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Armed Forces (Pensions And Grants)

Volume 390: debated on Thursday 3 June 1943

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asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that, under the present provisions for pensions and allowances for the widows and children of deceased members of His Majesty's Forces, these dependants may be reduced on the termination of war service grant, especially in areas where rents are high, to a standard of living far below that deemed proper during the life of the deceased man; and whether he will consider as an urgent matter the application of the minimum unit standard of 18s. in such cases?

The question raised by my hon. and learned Friend is among the matters which I am examining following the Debate in this House on 23rd March last.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not prepared to say that it is an urgent matter to ensure that these widows, who may be bearing another child or may be bringing up a number of children and may be quite unable to work, are assured of a minimum standard?

This and many other matters mentioned in the Debate are indeed matters of importance. I am doing my best to get down to the consideration of all of them so that I can make a comprehensive statement to the House.

My right hon. Friend says that it is a matter of importance; is he not prepared to say it is a matter of urgency?

In view of the fact that a war service grant is given to a wife in order to bring her up to a minimum level of subsistence, will my right hon. Friend inquire into the reasons why, as soon as a wife becomes a widow, her pension automatically reduces her income below the Minister's own standard of minimum subsistence?

My hon. and gallant Friend is behind the times; I am considering that and have been doing so for some time.

Does not the present position leave these women below the standard which will be achieved for civilian widows under the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill?


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider the introduction of the principle of ante-natal allowances in the case of posthumous births on the lines already applied by the Service Departments in the case of births during the father's life?

I am glad to have the opportunity of stating that from the outset of the scheme my Department has paid a pre-natal allowance to a widow in receipt of a pension in any case where the pre-natal allowance period began after the termination of the period for which pay and allowances are continued by the Service Departments. Payment is made by the Service Departments in any case where the pre-natal allowance period begins whilst Service pay and allowances are still in issue.

Can my right hon. Friend say why, as many months have elapsed since the Services adopted this principle, his Department have not announced their adoption of the principle?


asked the Minister of Pensions the maximum amount of pension now awardable to a parent, or to parents, respectively, in respect of the death on active service of a private soldier son in respect of whom dependency is established; and the date of the Warrant fixing these amounts?

Under the Royal Warrant of 12th January, 1943, the maximum pension awardable to one parent is 16s. 6d. and to two parents 19s.

Arising out of this disclosure, does my right hon. Friend think these meagre figures are in any way related to the reasonable considerations of compensation for dependency? Will he not merely consider the matter but take steps to put an end to this shocking rate of pension?

This is also a matter which is being fully considered by my Advisory Committee.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Could you make an appeal to Members to speak up instead of whispering?

Is the Minister also reviewing the case of a mother whose son has been making an allotment but now receives no pension at all?

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the time has gone by for consideration and that the time has now come for some action?

During the recent Debate 14 propositions were put to me by Members who regarded them as being equally as important as the question which my hon. and gallant Friend has just put to me. I have already stated that it would be far better that I should come forward with a comprehensive scheme dealing with all these matters.

When will my right hon. Friend be in a position to make an announcement?

I do not take the hon. Member's example. I will make an announcement as soon as it is possible to do so.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware of the case of the late Lieutenant E. McPherson, Royal Naval Reserve; that this officer was twice torpedoed and then developed a nervous condition due to the torpedoing and later a disability which proved fatal; that his widow and orphans are entirely without means; and will he reconsider his refusal to grant a Service pension?

As I have explained to the hon. Member, Mr. McPherson's death was due to a malignant disease of the abdomen which I am advised was neither caused nor influenced in its pro- gress by the officer's war experiences. In these circumstances, I regret, therefore, that a pension cannot be awarded to Mrs. McPherson.

Can the right hon. Gentleman really justify that statement to this House after the advice which has been given to him, namely, that this man's death was completely unconnected with the Service, seeing that he was twice torpedoed, that he was subjected to an operation under Service conditions, and that he was, in fact, accepted as A.I when he went into the Navy?

This is a case of cancer. I have consulted my medical advisers and other medical experts, not merely on this particular case, but on the general question of this disease, many times. The advice given to me is that this officer's death cannot be ascribed to war service. Mrs. McPherson will have an opportunity now of presenting her case to an appeal tribunal, and we shall get a decision from someone outside the Ministry.

In the meantime will not the Minister temporarily reconsider his decision, because the widow and children are now completely dependent upon charity?

The hon. Membér is a little impatient. He asked me to answer when I was getting up to do so. I am always courteous to the House, and I hope Members will be courteous to me. In reply to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes), I will go carefully into this matter, but I must repeat that the advice which has been given to me up to now is that deaths from cancer have nothing to do with war service.

Will the Minister reconsider the whole question of cancer, because it is constantly used as an excuse and a reason for escaping liability by the Ministry?

We shall have an opportunity shortly, now that tribunals are set up, of having this matter determined outside my Department or my advisers. In the meantime I will see what can possibly be done in this case.

Is the Minister not aware that the country is becoming impatient about cases similar to this where something is done only after pressure? There is a deep-rooted impression that, the men in the Minister's Department are using their skill and ingenuity to cheat these men.

I have travelled widely and extensively, interviewing war pensions committees and branches of the British Legion throughout the country—I have just returned from an extensive tour of Scotland—and I do not agree at all with the view that has been expressed by the hon. Member.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can inform the House as to the number of cases of members of the Forces, who have been discharged from the Forces owing to disability, who have made application for pensions and whose claim has been rejected; and what percentage of such rejection have been psycho-neurosis cases?

I regret that it would not be in the public interest to give the figures asked for in the first part of the Question. As regards the second part, the percentage is about 17.


asked the Minister of Pensions the number of meetings held by his Central Advisory Committee during 1943; and the matters submitted to the Committee for their advice?

The Committee have held three meetings, and in addition there were three meetings of a subcommittee. The following matters have been put before them for consideration:

Pensions Appeal Tribunals and related issues;

Position of widows on cessation of service allowances and War Service Grants;

Parents' Pensions;

Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider the granting of family allowances to disabled ex-Service men who marry, after becoming disabled, in cases where there is definite proof that a contract to marry was entered into before the date of disablement?

The granting of family allowances to disabled men who marry after receipt of their disability is a matter which I have already promised to bring before my Central Advisory Committee.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has yet any announcement to make with regard to improvements to the Royal Warrant for Pensions as a result of the views expressed and representations made to him?

No, Sir, I have not yet completed my consideration of all the various matters affecting the Royal Warrant which have been represented to me.

In addition to the matters brought forward in the Debate and representations which have been made to me from various organisations representing ex-Service men, I have received a suggestion from the British Legion in Scotland which is of a fundamental and drastic nature, and I felt it my duty to consider that suggestion along with the others before making a clear statement to this House. I have been to Scotland for interviews, and I am going on with my investigation.

Would not the Minister consider working on the principle of "Fit for service, fit for pension"?

In view of the fundamental changes in the administration of the Pensions Warrant suggested by the British Legion in Scotland, does the Minister intend to hold up his proposals until he has given complete consideration to their views?

It is not a question of administration. The suggestions made by the British Legion in Scotland deal with a principle which goes to the root of the matter, and I feel that I ought to give it due consideration before making a statement.