Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum not exceeding£21,327,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1944, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Pensions, payments in respect of war pensions, gratuities and allowances, sundry contributions in respect thereof and other services." [Note.—£54,000,000 has been voted on account.]
I have formally to present to the Committee the Estimates of the Department. I propose to leave to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions, who will be speaking later in the Debate, all the points and explanations with respect to the administration of his Department which he would normally give. My purpose in rising now is to commend to Parliament the new arrangements with regard to pensions and allowances set out in the White Paper. These arrangements represent the result of a very careful review by the War Cabinet, a review undertaken in the light of all the criticisms and requests put forward in this House and in various quarters outside for a considerable period of time. May I say here that no one could have been more careful, could have been at greater pains, than my right hon. Friend to ensure that everything relevant to the matter at issue was brought fully and fairly before the Members of the War Cabinet? Might I even add that in all his dealings with his colleagues my right hon. Friend has shown that he is indeed a very good friend of the ex-Service man?
I hope that as the result of this consideration which we have given to these matters and of the changes that have been announced it will be found that all reasonable demands have been substantially met. In public affairs there are many matters of controversy in which it is for the public good that controversy should be kept alive. Such controversy promotes efficiency: it is the lifeblood of our Parliamentary institutions. But this is not such a case.
The treatment to be meted out to those who have made sacrifices for their country, who have lost their lives maybe, leaving dependants, or who come back shattered by wounds or disease, is a matter which engages the public conscience, and we should not rest content with any solution which fails to command the support of the overwhelming mass of reasonable people. That, I would assure the Committee, is the spirit in which the War Cabinet, in conjunction with the responsible Minister, have undertaken this review. I am encouraged by the reception which has been given to the White Paper to believe that we have in the main been successful. If the plan is still open to criticism in certain respects, I hope to show before I sit down that the conclusions of the Cabinet are fully justified on a balance of considerations. Before I proceed to deal in some detail with the main proposals in the White Paper, I should like to remind the Committee of the enormous extension in the responsibilities of the Minister of Pensions, and in the scope of the allowances and pensions which he has to administer, that has taken place since the last war. He now deals not only with serving and ex-Service men and their dependants, but with men of the Mercantile Marine and of the fishing fleets, with members of the Civil Defence services and with the civil population in general who are exposed to war risks. That we should keep in mind constantly when considering these proposals. In the main, the changes that have been made will apply over the whole field, but there are certain classes of cases in which adjustments and adaptations will be necessary, notably in the case of part-time members of the Services, such as the Civil Defence services and the Home Guard.
Let me come to the contents of the White Paper. The first main change recorded there, a very important one, concerns what is called the onus of proof. That is a matter on which there has been a good deal of anxiety and misgiving and, I think, a certain amount of misapprehension. We propose, as the White Paper shows, to redraft entirely the existing provisions in the Royal Warrant governing the conditions of entitlement to pension. In the redraft we include certain novel features, entirely in the interests of the claimants. In the first place, we establish two presumptions. The first presumption—I am putting this in non-technical language—is that a man's condition as recorded on his admission to the Service was in fact his condition at that time. The second is that any subsequent deterioration in his condition was due to his service. We provide, further, in terms, that there shall be no onus of proof on the claimant, and that the benefit of any reasonable doubt, any point where doubt arises, should be given to the claimant. I think it is generally recognised that these are very material changes. It is no doubt the case that in the past it has been the Minister's endeavour to make his administration conform to those conditions. But, none the less, it is, I suggest, important that it should be laid down clearly that the obligation on the Minister is as set out in the new draft. That is especially important at a time when we are proposing to make provision for a system of appeal tribunals, which, no less than the Minister, will, of course, be bound by the terms of the Royal Warrant.
Apart from those procedural changes, two other important changes have been made, The word "directly" which at present appears in the phrase "directly attributable" is omitted, and the word "material" in the phrase "material aggravation" and "materially" in the phrase "materially aggravated", are also omitted. Those are substantial changes. They are not concerned with administration; they will result in bringing within the scope of the Warrant cases which have hitherto been excluded, arid properly excluded. I will only say that any such cases which, under the new terms, become for the first time eligible for pension or grant will be reconsidered at once by the Minister on application.
Will the right hon. Gentleman emphasise that point a little more, because otherwise a large number of cases might be prevented from being brought before the pensions appeal tribunals? This provision will bring a great many other cases into entitlement.
Yes, that is the point. It will include old cases which have been rejected. I realise that these changes, important as they are, do not go as far as some critics of the existing Warrant would desire. They do not mean—and it is as well to face this fact—an acceptance of the slogan which has been crystallised in the words, "Fit for service, fit for pension". Some of my hon. Friends, with very logical minds, have thought that the slogan should be, "Unfit for service, fit for pension". If it had been put like that, we might have found it easier to accept it. But I am anxious that any grievance which can be removed should be removed, and that after this Debate there should be no room for misapprehension. I would like to pause to consider what we have excluded by not accepting what is implied by that convenient slogan. Assuming, as we do, that the changes we have announced will be made in the Royal Warrant, and assuming, as we are all entitled to assume, that the new Warrant will be fairly administered, the only cases that are excluded are cases of disablement which are, frankly, not connected with or attributable to war service, although suffered after the commencement of war service. Here let me say it would not be possible to stop short at disablements which have occurred during service. Disablements arising after service would have to be brought in; and to bring all these in would, I suggest, create inequalities and give rise to new grievances, increasing as time went on. Those cases, we suggest, are cases proper for consideration under the general social services provisions.
Will my right hon. Friend give a concrete example of the kind of disability which he has in mind—a disability which may cause a man to be discharged from the Service, but is not due to his service.
An example is one of the few accidents which, occurring before a man has been released from military service, will still, under the Royal Warrant, not render a man liable for pension. I have been asked for an example, and that is one, but it could be multiplied. There are numerous cases which would arise shortly after discharge.
May I pass directly to the second heading in the White Paper, which is concerned with categories of accidents not at present included in the scope of the Royal Warrant, but which it is proposed to bring in?
Since the right. hon. Gentleman has been good enough to give way, may I point out that some of us regard this paragraph as very important, and it would be convenient to have the explanation now? I suggest that it is important in this Debate, to prevent hon. Members raising points on which there is agreement, and one thing in the White Paper which some of us fail to appreciate properly is the wording of this paragraph. I think it would help the future course of the Debate, it it were explained now.
I take it that hon. Members refer to the sentence beginning:
While the Minister of Pensions will pay regard to any other evidence, including the consensus of medical opinion
and ending with the words:
he will give full weight to the general view expressed above.
I think that is so much bound up with the general administration of the Ministry that it would be better for my right hon. Friend to deal with it, and he is prepared to deal fully with it. I gather that hon. Members are concerned about the implications of the reference to "the consensus of medical opinion." We have to face that. We have provided that there shall be no onus put on the applicant, that there shall be a presumption in his favour, but if you find a condition which doctors are universally agreed is not attributable to war servece, then, rebutting evidence would be admissible, and the presumption with which you start may be overborne. That is tae explanation. I have not tried to put it in technical language. I know that hon. Members wish to be fair, however, and I repeat that it would be better if the Minister who has had to deal with a vast number of these cases were to explain this point.
The phraseology of the paragraph is quite clear in stating that there is a presumption in favour of the man. Then the second sentence goes on to say that, in certain circumstances, doubt may be thrown on the presumption.
I do not think that hon. Members should be suspicious. There is no trap here. But it is the fact that the presumption which is set up by the changed wording is not what the lawyers call an absolute presumption. It can be rebutted by other evidence. I think that is perfectly clear.
I think the last words in the paragraph possibly occasion some difficulty to hon. Members. They refer to "the general view expressed above. "Do the words" general view "refer to the first assumption as to the responsibility of the Government, or do they refer to "the consensus of medical opinion"?
I can clear that up at once. The reference in the last words of the paragraph is to the view expressed in the first sentence of the paragraph, that the fact that a man has been accepted for service may be taken as presumptive evidence. The words "presumptive evidence" did not appear in the article as drafted, and that is why a word of explanation was inserted at the end.
I was proceeding to deal with the question of accidents and was saying that the Government have endeavoured to clear away a number of conditions under which, as the Warrant stands, applications for pensions may be rejected. These conditions have been operated from a very early stage and, to some extent, reproduce the principles that have always been applied in connection with workmen's compensation—the doctrine of injury arising in or out of employment. Those we regard as rather in the nature of pin-prinks. For example, if a person is injured while proceeding on leave and if the leave is the normal seven-days' leave, such an accident would come within the category of compensable accidents. But if he is proceeding on short leave, other than compassionate leave—these things get very complicated as they go on—then he is not considered eligible. We are sweeping that away. Then there is the case of the person who is injured, let us say, while going with a friend to a cinema—who is, while stationed at his post, merely taking a short period of relaxation. As matters stand, such an accident would not give rise to a valid claim for compensation. We are sweeping all that away. We are giving the fullest possible application of the doctrine that a Service man places himself wholly and unreservedly at the disposal of the State during his service and we are covering everything with one exception. The one exception, not covered is the case of the man who goes on leave, who is for the time being entirely released from his obligation to the state and is just as free as any one else to do what he likes. If in those circumstances a man in his home falls off a pair of steps while hanging a picture on the wall, and injures himself, he is treated just like a civilian in respect of that injury and not like a soldier. But with that one exception we have, I think, made a great improvement and a great simplification. That is all I have to say about compensation.
Does the same condition apply to the soldier who is on leave, say, in the Middle East, from one field of war there, enjoying seven days' leave, fully relieved of all obligations, with no commitment whatever to the Services? Will he gain or benefit by a pension should anything occur to him?
When soldiers are on foreign service their whole conditions of life will be covered. It is only when they return temporarily to the ordinary conditions of their civil life—as when a man goes normally on leave to his home in this country—that they will not be covered. That is the one exception.
It is not true, I think, to say that a soldier on leave, even when on home service, is under conditions of civil life. He is, in fact, debarred from following any employment and therefore debarred from having cover for an accident such as might occur to him if he were in civil employment.
I do not think that *hat is wholly true, because there are frequent cases where a soldier does engage in employment, and I presume he would be covered under the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. I do not mind these interruptions, because it is very important that we should get the whole thing clear at this stage. I would only ask the Committee to bear with me, as I am not actually as familiar with the details of administration as my right hon. Friend.
Let me say a word about the question of rates. I confess that I did not know, until I came to look into this matter, that the rates of pension under the existing Warrant are, in certain respects, less favourable than the rates in the last war. It came just as a little bit of a shock, as I daresay it did too to a number of people. I looked into it and found there was nothing seriously wrong. The rates at present granted are related to a lower cost of living than the rates which were stabilised after the last war, and that is the explanation of the difference, but the difference is small and not worth retaining. If it is a source of dissatisfaction, then let us get rid of it. There is no difficulty about that. We have got rid of that without any reflection on anybody who has been responsible for maintaining these rates during this war. And with regard to allowances payable to widows in respect to their children, we have made a very substantial improve- ment. The general effect is set out in the White Paper, in paragraph 14. That paragraph also reflects the decision which has been taken in regard to a widow's pension. We have been impressed by the argument that real hardship is involved in many cases in transition from Service rates of allowance, with possibly a war service grant in addition, to pension rates, and we have considered very carefully how best to meet the difficulty. Various representations have been examined, and our ultimate conclusion was that the best method of giving relief all round would be to make specific provision for meeting house rent, in the case where it is above the rate assumed in the present allowance, that is to say, where it is above 8s., that is, rent and rates. We will without any vexatious inquiry automatically cover any increase in charge—which in most cases is quite unavoidable under existing housing conditions—above 8s. up to a limit of 12S. representing 20S. in all, and that addition will be paid to the widow on application on the mere production of her receipt book.
There are other sources of expense for which provision is made in the form of war service grants. Education, for example. That is already provided for in the discretion which the Minister has to make an education grant. One has heard a lot about insurance premiums. These disappear normally on the man's death, and in regard to the other matter on which stress has been laid, hire-purchase payments—I am assured by my right hon. Friend that he will be prepared to deal further with this point when his turn comes—ways have been found of easing the difficulty in those cases. So we say that, by the changes that we have now made in regard to widows' pensions, the slight increase in the basic rate, the new allowances for children and this new provision for dealing with rent, we have made a very substantial improvement indeed, which will come as a very great boon to the war widows. The effect of the new rates—the aggregate result of the various improvements—as I have said, is set out in paragraph 14 of the White Paper.
Now I come to what I think is probably the most difficult case that I have to put to the Committee. That is the case of the post-injury marriage. At the present time, as hon. Members know, the arrangements provide for supplementing the basic pension by allowances for the wife and children only if the marriage took place before the injury was suffered and, in the case of children, only in so far as they were born during Service or within a certain period, I think, nine months. There has been a somewhat insistent demand that those conditions should be swept away and that no distinction at all should be drawn between the post-injury marriage and the pre-injury marriage. The Government have not seen their way to accept that claim in full, and I am going to do my best to explain to the Committee why they have come to that conclusion. Believe me, the decision has not been due either to lack of sympathy or to considerations of expense, although the cost of meeting the claim would undoubtedly have been very substantial.
The first consideration that weighed with the Government was that it would really not be in accordance with the structure of the pension scheme in the Royal Warrant that account should be taken of changes in a pensioner's economic status. The principle upon which the Royal Warrant has been framed is that the degree of the applicant's physical disablement is assessed as soon as his condition has become static; with no undue haste, but as soon as it is reasonably clear that his condition has been stabilised, his degree of disablement is assessed, the pension is awarded, and that pension, when awarded, is permanent. The Warrant—and this is an important point—expressly prohibits taking account of earning capacity, and at no stage is there any question of either a means test or a needs test. If the degree of disablement is 100 per cent., it does not imply complete loss of earning capacity. On the contrary, the greatest importance is attached, rightly, to rehabilitation and training without giving rise to any fear that successes in that respect might lead to a loss or reduction of income. As a result it is only a small proportion of cases of seriously disabled men that are found to be unemployable on account of their disablement. The majority take up useful employment, and, what is most important in this connection, they become entitled, like other members of the community, to the benefit of the general social services when they are sick or unemployed.
That was the first consideration. The second was this: The concession, if it were granted, could not have been made subject to any time limit, despite suggestions to the contrary. The concession would have to extend to all persons disabled in the last war. That would cover a period of 25 years straight away. Therefore, we should quite clearly have to give up any idea of a time limit, with the result that wives, children and widows would have to be included for the long interval since the onset of the disablement. Now the Government, having taken into account all these adverse considerations, looked further into the kind of case on which the main argument for some concession has been founded. That case is the exceptional case, as I have pointed out, of the disabled man where disablement has been assessed at 100 per cent. or less and who is found to be unemployable on account of his pensionable disablement. That undoubtedly is a case of real hardship which can clearly be differentiated from the others, for the man is not only unable to secure employment but he and his dependants are excluded from all benefits of the general social services. The Government have therefore decided that a concession limited to this particular case is justified, even at a cost of some inroads on the principles upon which the Royal Warrant is based. The effect of the decision which has been come to is set out in the White Paper. An extra 10s. per week will be given to the wholly unemployable man, whether single or married, plus allowances at the full rate for his wife and children, irrespective of the date of marriage and in addition to the constant attendance allowance which is now payable up to 20s. when the condition is such as to require the services of an attendant. Moreover, if the pensionable disablement results in the pensioner's death,' then a widow's pension will be granted. That in itself is a very important concession. It will have to be applied to the pensioners of the last war, and the administrative burden that will be thrown upon my right hon. Friend's Department will be very considerable indeed, because he will have to go back to all those cases.
