Orders of the Day — Ministry of Pensions.

– in the House of Commons on 31st July 1919.

Alert me about debates like this

[Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]

Question again proposed, 3. That a sum, not exceeding £45,855,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Pensions, and for sundry Contributions in respect of the Administration of the Ministry of Pensions Act, 1916." [NOTE.— £27,000,000 has been voted on account.]

8.0 P.M.

Photo of Sir Cyril Entwistle Sir Cyril Entwistle , Kingston upon Hull South West

When interrupted I was saying that although the improvement in the pension scales are very considerable they cannot be characterised as too generous, although they may be deemed as just as can be anticipated in the financial circumstances of the day. As regards the pensions as they exist to-day in reference to both single men and married men there is probably no country, except Italy, which pays a lower pension. I know in regard to single men that in the United States they had an elaborate war risk insurance scheme which made a complete difference to the parent scale. They also had a scale in Australia which gave a man with a wife a pension of as much as £3 a week. I must emphasise the point that, satisfactory as the changes are, they are by no means generous. I want next to raise the vexed question of statutory right. There is a good deal in. what the Minister has said that inasmuch as the right of appeal is included in the Statute that is all that matters, and that the demand for statutory right is largely one of sentiment. At the same time I agree with other speakers that this matter of sentiment is a very important thing. It is one which men think a great deal of. In regard to this question most Members of this House are pledged in favour of giving the statutory right. The Minister could easily concede the point without giving anything away, without any cost and without any trouble. The words which have been suggested by the Select Committee "legally entitled" could easily be inserted in the Act of Parliament, and if safeguards were taken to ensure that it shall not mean wholesale recourse to the Courts, and shall not involve tremendous machinery, there is no reason at all why the sentimental point should not be met in that way. The fact that the pension was given as a legal right could be made declaratory in a sense which would afford general satisfaction. We know that under the Royal Warrant the grant of a pension is as good as if it were contained in an Act of Parliament, Members of the House no doubt realise that, but ex-soldiers and the outside world have a feeling of uncertainty on the point. The Minister may not need to consult the Law Officers of the Grown in view of his own knowledge of the law, but if he will consult them I think he will find there need be no difficulty at all in inserting a provision which will satisfy everyone and which will be declaratory that the pension is a legal right to which the man is legally entitled. In many other countries—in New Zealand, France, and Canada for instance—it is a right declared by Statute, and in France it is so much so that there are various tribunals to which an applicant for a pension can go. First of all, he goes to the departmental tribunal. Afterwards he has n right of appeal to the Regional Court. He has also a right of appeal to the Conseil d'Etat. I do not think that is found to be at all impracticable.

In dealing with the statutory right, one necessarily has to consider the important question of the right of appeal, and also the question of entitlement. The only difference suggested by the Minister was a slight alteration in the constitution of the Appeal Tribunal. I prefer the constitution as it exists now, though I do not know that the proposed alteration is one of very great importance. What a good many of us feel in regard to this question of entitlement is that the point ought not to have to be gone into at all when a man contracts disease or is injured in the course of his service, whether the injury was developed or aggravated by the terms of his service. It has been suggested, and I fully sympathise with the suggestion, that if a man is accepted by the Army as A 1, at any rate, then any subsequent injury or disease which he contracts during his service shall be deemed to be attributable to or aggravated by that service. I should like to see this question of entitlement swept away altogether. I have had very short experience of the operations of one of these tribunals, and I must say that most tribunals give the benefit of the doubt to the man. An hon. Friend near me dissents from that view, but, at any rate, it is to be hoped that the tribunals will mitigate the harshness of this principle, and I further trust it will be acknowledged that if a man is accepted as A I then the question of entitlement shall not arise. I am not sure that I am not prepared to go as far as to include in the same provision C 3 category cases.

In regard to the question of appeal as to amount, that is a really contentious point. The right hon. Gentleman says the man will have a right to appeal to a medical Appeal Board, and that this board will be appointed by him. Apparently the whole advantage of this scheme is that these medical practitioners will be men at the hospitals readily accessible, so that it will not be difficult to set up an Appeal Court. I am prepared to accept that entirely, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will include in the Statute which he says he is going to pass as to the right of appeal, this question of entitlement? I think the right of appeal on amount, even to the tribunal he has himself suggested, ought to be included in this Statute, if really the man is to have that legal right to his pension which the right hon. Gentleman says he has given him by the announcement he made this afternoon. With regard to the question of the constitution of this medical Appeal Board, I will ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there will be any great difficulty in having a lay element introduced into it? I mean an ex-Service man whose wishes can be subordinated to those of the medical men. It would not be an expensive matter. The lay doctor could meet the convenience of the other members, and I do not think there would be any more delay if an ex-Service man were placed on the medical Appeal Board, while it would give a great deal of satisfaction and allay a great deal of suspicion with regard to that board. If the right hon. Gentleman will consider that point and make this very small concession, which could be done without any cost and without involving any delay, 1 think it would give a great deal of satisfaction.

The right hon. Gentleman did not deal with one point in the Report of this Select Committee which has, I think, a paragraph to itself. It is with regard to the man Being told at once when he has his first board what this assessment is, it may be, as the right hon. Gentleman said nothing on this point, he intends that this shall be done. I think it is a most important thing. What has happened in the past? A man has had an assessment of the amount of his disability. He has heard rumours as to the amount at which the disability has been assessed, and it may be that the rumors is inaccurate, but the amount may subsequently have been reviewed at Chelsea. We know, of course, that that review is now to be abolished. It may be when the man gets the official notice he will find that his assessment has not been altered, but, owing to the lack of official information up to that time, and to the rumours which have got in circulation, a, great deal of dissatisfaction and suspicion have already arisen on that matter. It is not a very important point, but one which the Minister might concede

There is another small point with regard to the sliding-scale adjustment which has been suggested by the Select Committee, and which the right hon. Gentleman said he was going to adopt, and that it would apply to alternative pensions. I should like to ask him how he proposes to adapt it with regard to alternative pensions? It cannot be quite on the same scale as the flat-rate pension, because if the cost of living falls 10 per cent, the flat-rate pension will fall 10 per cent. But as the alternative pension has merely been loaded up 60 per cent., if we can have the cost of living reduced by 40 per cent., I understand that, the loading up being only 60 per cent., the adjustment must be so made as to keep a stable proportion between the alternative pension and the flat-rate pension, which has been the basis, and personally I think that would be the more satisfactory basis. It has been mentioned that the present 20 per cent, bonus did not apply to pensions awarded before 1916. I was also informed the other day, to my great astonishment, that the 20 per cent, bonus did not apply to permanent pensions. I do not know whether that is correct. It was stated in a letter. The members of the Select Committee were very doubtful about it.

Photo of Mr Worthington Evans Mr Worthington Evans , Colchester

It does apply to the disability pension, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman may have had a letter with regard to the service pension, and it very probably was that.

