?

41.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will reimburse claimants for pensions for the expenses they incur in obtaining medical certificates or other evidence to satisfy his Ministry's inquiries or to prove their cases before the forthcoming appeal tribunals?

No, Sir, my right hon. Friend is unable to undertake to reimburse claimants for these expenses.

Will the hon. Gentleman represent to the Minister that it ought not to cost an old soldier money to sustain his claim and to bring the necessary evidence?

I will represent that to my right hon. Friend. But we do not find that there is any difficulty in getting these statements, particularly from a man's own doctor.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is because the doctor, being in sympathy, nearly always gives his services free? There is no reason why the doctors should have to do so, though I hope they will go on doing it until such expenses are allowed.

Can we have an assurance that when the necessity of obtaining such evidence has caused additional expense, that expense will be met?

42.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the fact that the legal presumption in pension claims before appeal tribunals is that the State is not liable until the contrary is proved, he will insert a Clause in his forthcoming Bill which will ensure that the tribunals to be set up to judge the cases of this war shall give the benefit of reasonable doubt to the claimants?

My right hon. Friend does not accept the premise on which this Question is based, as the terms of the pensions instruments are sufficiently wide to enable the benefit of any reasonable doubt to be given to the claimant. The tribunal will be required, in the same way as the Ministry, to have regard to the terms of the pensions instruments, so far as they relate to the issue before the Tribunal.

In view of the fact that there is grave uncertainty where the presumption lies, would not the Minister take advantage of forthcoming legislation to make it clear?

The answer already deals with that, where it says:

"The terms of the pensions instruments are sufficiently wide to enable the benefit of any reasonable doubt to be given to the claimant."

Is not this a question of interpretation, and is my hon. Friend aware that up to date the interpretation has not been read in the way that my hon. and gallant Friend asks the question?

Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance on this matter that the presumption shall be upon the Minister?

If the benefit of the doubt is already there, as already indicated, I see no necessity for giving an assurance on this matter.

But will not the hon. Member agree to make it perfectly clear, as it is not so at present?