Armed Forces and Civilians (Pensions and Grants)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture – in the House of Commons on 10th September 1942.

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Photo of Major-General Sir Alfred Knox Major-General Sir Alfred Knox , Wycombe

asked the Minister of Pensions to what pension the widow of a police constable, of a special constable and of a war reserve constable, respectively, is entitled if her husband has been killed by enemy action?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

The widow of a police constable or of a special constable killed by enemy action while off duty is pensionable under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme, and, in addition, the widow of a police constable may receive any pension for which she may be eligible under the Police Pensions Act, in respect of her husband's service in the Police Force. The widow of a police constable or of a special constable killed by enemy action on duty, is pensionable under the Police Pensions Act, 1921, or the Special Constables Order, 1923. I have power, however, to award a supplementary pension under the civilians' scheme in any case where it is necessary to secure that the widow does not receive, in the aggregate, less than she would have received had her husband been killed by enemy action while off duty. The Police War Reserve is a Civil Defence organisation, and the widow of any member killed by enemy action is pensionable under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme on the same basis as for other Civil Defence personnel. The rates of pension under the scheme are 25s. a week if the widow has children or is over 40 or is incapable of self-support, and 17s. 6d. in any other case.

Photo of Major-General Sir Alfred Knox Major-General Sir Alfred Knox , Wycombe

Will the right hon. Gentleman send me copies of the regulations referred to?

Photo of Mr George Hall Mr George Hall , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider whether those rates are really fair at the present time?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I am quite prepared to receive any representation on that point, and to deal with it.

Photo of Sir John Mellor Sir John Mellor , Tamworth

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has any further statement to make as to when tribunals will be set up to deal with pension claims arising out of the present war; and in what form?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

No, Sir, I cannot add to my detailed statement in the House on 23rd July, when I explained that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to set up pensions appeal tribunals as soon as practicable, and that they will follow closely the lines of the statutory tribunals set up after the last war.

Photo of Sir John Mellor Sir John Mellor , Tamworth

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the members will be appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and not by the Minister of Pensions?

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any idea of what date he has in mind when he says "as soon as possible"?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

As soon as the necessary personnel is available.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Does that mean medical personnel? If so, does it mean that the appointment of tribunals is to be deferred until after the war?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I cannot say whether it will be deferred until after the war. The question of providing the necessary experienced medical personnel is, indeed, the major question; and I am pursuing inquiries to see whether it is possible to obtain that personnel. When it is possible, the tribunals will be set up.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Does the right hon Gentleman realise——

Photo of Mr Cooper Rawson Mr Cooper Rawson , Brighton

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will set up an independent tribunal to inquire into the case of Captain M. H. Copeman, referred to him, in which it is alleged that his death was caused by the negligence of the Army authorities?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I explained in my statement on 23rd July the general position in regard to tribunals, and it will be appreciated that I cannot make special arrangements for particular cases. As I have informed my hon. Friend, I referred this case to an independent medical expert, nominated by the President of the Royal College of Surgeons, who advised that Captain Copeman's condition had not been aggravated in any degree by war service.

Photo of Mr Cooper Rawson Mr Cooper Rawson , Brighton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that other experts disagree with his experts as to the liability of the Government for this death?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

Yes, Sir I am also aware that those other experts have not the complete evidence that this expert had before him. I have exercised my right, conferred upon me by this House, to refer this matter to an independent medical expert of the highest rank, not nominated by myself, not selected by myself, absolutely independent; and I must abide by his decision.

Photo of Mr Cooper Rawson Mr Cooper Rawson , Brighton

Will the right hon. Gentleman refer the case again to another expert, with fresh evidence?

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will give reference for his statement making it clear that claims for pension made in respect of material aggravation of condition would only date from 3rd July, 1941, when he announced the arrangement, although the condition had existed previously and compensation had been applied for?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I would refer the hon. Member to my remarks in the course of my speech in the Debate on the Estimates of my Department, on 31st July, 1941 [col. 1580 of the OFFICIAL REFORT]. I then made it clear that payments under this, as well as under other changes, would only be made from the date of authorisation, which in this instance was 3rd July, 1941, when I made the announcement.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

Is the Minister aware that that reference is too obscure, too difficult for anyone to obtain; and has he not had the injustice of this decision borne in upon him?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I do not agree that the reference is obscure at all. If my hon. Friend will look at the OFFICIAL REPORT for the date I have mentioned, he will, I think, agree that it is quite clear, on the statement I made and the facts I brought before the House. I do not agree that any injustice has been done to anyone.