Photo of Sir Cyril Entwistle Sir Cyril Entwistle , Kingston upon Hull South West

I appreciate that most important distinction, and we considered it. I do not see how it can possibly be so, but if there is anything in that point we ought to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that these proposed new scales will apply to permanent pensions, to pensions awarded before 1916, and in fact they should be applied proportionately to everything which is contained in the Barnes Warrant. An assurance on that point would be very useful to people who have some doubt on the matter.

I should like to emphasise the appeal made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Ashley) with regard to the date of pensions to dependants, say, a wife who was not in receipt of a separation allowance and had claimed a pension. There the pension only dates from the date of the application instead of from the date of death. That is a point on which there is considerable feeling. It is a very small matter which will apply to a very small number of cases, and the principle ought to be applied that the pension should be paid from the time that the right to it accrues. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to use all his influence with the War Office on the question of pay being continued until the pension is granted, and also with regard to the great delay there is in the papers being sent from the War Office, whether it is the Record Office with regard to the men or the various departments in the War Office with regard to officers. We had some very interesting evidence given by Sir Douglas Haig, and he mentioned half a dozen specific cases with regard to officers. Correspondence was produced with regard to those cases, and we found that in almost every case the delay was due to the War Office. It took an average of six weeks for the papers to get from the War Office to the Ministry of Pensions, and when we remember that the War Office, which is guilty of these excessive delays, refuses to give a man his pay until he receives his pension, we cannot emphasise too strongly the injustice and the grievance which is justly felt at this intolerable position taken up by the War Office. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will regard it as a personal matter, because he gets a good deal of the opprobrium which ought justly to be placed at the door of the War Office. I again thank the right hon. Gentleman for having accepted the recommendations of the Committee, which is merely a redemption of our pledges, and is merely just treatment to our soldiers and sailors, and by no means too generous.

Photo of Sir Charles Lyle Sir Charles Lyle , West Ham Stratford

Everyone who read the resume of this Committee must have felt the greatest satisfaction at the Report, and I am certain that all Members who have heard the statement of the Minister of Pensions will now feel doubly satisfied in that he has substantially accepted the proposals of the Select Committee. Most of the speakers have felt that the whole question to them was more or less one of the maximum allowance to be granted, and therefore most of them felt that their speeches had been, so to speak, snatched from their hands. While we are all grateful for the increases which have been granted, I do not think that is the only point that arises. What we all want to do is to remove the sense of injustice and grievance which some of these men certainly have. Perhaps the most important point of all is not so much the amount of money which may be granted as a maximum pension, although that is a very important point, but the way this whole scheme is going to be administered. A great amount of dissatisfaction has arisen over the way that the whole scheme of pensions has been administered. I do not wish to gain any cheap credit by advocating enormous expenditure. I know the burden of debt that hangs round the neck of the country, and I do not want rashly to suggest that it should be increased without full consideration. The right hon. Gentleman is giving very substantial increases, but what I have in mind more is the treatment of the medical boards. So many of these medical boards look upon their job more or less in the same way as the big insurance company doctor looks at his job. The point of view of the insurance doctor is to see how little he can give the men. It is his job to act for the insurance company and to try to make a total disablement into a two-thirds disablement, and a two-thirds disablement into a half disablement. Doctors are just as humane as anyone else, but they have got it into their heads that if there is a doubt the benefit of the doubt must not go to the man but must go to the other side. New ideas should be put into the heads of these medical boards. The men are entitled to liberal treatment, and if we err we should err on the side of being liberal rather than niggardly with these people. The feeling of dissatisfaction and soreness amongst these men is too big a matter to be played with, and from the point of view of expediency and of justice it is absolutely essential that there should be no feeling of soreness or harsh treatment left upon any of these men. Some of the methods are inquisitorial to say the least of it. I have known cases where men have come up to a medical board, and one of the first questions they have been asked is what wages they have been earning. It seems to me that is an absolutely wrong question to ask.

Photo of Mr Worthington Evans Mr Worthington Evans , Colchester

The hon. Member probably knows that question has been withdrawn. The men were always told they need not answer it unless they liked, but even then they allowed it to worry them, and now it is entirely withdrawn. No one has any right whatever to ask the question.

Photo of Sir Charles Lyle Sir Charles Lyle , West Ham Stratford

I am very glad to hear that statement. It will do good that such a statement has been made publicly in this House. Sometimes these doctors do ask this question, although they are not entitled to ask it, and although it is not with the sanction of the Ministry of Pensions.


Were they not originally ordered to ask the question?

Photo of Sir Charles Lyle Sir Charles Lyle , West Ham Stratford

If it is not to be allowed any more I am very pleased to hear it. We hear about certain bad employers exploiting men's pensions, and if a doctor or a board are allowed to ask a man what his wage is then in a similar way they are exploiting him in order to set his pension reduced, just as certain employers of labour have exploited men by giving them a lower wage because they were in receipt of pension. It is quite easy 10 criticise, but I do not wish to criticise in any unfriendly spirit. I am certain that the present Minister of Pensions and his assistants are all sympathetic. They have the interests of these men at heart as much as any one of us, and their interest; is second to none. We can only help by giving instances of the cases that come to our personal knowledge. Apart from the question of the Board and giving the men in every case the benefit of the doubt, there is the question of the war orphan. It is not a very big point, so far as numbers are concerned, but the position which arises is deplorable. There are in my own Constituency quite a number of war orphans who arc in Poor Law institutions. I have not the exact figures, because I was not able to get them, but it is a dreadful thing and nothing short of a calamity that the child of a man who has been out and has suffered and has been broken and finally has died in serving his country, should leave behind him a child who has to take refuge in a Poor Law institution. If that man had lived he would have seen that his child was in better circumstances, and he would have seen that it had a chance in life. Perhaps the child's whole future may be blighted by the father's death, and it is intolerable to every right-thinking man that because of the sacrifice this man has made his child has to suffer in this way. I asked a. question on this point on the 16th of July, and I had a most sympathetic answer from the Minister of Pension, who had also consulted with the Minister of Health; but a sympathetic answer is not enough. We must have definite and immediate action, and we must remove this scandal and this dishonour. It is a dishonour to the whole nation that this state of affairs should exist. Whatever the cost, the country will not begrudge it for a thing of this sort. There ought to be an institution set up in the country quickly in order to remedy this crying shame.

There is another point which I mentioned the other day by way of question, and that is burial charges. The charges in my own district for burial amount to 10 guineas, and all that is allowed by the Ministry of Pensions is £7 10s. I know the argument will be used that the Ministry of Pensions must be careful what they do with their money, and it must not be thought that they will pay increased charges to any extent or the unscrupulous undertaker will soon get more. But if the cost is really 10 guineas for a burial the full cost should be given to the widow or the relatives. In a certain case the local war pensions committee quite recently authorised the people to go ahead, although £7 10s. was all that was allowed, and they expected that the balance of the 10 guineas would be surcharged, but instead of that the money was deducted from the sum which was due to the widow. I am sure the Minister of Pensions will agree with me that such injustices very soon become something more than injustices; they become what is worse, a festering sore which irritates and inflames. A real injustice to a widow or a child of a man who has given his all for his country will do more in a day to create a revolution than all your Smillie's, your Henderson's, or your Maclean's could do in a whole year by windy, wordy vituperation. It is for that reason that with great confidence I put these cases before the Minister, and I hope that he will deal with them, par- ticularly the case of the war orphan, because that does create a most appalling sense of grievance. If he can remedy these grievances he will add yet another item to the debt of gratitude which we owe him.