No, I am told that it is not so as regards women who have become widows before the introduction of the new Warrant, but it will apply to disabled men. My right hon. Friend, however, will deal later with the application of this concession to women who have become widows after the change in the Warrant that is, women whose husbands were disabled in the last war.
The case I am dealing with is the case of the person who is virtually unemployable and who is, therefore, excluded from the scope of the ordinary social services scheme. It will not be limited to persons whose disablement has been assessed at 200 per cent. The case will be that of the person, whatever the percentage of disability on which his pension has been assessed, who has, in fact, been found to be unemployable by the Ministry of Pensions, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, after full advantage has been taken of the facilities for rehabilitation and training. In the case of a pensioner whose disability is less than no per cent., allowances will be paid in respect of the wife and children in full; the allowances will not be scaled down in proportion to his disability. This is an important point. That concession could not have been made if the full demand had been granted. If the full demand had been granted, there would have to have been a scaling down.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he is raising most important issues in almost every sentence. He has just said that the full allowances will be given, irrespective of the degree of assessability of disablement. It need not be 100 per cent. How far down is it proposed to go? To 20 per cent.?
This is a very important question. What I have said is perfectly accurate. May I say another thing that reckons on the same side of the account? Casual earnings of men up to£1 per week will be disregarded altogether. A person may be treated as wholly unemployable notwithstanding the fact that he is capable of earning casual amounts up to£1 a week.
Yes, if he comes into the category of wholly unemployed by reason of his disablement. Although that disablement may be assessed for pension purposes at less than too per cent., his widow will receive a pension.
It is understood that casual earnings up to£1 a week will be disregarded. If a man is able to earn 30s. a week and no more, is he to be automatically regarded as employable?
Wherever you draw a line, you have hard cases. The answer is, "Yes." If he is able to earn 30s. a week, he is not treated as wholly unemployable. Casual earnings up to£1 a week will, in practice, be disregarded.
Suppose a person is receiving something for partial disablement. You say he must be wholly disabled. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, wholly unemployable is wholly disabled. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman, because I, too, have come fresh to this thing. Disablement, as assessed under the Royal Warrant by an express provision in the Warrant, takes no account of earning capacity, and, therefore, a large proportion of the pensioners who are rated high for the purposes of the Warrant, and whose disablement is put for the purposes of the Warrant at 200 per cent. or some other high figure, may be able in the labour market to establish themselves and earn up to the normal amounts which normal persons can earn. That is a feature of the Royal Warrant which operates very much to the advantage of the war disabled man whom it is desired to restore by every possible means as speedily and as fully as possible to conditions of normal life. That is why you get the anomaly of a person 200 per cent. disabled who is not disabled under a national insurance service, not incapable of work.
May I pass to another relatively small point which has given rise to grievance and criticism? I refer to what is known as the halving rule, the rule by which a pensioner who is called to one of the Services and is then disabled is not permitted to draw in full his Service pension and his disability pension. The rule by which a pensioner has in the past been entitled to elect to draw in full the larger of the two pensions and to have the smaller of the two pensions reduced by half is perfectly logical. It can be defended by argument without the slightest difficulty, but, nevertheless, I class it as a pinprick of which we want to get rid. In future, the Service pension and disability pension will both be drawn.
Now I come to the question of parents' pensions. In this case we have decided against an automatic award of pension such as was made in the last war to parents, irrespective of their circumstances or of continuing need, We have decided instead to liberalise the conditions under which pensions in cases of established need are granted to parents. The effect of what we have decided is to increase by 6s. the maximum amount that may be paid to one parent and by 11s. the maximum amount that may be paid to two parents. We think that, by introducing in this way a greater element of elasticity while retaining the principles on which parents' pensions are at present granted, we are meeting the demand which has been put forward in the best way.
You cannot have it both ways. There were two pension arrangements in the last war. There was a 55. pension granted automatically to a parent in recognition of the fact that a son had been killed when the son was under 26. I think that goes back to an earlier state of things, when our ideas as to appropriate rates were very different from what they are now. In addition, there was a pension paid permanently in recognition of the fact that the son who had been killed had been making an allowance of a certain amount, though it might have come to an end at any time. We did not think that it was desirable to reinstate that not too easily defensible arrangement. We thought some concession had to be made, and we considered that it would be better to make it in such a way as to meet real need. Therefore we propose to raise the limit all round, but only to pay pensions where need can be shown. That, I think, is the explanation that the hon. Gentleman asks.
The case of officers' family allowances is being dealt with by removing the present obligation to prove need. Officers will, of course, benefit also by some of the other changes that are being made.
May I say a word about what appears in the White Paper to be rather a complicated matter—the question of treatment allowances? The Ministry of Pensions will have to work out the precise application of the new arrangement in a variety of cases, but what we are doing can be explained under two heads. In the first place, when a pensioner has to receive treatment as an in-patient in a hospital, whereas in the past his allowance was only increased at that moment if he had been in employment immediately previously, in the future it will be increased in every case, irrespective of whether he had been in employment. The maxima are being increased. Further, in the case of a non-pensionable ex-service man who is admitted for treatment under what I believe is called continuity of treatment procedure, arrangements which at present are confined to a very limited class—I think cases of neurosis—the arrangement by which in those cases the pension is payable during the period of treatment will be extended to cover all cases. That, I think, is a concession of very considerable value.
I have come to the end of the detailed explanations that I set out to give. I apologise for any defect in my presentation of these rather technical matters, but my right hon. Friend will be ready to deal with any points that have been raised in the course of the Debate. It would be appropriate normally in Committee of Supply, in dealing with a matter of this kind, to say something about cost, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would wish that I should say a word. No precise calculation of the financial effect of these concessions is pos- sible. They are substantial, but the financial effect must depend on the unknown fact of the weight of casualties that we have yet to suffer. My right hon. Friend is always vigilant in considering proposals which involve claims on the Exchequer, but he authorises me to say that in the consideration which the War Cabinet has been giving to this matter purely financial considerations have not been allowed to play a dominant part. We have looked in the course of our surveys at every feature of the pensions scheme against which criticism had been directed, and we have endeavoured to present a plan to which the House of Commons, which has always shown itself sensitive to any just demand on behalf of serving men and their dependants, could fairly be asked to give its cordial assent. We shall have to get rid once and for all of the reproach of disabled men having to have recourse to the Poor Law. I most earnestly trust that the Committee will agree that in this endeavour we have on the whole been successful.
The Minister has introduced a White Paper the principle of which will be generally accepted, not only in the Committee but in the country. Probably there is at the moment no question that is engaging such widespread attention throughout the length and breadth of the land. It is not confined to any particular section, There are the great industrial organisations representing the working-class movement and the Trades Union Congress, representing not thousands but millions of people, and there is probably not a working-class house which is not represented in that organisation. We have for a long time been very keen in propagating the idea of a review of the pensions Warrant. The whole working-class movement has been engaged in this work for years, and every progressive body in the country will join in giving a welcome to the White Paper. We are sorry it is not in the form of a Bill to which we could move Amendments. But we welcome the statement, as it presents an opportunity to us to draw attention to the limitations of the proposed amended pensions Warrant. Of course, we understand that the Minister will be prepared to take notice of the demands of the Committee and, before the pensions Warrant is issued, will prob- ably make some alterations greater in extent than the White Paper illustrates. While it is welcome, one must say this. because the Minister has been rather too plausible, and his plausibility makes one look to see whether or not he has tried to get away with it. But I can assure him that,' while we accept the principles of the White Paper, he is going to have a little bit of criticism, which I know he will accept in the spirit in which it is handed out. The White Paper is rather late in the day. It reminds me of a badly directed letter which has wandered all over the country before it is delivered, when the news inside it is out of date, and I hope that, when the Debate is finished, the Government will see that, in spite of the advances they have made, which we welcome, there is much that has yet to be done to do real justice to the men and women about whom we are talking.
The right hon. Gentleman has' spoken in moving terms of those who have made their sacrifice. I believe we shall have to do something better than this White Paper says before we can do adequate justice to the dependants of those who have laid down their lives so that we may live, and the nation may live, and before we can do adequate justice to those who have suffered disabilities. I believe the pensions Warrant will have to be a considerable improvement on what the White Paper says. It is a well-prepared document, and it has been well presented, but I wonder if this is the kind of document the Government would have presented immediately after Dunkirk, if it had been possible to present a White Paper then. I am confident that it would have been different from this: The Minister says that all reasonable demands have been met. I advise him to wait until the end of the Debate before he arrives at that conclusion.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will change his mind when he has heard the Debate. It does not meet completely the demands of the people, and before the end of the Debate the Government will know that while the principle of the White Paper is accepted and while we welcome it as far as it goes, it does not go really far enough. The Minister said that he regretted to find when he reviewed the situation that the pension paid to a 200 per cent. disabled man was not equal to that paid in the last war, and that this proposal brings it equal to that. He should have gone a little further and said that by the production of this well-documented paper the Government had succeeded in bringing the too per cent. disablement pension to terms of equality with that paid to the victims of the Boer War. It is not, therefore, what one would call a herculean achievement to have done what they have done. The Government have evidently not taken into consideration any advance in the standard of life. While people are in receipt of disablement pensions they are entitled to get some advantage from the higher standard of life compared with the standard at the time of the Boer War. From that standpoint, therefore, the Government have not a great deal to boast about. I hope that the Minister of Pensions will give us some reason why at this time of day, with the growing cost of living and the higher standard of life demanded by the people, those who are unfortunate enough to be in receipt of total disablement pensions can receive only the same amount as was paid at the time of the Boer War.
We are glad to note that the White Paper brings within its purview Civil Defence personnel, the Home Guard and those who may be injured or the dependants of those who may be killed by enemy action. All this is to the good, and we congratulate the Government on taking these steps. Some questions have already been asked about entitlement. There has been some light talk about the slogan, "Fit for service, fit for pension." That principle, however, would have been the most satisfactory way to deal with entitlement. I hope the Minister will be able to make clear that what the White Paper means is that if there is any deterioration during service from the category in which a man is placed at the time of enlistment, he shall be entitled to a pension. That would go some way to ease the situation, but the only sensible way of dealing with entitlement is to say definitely that those who are accepted by the Government after examination by their own chosen medical men and women ought to be entitled to a pension if they are discharged through any disability. I shall be glad if the Minister will clear up these words:
While the. Minister of Pensions will pay regard to any other evidence, including the concensus of medical opinion regarding a particular disease or group of diseases, which. throws doubt on the presumptive evidence. …
Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear what group of diseases the Government have in mind? Everybody feels satisfied with paragraph 4, which removes the words "material" and "directly" from the Warrant. That will make it a good deal easier for deserving persons to obtain pensions, and the removal of these two words removes also a sore point with hundreds of members of the Services. Another point arises in regard to accidents, on page 3 of the White Paper, especially those sustained while actually on leave. When a soldier has an accident or is killed while on leave, will the soldier or his dependants, as the case may be, be eligible for workmen's compensation? There is a great deal of difference between a person being on leave in this country and being on leave somewhere overseas. They are not overseas of their own volition, but they are there doing service on instructions from the Government. Therefore the responsibility for them ought to be that of the Government for 24 hours of the day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year.
I am very glad to hear it. Paragraph 9 says:
Past cases, which under the existing arrangements have been rejected by the Minister of Pensions will, on application, be reviewed in the light of the new conditions and any award of pension will be made as from the date when the revised rates generally come into operation.
Does that mean that the pension will not be retrospective, but will only date, if the tribunal agrees that an applicant is entitled to a pension, from the time when the revised rate came into operation? If that is so, there is something radically wrong, and I hope the Minister will be able to say that the Government intend, where a pension is agreed on, that it shall be paid from the date of the discharge.
The Minister seemed very complacent on the question of rates. The allowances laid down for children are to be raised from 9s. 6d. for the first, 7s. for the second, and 5s. 6d. for each succeeding child to 9s. 6d., Ss. 6d. and 7s. 6d. respectively. With the cost of living as it is nobody can keep a child on 9s. 6d. a week, and we cannot understand the psychology of a Government which thinks that the third child can be kept more cheaply than the first. Those who have had a family or are rearing a family and a soldier's wife with three children who has to live on a private's wage could in five minutes convince the Government that these allowances are wrong and that differentiation between the allowances cannot be justified. These rates are not good enough and they are not in line with the sacrifices we are asking the men and the women in the Forces to make. Before the Warrant is introduced we hope that the Government will give further consideration to them.
With regard to supplementation of widows' pensions, the Minister said on two or three occasions that there would not be any means test. It may be that I have difficulty in understanding the White Paper, but it says:
There will be no means test but the widow will be given the opportunity of declaring the rent…. Regard will be had to receipts which in effect reduce the rent.
Surely that is a means test.
It is worth while to attempt to remove a misapprehension. A means test is one thing and a needs test is another, but what we are dealing with here is something quite simple. We have said earlier in the White Paper that if the widow can produce evidence of what she is paying in rent and rates, that will be accepted. That has to be qualified in this respect only, that if there is a set-off against what she is paying, that is to say, if part of the house is let, what she receives counts as a reduction of rent.
In the Scottish system of housing the people often have to keep on the light night and day, and that has the effect of making the rent very high. No account is taken of conditions like that.
It all boils down to the means at the disposal of the individual.
Would the Minister say whether this condition will apply also to a woman who takes lodgers? The new rate for a woman with two children will be 44s. 8d., and after rent has been paid I defy anybody to keep the family properly on that sum, yet evidently it is going to be scaled down provided the widow does what many of them will endeavour to do, and that is to get lodgers in order to secure a human and decent standard of life for her children. I hope the Minister will be able to assure us that money earned in that way will not be taken into consideration.
We are delighted, of course, with the statement about post-injury marriages. Going on to parents' pensions, I do not think the Minister was very convincing in his statement about them. We see that the determination of need is to be on a more generous scale, and we are all pleased with the fact that the amount of the pension paid either to one parent or two parents is to be raised, but I do not think the argument of the Minister in regard to the decision still to refuse flat-rate pensions was at all convincing. It may save the Government some money, and it may not. There was tremendous satisfaction among the people who were unfortunate enough to lose their sons during the last war at receiving a pension of 5s. It was not much, it is true, but they looked upon it as some recognition by the Government of service and sacrifice to the nation, and from that standpoint it was worth all the money it cost to the nation. So it would be in this case, and so I hope that it is not too late—and it is never too late if the Government desires to do it—for the Government again to consider the question and see whether it is not possible to revise the old flat-rate pension. I shall not argue the case about the lad being a potential wage-earner or his having made an allotment to his parents and what their loss would be, but from the moral standpoint and in view of the tremendous satisfaction it would create the Government ought to reconsider the point.
The treatment allowances are, generally, not too bad, but it states in paragraph 35:
An exception is already made in non-attributable neurosis cases.
