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Ministry Of Pensions

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 31 May 1949

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Attributability Certificates

2.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he intends to issue a certificate of attributability to service under the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, in the case of the death of Private K. J. Mather, details of which were communicated to him by the hon. Member for Stafford on 3rd May.

As my right hon. Friend informed the hon. Member on 18th May, in the event of proceedings against the Crown in respect of the death of Private K. J. Mather being instituted, my right hon. Friend is prepared to issue, in accordance with Section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, a certificate that death will be treated as attributable to service for the purposes of eligibility to make a claim for an award under Article 37 of the Royal Warrant of 24th May, 1949.

Has my hon. Friend carefully considered what was stated at the inquest in connection with this fatal accident? Is he aware that the coroner found that there was some negligence on the part of an individual and on the part of the authorities which resulted in the tragic death of Private Mather? Is it right that this certificate should be issued exempting the Crown from any action?

3.

asked the Minister of Pensions to what extent when he decides whether to issue a certificate of attributability to service under the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, in the case of the death of soldier, sailor or airman, he takes into account the question of negligence on the part of an individual or on the part of the authorities.

When deciding whether to issue a certificate of attributability to service under the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, in the case of the death of a soldier, sailor or airman, my right hon. Friend does not take into account the question of negligence on the part of an individual or on the part of the authorities. Such a question is not relevant.

Is not my hon. Friend aware that it was part of the intention of the Crown Proceedings Act to put the Crown in the same position as any other employer, and to restore to citizens their common law rights? Where negligence is involved resulting in a fatal accident which cannot be considered as a normal risk of military life, surely it is right that the citizen should have these common law rights?

We are governed by the provisions of the Section of the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, which I have quoted, and if we are asked to decide on attributability that is all that we have to decide; negligence or otherwise does not enter into the matter.

Can my hon. Friend say that the fatal accident in which Private Mather was involved, for example, was a normal risk of military life, or does he automatically issue certificates of attributability to service in the case of a fatal accident in the Forces?

The question which we have to decide is whether the man was engaged in the pursuit of his ordinary duties. That is the obligation placed upon us by the Crown Proceedings Act.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Artificial Limbs

4.

asked the Minister of Pensions what proportion of the applications outstanding for artificial limbs is from war pensioners resident in this country, civilians resident in this country and visitors to this country, respectively.

Fifteen per cent. of the outstanding orders for artificial limbs are in respect of war pensioners resident in this country: about 85 per cent. relate to National Health Service patients. The proportion relating to visitors to this country is negligible; my Department has details of only six such cases.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary give an assurance that foreigners are at the bottom of the list of outstanding applications?

All these cases are dealt with in accordance with the advice of our medical advisers. As I have said, we have knowledge of only six cases of foreigners who have applied for artificial limbs. One was the case of a French trawler hand who had an accident at sea off the English coast and was taken ashore at Plymouth. He received hospital treatment and was ordered a limb under the National Health scheme. The Ministry of Health were approached on the question and confirmed that a limb could be supplied. I should point out that we only act as agents for the Ministry of Health so far as these limbs are concerned.

5.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether all applications for a first artificial limb enjoy priority over applications for a spare one.

Disabled Persons (Motor Cars)

6.

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he intends to implement his promise made by letter, dated 16th August, 1948, to supply a low-powered motor car to a disabled ex-Service man, whose name and particulars have been supplied to him.

As the number of cars available is restricted and the number of applications from more seriously disabled pensioners has been higher than anticipated, I regret that it is impossible to say whether a car will be available for this pensioner. In the meantime, however, he can be supplied with a motor-propelled tricycle if he so desires.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that on 16th August last his chief regional officer gave a definite promise to this man that a low-powered car would be provided? Relying on that promise this man made his arrangements accordingly, including taking a course in driving. Does the Parliamentary Secretary's answer mean that his Department does not intend to honour its undertaking?

The man certainly received a circular from the Ministry saying that he would be supplied with a car in lieu of his motor-propelled tricycle. Actually he has not a motor-propelled tricycle; he has refused one. In announceing to the House the provision of motor cars, the Minister pointed out that a number of cars not exceeding 1,500 would be made available, and that certain classes were established based on the need and the degree of disability. The man in question comes in the fourth class, and to give him preference over those more seriously disabled is something we could not consider at the moment.

How many applications from ex-Service men are outstanding in these categories?

The answer of the Parliamentary Secretary did not deal with the gravamen of the complaint—that a definite promise was made. Will the Parliamentary Secretary state whether it is right that a Government Department should repudiate a promise made to a seriously disabled man?

We deny that a definite promise was made. A circular was sent out saying that he would be supplied with a car; that there were certain categories and that the more seriously disabled people would have priority. We are not saying now that he will not receive a car. All we are saying is that he cannot receive a car at the moment until we see how many applications we get from the people in the higher categories.

On a point of Order. In view of the attempt of the Department to evade a promise definitely made, a copy of which I hold in my hand, I propose to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.