Photo of Mr Frederick Thomson Mr Frederick Thomson , Aberdeen South

I endorse very heartily what has fallen from the hon. Member who has just spoken. There can be little doubt that nothing is more dangerous to this country than the feeling of reaction produced in the mind of a man who has done in every way what he could at a time of national crisis, if he feels that somehow or other his services have not been fully requited and his children have to suffer. The Ministry of Pensions are only too pleased when any cases are brought before their notice in which injustice has been suffered. I would like to add my tribute to what has been said in regard to the work of the Ministry. The ordinary Member of Parliament who has to make inquiries about many matters affecting his constituents feels that the Minister of Pensions and his officials do all they canto assist. That is a common experience. Therefore, it is in no carping spirit that any criticisms that are made are offered.

I should like to draw attention to the case of the skippers of the R.N.R.T. These men are officers, and the local pensions committees have no power to make advances to them. I have heard of a number of very hard cases that have occurred. The wife, after her husband's death, is paid separation allowance for six months, but in many cases a delay occurs before the pension arrangements are completed. The skipper's wife as a rule has no financial resources, and but for the fact that the local war pensions committee have rendered aid, although they have no power whatever to assist, she would have to go to the parish. Numerous cases of that kind have been brought to my notice. In one case there was a delay of six months before the woman was paid her pension. The local war pensions committee came to her aid, although they had no power to do so, and they notified the. Ministry that they were making a weekly payment of 27s. to her, even without power to do so. If it had not been for that assistance this woman, the wife of a gallant skipper, would have had to go to the parish for aid. Probably in the new regional arrangements that are being made provision will be made for the local war pensions committee being able to make advances to the wives of these skippers who, being officers, have hitherto not been afforded such assistance.

Considerable dissatisfaction exists with regard to the inequality in the administration of parents' pensions. In some cases which have been brought to my notice women who had strong claims have only been awarded the fiat rate. In other cases surprise has been felt that those who were not entitled to more than the flat rate got more. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give attention to this matter. The pensions should be made a statutory right. There is a strong feeling on this point, which is quite reasonable. Medical boards is another point on which the discharged soldier feels strongly. I have considerable experience of medical boards myself. The great bulk of them are very kind. But now and again one comes across a board of very unreasonable people, who, as it were, seem to look upon the men who come before them as always trying to evade the truth. That is a position in which no man likes to be put. The difficulties, in the way at the present time of entirely independent medical boards, difficulties of personnel, and so on, have been pointed out. The hon. Member who has acted as chairman of the Pensions Committee said that it might not be possible to give effect to this idea at once. But it is the goal to be aimed at in future. The ordinary soldier who goes before a board is sometimes tongue-tied and cannot make the most of his case, and in that case there is left a feeling of injustice which the Minister ought to remove in every possible way. If the Army takes a man as fit to be shot at, it must be held to have got a fit man. I heard recently of a man who went into the Army perfectly fit in every way. He went to South Africa, and after eight months was discharged from the Army on account of deafness. He had lain out a lot, but it was held by the boards that his deafness was not due to his war service. But to the ordinary man res ipsa loquitur. Owing to the condition in which he was discharged from the Army he has never been able to get a proper job since. It is a genuine case. It is all very well to be told that this man had a predisposition towards deafness. The fact is that he went into the Army in no way deaf and he came out deaf. That man's case ought not have been turned down. Once the medical authorities pass a man as fit it should be he-Id that they have got a fit man.

Then in the case of a 100 per cent, disability man, if he has served in a previous war and got a pension that really counts against him. That is not fair. He got his pension for previous services, and even if he has 100 per cent, disability in this War, he ought to be regarded as starting again, and anything which he got for previous services should not be counted against him. I understand that a recent Regulation has been published that in the case of any grant by war pensions committees being irregular or unreasonable they should be disallowed and surcharged on any member of the committee by whom the payment was made or authorised. I fully concur in what was said as to the necessity of making slack and inefficient local committees do their work well. But on certain large local committees where people at the outbreak of this War did most admirable voluntary work it is considered rather unfair if such people are to be held financially responsible in respect of any irregular or unreasonable grant that may be made. They are quite willing to take all care to see that the Regulations are carried out. I am aware that there is a right of appeal, but if this Regulation, which was published on 19th April, is enforced drastically, it might have the result of producing the resignation from committees of a great number of people who have done very valuable voluntary work during many years since early in this War. Therefore 1 would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should consider whether it is desirable to enforce this Regulation, which is felt to be harsh and unreason able, and may lead to the loss of voluntary workers who have now great experience, and whose services are very valuable. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having accepted in such a generous way the recommendations which have been made by the Committee. In doing so the Government have done one of the best day's work which they have ever done for the great bulk of the population of the country.

Photo of Mr William Graham Mr William Graham , Edinburgh Central

Hon. Members will agree that there is no difference of opinion between us as to the object we have in view. What has occurred really is a competition in our constructive criticism to try to help, and not to hinder, the work of this great public Department. It is in that spirit that I wish to address a few practical criticisms to the Minister of Pensions. I am glad to think that, to some minor extent, some of us were associated with a scheme for the decentralisation of war pensions administration in this country. We realised almost from the outset, what the right hon. Gentleman and all those who have worked on war pensions committees have realised, that a very large amount of the unrest and dissatisfaction are due not so much to the terms of the Warrant, or even to the scale of the pensions which were in operation, inadequate as they were, but to the weakness and inefficiency of the administration. Very large numbers of both voluntary and paid workers rendered all the help in their power, but they were defeated, largely by a system which was wrong from the roots. Now we have arrived at the establishment ment of regional districts throughout the country. I desire to press this point very strongly on the Minister: that if these regional districts are going to be efficient, we shall have to depend to a large extent on the efficiency of the unit, the local war pensions committee. As long as the War lasted we had the advantage of a large number of voluntary workers. For various reasons, many of which are not within their control, they are now giving up their services, and we shall require to rely in many districts more and more on paid help. Most unfortunately, just when we have reached this stage of decentralisation of war pension administration, we are confronted with the fact that many of the local war pensions committees, even where they have a paid staff of some experience, are not familiar with the ordinary rules and regulations of the Department. One would imagine that at this hour there could be very little doubt or difference of opinion regarding such a thing as the administration of the childless wife's allowance. There were conditions as to inability, from the point of view of physique, for work or employment, but those conditions were modified, and I think I am correct in saying that at the present time either inability to work, or the fact that the applicant has been unaccustomed to work, or mere failure to find employment, is sufficient to entitle an applicant to this 6s. 6d. extra where no separation allowance is available beyond the rate for a soldier who is without children. While those facts are plain, it is true, not so much in the country districts as in some of the large urban centres, that perfectly unreasonable questions are put to these applicants, and in many eases the grant is being refused or withheld on grounds that the Ministry itself could never sanction.