Speaking from memory, I think the Minister told me in answer to a Question a week or two ago that something like 17
per cent. of the disability cases are psycho-neurosis. I was never able to get from him the percentage of those who received pensions. I am given to understand there has been one or two very rare cases in which pension has been paid. I have never met one of them, although I have come across many who have received no pension. I cannot understand the difference in the treatment of the non-attributable cases. The same allowances ought to be available for all those undergoing treatment. I hope, and I hope that the Government hope, that this White Paper will induce psycho-neurosis sufferers to seek treatment to overcome their disability, but, after all, how can we induce a man to accept treatment if he knows that in the meantime those at home will not have sufficient money to live anything like decently, with a child allowance of only 5s. a week? The difference in these allowances seems to me very peculiar. How can we expect anyone to keep a child on 5s. a week? A man who has been unable to work regularly and who has been refused a pension may desire to accept treatment, but then he finds that while he is undergoing treatment he will be down to a basis of payments which gives only 5s. a week for a child. I hope the Committee will agree with me when I say that under no consideration should we agree to 5s. a week only for the child of a disabled soldier while he is undergoing treatment in an effort to overcome his disability. The White Paper says further:
These allowances will normally continue for a period for which continuous treatment after discharge is necessary up to a maximum period of six months.
I hope the Minister will make it clear that this maximum period of six months does not mean six months after the man was discharged from the Forces with this disability, but means a maximum period of treatment for six months. As I read it, it looks as though he would cease to have any claim six months after his discharge from the Forces.
Then we come to the question of widows with no title to any pension. This is "the most unkindest cut of all," and probably the meanest thing. I do not like to speak in that way of a White Paper like this, because I like to look upon it as being generous, though I have not yet found any of the generous parts in it, and this is undoubtedly one of the meanest items. It is probable that only a very few hundred widows are affected. I understand, though the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, that the Government will be called upon to or will make a contribution to the Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation, so that the Fund may be kept going to supply the needs. I wonder why the Government cannot take over full responsibility for these 200 or 300 widows. It is not a big responsibility and it is a diminishing responsibility. It is not beyond the capacity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I hope it is within the compassionate view of the Minister. I think we ought to do it, and I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of hon. Members thinks so. Think of one (If the ways in which this Royal Patriotic Fund is built up. I believe the untraced balances of soldiers who have lost their lives swell the Fund. Things must be very desperate if these widows have to be dependent upon a Fund like that for a pension. The only way to deal with the situation is for the Government to say "This is our responsibility and we will meet the obligations towards this rapidly diminishing section of the community."
There is one long-standing grievance which I thought would have been remedied. I refer to the difference in principle applied to the paying of a pension to the widow of a soldier and to the widow of an officer. It rather smacks a bit of class distinction, and I hope something will be done about it. The widow of a private soldier under 40 years of age and with no children receives a pension of 175. 6d. per week, which will now be increased to£. If she is over 40, she receives 25s., which I understand will now be 265. 8d. There is not that discrimination among officers' wives, and I would like to know the reason. I have heard the widows of private soldiers and private soldiers themselves express their opinion of this discrimination, and although those opinions were very clear, I do not want to use the language. [Horn. MEMBERS "Why not?"] Because I am not so accustomed to using such language as are some of my colleagues, and it seems strange to me. These people are of the opinion, and I agree with them, that this discrimination is definitely part of the Government's policy in order to force young widows of private soldiers into fac- tories and workshops. That may or may not be a good thing, but what is wrong with applying it to the widows of the officer class as well? I should like the Minister to make some pronouncement about this matter. Whether the discrimination is continued or not, at least it should be applied fairly as between the private soldier and the officer class.
I notice on page 8 that the pension for a flight sergeant is 50s. per week or about£130 a year, and that for a flying officer or pilot officer, whose duties and risks are somewhat similar to those of the flight sergeant, the pension is£210 a year. I am using this as an illustration. The discrepancy is too great and should be met by raising the pensions of the other ranks nearer to those of the officer ranks than is the case now. My great complaint about the White Paper is that it makes a difference between the principles applied to the widows of private soldiers and the widows of officers, and between the amount paid to the disabled soldier and the officer class. The pensions of the other ranks are too miserably small. Their sacrifices entitle them to something greater and better.
I hope the Minister will clear up when he replies the anomaly existing between the disabled soldier of the last war and the soldier disabled in this war. If the pensions Warrant is to be applied to the disabled soldier of the last war, let the Minister say so in terms that cannot be misunderstood. If the widows are to come under it, let him also say so clearly. We have had very ambiguous statements up to the moment. We are told that the full dependant's allowances will be paid where men have a disability less than 200 per cent. Will the Minister tell us whether the full allowance will be paid for the dependants if the disability allowances is 20 per cent., 30 per cent. or 40 per cent.? Again, I hope he will make it very clear that, no matter what the assessment is, the allowances for the dependants shall be the same as for the 200 per cent. disability cases.
I hope the Minister will deal with these observations and criticisms and give us an answer enabling us to accept these things with a great deal more satisfaction than we do. We welcome the proposals, because they are an improvement, but we regret that the improvement is not com- menstruate with the sacrifices and the service that those in the Forces have given, are giving, and will give to the nation. We hope that the Government will, between now and the issue of the pensions Warrant, review the matter in the light of what I have said and of what many more Members of the Committee will say before the Debate finishes.
I am very glad that the Government decided to bow to the storm and that they realise they had to make concessions and meet the will of the House. The Government's attention is naturally so wholly concentrated on the conduct of the war that they probably did not realise, as much as did Members who are able to go among their constituents, how completely opinion in the country has changed in regard to pensions, and how determined everybody is that the soldier shall be dealt with this time not only with the utmost justice but with generosity. It is not unfair to ask that soldiers shall be treated on the Beveridge standard, which has set up a new level by which our social services can be judged, namely, the standard of subsistence. We should like to see those principles embodied in the Royal Warrant which is to be brought forward.
The hon. Member said he hoped that the soldiers would be treated by the Government on the level of the proposals of the Beveridge scheme. Surely the present rates are better than those proposed by the Beveridge scheme.
I was not referring to the particular rates. What I meant was that whatever is given should be on the subsistence level, enabling people to live amply and fully. I think we have had a very good example of co-operation between the House of Commons and the Government and that the country ought to realise from what has taken place the very valuable services that the House of Commons are rendering to them, and can render, in matters of this kind, even in the midst of war. These concessions are undoubtedly a great step forward, and we ought to be grateful for them, but that is no reason why we should regard them as the end of the story or why we should not criticise them and press for still further concessions, which undoubtedly will be demanded and will be given from time to time.
I would refer first of all to the Onus of proof. So far as I can understand the wording of the White Paper, it seems to go quite a long way towards making the concession that was demanded, in spite of all those statements that there was nothing in it, that the question did not arise, and that the only issue that the tribunal or the Minister had to weigh was the evidence, on one side or the other, and arrive at their decision. That has all gone. It is admitted that there is an onus of proof which is being changed round in favour of the Service man on this occasion. I hope it is all right, and the test I would apply is suggested in the wording I have put down in an Amendment to the Bill, which is, in Clause 1, page 2, line 42, at the end, to add:
(5) In any appeal arising under this section the appellant shall be deemed to have been successful in his claim unless the Minister can by evidence establish the contrary.
As I understand it, that really is the position that the Government have taken up, and I shall be interested, when we come to discuss the Amendments in Committee, to see whether that is the case.
I do not intend to refer to tribunals again. I am going to refer to the "Fit for service, fit for pension" question. The position on that point is very largely altered by the fact that the Army is no longer voluntary and that everyone in the whole community may have to go into it, whether he likes it or not. The Government have complete control over life and movement for a period of years. In the circumstances one has to reconsider the view that there must be a casual connection between the disablement which may have taken place. I was interested to see that "The Times" in a leading article the other day rather adopted this point of view. I must say it would be very reasonable of the State to assume responsibility under those circumstances for anything that happens to a man or woman in the way of death, wounds or accident. It is said that the man who does not come into that category at present will rely upon the ordinary social services, but unfortunately those social services are inadequate. The sick pay, widows' pensions, and cash benefits are not what they ought to be, and it would be natural for an ex-Service man to try to be included under the Ministry of Pensions scheme rather than under the social services. That is another reason why, considering the change that has taken place there, we should The for everybody to be included. he Lord President of the Council referred to the danger of creating inequality; but the inequality is there. It exists at the present time, as I have been pointing out, because of the inadequate amount of the social services, as they now exist.
I would now like to refer to the question of accidents. While I am very glad that the concession has been made, I am bound to say that I do not feel satisfied with the position that persons injured on leave do not receive pensions. A man on leave is still within the grip of the Armed Forces and is liable to recall at any moment. He may be sitting in a cinema and may suddenly receive instructions to report at once. How can that man be regarded as living in normal civilian life? If he is in uniform, as he may well be while on leave, he may receive an emergency order on the spot from some officer. How can it be said that he is not within the grip of the Army? I very much hope that the Government will reconsider the position and will decide that a man who has met with an accident while on leave shall be brought within the scope of the concessions that have been made.
I would like to say a word about the question of the unemployable men. It does not seem to me that the Minister was able to make out a clear case at all for treating those who marry after the war, differently from those who marry during the war. Indeed there can be no logical defence of the difference. If a young man decides in a great hurry that he will marry and has children, he comes in for these pension rights, but if he perhaps takes a more prudent course, not knowing what the future is going to bring or whether he will come back, and prefers to wait and marry afterwards, he is penalised; he does not come in for these benefits. The Lord President talked about the position of the man himself and his employability. That really does not touch the issue of the wife and the children. Their position and their needs are just the same and have as good a claim, whether marriage took place at an earlier date or at a later date. There is no getting away from it that the objection to it is purely on the ground of expediency, and though it has been said that finance did not enter into it, obviously it must have. It is admitted that the number which will be brought in from the last war would be very large, and therefore I take it that that is the reason why the concession has been so limited.
The condition should be the same whether the man is married during the war or after. Where he marries afterwards his dependants do not receive the treatment for which I am asking. I make this suggestion. Twenty shillings are to be disregarded, and it is suggested that this is a reasonable thing. I do not think that is enough, and if the Government are not prepared to make the wholesale concession I have suggested, I think it would go a very long way towards meeting a great many cases if they took, say, 40s. as the amount that should be disregarded. That would be very much more reasonable than the figure suggested.
The other point to which I wish just to refer is a small one in a way, but it is important. It is with regard to the widows with no title to any pension. I think the suggestion that they ought to be dealt with through the Royal Patriotic Fund is not worthy of the occasion. That is a charitable voluntary fund, doing, I have no doubt, most admirable work, but this matter ought not to be treated on a charitable basis. These widows ought to be regarded as eligible by statutory right to pensions under circumstances of this kind. I think the Government will find that there is little sympathy, I would say no sympathy, in the Committee for a proposal of this kind. The amount of money involved is very small, and I hope they will see their way to cut this suggestion out.
I am grateful for the concessions which have been made. It has been a very good day's work indeed for the House of Commons, and we shall judge them finally by what happens in a day or two's time when other aspects of this matter can be dealt with, but I hope that the Government will pay attention to the many criticisms and words of advice they receive during the proceedings to-day, which will probably go on to a late hour, and take them into consideration and still further adapt—probably not on any large scale—their proposals to the clear wishes of the representatives of the people.
I welcome this White Paper. I think it will go a long way towards reassuring many of us who had felt apprehensive and had the same misgivings about this question of war pensions. I only intervene to raise a point which is worrying me. It does not directly concern this White Paper but it is very closely bound up with the whole question of pensions for dependants. Cases have been brought to me. The widow of a serving man who has lost his life in the war is receiving the appropriate war pension, but if that pension, including allowances to children, is at least equal to the widow's pension then the widow is not entitled under the Contributory Pensions Act to receive the widow's pension also, although her husband may have been a contributor for 15 or 20 years. Therefore the widow of a man who may have "blued" all his spare cash and never bothered to contribute in order that his wife might receive a pension is just as well off at his death as the widow of a man who has contributed and denied himself in order that his wife might receive a pension. This seems to me to be hardly fair. It is a discouragement of thrift.
It seems to me that the proper attitude of the Government should be to encourage, not discourage, thrift. I know that contributory pensions are the affair of the Minister of Health and not of the Minister of Pensions, but this question of contributory and war pensions is very closely bound up in a case of this sort. I hope that some arrangement will be made between the two Ministers concerned. Even though it may not be reasonable to expect that the widow should receive both pensions in full, it seems that she ought to enjoy same advantage from the foresight and thrift of her husband, whether she receives back the contributions of her husband in benefit over a period or whether she should be eligible for widow's pension at 55 or 60,—
I am sorry if I was out of Order. It is a point I wished to make, because it seemed to me to be closely bound up with the question. As I am out of Order, there is nothing more to say except that I hope that attention will be paid to that point.
I wish first of all to congratulate my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), for making up this case on behalf of Service men. I have been unable up to now to take part myself for military reasons, but I welcome this opportunity of paying tribute to their efforts. I do not at the same time congratulate the Government to the same extent. The Lord President of the Council in opening his speech to-day said that this was a matter which should not give rise to public controversy, but it is only as a result of public controversy that the Government have given us this White Paper. My first main criticism against the Government to-day is that they ought to have done this without the necessity for an agitation in this House. Nevertheless, having made that point, I feel that the Government ought to be congratulated on bringing this White Paper forward and meeting so many of the points which had been raised in the past.
We have to look on this White Paper scheme from the point of view of the background of post-war finance. As the days go by and we get one scheme or another put before us, I personally am beginning to feel alarmed at the magnitude of the planning that is going on. For instance, quite apart from the large increase in the service of the National Debt, which, if the war goes on until the end of 1944 will probably be£500,000,000 a year, we have vast sums put forward as necessary under the Beveridge scheme, we have the new education White Paper, which will cost large sums in addition, and then we have a plan for London, which is only a part of the country, which will also be very expensive. That is only the beginning. None the less, I say this quite frankly, that cost what it may this question of pensions must be met in full. I say that, because I do not think the Government themselves have made even a rough estimate of what it will cost, as we do not know what the casualties will be by the end of the war. I stand by what I said in this House on 17th February last, when I said that after the necessary arrangements for international security and the necessity of stimulating export trade, pensions must be the first charge on the National Exchequer. I stand by that in full, and I am glad that the Government have taken the same line.
To refer to one or two points in the White Paper, there is this question of seven days' leave. I agree that seven days' leave and anything over seven days it is reasonable to leave out from the computation of pensions. But it was only by a side-wind to-day that it was brought out by the Lord President that all leave abroad will count as service. I should like that to be made very clear, because there have been cases—I have not had one brought to my notice, but I have seen them in the Press—where a man, say, on seven days' Cairo leave, has fallen off a truck and injured himself and has been denied pension. I want this made very clear. We may have not only Cairo leave and Algiers leave but Rome and Paris leave before the end of this war, and I want it clearly laid down that all leave, once a man has gone overseas, should be counted as service and that there should not be any question of the Government escaping their obligations on the ground that a man was on seven days' leave overseas.
There is one point about the unemployable and the 100 per cent. pension. I think I am right in saying that a man cannot be employed for wages if he is receiving 100 per cent. benefit, nor can he earn more than£1 a week privately.
