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Armed Forces And Civilians (Pensions And Grants)

Volume 390: debated on Thursday 8 July 1943

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52.

asked the Minister of Pensions when he will be in a position to announce the removal of the anomaly which does not permit a man who has earned a service pension to draw it in full and at the same time receive any full disablement award to which he may be entitled under a new contract of service?

This is one of the matters which are under consideration and to which I shall refer in the general statement I am shortly to make to the House on war pensions.

53.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will include in his review of the pensions problem the case of the retired officers whose pensions were reduced in 1932 and have never been revalued and who are enduring hardship as a result of the costs and conditions of living at the present time?

54.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether in considering his new White Pacer on Pensions he will take into account the restoration of the to per cent. reduction from officers' Service retired pay made in 1934–35?

The Service pensions to which the Questions refer are outside the scope of my review, as this is necessarily concerned only with the war pensions for which my Department is responsible. I would, however, refer my hon. Friends to the reply given to the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) on 4th August, 1942, by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Why is it that retired officers are always treated as the Cinderellas of all the pensioners? They have no trade union and no organisations, and will not the Minister support them?

These pensions have nothing whatever to do with my Department. This question has not been put to me at all.

Cannot the right hon. Gentleman suggest to the Government that all classes of pension should be brought under one Departmental Minister? Cannot he make that suggestion?

55.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has any statement to make as to the future policy of his Department arising from his interview with representatives of the British Legion on 2nd July?

The various matters raised by the British Legion at the interview referred to will be covered in the general statement on war pensions which I am to make to the House.

Is it not a fact that the British Legion delegation, like this House—I am speaking about the right hon. Gentleman's past policy—told the Minister where he got off?

No, Sir. I am glad to say that the British Legion delegation paid me a great compliment.

Can the Minister say whether, when discussing the matter with the British Legion, the question of service in wars prior to the present war was asked to be taken into consideration and to be reviewed?

Did the British Legion in their interview take a different line from that which they had taken at their conference in their criticism of the Minister?

No, Sir. If the hon. Member will read the report of the British Legion Conference, he will find that the President of the British Legion paid a compliment to me for my past work but expected me to do much better in the future, and one delegate in the body of the hall did cry out, "Let's get rid of Womersley."

Will the right hon. Gentleman establish a precedent among Ministers and let the House of Commons know of his proposals first of all before the Press hear of them?

I have been very jealous about that, and if the hon. Member had read reports of speeches I have had to make in the country where I have been pressed to make a statement, he would have seen that I said, "No; if I make a statement I shall be like King Charles—the House of Commons will have my head off." So I have not made any statement myself, and neither has my staff.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make an end of all this bickering by letting the Labour Party have his job?

56.

asked the Minister of Pensions how many pensions to dependants of men in the Armed Forces, who have been killed or who have died as a result of accidents, have been refused on the grounds that the accident did not happen whilst they were on duty?

I regret that the records of my Department do not enable me to furnish the information asked for.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether these cases will be eligible for review if and when the pensions tribunal is established?

57.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, when a claim for pension is rejected by his Department, in respect of a member of His Majesty's Forces discharged as medically unfit on the grounds that the disability was not caused or aggravated by war service, and that there is reason to believe that he should never have been passed into the Forces, in what way and with what results these facts are brought to the attention of those members of medical boards responsible?

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service informed the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Touche) on 1st October, 1942, when a person is discharged from one of the Services on medical grounds the facts are reported to his Department if there appear to be grounds for thinking that the civilian medical board made an error in grading which could have been avoided. If his medical advisers agree that there may have been an avoidable error, the case is brought to the attention of the board concerned. It will thus be apparent that no automatic action on my part is necessary but if a case presenting unusual features or involving points of difficulty arose I should certainly bring it to the notice of my right hon. Friend.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is anomalous that the Minister of Labour and National Service pays doctors for passing men into the Forces and then his Department pays other doctors to declare that they are not fit for service, and does it not follow therefore that the obligations are on his Department because of the lack of medical attention by the boards when they passed these men?

There was a good deal of justifiable complaint about the medical boards and their actions in the early part of the war, and I am glad to say that because of a very definite tightening up in the cases where men have been enlisted I have not had any complaints at all in the last 12 months.

Is the Minister aware that I have had the case brought to my attention of a man who joined the Army three months ago and has been sick ever since and who has now been sent back to his unit to start training?

If the hon. Member calls the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service to that case at once, I have no doubt it will be attended to.

58.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, when disclosing the promised modifications in the Royal Warrant on Pensions, he will publish in the White Paper the difference between the new proposals, the 1939–43 proposals and the practice in the first great war?

The White Paper will naturally give a general indication of the difference between the new provisions proposed by the Government, and those previously in force, but I do not think it would be practicable or helpful to Members to introduce a large amount of detailed comparison.

Would it not be an advantage to show how mothers and parents are treated to-day as compared with their treatment in the last war?

The hon. Member had better await the White Paper, and then he will see for himself.

With a view to enabling all concerned to come to full conclusions on all the facts, would the Minister consider seriously putting into the White Paper a brief note of the Dominion codes, showing the rates and the special allowances and the conditions under which they are paid?

If I did that, should also have to give a full list of the cost-of-living figures in the various Dominions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because pensioners are naturally concerned with the question of the cost of living.

Is the Minister aware that Members can judge the question of the cost of living and the rates, but the conditions are very important?

Would there be any insuperable difficulty in doing what the hon. and gallant Member has suggested?

Ever since I have been a Member of this House it has always been held that a White Paper should be as informative as possible and not too long, because Members want really to understand thoroughly what the White Paper proposals really are. I am endeavouring in this particular question to give the fullest information to the House and to the country generally without making the whole thing so cumbrous that it will not achieve its purpose.