For example, without giving details of towns, one large local war pensions committee actually required an applicant to fill up an additional form which had reference to a local fund, before they agreed to pay the 6s. 6d. per week. Other committees have asked questions regarding allowances, the general circumstances of the home, and have even inquired into character and so forth. That, I think, can hardly be justified. For this state of affairs I am not blaming the Ministry in any way, still less do I blame some of the paid workers of the local war pensions committees. They have not had great experience of this class of work. On the other side, it is impossible for a large Ministry responsible for thousands, it may be hundreds of thousands of cases, to keep an eye on occurrences of that kind. I am quite content at the moment to take the facts as they are and to try to point to a line of remedy. We have the first remedy in the establishment of the regional district. We have made the Regional Director the Minister of Pensions for the area over which he presides. He is going to rely on the local war pensions committee for the efficiency of his work, and my respectful suggestion is that it may be worth while to apply in the districts throughout the country the device you have adopted at headquarters in London, and to instruct the workers, paid and voluntary, in the regulations and the whole range of duties they have to undertake. That should be possible. Having instructed the workers, the next step would be to make absolutely certain that all applicants and would-be applicants were made fully aware of the terms and the allowances to which they are entitled either under the War Office or under the regulations of local war pensions committees. I think most Members will agree that it is extraordinary, after nearly five years of war and two or three years of war pensions administration on the lines we are now discussing, that it should be possible for any dependant of a soldier to write and ask us if she is entitled to sickness allowance, yet within quite recent days I and other Members have had letters asking such questions. Perhaps a great deal of blame does attach to the, applicant under these circumstances, but at the moment I have more particularly the rural district in mind. I know that in many of these country districts there are not the facilities for bringing within the reach of applicants a general knowledge of the regulations. I know that the Ministry has attempted a very great deal in bringing the benefits to the notice of the people, but probably the hour has come when we should try to put in a very simple form, for the benefit of all concerned, exactly what they are entitled to under local war pension committee regulations, so that there may be no doubt on the point, and to place that information in centres which they are in the habit of using every day, perhaps every hour of most days, in the localities in which they reside.

Very briefly I desire in the second place to call attention to a very hard class of ease which has come under the notice of all who are engaged in war pensions administration. I refer to that class of case where a pension has been refused to the discharged man himself, or has been refused to a dependant of the discharged man after he has died. Let me give a case in Edinburgh which came under our notice a few days ago. Two years ago a soldier who had rendered very distinguished service in the War was invalided out. It was held afterwards that he had fully recovered from the illness which caused his discharge. Within quite recent times he fell again in ill-health, from a different disease from the one for which he was discharged, and as a result of a very few days attack he passed away, leaving a widow and five young children. The controversy with the Ministry of Pensions then started. I am making no accusation at all, because I can claim to have received a very large measure of consideration at its hands. The Ministry ruled that the illness from which that discharged man died could not in any way be associated either with the illness for which he was discharged or with the service that he had rendered in the War, and the effect of that service upon his health. Against that I put the certificate of a very eminent medical man in Edinburgh, the considered verdict of one of the most outstanding men in his profession, that that discharged man could have resisted the disease with which he was attacked, but for the fact that during his period of service his health had been undermined by the other illness he had incurred, and he was not able to fight this new attack. The present position of that case is this, that except for anything that may be done to the extent of a few shil- lings per week, that widow and her five children, all under fourteen years of age, have to face the future under the darkest and unhappiest possible auspices. The only possible course under existing conditions, unless some friend is forthcoming, for that widow and children is to rely upon the Poor Law for such allowances as are afforded under the Scottish Poor Law administration. I need hardly remind hon. Members that so carefully do we guard our money North of the Tweed that anything she may receive will in no way maintain her and her five children. That seems a very hard and very unjust position. I know that according to the rules of the Department the case may be excluded, although I hope still that it is not beyond the reach of agreement. I want to impress upon, the Parliamentary Secretary the fact that even one case of that kind happening in the locality where the woman resides, and where they knew the man in health and strength at work, and the fact that the woman and her children are compelled to turn to the Poor Law, is sufficient to hinder and to hamper the best activity of a local war pensions committee in that area.

9.0 p.m.

I have had rather hard experiences in these matters, but I have no desire to inflict my personal experiences on the House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Barnes) happens to know that I was responsible for the very large part of this work in the City of Edinburgh, and in the light of that experience I do press most strongly upon the Ministry the consideration that the time has come when within the machinery of war pensions regulations we must establish a compassionate Department of the Ministry or a Department under another name, by which cases of that kind can be considered. I know that it is utterly impossible to frame any Warrant or any set of regulations which will meet all the conditions and all the cases which will arise. It would be idle for anybody to attempt that task when we know that, having made all allowances for elasticity, there will still be the cases of undeniable hardship. Let us try to relegate those cases to a sympathetic Department which will consider them upon their merits and give a Grant under some head, in order that the widow and children of men who have died in the service of the country may not be penalised. Another consideration which I desire to advance is in reference to a very important point raised by the Minister in his introductory speech. We in the South and East of Scotland and, indeed, throughout Scotland generally, have lost a very large part of our population within recent years by emigration to Canada and other parts of the world. That is true also—although, perhaps, not so acutely—of England and Wales. Those men went to Canada and established homes, and many of them married, and many were unmarried men who were rapidly piling up wealth and prosperity in the Dominions beyond the seas. Not forgetting their relatives at home, they made allowances from week to week or from month to month till the commencement of the War, when they joined the Canadian or other forces. A very large number of those men have, unfortunately, fallen in action, leaving those dependent parents behind on this side. Where the dependants were wives they were covered, up to recent times, by the Canadian War Pensions Regulation. Where they were dependants of single men who had served from Canada they were covered by the allowances made. But a very large number of aged parents remained. The aged parents of married sons in Canada, although they depended in many ways to a material extent upon those sons, were refused any allowance under the Canadian War Pensions Regulations, and it was ruled—because we discussed the matter with the Ministry here—that they were not entitled to anything tinder our British Warrants or under what was provided by the local war pensions committees. Quite recently, I am glad to think, there has been some modification of that very harsh and unjust rule by the Canadian pension authorities, but may I mention that the consideration is not yet in any way adequate, nor does it meet the acute and growing needs of those people because of their age at the present time. I would respectfully suggest that it is well worth the consideration of the Ministry of Pensions whether it should not embark on a kind of unified or uniform policy with the Canadian War Pensions Department and with the war pension authorities of other parts of the British Empire, and make it absolutely certain that, if these dependants are not provided for under one set of Regulations, that they will be fully covered under another.

