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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 James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

You never get arrears out of a Government Department, or you are extraordinarily lucky if you do. In any case, this is a pure question of economy. It is better for the race and for the country. I am not in the least sure that it would not pay the Minister of Pensions as a practical proposition to go back to the old scheme of the two years' dowry.

One item which wants a little more explanation than the right hon. Baronet gave is B1. The revised expenditure there is £17,000,000 as against £7,000,000. I asked him what was the number of men who were being treated and he tells us there are between 140,000 and 150,000 officers and men. That means that each of these men is costing about £110 to £120. There is still a considerable amount of criticism about the efficiency of the treatment of disabled officers. One comes across it over and over again. You find this kind of case, which is a real hardship, that an officer who has been very severely wounded has not obtained a wounds pension from the War Office. I should very much like to understand what the War Office calls a severe wound. It baffles me entirely. I have a personal friend, an officer, who was wounded in action and never got any-wounds gratuity, but spent the best part of £200 in professional fees to doctors and surgeons while suffering from the effects of his wound. My experience in dealing with a large number of cases is that it is impossible to ascertain what the War Office calls a severe wound. Many of them besides being wounded are neurasthenic cases. I am not yet sure whether we have arrived at any adequate method of dealing with this kind of case. The right hon. Gentleman would do himself more justice-if he would say a little more in regard to the progress that is being made in the treatment of officers and men. He asks us to give him £10,000,000 more for the purpose. I do not feel inclined, though I am willing to trust him with the money, to assent to an estimated expenditure of £10,000,000 for the treatment of officers and men unless he can assure us that this matter is really being taken in hand, and that substantial progress is being made.

I regret to see in item an extra expenditure of nearly £500,000 because voluntary workers are falling off in their enthusiasm in working for discharged men. That is a curious commentary on all the speeches which have been made in this House, on public platforms, in the pulpit, and in the Press. It is what a great many of us predicted. The further you get away from the cessation of War, the gratitude of the general public subsides, and it is rather an ironical commentary that the right hon. Baronet has to ask for another £500,000 because people who were very anxious to get men into the Army have not taken the trouble to devote their services to helping them through the local war pensions committees. The right hon. Baronet made a huge mistake in ever parting with the training of disabled officers and men to the Ministry of Labour. I do not think it is well done by the Ministry of Labour. The right hon. Baronet could have done it very much better, and could have observed the whole career of the discharged soldier from his own desk at the Ministry of Pensions. He could have had a chit of the man's life, his training, treat- ment, and employment, which would have been, in my view, far and away the best way to deal with this. However, the Government has taken this from him. It was the previous Minister of Pensions who allowed it to go away to the Ministry of Labour. That is another indication of how foolish it was ever to make him Minister of Pensions. I am sorry the right hon. Baronet cannot get these men back under his rule. I do not think on page 16 C to E and G are adequately explained. The sum dealt with is £19,379,000. Of this a-mount approximately £12,000,000 is due to the increased rate of pension in respect of disabled men, etc., and of the remainder approximately £3,000,000 is in respect of other changes in the Regulations. That leaves £4,379,000 unexplained, except by the phrase "the balance is due to the increase in volume of the Ministry's commitments."