If that goes down on record it will be wrong, and it will not be fair to the men. The term we use is "totally unemployable." The man can earn whatever he likes and get his pension, but he cannot get supplementation unless he is unemployable.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that correction. A man may be technically unemployable, but may be able to work with his hands, making carpets, for instance, or something like that. Before the war£1 a week might have been a fair sum, but after the war it may be worth much less, and I hope my right hon. Friend will consider whether the amount could not be raised. That is the only point in the speech of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) with which I agree. I am sorry that the hon. Member has gone. I think that the Secretary of State for Air should take his Parliamentary Private Secretary in hand, because what has been said to-day does not show very great indication of Liberal unity. The present pension is based on the present cost of living. If the cost of living alters materially, owing to inflation or to anything else, it must be revised. With regard to past cases, there must be many where it is clear that owing to the alterations they will become eligible for pension. I feel that, in spite of the utmost publicity, many pensioners whose applications have been turned down will not know that they ought to apply again. Is it possible to review these cases without the people applying? That may be difficult, but it seems hard that the cases may only be reviewed on application. These cases must be categorised in some way, and it would be of benefit not only to-Members of Parliament who will be inundated with cases that have been turned down, but to the prospective pensioners themselves, if the cases could be reopened by the Ministry without waiting for them to apply.
I welcome the White Paper. I hope that it will meet 99 per cent. of the complaints that have been put forward by my hon. Friends in all parts of the House, and notably by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale. I wish my right hon. Friend well, and hope that he will get over the administrative difficulties with the utmost speed. One feels that when the Ministry of Pensions make a change like this, applicants may become annoyed at the delays that occur. I hope that in this case there will be no such delays.
It would be rather churlish not to say that the White Paper represents an advance. The public, to a large extent, Members of the House of Commons, and others have demanded changes, and this is the result. The Lord President of the Council constantly talked about certain things being illogical. This is one of the most illogical things the Government have ever done. If anyone attempts to run a system of pensions, particularly connected with the war, on a basis of logic in every detail, it will collapse. The Government are being illogical now. Only a short time ago they were defending the present position, arguing that the scales were proper and the methods right. Now they are going back on what they said, and nobody criticises them for doing so. If you are going to run a Government on logic, you will succeed only in doing nothing at all. I welcome the improvements that are made, but these proposals do not go anything like far enough. Whether the change in respect of the onus of proof is so sweeping as Members think, will be tested not by to-day's Debate, but by how the thing works in practice.
I came into this House 21 years ago, after the debates on the last Royal Warrant, and when full experience had been obtained of its working. But I have read the speeches made by hon. Members when the Royal Warrant was introduced. The Government proved to the general satisfaction how cast-iron were the provisions from the point of view of the soldier. Liberals, Tories and Labour Members were all animated by one idea, to do the best for the serving soldier and sailor, and all accepted in full the idea that the words contained in that Royal Warrant gave complete justice. It was not because Members were bad, or because they were fools, or because they did not understand. What happened was that between a set of words and their actual effect in practice there was a tremendous gulf. I am anything but sure of these words. They leave too much open to doubt. It may be true that you have given the tribunals a chance of a wider interpretation, but you come back to the old issue of a man being passed Ai, who has been in first-class health, who has never been ill, who enters His Majesty's Forces, who serves for two, three or four years, and then comes out, and the Minister being able to prove that his disease had nothing to do with his war service. You can say what you like, but the country thinks that the widow, apart from whether the man had cancer or some other kind of trouble, is entitled to a pen- sion. I notice that some people sneer at the slogan, "Fit for service, fit for pension." I am not a slogan-monger. Slogans, like Socialism or Tariff Reform or anything else, must be examined on their merits, and accepted or rejected according to how they work. Unless you can say that a person who was deliberately passed fit for service, who had had good health, is entitled to a pension, you will come back to the old position to a large extent, and Members will be dissatisfied. Frankly, I do not, like the position now.
Another thing which I think is wrong is the treatment of the small number of widows—300 in all—who come under the Royal Patriotic Fund. I think most Members will agree that if public money is to be spent the public should have sonic control. The Government are making contributions to this Fund, yet the Fund does not appear on any Vote and is not liable to any form of public control. I want to make my protest. I think there is a growing practice, not only in this case but with the War Office, of handing over inquiries to bodies outside of public control. The Soldiers and Sailors' Families Association carry on all sorts of public inquiries. I telephoned them in Glasgow the other day. Every day I telephone people about matters that are brought to my notice, because I Think a Member should not go scampering to Ministers if he can deal with matters locally. I have followed this practice with the local employment exchanges and have been well received. When I telephoned this Association I asked for the chief lady. I was told that she was out. I asked for the next person in authority, and was told that I could not speak to him. Then the typist, after I had told her who I was, said that they were much too busy to talk to me. I found afterwards that none of them was out. If they had been under public control, they would never have dared to behave like that. An organisation responsible for looking after widows and children in this way should be answerable to this House. It is impossible for us to conceive anything less than that. To hand over 300 widows to the care of an outside organisation is repulsive to us; it is wrong, and it is going back to the system of the old charity-mongering days. I am sure that my Conservative friends and my Labour friends all agree on that.
In dealing with the ordinary widows' pensions, one of the most appalling things to come across is this dividing line of stamps. It is the cutting-out of decent widows, often the most deserving, by a stamp or some question of insurability. The Minister ought to stop at once the petty things about health insurance stamps, or he should at least do this for the soldier. The moment a man enters the Service, whether he has been insured or not or has worked in business on his own, he should be credited with 104 contributions, thus allowing his widow, should he die, and his dependants to come within the full scope of insurance benefits. You talk about pinpricks, but that is probably the worst pinprick of all. I am not going into the question of disability marriage, as it will no doubt be dealt with more adequately by others. I fought the means test almost as much as anybody, but the employment test is as repulsive as the means test. In fact, I think it is open to even worse objections. Unemployability is not a static thing. It is subject to other forces as well as a man's condition.
There is a man living near me who suffered disability as a result of the last war, and for years he was unable to do anything. Try as we did to train him, he could obtain no job, but he has now been working during the last two years because of war conditions. But when the war is over and the market widens, he will probably have to go back to the conditions of the days when we had between i,000,000 and 2,000,000 unemployed tramping the street. Frankly, I would say to the Minister that I do not want to hound that type of man to work. I would rather such a man had a higher interest in life, and it often causes me annoyance when I see some of these men doing the particular kind of work that they are having to do. I would like them to go in for nobler things in life which do not involve such laborious tasks. I believe that in the days to come this sort of thing will present even greater difficulties. A disability man is allowed to marry, and if he subsequently dies, his widow and children come in for pension. But if a man who has a 100 per cent. pension but at the same time has been able to work dies, and it is certified afterwards that he has not died because of his disability, but because of some other reason, his widow will not get a pension. But in the case of the man who became totally unemployable and married afterwards, his widow, if he dies, will get the full pension. That is an example of illogicality that I cannot defend.
We are discussing the Royal Warrant, and the Minister will agree that once it is passed it will remain for many years. The last one continued for 25 years, and the next one will probably go on nearly as long. Take the man with a 200 per cent. pension. He subsequently married and lived five or six years after receiving the pension. He was able to work. He had three children, but under this scheme they could only qualify for the amount of pension that the widow would have got under the Widows' Pension Act. While such a widow could get supplementation for rent, she could not apply for any further supplementation to anybody but the Poor Law. This White Paper is subject to the worst blemishes. I have often been accused, and I think rightly, because of the kind of Division I represent, where I have never seen anything else but poverty, that I have not bothered much about education and that sort of thing. To some extent that is true, but I take the keenest interest in education to the extent that I want to see it developed. There is no mention in the White Paper about the present position of the widow in regard to the education of children. There is one test that is not abolished by this Warrant, and I plead with my hon. Friends in all quarters of the Committee to try and get it abolished now. Before a widow can get an extra allowance for education for her child she must prove that, had the father lived, he would have given the educational facilities for which she is now asking. In these days that sort of condition ought to go. I have seen children of people in Scotland being sent to the university when their parents have been drawing Poor Law relief. My father had long spells of unemployment, and I am the only member who did not have some sort of university education. [Laughter.] I did not mean that to be funny, but only mentioned it to prove that poor Scottish widows can desire a better education for their children. Sometimes I wish I had had such an education. It might at times have made me somewhat more tolerant. If these women want their children to have the advantage of full educational facilities, such facilities ought to be granted.
I am keen on preserving soldiers' pensions and all that, but I am more and more coming to the view that the dividing line between the soldier and civilian is becoming the narrowest possible. One night in Glasgow, just near where I live, I saw people carrying a dead man who had been killed in the black-out. There was not a penny of compensation for his widow. Nobody could prove the accident. She would only be entitled to the ordinary widow's pension, yet that man was a casualty of war almost as much as if he had been killed in the firing line. The one solution of all this is to raise every member of the population to the same level and to sweep away distinctions and make the right of pension applicable to all, and particularly in respect of children, so that they might be given a better chance in life.
I find myself greatly in sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has been saying, but I know that things are not as easy to put into practice as we would like. Speaking for the ex-Service community as a whole, I feel that what is wanted in any Royal Warrant pensions is simplicity, speed and the removal of any suspicion that the dice are unfairly loaded against them. Therefore I think the new White Paper, particularly the new Article which I think of very greatest importance, on page 3, directing that "any reasonable doubt shall be given to the claimant," will remove from the minds of the ex-Service community the idea that their claims are being strangled by red tape or the impression which is, I know, unjust, but is understandable that in the past "the Minister employed men of skill to twist the ex-Service man out of what he considered his rights," as one expressed it to me.
This Clause, I believe, will put things right. I was much impressed by what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) said about our not being able to afford to be bountiful with the nation's money, remembering that every sixpence will eventually have to be paid out of our postwar trade and commerce. But I believe that we can and ought to be as the nation wants us to be—generous. The word
"generous" is defined in my dictionary as:
Ready to give help in need, to treat with honour
and that, I submit, is what the country to-day is looking for and desires. I have talked this over with all sorts of people—munition workers, men's wives, and with men and women of all ranks and classes, and they all say, "This time we must be generous with the ex-Service community as a whole." This is the feeling of the country to-day. We have the regrettable lesson, not only of the last war, but also in history right back to Agincourt, that when the danger is past the fighting man is forgotten. Therefore, I do welcome this sign of generous legislation, but at the same time I appreciate how difficult it is to be generous on the right lines and how practically impossible it is to cover every case of hardship that must inevitably arise from the blind fortunes of war.
For a few minutes I would like to turn to what I consider are two serious omissions from the White Paper, but before doing so I would like to refer to two minor points, minor because their financial effect is little, but important because they will, nevertheless, have a considerable effect on many ex-Service men and women. Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the White Paper refer to the conditions of improvement relative to the supplementation of pension of the seriously disabled man. The conditions of this improvement are such that the supplementation applies when the pensioner is not able to earn more than£1 a week because of disablement. It is apparent that the Minister visualises cases where a man may be able to earn considerably more than this, and in that case the supplementary allowance, including wife's and children's allowances, will operate. Paragraph 22 says:
Where in future a man dies of his pensionable disablement while drawing a wife's allowance his widow will be eligible for the award of a war pension …
When it has once been admited that the wife and children are eligible for pension, I feel it is a great hardship that in the possible event of the husband being able to work for, say, four months or four years and earn a larger sum, his wife shall not be able to draw a widow's allowance in the event of his death from his wounds during that short period of employment. This anomaly should be put right. The
second minor point is this: the White Paper refers to disabled women, but they are not mentioned specifically. I think they should be clearly included as they are in the tables at the end of the White Paper.
As regards the two serious omissions from the White Paper, first I am sorry to see that the scheme for alternative pensions has been turned down. This must be put right for those men and women who had a pre-Service income considerably larger than they could possibly expect to earn as disabled men or women. We all know that in this war there are many who are lucky enough to go up rank by rank, but many may be left in unknown parts of the world which the war has not touched and for that reason will not have the same opportunities of promotion. As in the last war, we have a citizen Army in this, and something should be made available for what I trust will be a relatively small number of the ex-Service community. I can give one brief example. Suppose we have a man aged 36 who volunteers for aircrew duty in response to an appeal for older men in the Royal Air Force and becomes a sergeant radio operator or a sergeant observer. Perhaps he is badly wounded or may be killed a few days before his commission comes through. As a sergeant his widow and two children will receive£2 9S. 3d., possibly less than a quarter of his pre-Service earnings. Had he lived to be actually commissioned as a flight-lieutenant, which he could expect to be within a year, his wife and family of two small children would have received, under the new rates,£4 5s. a week. This sort of anomaly should be to a certain extent evened out. What I suggest is something on the lines of the war service grant, the principle of which has been accepted by the Government and which, in my experience, is working very well in the Services at the present time by helping to make Service pay more elastic where there is definite hardship based on pre-Service commitments.
The second omission I want to mention is the question of a flat-rate pension for parents as in the last war in those cases where the son or daughter has made a Service allotment. I think this is a very important point, especially in poorer homes, where 5s. a week has been a welcome addition to the parents' income. Many young men and women serving in the Forces to-day would feel very happy if they knew for certain that if anything happened to them the allotment they were making to their mother would be carried on as a right by a grateful and a generous country.
These concessions have arisen after some months of pressure being brought to bear upon the Government by this House, by the British Legion, which has been to see the Minister of Pensions in deputation, by St. Dunstan's and by the newspaper Press. [An HON. MEMBER: "And many others."]. Yes, and by many others. I was not trying to be exclusive. My point was rather to make it clear that very great public pressure was required upon the Government to bring about these changes. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said he thought that this was a field in which controversy was in some way to be deprecated. I agree if he meant that we did not want to make pensions a matter of party politics. I am sure my hon. and right hon. Friends in all parts of the Committee will agree with me that we make a contribution, in so far as we can deal with these matters, on nonparty lines. But if pressure of public opinion and this House was required, it was because the Government themselves were insensitive for so long. I ask them to contribute towards taking these matters, which are so poignant, out of public controversy by showing a greater sensitiveness to the points put before them by various bodies and Members in the House, because I believe that in the coming year there will be other new matters, and some older ones which have not yet been settled, that will come up for discussion. I cannot feel that this is a final settlement in any way.
I therefore again ask the Government to be sensitive to what their friends in the House may be able to tell them and not to exclude the suggestion of a Select Committee. If the Government make the complaint that this matter has been brought strongly to public notice, let them remember that they were asked by a large number of us to set up a Select Committee four or five months ago. For my part, I welcome the proposals in the White Paper because I think they are the biggest single step forward the Government have taken for a very long time. They match up with the big steps taken in 1919, and I hope that by and large the proposals of the White Paper will commend themselves to the Committee and the country in so far as they are an attempt on the part of the Government to meet the particular grievances that we brought forward. I am not prepared to say that any of the proposals, after the legal proposals, are generous, but I think they do meet to a great extent the criticisms that were made.
The Committee will want to hear many speeches to-day, and, therefore, I propose to touch only briefly on some of the points in the White Paper. In the White Paper there is a textual extract of one or two Clauses that will appear in the new Warrant. They are the legal Clauses relating to entitlement, and one contains a sentence which refers to whether a certificate is given. Many of us wonder whether those words qualify, and perhaps even negative, the whole of the Government's generous intentions regarding the onus of proof, the presumption and the benefit of the doubt. I will not elaborate the argument in connection with that matter, because other Members will do so if they catch your eye, Mr. Williams. But I hope between now and the third Sitting Day the Government will be able to give us satisfaction on this matter so that the encouragement that we give them then may be appreciated by them.