Let me allude to one or two aspects of the disablement scheme. The training for new occupations has been transferred to the Ministry of Labour, but the duty of providing treatment, which is the preliminary to that training, remains with the Ministry of Pensions. I desire to pay all possible tribute to the work which the Ministry of Pensions has done in this respect, and also to the very large amount of ground which has been overtaken by the joint disablement committees throughout the country. There are, however, one or two difficulties which, despite that activity, we have not succeeded in solving. There is, first of all, the difficulty of providing treatment for the neurasthenics. A very large number of men have been discharged in various stages of neurasthenia as a result either of their experience in France in the firing line or of the hardship through which they have passed. In many cases that neurasthenia was in the incipient or initial stage when they left the Colours, and was not even apparent to the medical men who examined them; but the minute those men are up against the hard grind of daily toil, or the noise of the factory or the workshop, and came back to industrial conditions, neurasthenia or nerve trouble commenced to manifest itself in their lives. So far the disablement committees have afforded help and established centres for its treatment, but I have come, with some regret and hesitation, to the conclusion, in the light of experience in the South-east of Scotland, that we are probably on the wrong lines in trying to treat neurasthenia on what I may call the principle of association—that is, gathering comparatively large numbers of neurasthenics under one roof and treating them there in a kind of colony. The very same criticism applies, and, I think, with far more emphasis, to the case of epileptics. In point of fact, our efforts in that direction absolutely broke down, because we could not get the patients to remain together, and we had to abandon the whole business more or less in deep despair. Now, the difficulty and drawback of this associated treatment is this, that, while it may apply to mild neurasthenia, it is just about the worst thing we could devise for the advanced cases of neurasthenia, because, when these men are herded together—I do not use that phrase offensively—under one roof, ray experience in disablement-scheme work has been that they immediately start to interchange views on their troubles and their anxieties, and one depressed or gloomy man in that colony has the effect of para- lysing the efficient treatment, even from the medical point of view, of quite a large number of his fellows.

May I make this suggestion, with all respect, to the Ministry? Let them try to devise a system of boarding out, so to speak, the worst cases of neurasthenia. I would like to see these men placed either on farms or with people in the rural districts up and down the country, where they would have the benefit of the association of only a small number of people, and that number of people happy and healthy and generous in outlook. At the same time, let us try to give them the benefit of employment in the kind of conditions I have tried to picture, and we shall find that we are doing far more to effect their recovery than we are doing now by comparatively expensive institutions, no matter how perfect and how thoroughly up-to-date these may be. That applies to the advanced case of the neurasthenic. With reference to the mild case, I should suggest, as I also suggest for the cases of incipient consumption, the wide extension of convalescent treatment on the lines recommended in the Report of the Committee which has inquired into this matter. I believe it would be one of the soundest investments for the Ministry of Pensions as this time to devote its activity as far as it possibly can to the prevention of the disease rather than to its cure after it has emerged, and the value of that convalescent treatment for these men who are on the border-line of their discharge at the present time would be this, that we could take them for one month or two months per annum out of their employment and give them the benefit of the fresh air and the healthy surroundings of a convalescent colony of the kind I have mentioned, and we should find by doing that, that either the neurasthenia, in many cases, or the consumption itself would be arrested or cured, and that investment of public money, which could be used also for the civilian population, would be the means of preventing the expenditure later in the day of very large sums when, I regret to think from rather hard and painful experience, many of these cases arc beyond our cure and care. I feel that, perhaps, I have detained the Committee at undue length, but these are very important considerations, as they seem to me, in war pensions administration. I desire, before resuming my seat, to congratulate the Minister on the very large measure of success he has achieved in the concessions announced. I respectfully appeal to him to back up that success with equal success in the sphere of curative effort, and I can assure him, from the standpoint of the local war pensions committees throughout the country, that if that policy, broad, generous, statesmanlike, is adopted, he may rely upon all our sympathy and all our help and consideration in the days to come.

Photo of Sir John Butcher Sir John Butcher , City of York

As a member of the Pensions Committee, I desire to offer my sincere thanks to the Pensions Minister and the Government for having so promptly and sympathetically adopted nearly all the important recommendations of our Committee. This is a matter in which not only the disabled men in the country and their dependants feel very strongly, but it is a matter in which the country itself, without exception, feels strongly, and justly so, and I think the country will be grateful to the Government for having acted so promptly in this matter. A Report was produced on. Tuesday of this week, was accepted on Thursday, and is to be brought into operation next month. I think that is a sample of Government efficiency which might be imitated in all spheres so far as possible. I should like to make a few observations upon two points, and the first is the question of the statutory rights. To some that may seem a small point, but as a matter of fact it bulks somewhat largely in the views of those who are affected by it. They say, "Why should our right to pension depend upon a Royal Warrant? On the face of it, that is a mere matter of bounty. Why should not our rights be founded upon an Act of Parliament which declares our right to be legal?" To a certain extent it is a matter of form, but there is some substance behind it, and the fact that many people think there is some substance behind it and are very anxious to get the matter corrected, ought, I think, to influence the Government in making their decision. As a matter of fact, it will not cost them in administration or in anything else one single degree of efficiency. There is this curious anomaly at the present moment. The naval pensions are founded on an Act of Parliament, the Act of 1865, which says that naval men are to have their rights according to a certain scale to be laid down by Orders in Council. There has been no difficulty in working that Act. The Orders in Council are produced, and the hands of those who administer these naval pensions are not in the least hampered by the fact that the right to pension is found in an Act of Parliament. I therefore beg the Minister to reconsider his decision, to adopt the course which is suggested in paragraph 6 of our Report, and to assimilate the procedure as regards military pensions to the procedure which exists with regard to naval pensions, and in both cases to have the right founded on an Act of Parliament and not upon a Royal Warrant. The other point to which I wish to draw the Minister's attention is the question of the appeal on amount. We found in the evidence that we took that this was a matter which affected the minds of the people very seriously. I gather from the evidence given by the Pensions Minister that he has no real objection to an appeal on amount as regards permanent pensions. If that be so—and I trust that will be put into operation at once—I hope he will, as a matter of administration, adopt the same principle with regard to these temporary pensions, because temporary pensions go on very often for a long time. They may go on for one, two, or even a greater number of years, until finally the disability has got to be such that the doctor says it has reached a permanent stage, and that a pension must be allowed accordingly; and if it is necessary in the case of a permanent pension to have an appeal, I suggest that while they are reaching that permanent stage it would be only reasonable to say to the applicant, "If you want an appeal on the question of amount you shall have it just the same as if your application was now for a permanent pension." I know there may be difficulties, but, knowing the great efficiency and great administrative capacity of the Pensions Minister, and his most able assistant, the Parliamentary Secretary, I hope it is not beyond their power to carry that into effect.

