Pensions Administration.

Part of Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 2nd August 1922.

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Photo of Sir Ernest Pollock Sir Ernest Pollock , Warwick and Leamington

I am appreciating that fact; I am not at all unconscious of it. That is the tribunal which has been set up. The right hon. Member for West Fife says, "Cannot we give a still further appeal to another tribunal?" That is to postpone finality until another tribunal has heard the cases. His suggestion is that there should be a National Appeal Board, to which all the cases which have been turned down should go, and he makes the very fair point that in that way we could follow the ordinary practice of appeals from a County Court to a Divisional Court, and then to the Court of Appeal and to the House of Lords. But he overlooked the fact that, under our system, there is no right to proceed by that sequence of Courts. There is no appeal from a County Court on a question of fact; there is an appeal only on a question of law. You cannot appeal from a Divisional Court except by leave of the Court itself. The result is that it is not every case which proceeds by this chain of Courts.

Suppose that the Pension Appeal Tribunal were entrusted with the duty of giving leave to appeal to the Court which is described as a National Appeal Board. I do not think that that would be quite adequate to fulfil the purpose which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. At any rate, it indicates that if a case should go further there would have to be some sort of sorting-out of cases which are to go to this final Appeal Board. Let us see what the problem is. About 90,000 cases have been decided by the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. It is quite clear that it would be impossible to go over the whole of those cases again. Nor do I think it would be desirable. Next, let us see what we mean by justice. The claim has been so constantly made for what is called justice. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that in every case where a claim is made there ought to be and must be eventually an award made in favour of the ex-service man? If that is what he means by justice, it is an inappropriate term to use. We, therefore, come back to that on which, I suppose, we are all agreed. First of all, in order to establish a claim, it is right that the claim should be based on the fact that some injury has been suffered in the course of or arising out of the War. I use a loose expression to order to convey my meaning. The actual words are, "attributable to or aggravated by." I do not suppose that any hon. Member would suggest that, unless it was established as a matter of fact that the disability was attributable to or aggravated by the War, a pension was due. It must be in consequence of the injury suffered in or arising from the War that we award a pension.

10.0 P.M.

We start from that basis. That must be a question of fact. It must be decided, after the evidence has been brought to bear, after the opinions of doctors, and after the story told by the man himself. We have, first of all, to get some tribunal which will investigate the facts quite fairly and decide whether or not the injuries suffered are attributable to or aggravated by the War. No doubt difficult questions arise. We all know that in matters which depend upon examination by medical men you can get divergent opinions from them. It would be quite possible to walk up and down Harley Street and to collect an almost equal number of opinions on either side.