Oral Answers to Questions — Armed Forces (Pensions and Grants).

– in the House of Commons on 5th February 1942.

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Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware of the sense of grievance felt by retired officers of the last war owing to the fact that their pensions have not been increased to meet the higher cost of living consequent on the present war; and will he give further consideration to the claims of these men and their dependants for an adjustment in their pensions?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

The provision made in the Royal Warrant of 2nd July, 1920, for the Disability Retired Pay or Additional Retired Pay of officers disabled in the last war, and for pensions to the widows and dependants of officers who lost their lives through that war, were based on a cost of living figure higher than that now prevailing, and there are accordingly no grounds for any increase at present.

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

Arising out of that unsatisfactory answer, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he is aware that these men suffered a cut in 1936, and has he made an estimate as to what it would cost to restore that cut?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I am not aware of any cut in 1936.

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in reply to a Question last year he said that this matter was under urgent consideration, not only in regard to disabled officers but for all persons, civil servants and otherwise, who are on a fixed pension; and will the matter be taken into consideration, in view of the high cost of living to-day?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I have nothing to do with Civil Service pensions at all.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House is more or less patiently awaiting action from him on this and other matters, and that unless we get action from him very quickly he is likely to have an awful lot of trouble on his hands, for we have been waiting a long time?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I seem to have a lot of trouble on my hands all the time, and I am prepared to face it. The Royal Warrant of 1920 provided for increases as and when the cost of living figure went beyond 215. We have not got anywhere near 215 yet.

Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

In view of the unsatisfactory' nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will reconsider his attitude towards claims for pensions in cases where medical evidence does not support the view that the ailment from which the claimant is suffering, is either attributable to or aggravated by war service, especially in view of the fact that it is not possible for any medical man, in neurosis cases, to provide his Department with either positive or negative proof of attributability or aggravation?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

The war pensions provisions for members of the Forces do not permit of an award of pension for disablement which is neither attributable to nor aggravated by war service. Successive Governments have maintained this principle as the only sound basis for such pensions, and I can hold out no hope of a departure from it. The question of connection with service in an individual case is one on which my medical officers are well qualified by their long experience to give me advice, and they give full consideration to all relevant factors, including the nature of the disabling condition as well as the service and medical history of the claimant. In neurosis cases I am acting on the advice of a conference of eminent medical experts on the subject presided over by Lord Horder.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I submitted a case to him of a serving soldier who became a lunatic while serving in France, that the man is now certified as a lunatic and is in an asylum, that he has a wife and five children, all over 10 years of age, who are all on Poor Law relief, all because the doctor would not certify that his mental disturbance was caused by his service in the Army? The right hon. Gentleman hides behind that fact, and the man's doctor cannot make a statement.

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I do not hide behind anything. I always face up to the facts. I am well aware of this case. In addition to my own medical officers, eminent experts, specialists in mental diseases, have given me their views and opinions on this question, and there is no doubt whatever that in this case the man's disability has nothing whatever to do with his service.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Why not appoint some independent tribunal, instead of allowing the case to be settled by people paid by the right hon. Gentleman's Department?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

This is a tribunal. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, indeed, it is; in the sense that the case goes to eminent medical specialists, independent of the Ministry, independent of myself, and what better appeal could be had than that? No layman can settle these questions; it must be a medical expert.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the last war persons knew the case against them and were supplied with all the facts; is he further aware that laymen have a point of view as well as medical men on these matters; and will he not consider giving a fair hearing to the person involved before deciding?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

In every case those who represent the man are allowed to put their evidence before the medical experts. He gets a fair hearing. His local panel doctor can put a case forward, and it will be considered. I can assure the House that these medical experts do their job well. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

If you do, you will be sorry you did. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

On a point of Order. Is it becoming for a member even of this Government to adopt an attitude of bullying towards an hon. Member who is exercising his ordinary Parliamentary rights?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

On that point of Order. I repudiate any statement about bullying. The hon. Member knows that in every case he has brought to me—[Interruption].

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

That is not the thing. Again, Mr. Speaker, may I ask your guidance on this?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I do not think the hon. Member needs my guidance. Hon. Members get rather excited at Question Time sometimes.