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

– in the House of Commons on 1st October 1942.

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Photo of Mr Henry Raikes Mr Henry Raikes , Essex South Eastern

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that the maximum sum of £7 10s., permitted as an emergency grant towards the funeral expenses of an ex-service man makes no allowance for the purchase of mourning and is therefore insufficient in all cases to discharge the costs of burial; and whether, in view of the hardship and distress suffered by families of service men and women, he will take immediate steps to remedy the situation?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

The expenses for which the funeral grant is designed are those incurred in connection with the actual burial. The grant is not intended to cover the purchase of mourning where this is desired.

Miss Rathbone:

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is impossible to obtain even the simplest form of funeral nowadays for £7 10s.?

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

asked the Minister of Pensions whether the emergency grant in cases of serious illness applies to confinement expenses?

Photo of Mr Wilfred Paling Mr Wilfred Paling , Wentworth

A normal confinement without complications is not regarded as a serious and prolonged illness covering entitlement to an emergency grant. Where, however, there are complications or other exceptional features which entail unavoidable and unusual expense the case is within the scope of the scheme.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

Has my hon. Friend any knowledge of what the expenses of a confinement amount to in what he terms normal cases; is he aware that they are very considerable for the wives of soldiers, and will he include them within the terms of the grant?

Photo of Mr Wilfred Paling Mr Wilfred Paling , Wentworth

If they come within the terms of my answer, they are included, but they are being made at the present time.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

But only in so far as abnormal cases are concerned. The majority of cases are normal cases, and very expensive, too. Will the hon. Gentleman, therefore, not include them in the grant?

Photo of Mr Wilfred Paling Mr Wilfred Paling , Wentworth

As the hon. Member knows, provision is made through another Department for normal confinements, and if we included them that would be duplication.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

asked the Minister of Pensions, whether the emergency grant is applicable in the case of chronic illness resulting in continuing payment of doctors' bills and cost of medicine?

Photo of Mr Wilfred Paling Mr Wilfred Paling , Wentworth

An emergency grant may be made towards the expense arising from the onset of a chronic illness, but continuing payments are best met by a weekly grant which takes them into account. The Ministry is always ready to deal with applications on these lines.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

asked the Minister of Pensions, whether, in view of recent improvements in allowances for the wives and children of members of the Forces, he is arranging to increase the amounts payable to widows and other dependants of men killed on service in this war so as to remove the disparity between allowances and pensions which is being made more acute by the latest changes?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

Increases in the pensions and allowances of widows and other dependants were made in February last and thus preceded the improvements in Service rates of children's allowances. The fact that these changes did not coincide in date does not justify a further increase in scales which are very favourable in relation to other schemes of compensation for death.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

Does not the Minister realise that these pension allowances now fall far behind the allowances that were coming into the same home prior to the husband losing his life in the service of this country, and does not that prove to him and to the Government the need for an improvement in these pensions scales?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

My hon. Friend knows very well, because I have told him time and time again, that a pension is an entirely different thing from an emergency grant. A pension in the case of a widow is an annuity so long as she remains a widow—it may be for the rest of her life; and in the case of the children it continues until they are beyond school age. I have to think of all that in fixing the rates.

Photo of Mr George Mathers Mr George Mathers , Linlithgowshire

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be right for me to tell the Minister that he is upholding a scandal that must be ended?