I noted with pleasure the Lord President's statement that, where a man is on foreign leave, the limitation will not apply. I thank him for the long service pension, and the concession will be appreciated. With regard to widows and children, I only desire to say this. All widows of the seriously disabled group should qualify right out for the Service widow's pension. A most curious anomaly has arisen as a result of the Government's proposals. Where a man is found to be seriously disabled and unemployable, he gets the wife's allowance. If then he dies, his wife becomes a Service man's widow qualifying for a Service widow's pension, but, if the man was not unemployable at any time during his serious disablement, she never becomes a Service man's wife and never becomes a Service man's widow. So the test whether you are a Service man's wife or a Service man's widow is not whether you married a Service man, which would appear to be relevant, but whether he happened to be unemployed or not. That is wholly illogical, and, apart from that, it deprives the woman of an advantage, because the Service widow's pension is more generous than the civilian widow's pension. It carries with it no means test, and there is greater security.
Hon. Friends of mine will develop the case for the officer at greater length than I shall, but I would just touch upon it. There is one matter in the White Paper where the officer gets an advantage over the man. Where an officer's widow is under 40 she gets the same widow's pension as if she were over 40, and the other ranks get a lower widow's pension if they are under 40 and have no children. I do not know why the officer is so favoured. I am glad he is, and I hope the men will be so favoured. That is the only direction in which the officer gets anything in this White Paper by way of a new concession, and, having regard to the history of officers' pensions, there is really something serious for the Government to look into. When the men's pensions were reduced for this war, officers' pensions, as far as at least half of them were concerned, were reduced by nearly double. They were reduced more prorata, of course, because they were higher, but they were reduced by two steps, and an injustice was done to them. The Government claim that they are assimilating the pensions of this war broadly to those of the last war. I shall be glad, if my right hon. Friend was not aware of the point, to show him the figures. I asked the Minister of Pensions to show them to him, and I hope he did. I will gladly show them to any hon. Member, because an injustice has been done. Moreover, the officer does not get the concession that is being made to the post-injury marriage case. I cannot imagine why. If you are in another rank and are seriously disabled and unemployable, you will get a substantial supplementation of your basic rate, but, if you are a young officer, you will not. In times gone by the officer question was a class question. Now officers come from all classes, and hundreds of thousands of men who served as privates in the last war have sons and daughters serving as officers in this.
With regard to post-injury marriages, the case put before the Government in March was that there was an injustice in depriving of the wives and children's allowance those married after injury, and it should be put right on the ground that it is a natural injustice. Also it is bad for the State, because it prevents the marriage of citizens who could produce good children and who need good wives. The Government have not met this case by the simple expedient of granting pensions in all cases. Let us be fair to the Government, though, and see exactly what they have done. The case was fortified by bringing to notice those men disabled in the highest degree who were unable to get a job and had to live on a single man's pension. The Government have met those cases, and I calculate from the brief survey I have made of many cases known to me and from general knowledge of these men, that out of all the men who are disabled in the highest degree, of whom there are 25,000, and then perhaps another 25,000 disabled seriously—that is the word in the White Paper—there may well be a third who will get no benefit from these proposals because they are in a job, and it may well be said on behalf of the Government that they have enjoyed the moral effect of the job, plus the income the job brings them, plus wartime increases in the wages they have been receiving. They are not in fact in need. There will be directed towards the others, who are in need because they have not got a job, substantial sums. I calculate that a third will not get anything, a third will get 10s. a week, plus in some cases children's allowance, and a third will get £1 a week, plus in some cases children's allowance.
I should like to thank the Government for having met the case of the most seriously disabled men as well as they have done. The Committee knows that a man may be allowed to do a£1 a week's worth of work. That is satisfactory. Many of these men keep a few chickens, or have a hobby and pick up odd jobs, and it is good that they should be allowed to do so. I do not think it will hurt very much if the old soldier of the last war, struggling terribly hard to maintain an insurable job, is tempted by the new allowances to give up his job and take the allowance. I hope the Government will not be too severe in their method of assessing what is unemployability under this provision, but I am rather concerned over the young men of this war.
This brings me to my real objection to the principle the Government have introduced for the first time into our pensions law. It is really an objectional principle although it will bring much needed aid to a lot of people. I want to show how objectionable by reference to the young men, to whom our thoughts go at this time. A young man of 22 might have been wounded in the highest degree two or three years ago. He may have got married after his injury, and he may by now have two children, or he may have another child next year. Soon there will be such men in such case. I know some already. If he is disabled in the highest degree, he has lost a great deal. His health or his sight has been impaired, and it requires a great effort of will on his part to overcome that handicap and to go out into the world and get a full-sized job in insurable employment. Many succeed, and the Committee will be the first to praise them for their courage and their ability, but it is so difficult to do it and to maintain it that you ought not to put a premium, in the way of allowances depending on the employment, on any temptation not to do it. The man is so much happier if he can do it. The way to remedy it is not to take it away from the youngsters but to give it as a right, and that is the way it should have been done. The Government will not be immune from encouragement to think the matter over again. We shall want to see the Regulations, and I hope the Minister will tell us that he will show us the Regulations, defining what is "seriously wounded" and what is "unemployable," because much depends on the way they are written and on the way they are carried out.
I would ask him to bear one particular point in mind about unemployability. The White Paper says a man qualifies for this supplementary pension if he is seriously wounded and unemployable as the result of his pensionable disability. Suppose there is a man who has lost both his legs, who at the moment is in an insurable job, perhaps earning quite a lot, with war bonuses on top, but it is an awful business doing a hard job when you are handicapped in that way. It is not only the daily fatigue of the job. It is getting up in the morning, finding your way to work and getting back again, buying cigarettes on the way and doing the hundred and one jobs of life that the disability inter fares with. It is not only related to your working hours and days but to the whole of your life. If such a man says, "While the war is on and they need me I will work hard and put up with this almost intolerable life," and when the war is over, and perhaps his son is killed, he says, "I have not so much to work for now. I will take it easy." So he goes to the Minister and says. "I am 55 or 56. I have worked hard all this time, particularly during the war. I want to retire. I have 10s. and the wife's allowance. That is another£1 a week. I can pick up another£1 by casual earnings, and I shall be all right, without the terrible daily strain to which I have been subjected." Will the Government say to that man, "You deserve your retirement and ease, and that is what we meant you to have," or will they say, "Your disability is the same as it always was. You are still missing the same two legs. Your disability has not changed. You could work then. You must work now. The reason you now want easement is old age and not your disability, and the facts in your case prove it? "If they say that, they will be interpreting the matter too hardly, so we want to see what the Regulations are. I have evidence that instructions are sent by the Minister telling his agents how to carry out their work which are not reported to the House and are not always consistent with Ministerial speeches. Let us have an assurance that these Regulations will be shown us.
May I say a word as to rates? I do not accept£2 a week as enough for the purpose for which it is intended. The time will come when we shall have to ask for an alteration. The case is this: Whereas in 1919£2 a week for a severely disabled soldier was so much higher than any other kind of public health, pension assistance or Poor Law, it is not now so much higher because conditions of life have changed.
I am glad that the hon. Lady the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley) spoke of alternative pensions. That question will have to be gone into. I would remind the House that the Select Committee of 1919 stated that the£2 a week to which I have just referred was a suitable amount for unskilled or semi-skilled men, but that there would be found to be in the citizen Army 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. of persons who would not be adequately compensated by such an amount. Can the House now say that£2 a week is adequate in all the changed circumstances of to-day, or must the House insist, as the House of 1919 did, that for the 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. whose circumstances were different there should be an alternative pension which is related in some way to the higher standard of living which they have enjoyed and which they expected to enjoy? Some pensioners have been benefited by this White Paper, but not officers and not those who suffered through disability between the wars. The Service Departments are notoriously unhelpful and ungenerous to persons who were disabled between the wars. The Government ought to say that these rights, for what they are worth, should be for all men of all wars. I welcome these proposals as a genuine attempt to meet the grievances, I ask the Government to be more sensitive in future and I ask those Members of the House who want to help the Government on non-party lines to do the best possible for our ex-Service men.
I would like to begin with a few criticisms. In the first place, I want to refer to post-injury marriages and ask why there is to be a difference between the man who married before injury and a man who married afterwards. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) put it, the question whether a man is injured and not whether he is married should decide his entitlement to a pension. In towns and villages throughout the country, if this proposal goes forward, we shall see soldiers living side by side, some of whom married before and some after their injuries, and they will be living in different conditions. Those who married after their injury will not see why they have to live in worse conditions than those whose only virtue is that they happened to be married before they were injured. Both have undergone the same risks, both were equally brave, and they will fail to understand why those who married after injury should be penalised as compared with those who married eariler. Last week we had a Debate on the population problem. This point in the White Paper will not encourage wounded Service men to marry. In fact, it will definitely discourage them.
I turn to a second point in regard to treatment allowances. I welcome the changes that have been made, but I ask the Minister whether he will not make one further change. I note that the White Paper says there is to be a limit of a maximum period of six months after discharge in which the allowance is to be given. I beg the Minister to extend that period and to make it as long as the man needs treatment allowances. In the case of a disease such as tuberculosis, a man may need treatment allowances for a long period. I have cases in my constituency of men who are on public assistance while undergoing treatment for tuberculosis because they are unable to keep up their standard of living. They should get free freatment and all the assistance they require until it is considered unnecessary for them to receive more treatment.
In regard to parents' pensions, I have advocated, as other hon. Members have, that there should be a 5s. flat rate as a minimum. It existed in the last war and I cannot see why it should not exist in this war. Why should present conditions be behind conditions in the last war? In other directions, the Minister has brought conditions up to what they were in the last war, but in this direction the conditions are behind what they were in then. There was a most revealing phrase in the Lord President's speech which I noted. He said that if some concession had to be made—a curious way of putting it—it would only be in cases of need. Are the Government only giving concessions which have to be made or are forced out of them? That is what it looks like. As hon. Members say that is quite obvious, but it was very revealing that the Lord President should actually say so in his speech.
I have strangely enough finished with complaints. I could make more, but other hon. Members wish to take up other points and I have therefore limited myself to a small number. I turn now to something which is perhaps rare in this House and something which I do not often go in for myself, that is the giving of a few tributes. I would like to say how glad I am that the change has been made in the rule as to accidents, but I would ask that it should be made clearer because I do not understand it. Under the heading of "Accidents" under (b), the White Paper refers to
accidents sustained whilst travelling to and from home on short pass, i.e. leave of not more than 48 hours' duration (unless leave is of a compassionate nature).
As far as I understand it, that means that if a man goes on seven days' leave he will not be entitled to receive a pension if he has an accident while going to or from his leave.
I do not think that is very clear. Again it says,
unless the leave is of a compassionate nature.
Is it a fact that a man going on and from leave, whether the leave is compassionate, 48 hours, or seven days, will be entitled to a pension if he has an accident?
I am satisfied with that reply and am glad that it is so. I am glad, too, to see that that unfortunate phrase "material injury" has been wiped out. As one who pressed for that when the original abortive proposal for the pensions appeal tribunals came forward I particularly welcome it. I welcome also the all-round increase in pensions up to the 1919 figure. I said I wanted to pay tributes, but to whom do we owe tributes? That seems to me an important point. I pay a tribute first—and I am not ashamed to say so—to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions, who is, I am sure, only too delighted to be able to bring forward these proposals. He has, no doubt, exercised considerable pressure in various quarters to be able to do so. I should also like to pay a tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not believe that the Minister alone is responsible. It may even be that he has had to have a little prodding, from time to time, from the Parliamentary Secretary.
Lastly, I would like to pay a tribute to ourselves, to all of us here. I do not see why we should not do so. There is a school of thought, which has somewhat Fascist tendencies and which says of the House of Commons, "Send them home. They simply talk and talk and do nothing. Leave things to the Government." These things were left to the Government, but nothing happened. Then Members of Parliament, those people who according to these people ought to have been sent home, stood up and said what they thought, arid staged a revolt, so that the Foreign Secretary had to come hurrying down from a Cabinet meeting. As a result, something happened. I therefore pay a tribute to the Minister, to the Parliamentary Secretary, and above all to this House for what has been done. I believe that the action of the House in this matter will have a profound effect on the feeling that our Fighting Services will have for Parliament. I believe that this practical exhibition of the democracy for which they are fighting will impress men in the Fighting Services, including those who at this moment are fighting in Sicily. When they go out to fight they will know that they are not just fighting for a slogan merely called "democracy," but for something which gives practical effect to matters concerning themselves. They will realise that democracy is more than just a word and that it is the means of getting better conditions for themselves.
We have had to wait a long time for the production of this White Paper, but most of us realise that a certain amount of delay was necessary in order to ensure that every point which had been raised by hon. Members, from time to time, should be adequately met. It is unfortunate that the impression should be created, as it has been, that the concessions contained in the White Paper have been wrung from a reluctant Government as the result of pressure in this House and pressure of public opinion. I join with other hon. Members in welcoming the concessions which the Government have made. It is only fair to say that, so far as the great majority of the points which have been raised by various hon. Members are concerned, the Government have met them fully and in a generous spirit. The point on which we seemed likely to part company was the question of onus of proof, but as has been mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), the Government have met us on that important question, and we have no complaints to make. I am very glad indeed, in common with other hon. Members, that we have restored the rates of pension which obtained during the last war. The reduction made in the existing Warrant was never excusable. I do feel—and in this I do not agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale —that, generally speaking, the rates of pension are reasonably fair. It is often forgotten that these pensions are completely exempt from Income Tax, and in these days, when Income Tax is so high, that it makes a very material difference.
I mean disablement pensions. I think it is true to say, generally speaking, that a man who is receiving a disablement pension and is able to earn his living as well, is better off than he was before he was disabled. To my mind that is an extremely satisfactory state of affairs. But I cannot say that I am altogether happy about the position of a dead man's widow and children. I should be inclined to say that there should be a greater margin for supplementation of pensions. The White Paper appears to assume that the only expenses of which the Government should take note are rent and taxes, but there are many other expenses to which a widow is put when bringing up a young family, and I should very much prefer that this margin for supplementation, which has a limit, I understand, of 15s. a week, should be widened in order that cases of special hardship may be satisfactorily met. I should like to join with my lion. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale in requesting that these rates should apply to all forms of disability acquired in every kind of warfare. It seems ludicrous that a man who loses a leg or arm in Palestine or on the North-West Frontier, should receive a smaller disability pension than a man who has lost a limb elsewhere in this or in the last war. I understand that when these rates were stabilised in 1919 disabled pensioners of the Boer War were brought up to the 1919 standard, and it is only reasonable that we should insist that men who were disabled in these other wars should receive the same rates of pension.
I am extremely disappointed with the decision of the Government with regard to post-injury marriages. It seems to me quite unjust and quite illogical that such men should be in a less favourable position than men who were married and had children before the war. There is no logic in it at all, although I confess that I do not agree with the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) when he said that this is going to discourage these men from marrying. It is a long time since I married, but I do not feel that finance is the sole thing a future husband has in mind when he is picking a partner. What happens now is that a young disabled bachelor is awarded his pension by the Minister and the Ministry say to him in effect: "Here is your pension. You can do what you like. You may marry and you may beget children, but so far as we are concerned, your wife will always be your mistress and your children will be your bastards." That may be a very coarse way of putting it, but it is the plain truth, and hon. Members should do everything they can to have this gross injustice put right as soon as possible. I really find it impossible to believe that when these disabled bachelors become elderly, they will be the target of every designing young female in the neighbourhood. That is an argument which means nothing at all; it has no sense. The only way to put things right is to meet the demand which has been made upon the Ministry time and again for months on end.
