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

– in the House of Commons on 11th June 1942.

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Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that many parents who lose a son in the service of the country also lose the allotment of such soldier, airman or seaman; that such parents often receive no pension; and whether he is prepared to remedy this situation by granting a fixed amount of pension in every case?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I am not prepared to recommend a general flat-rate pension for these cases. The Select Committee of 1920 took the view that to justify the grant of a parent's pension the test of need, broadly interpreted, should be satisfied. This principle was incorporated in the 1940 Warrant, the provisions of which were fully considered by my Statutory Advisory Committee.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Is it not a fact that in many cases the parents have lost both their son and the allotment he has been giving them? Is that not a wrong to the parents?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

It is a fact that in many cases where sons have been making allotments to the parent they do lose the allotment, but it is not a wrong, because a pension is an annuity for life and not an allowance for a short period. In accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee, I included in the Royal Warrant a provision that pensions would be given where there was need, instead of providing a flat-rate pension which many people would have to include in their Income Tax returns. That would have been a mere paltry 5s. a week, but now I am able to give a substantial pension in cases where there is the most need.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Is the Minister aware of the great sense of grievance on the part of parents who feel there is no sense of gratitude to them for having given their sons?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

No, Sir. Does the hon. Member think that if I lost my son, I should consider 5s. per week a recompense for that loss? Certainly not.

Mr. McNeil:

Does not the Minister agree that, where the son has been making a voluntary allotment to his parents from his meagre earnings, the test of need has already been established by the son's action?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

No, Sir. We are bound to take that into account according to the Royal Warrant. We ascertain the actual facts, and the facts are that, where there is more than an appropriate income limit which we consider a fair income limit, we inform the parents that their right to pension has been established as and when other conditions are fulfilled.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

Will the Minister consider appointing a Committee to reconsider this and other questions? Are we to take the decision of the 1920 Committee as binding for evermore?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

The 1920 Committee was a very representative Committee which went fully into every aspect of pensions, and its recommendations are standing at the present moment. I would, however, strongly recommend the appointment of a further Select Committee immediately after the war is over to examine the whole position in the light of experience and existing circumstances.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter again on the Adjournment.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that a large number of men, graded in a high medical category when joining the Forces, have subsequently been discharged suffering from psycho-neurosis and are not awarded a pension; and whether, as clearly there is some connection between the development of this ailment and the conditions which such men have experienced while on service, he will take action to remedy this hardship?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

The grant of pension for any disability, including psycho-neurosis, depends on whether the condition is accepted as attributable to or materially aggravated by service. It cannot be assumed that a disability can be so accepted simply because it leads to discharge from the Service: the question must be determined in each case in the light of the nature of the disability and the service and medical history of the claimant. Provision is made by my Department for the treatment in special neurological centres Under the Emergency Medical Service of the Ministry of Health of men discharged from the Services suffering from a condition of neurosis provided they are likely to benefit by such treatment. This treatment is granted whether the condition is accepted by the Ministry or not; if it is accepted and disablement cannot be removed by treatment pension is awarded.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

Is the Minister not aware that the British Legion are very seriously concerned about the facts outlined in this Question?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I am in constant and almost daily touch with the British Legion, and I know exactly what their representations are on this matter and what resolutions were passed at a recent conference.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

How does the Minister justify the refusal to make a grant to men who, prior to being drafted into the Army, were fit to do a full day's work and have now been discharged and are unable to work?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

If the hon. Member will bring such cases to my notice, I will look into them, but I am not aware of any such cases.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

When are we to have the report of the Committee on this matter?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

The right hon. Gentleman appointed a Departmental Sub-Committee to advise him on these matters a long time ago, and when are we to have their report?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

The hon. Member is mistaken. Neurological experts were appointed to go into this, and they made their recommendations, which were published and circulated. The Committee is my Advisory Committee, which is not a Select Committee or a Departmental Committee; it is an Advisory Committee, and we meet from time to time and discuss these questions.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

We had a promise of this a month ago.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that his continued refusal to establish appeal tribunals, similar to those established after the last war, is leading to a growing volume of dissatisfaction throughout the country; and whether he will reconsider his decision and have these set up at an early date?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I regret that I can add nothing to the statement which I made on 14th May in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for North Camber-well (Mr. Ammon).

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison Lieut-Colonel Sir George Hutchison , Edinburgh West

Does not my right hon. Friend think that, in view of the criticisms made in my previous Question on this subject, there is justification for establishing these tribunals?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend has not looked up the reply I made. That reply was to the effect that the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) was being considered. I am consulting with the T.U.C., the British Legion in England and in Scotland and all others who are interested in this matter, and, after receiving their views and opinions, I shall call my Advisory Committee and put the facts before them.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

As the Minister so frequently mentions the Advisory Committee, will he make it clear that he does not invariably accept the recommendations of that Committee, of which I am a member?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I do not accept the minority views of that Committee.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

The Minister frequently does not accept the majority recommendations.