My last word is this. There have been undoubtedly most serious complaints. I do not suppose there is a Member of this House who has not got letters—almost despairing letters—from men themselves and from their dependants saying, "We cannot get our pensions fixed; we cannot even get an answer to our letters." Those defects, I think, have been largely swept away by the administrative capacity of the present Pensions Minister. He has got rid of a large number of arrears, and I believe in a very short time he will get rid of the rest. But I do impress upon him that this is a matter which very often affects the mind of these people almost as much as the amounts they are going to get. If there is delay, they feel they are being neglected, that their claims are not being heard, that their just claims are not being accepted by the Minister in the way in which they ought to be. Therefore, while I heartily congratulate him upon the vast improvement that has occurred with regard to these delays, I do hope that he will continue to devote his ability to answering letters and avoiding any delay that can possibly be avoided. Some of my hon. Friends have referred to other questions besides those contained in our Report. As to these, we hope to deal with them later on. We have dealt with what we thought were the most urgent ones, but if, as I hope, these reforms are not only set in motion by the Minister, but are dealt with by him promptly and effectively by way of administration, I think that he will give great satisfaction throughout the country, not only to these men and their dependants who have suffered, but to the country at large, who feel most deeply and earnestly that the claims of these men, who have fought for us, and won this great victory, should be the first charge upon the national gratitude and the national consideration.

Photo of Sir George Jones Sir George Jones , Stoke Newington

When I entered the House this afternoon, there were quite a number of points on which I thought soldiers and sailors had got a legitimate grievance, and to which I meant to call the attention of the House if I were so fortunate as to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, but after listening to the generous and statesmanlike speech of the Minister of Pensions I found, as many other hon. Members no doubt found, that the ground had been cut from my feet in regard to the main points. But there are some matters which are not mentioned, and it is to emphasise them that I have risen to- night. It would be a lamentable tiling if a great scheme, such as that outlined By the Minister of Pensions, were allowed to be damaged, or prevented from having its full effect, because of certain minor matters which have been overlooked. The hon. Member opposite has already dealt with one of these points, and that is the question of the position of men who went into the Army classified as healthy and who are either invalided or have died, and when a claim is made the doctors say, "Oh, that was not caused or aggravated by war service." I suggest that no doctor can trace the origin of disease with certainty. Doctors differ on the point. One may say it was caused by war service, and another may come along and say it was not. This House and country want the benefit of the doubt to be given in such cases to the men. We do not want the House of Commons to haggle on scientific questions as to whether it was caused by war service or not. A man came forward, was classified as fit, and was fit, before entering the Army. He has been invalided or he has died. We want to regard his illness or death as being brought about by the War. I know of a remarkable case in the constituency of the Minister of Pensions. A comparatively young man went there perfectly healthy and was classified A1. He was engaged on the clerical staff at Colchester, and was working night and day, and then sent with a draft to Russia. His health was undermined by constant and excessive work, and he fell ill and died. The widow put in a claim for a pension, and was told that her husband died of pneumonia, and it was not attributable to war service, but was the sort of thing from which anyone might suffer. I think that kind of case is an absolute scandal and a disgrace, and I am sure the sense and the conscience of the country are against a continuance of such a system.

The other question to which I want to refer is the question of statutory right to a pension. I had the greatest possible difficulty in following the argument of the Minister of Pensions with regard to it. He is going to concede the statutory right to appeal, apparently, in regard to a bounty, but he will not concede that there should be a statutory right to a pension. When he came to the recommendation of the Committee with regard to an appeal on entitlement he made fun of incorporating such words in an Act of Parliament. If his objection is verbal, let him say what he would like, and we will not quarrel about it. We say that it is wholly against the feeling of the country that men can be given as a bounty that to which they say they ought to have as a right, and the country wants to give as a right. It is a. humiliation to these men that their pension should be given as though it were a charity, when we say they have earned it and saved the country by their valour. What were the arguments of the Minister of Pensions? So far as I could gather, they came to this, that if you give a legal right to a pension you must incorporate in the Statute the scale of pensions. The argument was completely knocked over by the hon. Member for Salford (Sir M. Barlow), who pointed out that in the Naval Act, where there is a statutory right to a pension, the scale is not incorporated, and why we cannot do for the soldier what we have already done for the sailor passes my comprehension. I cannot help feeling that my right hon. Friend was not properly coached, or he would not have put forward such an argument as he did. He apparently did not discover that the scale of pensions was not even in the Naval Act, and I do hope he will go into it a little more fully and concede that which the conscience of the country demands shall be conceded. It would seem that some subordinate official in the Ministry of Pensions has some clever point—they do have clever points in these Departments—and has been pulling the Minister's leg, and caused him to take up this position, which I say is wholly indefensible from a logical point of view. If the right hon. Gentleman has any real reason, I do hope he will tell us what it is. If there is a reason we ought to know it, and if there is no reason I venture to suggest that the whole objection against conceding a statutory right to a pension has entirely disappeared.

The other point I desire to support is this—it has been put by many hon. Members—that there should be an appeal, not merely on entitlement, but also on amount. They might give a man such a small pension that it is little better than no pension. The Minister of Pensions said, "We have had 926,000 cases in six months. It is too many. We cannot cope with it. It is not practicable." I think the right hon. Gentleman is underestimating his own energy and his own ability. I feel quite convinced that if he took this job in hand, he would carry it through with the same success as he has done with many other things in his Department. To talk of 926,000 cases is misleading. You will only get appeals from those dissatisfied, and if a man gets a proper examination and something near what is fair he will not trouble about appealing, but will accept the award. I would suggest that in regard to Appeal Tribunals we might follow the idea of the, National Service Act. There we had local tribunals of impartial men to whom the applicant could tender his evidence and the Crown could tender their evidence and there could be cross-examination. I know there are objections to that, but we should bear in mind how doctors differ. One doctor will say a man is fit; another will say he will be dead in a few months, and very likely both are wrong. It is most undesirable that there should not be an opportunity of cross-examination of some of the doctors who settle a man's fitness. There could be nothing better than a number of laymen who could hear the doctors cross-examined and come to a conclusion which is the safer to follow. I know one particular doctor who advises the Ministry of Pensions and who has been honoured with a title, who, if he gets a nerve case, starts off with assuming the man is a fraud. It is very rough on a man who comes across such a doctor. If that doctor is brought before an impartial tribunal, he can be cross-examined on his little peculiarities as illustrated by his past history. The tribunal will soon arrive at the truth. We want an impartial tribunal to whom a man can tender evidence and have an opportunity of cross-examination. I hope this great scheme which the Minister of Pensions has brought forward will not be spoiled by these minor defects.

Lieut.-Colonel WILLOUGHBY:

I wish to thank the Minister of Pensions for having agreed to give old soldiers who have served in previous wars the same benefits as will be received by the men who have served in this War. I have always tried to speak for the old soldier in this House, and I know this will be a great benefit to him. During this War, when the state of the country was very serious—late in 1914 and early in 1915—we were largely dependent on numbers of old men who had finished their period in the Army, who were over forty-five years of age, yet who came forward and fought in our trenches and upheld the honour of the country. These men, through age and work, already suffered from certain infirmities. Very often they are refused pensions because it is said those infirmities were contracted before this War. I would like the Minister of Pensions to consider their oases and see whether they are not entitled to pensions. In exactly the same way Naval Reserve men and sailors were called up and went out to fight in the North Sea in the winter of 1914–15. They were invalided out, and because they had, owing to their calling, contracted rheumatics before the War, it stood in the way of their receiving disablement pensions. I maintain that that disability has been aggravated by the War. It is a cause of great dissatisfaction which we all wish to-avoid. Another question in connection with old soldiers is that of disablement benefit for men with some slight heart trouble or something of that sort. Many men I know are anxious to work, but are unable to take it because of their anxiety as to whether the pension will be continued. I hope those men will be given permanent benefit as soon as possible. I put forward the plea for old soldiers and hope that the Pensions Minister will be able to attend to them. I desire to thank him for his kindness in giving the advance in the old soldiers' pension for disablement in previous wars, and also for the very courteous way in which the Ministry have met any case put before them.