I want to refer to the case of officers, and may I remind the Committee that this is not now a class question. People from every walk of life are likely to become officers. Napoleon's conscripts were supposed to carry a field-marshal's baton in their knapsacks, and it is true to say to-.day that every soldier carries a Sam Browne belt somewhere in his kit. This is not a class question. It seems to me that officers have had the scales weighted against them. Let me take as examples two extreme cases, blinded officers of the last war, and other ranks who were disabled 200 per cent. Between 1914 and 1919 other ranks injured 200 per cent. had a continuous rise in their pensions which was followed by a 15 per cent. drop from the top figure. Their pensions were stabilised at that 15 per cent. below the top. On the other hand, blinded officers had their pensions fixed in 1914 and there was no rise between 1914 and 1919, in spite of the increase in the cost of living, and when their pensions were stabilised, it was at a figure 42 per cent. below the original figure. Those officers were not treated as fairly as other ranks, and it seems to me the only way in which we can do them justice is to restore their pensions by the same percentage as that by which they were reduced. I understand that representations on this point have been made to the Ministry from time to time, and that the Minister's answer has been, "Let us adjust the discrepancy after the war." I should infinitely prefer to have the matter settled now. Parliament and the country are now in the right state of mind for making these changes and for readjusting matters. We know that as soon as the war is over we are likely to be distracted by the immense problems which will then arise. Let us settle this matter now and ensure that justice is done.
A far harder case is that of the officer's widow and children. A great many officers who lose their lives on active service are men who were formerly earning good incomes—almost entirely earned incomes. Having good incomes, they made commitments consistent with their position in life, and those commitments were mainly concerned with the future education of their children. Take as a typical case that of the widow of a captain with two children. The maximum that that family can receive is£322 a year—£150 for the widow,£72 for children's allowances and£100 for education allowances. It is more than likely that a young man with a small family would have wished to make provision for sending his sons to a public school. In view of the fact that those of us who believe in public schools have been very much reinforced recently from an unexpected quarter, I do not hesitate to mention the possibility of some people wanting to send their sons to public schools. One knows that it would be impossible to send two children to a public school for less than about£400 a year. That means that the children of an officer killed in action who has no private means have their lives disturbed and overturned to a far greater extent, generally speaking, than the children of a man who was in less prosperous circumstances before enlisting. There is no question that there is a greater financial sacrifice on the part of the families of officers killed in action than is the case with other classes in the Service. It would be only right for the Government to undertake the responsibility of educating these children, paying the full cost of their education, either by making a direct education grant to the mother or by substituting a system of adequate scholarships which will cover every educational need between the ages of eight and eighteen. I would remind any financial expert on the Front Bench that this would be a strictly limited liability, since it would end as soon as the youngest child has reached the age of 18.
But if this makes no appeal to the Government let me suggest that the proposal for alternative pensions, which they have turned down so rudely and abruptly in the White Paper, might be considered. I understand the Government's argument is that alternative pensions worked very badly in the last war. I wonder whether it has ever occurred to them that there was nothing wrong with the scheme but only with the people working it. It is nothing less than justice that these pensions which are, in fact, compensation for financial loss incurred as the result of the father's death, should bear a much closer relation to the pre-war family income than they do. Forty years ago Theodore Roosevelt said:
A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to get a square deal afterwards. More than this he is not entitled to; less than this he shall not have.
I think that represents the view of all hon. Members and of all right-thinking men and women in the country. We make no extravagant demands on the Government on behalf of these men. We do not want them to have more than they are entitled to. We do not want the Government to put them into a specially privileged position which, in course of time, when people have forgotten about this war, would make them disliked and envied, but we do want to be fully assured that they receive no less than they deserve. We ought to see that complete justice is done to these men and that the country pays in full the immense debt which it owes them.
I think it is the view of the Committee generally that this White Paper represents a great step forward in the Government's pensions policy, and I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for the part he has played in bringing about the reform in the ranks of the Government of which this White Paper is the evidence. Already the White Paper has been called "the ex-Servicemen's charter." A statement has just been issued from the British Legion, of the National Executive Council of which I have been a member for many years,
and I should like to read one sentence from it:
The amendments outlined in the White Paper on war pensions accept most of the improvements which the Legion has consistently asked for since the commencement of the war. They mark a distinct advance in pensions policy and should go a long way to alleviate the distress caused by the present regulations.
That is a statement by the national chairman of the British Legion, who is also the chairman of the War Pensions Committee, and I think it would be well for us in this Committee, while congratulating ourselves on this step forward, to recognise the great and important work which the British Legion has for so long done in the matter of war pensions on behalf of ex-Service men.
There is one concession in the White Paper to which I wish particularly to refer and, it is that which speaks of the burden of proof. It is generally known as the onus of proof. When I read it, I recollected that some years ago I made a similar suggestion, and I took the trouble to look up the Debate in true OFFICIAL REPORT. I found that as far back as 1928, during a Debate on the Ministry of Pensions, I made a suggestion of a similar character, If hon. Members will allow me, I should like to read an extract from the speech I then made. I hope my hon. Friends will not be alarmed. I am not going to read what Gladstone said in 1876, but what the hon. Member for Deritend said in 1928, which was:
You get expert opinions of specialists on diseases 'submitted by applicants reversed by the Minister's doctors, who have the last word in every case, and on their judgment the Minister decides. Why not reverse the regulation which requires that the applicant for a disability pension must prove that his disability was caused or aggravated by war service, and make the Ministry prove that the disability was not caused or aggravated by war service?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd August, 1928; col. 2656, Vol. 220.]
It is very gratifying to me that the words which I then uttered have come true after 15 years. It only shows that the Government can occasionally learn something, even from a back bencher.
I trust that the Committee will bear with me on my first speech in this House. I cannot now claim to speak as a Service man but I can claim to speak as a man who has been out of the Forces for only a very short time and who knows something of what the man in the Forces is feeling to- day. To say that I do not welcome this White Paper would be untrue; but I welcome it rather as a housewife welcomes the milkman who brings her half-a-pint of milk when she has ordered a quart. I agree entirely with what the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said on the principle "fit for service, fit for pension." On this important principle I feel that we should be big. We should admit that principle, of course, making a few reservations to cover such matters as self-inflicted injury. I think that should be quite simple. In that way, a man in the Forces would be absolutely certain of getting a square deal without any possibility of being deprived of his pension on medical grounds.
I was interested in the anomaly raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley). I would like to put before the Committee a further anomaly in the Service to which I had the honour to belong, the case of the sergeant-pilot who is very often captain of an aircraft, of which the crew are perhaps a pilot-officer as second pilot, a flightlieutenant-observer and even a squadron-leader air-gunner. That sergeant is captain of the aircraft and has to take the whole responsibility for the safety of that aircraft. Should anything happen to him, his widow would receive 23s. 4d. a week under this White Paper while the widow of the second pilot would receive 50s. a week and the widow of the squadron-leader£170 a year. That is an anomaly which should be removed.
On this question we have, in many ways, lost all sense of proportion. I cannot help feeling that we speak in shillings where we should be speaking in pounds. I do not wish in my maiden speech to appear critical, but I have for long been appalled at the treatment which the men in the Forces have received. It is intolerable that these men who to-day are making the greatest sacrifices and taking the greatest risks, should be paid on a level lower than that of a labourer. I think the most intolerable thing of all, is that, after their sacrifices and in the event of their being disabled, they should receive such a miserably low pension. I have heard it said that the Government have been very generous to the Forces in one way only—in lip service. One might compile a book of tributes paid by Members of the Government Front Bench to mem- bers of the Forces. My friends find it very difficult to understand how such tributes can be sincerely paid when, in every other way, they receive such mean treatment at the hands of those same people. The men on whose behalf I am now appealing, are not mere derelicts on the sea of fortune. They are our heroes. They are the men to whom the words of the Prime Minister apply to-day: "Never has so much been owed by so many to so few." Yet we propose to compensate those who are totally disabled on the miserable scale of£2 per week, or if they cannot do a stroke of work and are unemployable, 50s. a week.
I have heard appeals made to the right hon. Gentleman to be more generous, but I feel that this is not a case for generosity but a straightforward case for settling honourable obligations. When we pay our manufacturers to-day on the cost-plus basis, we do not think then of generosity. That is an obligation. When we pay interest on war loans, we do not look upon that as generosity. That is also an obligation. Yet, in the case of these men in the Forces who cannot speak for themselves, who are helpless and who have to throw themselves on the mercy of this House, we have to appeal for generosity. Surely the time has come when we should look at this matter in a totally different way. We should think in terms of what these men are able to earn, or what they were able to earn, and we should give them the whole amount, plus a little extra, as a token of this nation's gratitude to them. I go about the country and hear men, including even Members of this House, laying their plans for "cashing in" on the prosperity of the post-war world, a prosperity which will be won for them by the sacrifices and bloodshed of these men in the Forces. When I contemplate the position of the totally disabled men, who are unable to do another day's work and who have to look forward only to years of suffering and misery, who have want facing them all the time, and when I consider that those men's total stake in that post-war prosperity is a paltry£2 or 50s. a week, it is more than my flesh and blood can stand, and I say that it is time the system which permits that sort of thing to happen should be brought to an end.
I feel that these are human arguments which cannot be denied. Only one argument can be put up against them. It is that we cannot afford it. That argument has been used to combat every other measure of social security which has been placed before this House of Commons and I think it is time we adjusted our system so that we can afford these things. It is time that the rights of human life were placed before the rights of property. Speaking at a meeting in my constituency a short time ago, I put it to the people that they were fortunate to be allowed to invest their money, at this time, in war savings certificates and to draw interest on them, and I asked them whether they could honestly say that their sacrifices could be compared in any way with the sacrifices of the men in the Forces. I believe we pay something approaching£500,000,000 a year as repayment of interest on the National Debt. I asked those people how many of them would forego their interest on those war savings certificates in order that the men in the Forces might be paid decent rates of compensation, and every one of those people, without exception—there were 200 of them—put up his hand. I cannot help feeling that if that question were put to this country to-day, and if we applied that principle from the top of our system to the bottom, we should have no difficulty in finding the wherewithal to compensate our men on a reasonable scale.
It is said that history knows no gratitude; I feel that that, unfortunately, is only too true. The sufferings of the men who fought in the last war are, very largely, forgotten to-day, except perhaps when we find, in some of the London streets, men without legs sitting on the pavement, showing a few pictures. I cannot help thinking that we in this Committee are the custodians of the future of the men who are fighting to-day and that we should be doing less than our duty if we did not demand for them something more than just a subsistence living. A sum of£4,£5 or£6) a week would not be too much for those men. They have earned it, and are entitled to it. We are living in very great days, when great deeds of valour are being performed by our men on the battlefields in Sicily and elsewhere in the world. The time has come when we should match those deeds of valour with noble deeds here, and be prepared to make sacrifices in order that it can be said of us that we knew, at least, gratitude to those who fought and died for us.
I should like to avail myself of this privilege and opportunity of congratulating the hon. Member on his admirable maiden speech. I hope and I believe that the House will enjoy the privilege of hearing him again on many occasions.
At the outset I want to say that I am delighted with the change in the atmosphere that has taken place in the Committee as a result of the introduction of this White Paper. The atmosphere has completely changed from what it was a week or ten days ago. But when I say that, of course, I do not mean that either I or other hon. Members of the Committee are completely satisfied with the contents of the White Paper. I think personally that the Government have approached this subject from the wrong angle What I mean is this: As the White Paper itself says, the Government have harked back to the 1918 and 1919 period as though the pensions system in vogue at that time was wholly satisfactory. I happened to come into the House in 1923, and I remember that most of the Members in the House at that time were very dissatisfied indeed with the whole of the pensions administration, and what was more important, they were very dissatisfied with the principles embodied in the pensions Warrant at that time.
The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to disabled men sitting on the footpath displaying pictures and seeking alms. We are all painfully aware of that, but it was the outcome of the shortcomings of our pensions system at that time, and here we are congratulating ourselves to-day on emulating precisely the effects of the pensions Warrant of 1918 and 1919. I agree with the hon. Member who preceded me that the amount suggested to-day is grossly inadequate, but for the moment let us take paragraph 3 in the White Paper. I agree that certain words have been deleted. There are scarcely two Members in the Committee to-day who are convinced that the deletion of those words to which exception has been taken in the old Warrant will bring satisfaction as a result.
The slogan "Fit for service, fit for pension" has met with a certain measure of derision. I see no reason why it should. If we as a com- munity set up medical boards for men and women and then, as a result of the decisions of those medical boards, take men and women into the Services, we should be prepared to stand the consequences. We should at least be prepared to pay a pension where disability has occurred while those people have been in the Services. I know it will be argued that a medical board may have made a mistake, that there may have been some inherent disease that the doctors or the medical board were not cognisant of. I know that medical men make mistakes; we all make mistakes. I agree that when the medical man makes a mistake the undertaker invariably takes the mistake away. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not always."] I am not deriding the medical profession, but that is the natural course of events.
What I am arguing for is this: Do not let us deride the slogan "Fit for service, fit for pension" in the manner in which it has been derided in this Committee. There is a just claim in the slogan, and as a community we should be prepared to face up to the claim. I am not so sure after my experience in this House that this redrafted paragraph which is to go into the new Warrant will get us over the difficulty, not by any means. I am also aware of the fact that when the 1924 Administration came in and that Administration decided that all applicants should receive the benefit of the doubt, it created a considerable amount of change in public opinion at that time and also in the administration of the Warrant itself, but it did not even then give that sense of justice that this Committee ought to be desirous of giving to those men and women who are giving such valiant service, such generous service, to the community at the present time.
Passing from that, I now wish to refer to the subject of the rates. Two pounds a week, as has already been said, is not sufficient for the man who is totally disabled. What can they do with£2 a week? You and I and every member of the community to-day enjoying comparative safety are in that position as a result of the services that are being rendered by the men and women in the Services at the present time. I know it is argued by the Government that they are not prepared to commit themselves unduly, that they have to be careful and to pay high regard to the commitments to which they are committing the community. But we cannot be too generous to these men and these women, and if the Income Tax has to remain abnormal for some years to come, we shall not be paying too much for the services which have been rendered and for the security which is being given us as a result of the services rendered.
Let us, if we can, just get outside the atmosphere of this Committee. I am going to quote this as an illustration of the point of view taken by a man who has been totally disabled in the Services. He wrote to me, and he said in his letter:
My earning ability was approximately£250 per annum with definite prospects of early advancement. I have recently been discharged from the R.A.F. after a crash whilst on active service, with the following permanent injuries: Loss of left leg above knee, stiff right leg and stiff right arm. I have been awarded a too per cent. pension of 47s. 6d. per week…. I have been informed that when fit I will be trained in administrative office duties to assist me to bring my earning capacity to my pre-Service days. That will he all right, but what are my present expectations? Am I expected to exist with my wife, who is unable to go out to business as she has to help me at present to dress, etc., on 475. 6d. per week? That is not helping me to improve my physical condition, as it is only natural that I cannot help worrying as to what we are going to do. I should very much like your advice on this very urgent matter.
