asked the Minister of Pensions why he refuses to meet the account of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society for the funeral expenses of a Streatham soldier who died of tuberculosis at Ventnor after long service in France and the Middle East.
As I have explained in correspondence with the hon. Member, a payment has already been made to the undertakers on behalf of the relatives in accordance with the scale approved for those cases in which the responsibility for funeral arrangements is assumed by the family.
Is it not a fact that the arrangements made for this funeral, comprising a motor hearse and one coach, could not be reduced, and is not the scale quite inadequate if it does not meet these reasonable expenses? Is it not his duty to get powers to improve the scale?
My Ministry undertake to convey the body from the hospital where the person has died to the person's home town, and then to carry out all the funeral arrangements, without any cost to the relatives. If the relatives object to this, and undertake to do it themselves, and run up a very extravagant bill, it would not be fair to pay out of public funds that amount. But we are quite prepared to deal with the arrangements ourselves.
What were the reasonable expenses charged by this co-operative society?
The bill from the society amounted to £40 0s. IId. According to my Regulations, we were able to pay £16 18s., which we have paid.
asked the Minister of Pensions why a totally disabled captain of the last war receives £30 a year less pension than a captain of the present war suffering the same disability; and will he take steps to make the pensions the same for all ranks for both wars?
The increased rate payable in respect of the present war arises from a change in classification which originated after the end of the Great War, and I could not agree that it should be extended to officers whose war service had already terminated before the change was introduced.
In view of the dissatisfaction which this matter has caused, does my right hon. Friend not think that this is one of a number of anomalies which might very well be considered by a Select Committee of this House?
No, Sir. It was one of the anomalies which existed before, and which we tried to remedy that caused the further anomaly.
It does not matter how it arose; we want to put it right now.
We have put it right.
asked the Minister of Pensions whether the concession abolishing the need qualification for the award of family allowances with disability retired pay, granted to officers disabled in the present war, can be extended to officers of the Great War?
I am glad to be able to tell the hon. and gallant Member that I have now obtained authority to pay family allowances in addition to the normal disability retired pay of officers of the Great War without the test of pecuniary need hitherto required. The allowances will be at the same rates as for officers of the present war, and will be subject to the usual condition that marriage took place before disablement except where the officer is seriously disabled and in receipt of the unemployable supplement. The new arrangement will operate as from the beginning of the present month. Cases will be considered on application, as my Department usually has no information as to an officer's family. The change will not apply to the small group of officers of the Great War in receipt of special rates of disability retired pay which have no counterpart in the present regulations.
Are any special steps being taken to give publicity to the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made?
I thought it to be my duty to announce this to the House of Commons first, and I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall make every endeavour to make it known throughout the country.