Photo of Dr Donald Murray Dr Donald Murray , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

I would join in the congratulations to the Minister of Pensions for the growing efficiency, I would almost say the growing humanity, of his Department, and add my testimony to those who have spoken of the courtesy received from the Department. It is a great pleasure to me that the system of regional areas has been adopted, because it will make for efficiency. The chief point I wish to touch upon is the question of entitlement. A great deal has been said about doctors in this Committee. One of the most cruel duties that can be placed on medical boards is that they should be asked to say whether a certain disease was caused by or has been aggravated by service in the War. It is not a question which should be put to a medical board. Perhaps this would add to the cost, but it would save a great deal of heart-burning and a well-grounded sense of injustice throughout the country if this question did not arise at all, and if the Government came to the conclusion that, if a man were disabled or died on service, from whatever cause, he should be entitled to the same consideration as a man in whose case a medical board had decided that his disability was due to his service. Most of us have come across cases of that sort. I have been in communication with the Ministry in regard to one case recently. It was the case of a young officer—an excellent officer he was—who died on service from a disease. It would be difficult to say that it was caused by service, but it would be just as difficult to say that it was not caused by service. How even a medical man could say that this particular disease was not aggravated by service passes my understanding. In that case the widow has been deprived of a pension for herself and her child because the disease was supposed not to be attributable to the man's service. I know that that is the case with some men that I have examined. I quite admit that the doctors may be wrong. In such cases, of course, the benefit should be given to the man concerned or to his widow or orphans, as the case may be.

Doctors differ. Lawyers differ upon much simpler matters than those which come before the doctors, which sometimes are very difficult to decide. I strongly support the appeal to have this question of entitlement settled once for all, on the understanding that if a man has been taken into the Army, and has fought for his country, and was physically fit when he entered, that anything that happened to him subsequently should be regarded as due to his military service. This point, I hope, will be settled upon reasonable lines. As it at present stands the position is illogical and unscientific, and may, without difficulty, be accounted an injustice. Medical reports are certainly not perfect, but it must be remembered, after all, it is new work to medical men. The doctors on these boards do not act on their own unaided intelligence. They get orders from above. Many of the criticisms levelled at the individual doctors on these boards and against individual boards should be levelled at the Ministry of Pensions, and those who direct them there. For instance, a man may be assessed at 40 per cent., but it will be according to definite regulations which are laid down, and upon which the members of the medical board have to act. I myself have been a member of a medical board, and I trust, and think, I always gave a liberal interpretation to these various regulations. But, as I say, there are definite regulations on which the percentage, according to loss of limb, or other faculty, is assessed. It is so much percentage for the loss of a leg, so much for the loss of an arm, and so on. The assessment is in proportion to the disability incurred. I think the doctors do their best to adjust their duties, in the first place not losing sight of the interests of the man, and, in the second place, they have in view the fact that they are paid to do their duty to the Ministry of Pen- sions and they must therefore abide by its rules. I think it will be found that; 95 per cent, of the medical men on the boards are inclined to put the most liberal interpretation possible upon the regulations sent from headquarters, so that I hope, in the criticisms which are made, and justly no doubt, on the awards made by these boards, it will be remembered that the doctors are acting under instructions from above. Sometimes these instructions are not inspired from right above, and it may be that sometimes some of them are from below.

Another point in connection with the medical boards. There is too much clerical work put upon the shoulders of the men who examine. One man may be doing the work whilst the other two are writing up the records. There should be a clerk to do this. If there was, a good deal more work could be done, and more attention could be given by the three men to individual cases, instead of the thing working out as it does at present. That is a practical point. It received the attention of the Minister of Pensions. One; other point—that is, the suggestion that a man should be told at once what he has been assessed at. I must admit that I sacrcely agree with that view. I should not like to be a member of a medical board which did that. In view of a certain humanitarian principle involved, I think that, at any rate, there should be a little interval between the assessment and the announcement of it. Yet, on the other hand, it should be told the man as quickly as it can reasonably be done.


I am very glad to be able to join the rest of the House in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Pensions Minister, not only respecting his admirable Report, but I wish to congratulate the Committee on the result of their labours. By common admission and in common experience it is acknowledged that the Minister has quickened up his Department, and that his labours have tended to improve administration throughout. I only hope he may have strength and energy to continue that good work, and particularly in the administration to see the reforms which he has in view are carried out. One of the most necessary wants in regard to the ultimate and permanent benefit of the recipients of the pensions is that they should know at the earliest possible moment consistent with the medical examination the permanent pensions which they are going to get. This from the Labour point of view is most necessary. It is the chief point raised here because it is human nature that the man who feels that the matter is affecting his employment, whilst at the same time he is getting over the strain and his earning power is increasing each week, should suspect that the calculation and assessment of his pension is affected by the fact of his increasing employment. It is human nature to suspect this; therefore, the sooner it can be said to him, "There is your pension, take it, and make the best of the powers you have left," the better. That is the essence of all pensions administration. That leads me to my second point. I hope in carrying out the administration of his Department the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind, not only in large towns and centres of population where it has been comparatively easy to provide war hospitals and other institutions for the permanent treatment of cases of partial disablement, or damaged limbs, or refitting of limbs, or electrical or massage treatment for the partially disabled, and men of partially recovered powers, but over the whole country to spread these benefits with the greatest possible speed. It is more difficult to do this in country districts. On the other hand, there are cases where men have been demobilised, after perhaps many months and even years undergoing hospital treatment, and on recovering so far they go back to their homes and find no arrangement whereby they can have treatment for the rescue of the affected limb or the power they have partially lost. In many instances, owing to the admirable hospital treatment, these men have recovered in a surprising degree. I have had cases brought to my notice in connection with hospital work where we have seen the men losing their powers which they had recovered in hospital in consequence of lack of treatment. That, I think, has arisen, partly, at all events, owing to the transference of supervision from the hospital and the military authorities to the Pensions Department. I know the right hon. Gentleman has had a great deal to struggle against in getting these various systems to work in the country, but I ask his special consideration to these matters, because I feel it is one thing to grant a money pension, but it is a greater thing still to restore the powers which the man has lost in the service of his country.