I referred this to my right hon. Friend, who, as he always does, did all he possibly could within the ambit of the Warrant and the conditions laid down therein, and an extra award of 4s. 2d. has been granted to that man. Forty-seven shillings and sixpence plus 4s. 2d. is yrs. 8d. What a prospect. Would any man in this Committee like to be. confronted with similar circumstances? We should face up to this; it is not generous enough, It means that we shall see the same spectacle in the streets of our cities and towns in this war as we did after the last war, and we are walking into this with our eyes open. It is not good enough.
I am giving the facts in this letter. That is what this man is receiving. The case has recently been dealt with, and if the man is entitled to anything more, I assume that he would have received it. But even under the new White Paper will anyone get up and say that we are erring on the side of generosity? For a totally disabled man the amount is 40s. Does anybody say we are erring on the side of generosity there? I think we should double that. The country could afford it if Parliament were to will it. I hope that we shall not speak any more about the generosity of this White Paper.
We give 50s. for a man who is totally disabled if he is single, provided that he is totally unemployable at that. Who is going to keep him? This man, with his 47s. 6d. a week, went to the public assistance committee. Think of the humiliating, degrading position for such a man, after rendering the service he has to the community. The right hon. Gentleman may smile, but it is no smiling matter. Let the better part of his nature, which we know, show to-day, and let him not smile. The public assistance officer says, "You cannot expect to live in the conditions you enjoyed before your injury." The man says, "Must I live in the slums?" The public assistance officer says; "Yes, if need be." Great heavens, What are we coming to? Is the House of Commons going to pass legislation which makes that inevitable? Have we lost our soul and feelings? Let the Government reconsider the rates in this scheme. They are totally inadequate. If the House of Commons passes this, we are going to see the same humiliating spectacle in the cities and towns of this country as we saw immediately after the last war. Why should we discriminate in regard to these men? They are deprived of many of the comforts and joys of life that you and I have. Why not give them an opportunity of having a home of their own, where someone can care for them? Make it open to them to marry. Let us show that we have some real spirit of appreciation for the services and sacrifices that have been made, and let us have a little less talk on the public platform about the grand spirit shown by these men and women. Let us in the pensions Warrant give them some measure of generosity—we can never give them justice. There are many other points to which I would like to refer, but other hon. Members want to speak, so I will only impress on the Minister that this Measure is inadequate. If it is passed, we shall have to come forward with fresh demands. Why not do the generous thing now, and fortify our men and women with the knowledge that we are prepared to give a measure of justice to them if it is at all possible?
There are some matters arising in the White Paper to which I desire to address some comment. The first is in regard to the important question of onus of proof, which has been widely canvassed during the Debate. As I understand it, we have now an assurance that the provisions of the new Royal Warrant will make it clear that where a Service man is graded A on entering the Service and subsequently becomes incapacitated, such incapacity will be presumed to be due to service. We have the assurance also that any aggravation of an existing condition will be pensionable and—most important of all—that the benefit of any reasonable doubt will go to the claimant. I hope that that will result in the situation that when these matters are considered it will be decided that, in the vast majority of cases where a man has been graded A on entering the Service and has been incapacitated later, he will receive a pension. Further I hope that those who administer the provisions of the new Royal Warrant will do so, as I think the Government intend, for the benefit of the claimant. One matter was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) in regard to the certificate which must be given before any pension can be considered. It was suggested that all these assurances in regard to the benefit of the doubt and so forth might be of no avail because the grant of a certificate was arbitrary. I cannot think that that is the position. Surely we are bound to accept the assurance that in the new Royal Warrant these protections for the claimant will be faithfully provided for. There are one or two other matters to which I desire to refer. First, I want to refer to the second part of the White Paper, to Clause 7 (b), under the heading "Accidents." That says that accidents sustained while travelling to and from home on short leave—that is, leave of not more than 48 hours' duration—unless the leave is of a compassionate nature, shall be pensionable. I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he cannot say that the exception, namely, when the short leave is on compassionate grounds—
I observe that. That is to be pensionable, but, as I understand, if a man has 48 hours' leave on corn-passionate grounds, and meets with an accident travelling to or from his home, that is not pensionable.
No, that is not the case. Under the old Royal Warrant, if a man went on 48 hours' leave on compassionate grounds and had an accident, he could claim pension, but in other cases he could not. We are now bringing all the cases into line, and in all cases the man can claim.
I am obliged for that explanation. I was misled by the wording of this part of the White Paper. I pass to the ninth Clause, under the same heading, dealing with past cases coming up for review. The situation seems to be that past cases will, on application, be reviewed in the light of new conditions. It is as to the words '' on application "that I desire to raise a point. That puts upon the man the onus of applying. I can see that there would be many cases where that may be just. For example, if it is merely a medical question of the chain of causation between service and injury. Then, perhaps, these men should be required to apply for review. But if, under the new provisions, a man who has formerly been turned down is now held to be entitled to pension, I suggest that my right hon. Friend's Department should notify the man of his rights, as is to be done, for example, under Clause 15 of the White Paper, in respect of supplementation of widows' pensions. If I may crystallise it, I would say that if by these new provisions we confer new rights upon those who have had their pensions rejected, we ought not to ask them to rely upon such information as comes to them. for example, through the Press, but that they should be made aware by the Department of their new rights. Those are the specific matters to which I desired to refer. I have purposely refrained from saying many things which I should have liked to say, because they have been covered by other hon. Members. Generally, I feel that the Committee will welcome, as I do, the improved conditions which are offered by this White Paper. I think it is a fair comment that this whole problem is indeed not a matter of being generous so much as a matter of being fair and just to those who have served so faithfully and with such sacrifice.
We have had a long Debate, considerably advertised beforehand, holding out some prospects of being stormy, but I think that my right hon. Friend the Minister can feel that, upon the whole, it has been very favourable to him. There has been no general uprising from the House. There have been a number of criticisms on individual points, anomalies have been brought out, as one might expect, and there have been one or two protests to the effect that the scale of pensions is not so high as it might have been. But, apart from that, the Minister's proposals have received a very good reception. I would like to break away from the general view of the House, and challenge—if that is the right word—a more fundamental feature of the whole pensions programme. In doing that, I am fortified by the fact that my view is shared by the British Legion in Scotland, which, like the English body, offers a general welcome to the proposals. It regards them as only a first step, but a useful one at that. The point I want to raise is this.
Under the present scheme some men or their widows may suffer much greater hardship than others as the result of these pensions provisions. That existing hardship is often related to the social standing of the man or his family before he joined the Service. Various hon. Members—for example, the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb)—have suggested that the scales of officers' pensions should be increased. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Loverseed), in an attractive maiden speech, suggested that the right criterion would be to give to each disabled man the sort of income which he had before he joined the Services.
These suggestions are concerned with a very important matter. Hon. Members have quoted cases, and I could quote many others where the widow of the man killed, having beforehand enjoyed a reasonable income, say a wage of£8 or£10 a week, gets from the Minister a Service allowance and a war service grant; her husband is killed as a private, and she drops from the substantial sum of say 94s. 6d. a week to 48s. 2d. That is an extreme hardship. What is the real answer to that? It lies in this direction, and it is the proposal which the British Legion (Scotland) has put in terms to the right hon. Gentleman, and I would be grateful if he would tell me when he replies what is his reaction to it.
I had an interview with representatives of the British Legion (Scotland), who said they did not regard this as a matter for immediate attention at all. They put certain points forward, many of which have been embodied in the White Paper, and said they were prepared for their other proposals to be discussed after we had disposed of this matter.
The right hon. Gentleman is right in summarising the proposal. was not suggesting that anything should be done now, but as it is fundamental to the whole pensions scheme I would consider what the proposal is. This is the view of the British Legion (Scotland). It seems to us that the present scheme is fundamentally inconsistent. It is full of anomalies, and it results in payments to various people of various amounts that simply cannot be justified. It is interesting that, as the Lord President said speaking earlier to-day, the Royal Warrant for all three Services lays it down that a man's disability pension shall be given him on account of his physical disability without taking into account the earning capacity in his disabled condition or any economic factors. The Lord President stressed that the disability pension related to a man's disability alone and not to his economic situation. But whatever may be laid down in the Royal Warrant and said by the Lord President, that is not what we do now. We mix economics and physical disability together, and it is that mixing of factors that seems to cause much of the trouble.
My hon. Friend is right. It is being perpetuated here, and while I do not ask for it to be altered now, I ask, as the British Legion (Scotland) has asked, that a Committee or Commission be set up to consider the whole principle upon which compensation is made.
Surely my hon. Friend knows that if this is not put right now, it will not be for years. Therefore, I hope that he will not ask for it to be delayed. He is making a strong point and should press it now.
The reason why I assume that it is not possible now is because the Legion's proposals, with most though not all of which I agree, necessarily bring one up against the Beveridge proposals, and the two must ultimately be linked together. I cannot see the answer to the Legion's proposals until I know what the Beveridge plans are precisely to be. I hope my hon. Friend will look at the complete argument I have to present. The Royal Warrant lays down that compensation is concerned only with physical disability, but I would ask the Committee to note that in spite of this the awards are made at rates which are periodically reviewed according to the cost-of-living index issued by the Board of Trade. That is at least one new factor brought in.
Again, the rates vary substantially according to the rank held by the applicant, and according to whether the man has a wife and children. These factors have nothing to do directly with the man's physical disability. Nor is this all. If the recipient of a disability pension has the misfortune to require financial assistance under Government or local government schemes for the relief of distress, the disability pension in so far as it exceeds a weekly amount of one pound and the whole of the supplementary allowances in respect of wives and children are taken into account in assessing the household income, Therefore it is ridiculous to contend that the disability pension is now paid entirely on the basis of a man's physical disability. It is not. It is a combination of disability and economic and social factors. My friends and I in Scotland feel that now or as soon as possible we should split the pension into two; pay one part of it directly and solely as a disability award and pay the other part in accord with other considerations relating to the man's needs. With regard to the first section, that part of the pension which shall relate only to the man's physical disability a number of proposals are made.
Does the hon. Member suggest that the pension should be divided into two parts and that a claim should be made on his actual disability and a claim for other circumstances? Is he suggesting that two separate claims should be made for pension, one for actual disability and one in accordance with a man's economic and social standing?
The hon. Member is stating fairly accurately the Legion's proposals in Scotland which no doubt he knows as well as I do. I accept Part i of the proposals but I am not at all certain about the wisdom of Part 2. I am putting them to the Committee so that we can see what the position is.
The Legion's proposal is that compensation under Part i shall be granted without any reference to earning capacity, the cost of living or the inability of the individual to maintain himself: and that the pension shall be irrespective of the man's rank in the Army, Navy or Air Force. If a man loses a leg, the assessment should be so much, and he should get that precise pension related to that assessment whether he is an Admiral, General, Air Marshal or private or Rating, the argument being that the loss of a leg to a man is the same to all men. He has lost a limb. As it is claimed that in the case of the physical disability pension, for fairness and justice all round, there should be a fixed scale of awards relating to the disability and that the award should be free of all income tax and free from a means test and examination by local committees. It should be a man's property until his death. The Legion then say that responsibility for his wife and his children, the demands of his social position, the fact that he has lost his earning capacity should form the basis of another claim. I confess I see great difficulty about that. I cannot see the answer to that suggestion until I know what the Government's social security proposals are going to be. If they are as good as I would wish them to be, I can foresee that part of the Legion's proposal already covered in a great national scheme.
But my friends in the North feel most strongly about it. They are faced and have been—I have seen it myself—with one anomaly and one extreme absurdity after another. There is the case of one man with a disability enjoying a considerable pension and his neighbour suffering an even greater disability without any pension; the case of the man on one side of the street working hard throughout his life though disabled and the other fellow perhaps rather a loafer getting a pension. It has caused much unrest and been a source of constant dissatisfaction at British Legion meetings throughout the country. We are trying to get at the back of these injustices. I beg of the right hon. Gentleman at least to undertake to consider with the greatest care these serious proposals and to consider particularly the desire for a Commission or Committee to examine this fundamental change proposed in the pension scheme.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) opened his remarks by assuming that the Committee had shown very little hostility or criticism towards the White Paper. He rather inferred that all was well. My hon. Friend has taken a little too complacent view of the feelings of the Committee on the White Paper. In the circumstances of to-day our attitude towards the Government is much more conciliatory than it was a week or so ago, when the Minister of Pensions had to withdraw his Pensions Appeal Tribunals Bill. I look at the whole situation in this respect. The question of war pensions has been growing into a festering sore. It started off by the very nature of things by being a slight abrasion, because there, were very few casualties and very few Service men being discharged. But as time has gone on there have been more Service men discharged, and consequently the sore has increased in its intensity, with the result that it has reached a point where it has become a sore that has to be dealt with drastically. What has happened? The White Paper is a strong antiseptic. It has treated the sore, and we hope that it will cure it, but we are not sure. It may be that we shall need further treatment as time goes on, and that is the reason of our reserved attitude to certain of the proposals mentioned in the White Paper.
I was very startled at hearing the remark from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council when he said that he did not know of the difference between the last war pension rates and this war rates until he was called upon to investigate the situation. I am really shocked to think that a member of the War Cabinet, and such a member, who, it is well known, applies a good deal of his attention to matters concerning home affairs, was ignorant about a situation which had been accumulating both in the Press and in this House, and which I have done my best in a humble way to bring to the attention of the public and members of the War Cabinet Sunday after Sunday in the columns of a national newspaper. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman does not read these particular articles of mine and that that is why he is ignorant about the differences between the war pension rates of 1919 and the war pension rates of his war.
But I think we can soon remedy that by putting him on the mailing list. Seriously, though, I think this discloses a serious defect in the Government's attitude to home affairs. It has been obvious to many of us that, possibly owing to the nature of things, the War Cabinet have to concentrate on war matters sometimes to the exclusion of home affairs. That is a dangerous situation, and if these matters are neglected, as they apparently have been, judging by what the Lord President of the Council said, there is a danger of the morale of the civil and ex-Service population being affected. Perhaps the Leader of the House would suggest to his colleagues in the War Cabinet that they should pay closer attention to the many matters that are bound to arise as the war proceeds to its close and which will deal with things that do not immediately concern the winning of the war but do concern other matters vitally affecting the welfare of the country.
It would appear that the whole question of war pensions has been largely a matter of trial and error and is still so to-day. Error has predominated much too often and that is why the Government have been forced to issue this White Paper, which, I am bound to admit, goes very far to meet the substantial points that critics of the Ministry of Pensions have consistently put in this House. That is one more reason, I imagine, why the Lord President of the Council should have been aware of the situation. It is a serious comment on the administration of war pensions that with the vast experience of the last war and the interval between the two wars we have to come down to this hit-and-miss method before we can get justice for the ex-Service men. At the end of my speech I wish to offer a suggestion as to the way in which I think the Government can improve things by paying closer attention to the views of hon. or hon. and gallant Members who are either serving in the Forces or who have served and who have a great deal of experience of the problems affecting the commissioned and other ranks.
