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War Pensions

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if his attention has been drawn to the inadequacy of the war disablement pension, particularly for those who are in receipt of the 100 per cent, pension and for war widows; and what are now the prospects of raising such pensions.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance
(Brigadier J. G. Smyth)

There is nothing I can usefully add to what I said on this subject in the debate on the Adjournment on 8th February and in reply to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) on 5th April.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman not aware that there is wide discontent amongst branches of the British Legion and generally among disabled ex-Service men, and does he not think it is time for action to be taken to raise the pension rates to increase the pensioners' purchasing power?

I am aware, of course, that a pensions campaign has been in progress. I would remind the hon. Gentleman of what I said on 8th February:

"My right hon. Friend sincerely hopes that during the life of the present Government our national situation will improve to such an extent that it may become possible to do something more for war pensioners and their dependants."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February. 1954; Vol. 523, c. 972.]
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said on 12th April:
"It must not be thought that because a particular reform is not in the Budget it is therefore not in the mind of the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 918.]

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that a few days ago the annual conference of B.L.E.S.M.A.—the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association—a moderate and modest body, expressed disappointment that the Government have not met the claims, which have received support from both sides of the House? Cannot the Minister do something now instead of waiting for the quinquennial review?

I am aware, of course, that the purchasing value of the 100 per cent, pension is only 4s. 6d. a week more now than it was when the Government took office in October, 1951. My right hon. Friend has that point very much in mind.

Will my hon. and gallant Friend bear in mind that there is a very considerable measure of support for this plea on both sides of the House, and will he once again look into the possibility of ensuring at least that the battle casualties receive complete priority over everybody else?