Photo of Mr Worthington Evans Mr Worthington Evans , Colchester

I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee, as this Debate stops at ten o'clock, if I endeavour now to reply to several points. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, that it should be and is our desire, as soon as possible, and as soon as individual cases-permit, to get to the final stage, so that the-man may know what his pension is, and then he can build on a pensions foundation the superstructure which really means his-future life. I am equally in agreement with my right hon. Friend that we have got to get the treatment right down to the man. He is aware that in the towns it is probably done with a considerable degree of success already, but in the more sparsely populated districts it is much more difficult. A system has been established, and not with any long delay, by which we hope to have the country properly covered.

May I express to the Committee my extreme gratitude for the extraordinary chorus of praise that I have had the pleasure of listening to to-day? I begin to wonder whether some evil fate is not in store for me when everybody is so extremely kind as they have been to-day. It seems to me that the more hon. Members realise what pensions administration is the more kindly they are to any faults on our part, and on the part of those who have been in close touch with the work either on the local war pensions committee or on the Select Committee of the House, and I find it is those who arc most forbearing to our shortcomings. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) I wish to thank for his extremely generous reference to the work which I have been able to do, and I am glad that his large-heartedness has made him give expression to sentiments for which I am very grateful. Many very useful suggestions and questions have been raised in the course of this Debate, and if I am not able in the, short time at my disposal to deal with all of them, the Committee will realise that it is not for want of will but want of time, and I will undertake that no single suggestion that has been made in Committee to-day shall be passed by without the most careful consideration. To-morrow or the next day the Official Report of this Debate shall be brought to me with every suggestion noted, and I will personally undertake to go into the reasons for and against every suggestion that has been made.

Let me deal with some of them. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Fairfield Division of Liverpool (Major Cohen) raised a very useful point with regard to the method of supplying artificial limbs. He suggested that the French system was better than our own, but I am not so sure of that The French system necessitated the man with an artificial limb requiring repair or refitment to go to the nearest police station and get instructions from the police. The French have found that some local agency in the village or town or on the spot was necessary to deal with these cases. We find that too, but instead of using the policemen we are using the local war pensions committees, and I think, on the whole, our system is better. That, however, does not preclude the suggestion for a speedier and easier method of getting repairs done, and that point will be very carefully considered. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Blackpool (Colonel Ashley) made a series of suggestions, as, indeed, one would expect him to do, seeing that he is one of the collectors of all these suggestions, and his great organisation naturally keeps him well informed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that at the Ministry of Pensions he thought too many women were employed, and ho asked me to consider whether some of them could not be replaced by discharged men. I have already told the Committee that of the men employed at the Ministry of Pensions 81 per cent are discharged officers or men, and that is a very large percentage, and I do not mind telling the Committee that wherever I get an opportunity I am pressing on other Ministers that they should follow the same example in the Government service.

Whether more men can be employed rather than women is a point which must be decided by the heads of the sections and branches and the various divisions. I can only give a general instruction, and I hold the heads of the Departments responsible for the efficient working of the staff, and I can only to a certain extent interfere with the staffing.

In the pensions issue office, which employs 4,000 or 5,000, it is mostly women's work, and it is hardly work which we should find a discharged man would do. In peace time a great deal of the Post Office Savings Bank and issue work has been done by women, and the pensions Issue Office is very similar work in which women can be very reasonably employed. While wishing not only to be fair to the men, but more than fair, I have also to be fair to the women. These women were employed at a time when we could not get men during the War, and they have qualified themselves for the work. Am I to turn them into the street? Frequently they are widows of men who have suffered in the War, and sometimes they are the children of those men, and no general rule of so much per cent, of men and a reduction of the number of women can possibly be laid down. I must try and do my best at headquarters and through the local organisations for the employment of discharged men, but I feel sure the Committee will not press me more than that.

The same hon. and gallant Gentleman asked various other questions, but I think I had, better deal with them in a general way, and I will consider them afterwards, because there are one or two other points which I want to deal with. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Lyle) raised the question of war orphans, and he said there were a large number of them in the workhouse. I wish he would let me know where, because at West Ham I heard the same story, and I took a great deal of personal care, and sent people to see how many were there. I found there were eight war orphans in that workhouse, but they are not there now, and they have not been there for three or four weeks. There arc some children there of serving soldiers, but I am not entitled to interfere with them, except under certain circumstances; but in the case of the war orphans I am their official guardian, and if any hon. Member finds war orphans in any Poor Law establishment I wish he would let me know, because it is my duty to see that they are not there, and I will undertake to see that they do not remain there.

While we have had many useful suggestions, the Debate really has turned upon two main points, namely, the statutory right to a pension and the appeal as to amount. Let me deal with the statutory right to a pension. I believe that by giving the statutory right to appeal and by setting up a statutory Court we do everything in the way of recognising that the men are legally entitled to a pension that you would do if you put the words "legally entitled" into an Act of Parliament, taut, as I said earlier in the Debate, I am quite prepared to consider any words which will strengthen that position. I do not care whether it is sentiment or what it is, but if men trunk that they can get something which is not a bounty or charity but is something which they have earned, then I want to put those words into the Act, so that they may have no false shame about it, but may take that to which they are entitled. I will consider any words that can be suggested. It was proposed that a man should be told the amount of his pension at the first board. The difficulty about that is that the assessment may be altered afterwards by a Chelsea doctor. I do not want to leave the man under the impression that he can get 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. pension when he may find that it is altered afterwards. Contentment would not come that way; it would only lead to disappointment. As soon as the decentralisation is complete and as soon as I have got the Appeal Medical Boards going, the man shall be told at the first board what is his degree of disablement, and he shall be given the opportunity, if he chooses, of appealing to the Appeal Medical Board. I quite agree that it is desirable that there shall be a feeling, not merely of satisfaction, but that justice is being done to him, that he shall be told exactly what is his medical assessment, and that, if he does not like it, he shall be allowed to appeal.

I cannot meet the Committee to any large extent on the question of the appeal on amount, but I will ask the Committee to take it from me that if this were done the pensions administration would break down. If during the last six months one man in ten had appealed, there would have been 70,000 appeals and not 10,000 of them would have been yet settled. Thus 60,000 men would now be waiting and would not be getting their pensions. I am not going to prophesy, but I dare say that we can keep on improving our machinery, and that under the regional organisation we shall be able to concentrate more than we can to-day. Certainly, when we come to permanent pensions, that which is going to determine a man's future, the case is totally different from the appeal on the question of amount. When we get there, I do not want to close the door, but, if you press this now, you will paralyse the machine and harm the man. If later on we can so improve the machinery that it becomes possible, I shall be the first to welcome an appeal also on amount. I do not think that I need add anything now except to repeat that I will consider all the suggestions that have been made, and to say once more how grateful I am to the Committee for their reception of the Pensions Estimates.

It being Ten of the Clock, the Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose, of the Vote under consideration.

Question That a sum, not exceeding £45,855,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Pensions, and for sundry Contributions in respect of the Administration of the Ministry of Pensions Act, 1916, put, and agreed to.

The CHAIRMAN then proceeded, pursuant to Order No. 15, to put severally the Questions, That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several classes of the Civil Services Estimates and of the other outstanding Votes, including Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Revenue Departments, and the Navy Excess Vote, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates.