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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 will deal with that later. That has had this result. As hon. Members know, there is a marriage dowry given of a year's pension on remarriage, and 38,000 year's pensions instead of so many month's pensions have fallen upon us. That has increased quite considerably the amount, of the Estimate which had been put down for widows. I cannot give the total figures with regard to widows, but it is about 216,000. There are now, say, 180,000 widows on pension, and there are some widows, of course, who have died. I have not got these numbers, so that I cannot be quite accurate in the resulting figure. Sub-heads S, T and U relate to dependants of deceased men. They do not call for comment. The rise of £320,000 is due to the extra pay day. The next Sub-head V.1, dealing with treatment, does require some explanation. V.1 shows that the Estimate for treatment has gone up from £7,000,000 in the year to £17,000,000, or an anticipated increase of £10,000,000. That increase is due to two main causes—first, that at least £2,000,000 is due to the increased rates of allowances which are payable to the men while undergoing treatment. Formerly, when a man was undergoing treatment, and therefore unable to work, he was put on full pension rates. At the time when the Estimates were prepared those full pension rates were 27s. 6d. a week; they are now 40s. for the single men and 50s. for the married men, besides the allowances for children. That in itself, even if the numbers had been what was originally anticipated, would have accounted for a considerable increase beyond the £7,000,000 which was first estimated. In addition to that a great many more men have come on for treatment than was ever expected, partly, no doubt, because many more men have come out and become pensionable. I have already informed the Committee that 228,000 more cases had been pensioned. No doubt that alone would account for a considerable increase, but it does not really satisfactorily account for the complete number who are now under treatment. The number under treatment I can only give approximately. It is between 140,000 and 150,000 men.

A great number of these men are under what is known as home treatment. Home treatment is not really a satisfactory form of treatment in a great many cases. In some cases it is all that can be done, but in a great many cases it is not a satisfactory form of treatment. I am conscious of that fact, and my medical advisers are going into it very carefully in order to see whether some better method of administration of the treatment is not open to us. I confess I am not quite satisfied with the present position, and I can assure the Committee that everything is being done that can be done to ensure that the men get the form of treatment which is best for them and also that the treatment allowances are not abused. There have been cases which have been brought to my knowledge where the home treatment allowances have been abused. It is just as important to stop abuses of that sort as it is to see that men get the treatment which is best suited to their needs. I can assure the Committee that the point is not being overlooked and is receiving the greatest possible care. There is a small increase in Sub-head V.3, for artificial limbs, which I do not think I need deal with. There is an increase in the administrative expenses of local committees of a very considerable amount, due partly to the falling off of voluntary workers and partly to the increase in salaries of the principal officials and even of the clerks employed by the local committees. There is a credit, to which I propose to call attention. There is an anticipated saving of £855,000, owing to the fact that industrial training has been transferred from the Ministry of Pensions to the Ministry of Labour. That is not a saving to the nation. It is a saving to this Vote, however, because instead of appearing on my Vote it goes to the Ministry of Labour Vote. I do not claim it as a saving to the nation at all, but it is a reduction of the expenditure upon this Vote. I have given the Committee as briefly as I could the main features of the increase, and if any hon. Member has any question to ask with a view to getting more information, I shall be very glad to give it.