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Ministry of Pensions.

Part of Orders of the Day — Civil Services Supplementary Estimates, 1919–20. – in the House of Commons on 9th December 1919.

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Photo of Mr Worthington Evans Mr Worthington Evans , Colchester

I do not think it is material whether they are at regional headquarters or at the London headquarters. I ask the Committee to realise that although the staff has gone up a great deal in numbers they are, not all additions, because we have taken over from the National Service Department the whole of the medical boards and the ex-Service men and a considerable amount of staff connected with those duties. So that this part of the staff is not a real addition to the expenses incurred by the Government, but the expense is simply carried on this Vote instead of on the National Service Vote. In the same way with regard to hospitals and institutions, we are taking over hospitals from the War Office. The expenses of those hospitals which we take over and the, staff employed there, which were formerly borne on the War Office Vote, are now transferred, of course, and are borne on the Ministry of Pensions Vote, so that it is not in any sense a net increase. Let me now deal with the financial increase. The increase under, Sub-heads A and B shows a total of £1,820,000. Of that, just under £1,000,000, or £934,000, is an increase in the administrative staffs salaries and travelling expenses. On the other hand, the whole of the balance of £886,000, although shown under staff, is really an expense of the medical staff which is employed on the hoards which are boarding the men, and also in the travelling expenses allowed to the men for attending the boards That is not, in my judgment, very well grouped. It is all grouped under the head of staff, and we have to carry the odium of a huge increase in the cost of staff when, in fact, the sum of £886,000 does not belong in the ordinary sense to that at all, but does belong to the administrative work of medically examining the men. I will give another figure to the Committee which' may be interesting. In 1917–18 the number of the staff and the expenses of the staff were very much less, and so were the duties that, had to be carried out by the staff. Measuring the expenses of the staff against the duties as represented in the sum of money which is distributed to pensioners, the percentage of expenses then was 2.21 or 2 1/5 per cent. In 1918–19, when the number of pensioners had considerably increased and the work was beginning to get into its stride, the rate of the expenses on administration account, including travelling expenses, compared with the benefits, was 3.10, or 3 1/10 per cent. To-day it is 3.27, or rather less than 3 1/3rd per cent. So that, although this increase looks very large, it is not an increase which is out of proportion to the amount of work which has to be done. The actual increase that does exist, of something like one-fifth of 1 per cent., is very easily accounted for, inasmuch as the voluntary workers attached to the local war pensions committees have been gradually, to some extent at any rate, dropping off and are being replaced by paid workers, and the additional cost of that is almost enough to account for the difference in the percentage. Moreover, of course, the staff, like other staffs, has had to have some increase in wages and some increase in bonus. Under all those headings it is very easy to account for the apparent increase of a relatively very small sum of one-fifth of 1 per cent. which is shown by the comparison I have made.

Under the Sub-heads C, D, and E, which relate to pensions, gratuities, etc., to officers, there is an increase in the number of cases awarded of 13,000 on the Estimate. That has called for an increased expenditure in the year of £334,000. Under Subheads G, H, and I, relating to widows and children of deceased officers, the number of awards is not beyond what was anticipated, but there is an increase owing to the fact that changes in the scale, including the bonus, have been put into operation during the year. The result is an expenditure in excess of the Estimate of £366,000. Sub-head K deals with officers' relatives. There is an underestimate there of 974 cases. We have had 974 cases more than we anticipated, and that, with the bonus, which applies to these cases also, accounts for the difference of £149,000. The large difference is under Sub-heads L, M, and N, which relate to disabled men. We have had 228,000 cases more than we anticipated. That is due to the very rapid demobilisation of the Army. At the time the previous Estimates were framed it was never supposed that some 3,000,000 men would be demobilised in the course of six or seven months. The result of that very rapid demobilisation has been to throw upon us 228,000 more claims than we anticipated for the period. It has also had the effect of rendering each claim more expensive, because it matured at an earlier date than was anticipated. The increase altogether under these three sub-heads amounts to £11,719,000. That increase is due as to £6,850,000 to the alterations in the rates of pensions as advised by the Select Committee, and as to £3,425,000 to the increased number of grants—that is to say, to the 228,000 additional awards of pensions or gratuities. The next Subheads are P, Q and R, which relate to the widows and motherless children of deceased men. There we have a very large increase of £6,019,000, £3,300,000 of which is due to the new rates of pensions, £400,000 to the alternative pensions, £560,000 to the extra pay day, £1,750,000 to a larger number of widows claiming pensions than was anticipated, and to another fact which is rather a curious one —some 38,664 war widows have remarried.