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War Pensions

Volume 649: debated on Monday 20 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will give the total number of applications during the last 10 years for pensions by widows of disabled 1914–18 war Service men, and the percentage of successful applicants.

About 18,500, of which some 37 per cent. were successful.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that this is a very small percentage out of the total? Would he consider some further machinery to make applications more simple? Is he aware that war widows claiming under the Royal Warrant, 1919, Article 17 (a), and trying to show that the war injuries of the deceased materially hastened death, have no appeal from his Ministry's decision? Would he consider allowing some sort of appeal after this period of time, or, alternatively, in cases where the deceased suffered from a 50 per cent. war disability, granting the pension automatically?

I do not think that the figures show a low percentage when one remembers that one is now dealing with deaths which have taken place at least 43 years after the receipt of injury and when the people concerned are in an age group in which inevitably there is a high death-rate from the ordinary causes of death in that age group. As for a formal appeal, while it may be argued that it would have been a good thing if that had been introduced at the start, it is not practical to job back and do that now.

Is the Minister aware that unsuccessful applicants for war widows' pensions are women who have devoted the best part of their lives to caring for almost totally disabled war heroes? Does not that simple fact mean that the question of eligibility wants looking into again?

I do not think so. If eligibility for war widows' pension is to have the priority and preferential rate which I am determined to preserve, the deaths must have some connection with war service. The hon. Member, I know, will recall that although in many of these pathetic cases to which he refers it is necessary because the death had nothing to do with war service to refuse war pension, this does not mean that the widow is denied the benefit of other provisions in our social services, and ill the overwhelming number of cases such provision is made.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the numbers of 1914 to 1918 war pensioners who have died during the past twelve months, their average age at date of death, the numbers of them who left widows, and the numbers of those widows who qualified for a war widows' pension.

In the twelve months to 31st March, 1961, 12,763 disablement pensioners of the 1914–18 War died, their average age at the date of death being about 71 years. Of these, 7,728 left widows. In the same period 596 awards of pension were made to widows of the 1914–18 War.

Is the Minister aware that we appreciate his sympathetic consideration for all the problems affecting war-disabled pensioners? But will he look again at the possibility of including as a war widow a woman who has cared for her husband who has been totally unemployable and has had to have constant attendance throughout his life but who does not get the war widow's pension because the cause of death cannot be directly attributed to war wounds?

That is the type of widow for whom I and, I am sure, all hon. Members have the greatest possible sympathy. I should like to be able to do something additional for her, but I am quite sure that that something ought not to be to treat her as a war widow when in fact she is not one. If one erodes the doctrine of direct causation between war injuries and death or disablement, one is getting on the slippery slope which will deprive the war pensioner of his preference, and that I am determined to resist.


asked the Minister of Pensioners and National Insurance if he is aware that the accumulated effects of severe disabilities are factors contributing to the onset of cardio-vascular disorder; and whether he will state the numbers of war pensioners of the 1914 to 1918 war who have died as a result of cardiovascular disorder during the past twelve months, showing those numbers according to the assessment of war pension in payment prior to demise together with the numbers of such cases in which war widows' pensions were granted.

The hon Member will be no doubt aware that the medical theory expressed in the earlier part of his Question received no support from the expert Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Ernest Rock Carling, which reported in 1954. I am afraid that the figures asked for in the second part of the Question are not available.

Is the Minister aware that ex-Service men's associations and especially B.L.E.S.M.A. are anxious now about the number of limbless, amputees and other war disabled who died of cardiovascular diseases, and will he consider the question of setting up again a similar committee to the Rock Carling Committee to examine this question and report in the same way as did the Rock Carling Committee? It would be a comfort to the ex-Service men, who are very anxious about this question.

I know that there is anxiety on this question and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, that the medical views thrashed out before the Rock Carling Committee give little, if any, support to it. I will certainly consider what the hon. Gentleman has said, but it is in fact only seven years since this very expert Committee composed of very high level medical men reported, and I am bound to say that I am rather doubtful whether any purpose, perhaps other than the raising of false hopes, would be helped by setting up another such committee; but I am perfectly prepared to consider it.