To come to a detailed investigation of the White Paper, I would like to make a few remarks about the important proposal of the onus of proof. As I read it, I think it shows a considerable improvement on the present situation, and I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) that it ought to open the door wide to a considerable number of cases which are now excluded by the present pensions Warrant from receiving a pension. There is only one question I would like to ask the Minister, namely, "Will all the old cases which have been rejected automatically come up for review, or have they to be thrown on to the pensions tribunals which are to be set up? Have these claimants to make a claim for reconsideration of their position"? As regards the onus of proof, I am riot at all sure that we have not to make some amendments in Army procedure immediately preceding the discharge of the man from the Service. As I understand the position, the onus of proving that a man is not entitled to a pension is on the Minister, but what is the position before the man is discharged? He is first of all reported on by his own medical officer, who is in immediate charge of the case. Then he goes before a military board. I have in my hands Army Form B 179, which is entitled, "Medical Report on a Soldier." Bearing in mind that the onus of proof that the man is not entitled to a pension is on the Minister, this is what happens. When the man appears before the medical officer he is asked, "Are you suffering from any disease, wound or injury? If so, state what it is, the date upon which it started and what in your opiinon was the cause of it." There is a considerable amount of space left on the form so that the man can enlarge on what he thinks is the cause of his disability. It is a well-known thing that most men in the Services when they appear before a medical board, are only too anxious to get their discharge, and small wonder if the man dismisses the question by saying, "I do not think it was due to war service."
I submit that the man ought to be protected in the position which will later appear when he goes to the Ministry of Pensions and claims a pension or goes to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. Although what he says is not conclusive, and the Ministry of Pensions allege that they pay no regard to what he does say, I suggest that it has some effect on the Ministry's medical advisers who will have the papers before them when they consider the man's eligibility for a pension. If it has no effect on the Ministry's medical advisers, why put the question at all? Why should we not exclude from this form any question as to whether the man thinks his disability was due to service? The board's only concern is with the cause of his disability; they are not concerned about what the man thinks about it, because what the man says is in one part and what the board says is in another part. There is an instruction to medical officers that the information contained in their part of the report should on no account be communicated to the soldier. There may be valid reasons for not telling him what the disability is, or what it is due to, but I suggest that the Army authorities are quite right in stating:
Medical officers and Boards are not called upon to give an opinion as to whether disability is attributable to service; many factors other than the medical aspect govern the decision on this point. Their function is to record all the facts as to the causation of the disability.
Therefore, no questions should be put to the man. If they must be put, they should be put after his discharge from the Service, when he will be adequately ad-
vised by advisers, which is not the case while he is serving under military discipline. Frequently, men in the Services feel that they have to say something which concurs with the medical officer's point of view, and, therefore, they may perhaps prejudice their own case.
With regard to post-injury marriage, I am bound to say that I must find considerable fault with the Government's test as to whether a disabled pensioner shall be entitled to allowances for his wife and children if he marries after his disability. The unemployability test is, I think, entirely wrong, and I have no hesitation in saying that many Members of this Committee would concur in that point of view. The pension is entirely based on the relation between the disabled man's situation as compared with that of a normal, healthy man. It bears no relation to what he can earn, and that is why the Ministry ignores any earnings in giving him his pension. Why, therefore, when we come to consider the wife's allowance, or the children's allowance, should we impose on him an employability test? And who is to decide what that employability test is? Are we to have a repetition of the situation which we knew years ago under the Unemployment Act of "not genuinely seeking work "? It may very well be that, if the Ministry of Labour or a particular Minister of Labour is going to advise the Ministry of Pensions we shall have such vicious principles as that, applied to these disabled men. That is entirely wrong, and the Government ought to withdraw that test. The Lord President said there will be no means test for the disabled man. There is not. He gets his pension without question because of his disability. In respect to the wife and children, it is true also that there is no means test, because they are totally excluded unless the man is seriously disabled and wholly unemployable. As to the definition of the words "seriously disabled," I asked the Lord President whether the test will be whether the man was 200 per cent. disabled or any portion disabled. I should like the Minister of Pensions to make it quite clear that "seriously disabled" is not limited to 100, 90, 80 or 70 per cent., but that the test will be, if we are going to keep this test at all but which I ask them to withdraw, whether the man is disabled or not in any degree.
There are questions that are bound to arise under these new proposals which will not only affect the disabled men of this war but possibly the widows of men disabled in the last war. Is it too late for the Government to consider last war pensioners? They are not immediately affected except to the extent that I have just said; by these proposals. Many last war pensioners are suffering considerable hardship, which, while the Government are considering this matter, they ought to attend to. I should like to crystallise these remarks by reading from a letter I received this morning, which will show in a concrete manner what I mean:
My husband has a total of 32 years' service in the Army, has seen active service in four wars and is now aged 77, living on retired pay of£173 per annum subject to Income Tax. After paying£55 per annum for rent, we try to make the balance cover the whole of the requirements of two people. We manage, and are not grumbling, but my husband is worried to death because he cannot provide for me after his death, and the War Office has stated that there will be no widow's pension as our marriage took place after his retirement from work. His retired pay was quickly reduced when the cost of living was lowered but has not been raised to meet the increased cost of living. Despite his age, my husband has done two years in the Home Guard until the age limit was enforced.
That man has served his country well, and, while we are considering these matters of pensions, we should take into account, though the Minister may think I am trying to push the door wider open, as I am, these pensioners of the late war.
I think it is. If I had time, I should like to develop the point of the farcical position we have at present because a man or officer disabled in peace-time is not dealt with by the Ministry of Pensions but by the Service Departments. He comes under the Chelsea Commissioners if an Army man. The whole position of pensions is to a large extent confused, and I am going to urge the right hon. Gentleman to set up some committee to remove as many of these anomalies as still remain after the proposals of the White Paper have been put into effect.
As to parents' pensions, it has been argued that there should be a flat rate, presumably without prejudice to the other rate of pension which is now operated by my right hon. Friend on a means test. The Government say in the White Paper that they will consider the operation of parents' pensions on a more generous scale. The exact words are that the determination of need will be on a more generous scale. The House has never accepted any legislation the Government had brought before it in recent years affecting the determination of needs without first having a look at the regulations, even if they are only in draft, and we have been limited in our criticism by not being able to amend them but only to reject them if we felt so inclined. I ask the Minister of Pensions to let us into his confidence a little more and explain what he means by a more generous interpretation of the determination of need. On his answer to that question will to a large extent depend our attitude as to whether this proposal meets the case of those dependants, mothers or fathers, who are hard up. At present because of a rigid application of certain tests which are not disclosed to the public, we exclude many parents who would otherwise get a pension in respect of their children.
On the question of widows with no pension at all, neither war pensions, nor widows and old age pensions, I think the Ministry is going to raise a hornets' nest by throwing them on the mercy of charity. The Royal Patriotic Fund Corporation was originally instituted to form a fund from which they got their main resources by selling the kits of deceased soldiers. From time to time those funds have been added to by generous bequests from other sources. Can we at this stage of the war throw these widows on such charitable organisations, however well intentioned they may be? Government funds will be used to subsidise this patriotic charity, but the administration, as I understand it, is not in the Minister's hands, although public funds will be used to provide in part, pensions for these widows. The Minister might very well take them on his books and not throw them on to an outside body. The Government have thought more than once on these matters. There is still time for them to think again. It may be a small issue, but is it worth while raising consternation, as it undoubtedly has done in the minds of legionnaires? [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman was not at the meeting of the Metropolitan area last week, as the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) was. If he had been there, he would have found that there was apprehension about this situation. It is bound to spread if the number of widows like these increases. We can well afford to put them under the Minister's charge.
I should like to say a few words about the children of disabled men. I disagree with the view that the children of a disabled man should get a smaller rate of allowance than the children of a fit active soldier or a deceased soldier. The Government have brought up the rate of allowances for children of deceased Servicemen to the same rate as the Service allowances, namely, 9s. 6d., 8s. 6d., and 7s. 6d. for the first, second and third and other children, and yet all they have done is to improve slightly the rate for the children of disabled men which are 7s. 6d. for the first and 6s. for each other child.
Can the Minister persuade the Committee that the child of a disabled Serviceman, who, presumably, cannot work or can work only to a lesser extent, should draw less than the child of a deceased soldier or an active Serviceman? The rates are worse in the treatment allowances of Servicemen because the non-entitled Serviceman's child is to receive only 5s. a week. Why all this discrimination? The rates should be levelled up to the 9s. 6d., 8s. 6d., and 7s. 6d. Under Defence Regulations the rates paid for children evacuated under the Government scheme are for children under five 8s. 6d., or, if it is the only child, 10s. 6d.; and it rises in stages from 10s. 6d. for children between five and ten to 17s. 6d. for youths of 17 or over. My right hon. Friend may say that that includes lodgings as well, but does not the child of a disabled Serviceman want lodgings and clothing and all the other necessities of life? I urge my right hon. Friend to reconsider the position and put a stop to the present anomalous situation. There is a point I would like to mention in passing. I am not sure whether it will be in Order. I would ask my right hon. Friend to do what he can with the Cabinet about the Serviceman who has been discharged and who, because he is not eligible for a pension, is not getting a badge. There is considerable feeling on this matter.
I come to the suggestion which, as I indicated in my earlier remarks, I wish to make to the Government. This Debate has come about because a widely-signed Motion by hon. Members calling upon the Government to set up a Select Committee to go into pensions matters, was put on the Order Paper. It is true that it almost synchronised with, or perhaps preceded, the Debate on pensions appeal tribunals, which brought the Government to realise at long last that they were in danger of suffering a defeat in the House if they did not pay attention to views expressed by hon. Members in all quarters. They were wise in taking time by the forelock because, although the House is very acquiescent in what the Government do or do not do, not even a Government presided over by the present Prime Minister can force the House into a situation like that which arose over war pensions without creating trouble. We ask for a Select Committee to go into these matters. We have not got that Committee. Therefore, I suggest that many of the matters which we are debating to-day will be left in the air, unless the Government change their views and grievances which have arisen out of war pensions legislation throughout this war will probably grow, as time goes on, into greater evils such as I have described. Certain anomalies, some of which I have indicated, are bound to occur and to cause a great deal of discontent, sometimes out of all proportion to their real value, and I think that in the Government's own interest, certainly in the country's interest, we ought to have some better method of forcing the Government to act than that which we have had to adopt on this occasion.
We do not want any more of this trial and error, hit and miss method, and we do not want to be forced into a position in which we have to hit the Government hard before we can get a White Paper like this. It would solve a lot of the Government's difficulties if they would set up a Committee of the House, or a wider Committee, to go into all the questions which arise from time to time, because many of them can easily be removed without a first-class Debate in the House and agitation outside. My right hon. Friend seems to be amused by that suggestion. He has a Central Advisory Committee which is supposed to advise him on all these matters. Either that Committee has not done its work properly in the past—and I hesitate to say that, as certain of my hon. Friends are on the Committee—or the Minister of Pensions has ignored their recommendations. That is a totally unsatisfactory situation and I urge the Government to find some system, other than the one they are operating, whereby the House have to bring to the urgent attention of the War Cabinet matters like those which we have been fighting on the Floor of the House, and thereby creating a situation in which the Government are forced to suffer the indignity of having to withdraw one of their Bills.
The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womerstey):
For the comfort of hon. Members who have been trying to get in and have not succeeded, I am not winding up the Debate now. There will be time afterwards for further speeches, and if any question arises which requires a definite answer, the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with it. Before I come to the points raised in the Debate I should like to make a little announcement. I could have done it in answer to a Question, but it is rather a long statement. It is in connection with the war service grants known as emergency grants. These are made to serving men's wives, who, because of heavy liabilities occasioned by illness such as doctors' bills, can receive grants up to£10. Heretofore we have said that nothing less than£2 can be taken into account, because we wanted to obviate having a lot of small claims. I have called for full reports from my Chief Regional Officers, who have been administering the grant, on how this£2 limit was working. I am quoting this as an instance to show how I and the Parliamentary Secretary are always looking out for ways of improvement if we find they are justified. They reported to us that in their opinion the limit of£2 was too high, because it ruled out quite a number of cases just under that sum in which it would be advisable to relieve the wife of that liability, and we have now made the limits£1 to£10 and have, I think, covered the situation pretty well. I would mention that we are dealing with an average of about 3,000 claims a month, and we find that these grants are very acceptable to those wives of serving men who happen to be suffering from illness.
I said we deal with 3,000 cases, that is, we pay in 3,000 cases. I should have made it clearer.
Personally, I want to say how pleased I am with the tone and temper of the Debate to-day. It has been remarkably good. One could not have expected complete approval of everything in the White Paper, but it is gratifying to know that in the main the proposals have been received with approval. It is true that hon. Members have suggested certain improvements that could be made, and it is my duty to listen to this Debate, to make my notes and report about it and consider any suggestions that are made that do not go outside the things the Government have stated they are not prepared to do. For instance, in the White Paper the Government have stated clearly, after careful consideration, that while they cannot accept the slogan "Fit for service, fit for pension," they feel that they have gone a long, long way towards meeting that claim, and I submit that we have, in the removal of the onus of proof and in the presumptions and so on. I think we have met that claim up to that little narrow point which, had we opened the door there, would have let in a class of case which I am certain no hon. Member would agree should have pensions.
Surely I have not to explain it. Surely it is not necessary for one who has served in the war to ask that. I do not want to make a statement about the various things. Let us think of the good men in the Services and not the bad. I think it is best to let it stand at that.
I am sorry, but I do not know, and I must press the point. To what class does the Minister refer when he says that he has gone as far as he can go, up to a narrow point of not allowing a certain type to come in? I was given a pension for a disability which I never reported upon at all. It was taken away from me two years later, but I can clearly see, according to these rules, why I would not be allowed in now with the claim that was really established in my favour but which I never made. Will the Minister really say that a man who suffers from a disability such as bronchitis which he himself does not know how he got is to be ruled out?
Certainly not; that is why we have made these new provisions. It will certainly bring in for pension a man who has an aggravation of a constitutional condition—and not a "material" aggravation—and these Regulations will apply to my staff when dealing with these matters, will apply to Inc when I am giving my judgment and will apply to the appeals tribunals. But the hon. Member must realise that there are things that go beyond ordinary diseases; I think the White Paper left it at that. It is difficult to see anything wrong with the principle I am laying down. We take anything into account where there is aggravation, where there is some definite—well, if you like not quite too definite—connection with the man's service. That is what we want to get at. What we want is to see that no genuine case in which it can be shown that service either aggravated or accelerated a condition shall be excluded from being considered for pension and getting a pension; but there are things which have nothing whatever to do with the service, and those diseases cannot come in under this Regulation, though everything else can. It is opening the door very wide, and the very narrow class who will miss a pension is one that, I say, no country would pension. It is an easy thing to say "Fit for service, fit for pension" without really going into what it means in the long run. What we have been trying to do and what we have succeeded in doing is to see that every genuine case in which it can be shown that there has been the slightest aggravation by service gets a pension and others are kept out, and in that way we shall not have the difficulties that have arisen before.
I am not responsible for what happened in 1921 or for the police, and I could not answer that question. I am talking about the position as it is to-day, with the new suggestions put forward by the Government.
Earlier in the day we asked the Minister when he was replying to make it clear, where men were placed in any particular category for service, whether they would be eligible for pension if they were discharged and their disability was shown to fit them for a lower category than the category in which they were placed when they entered the Service?
Surely the hon. Member is not as sensitive as all that. I wanted to explain that one of the claims put forward some considerable time ago by the British Legion in dealing with these cases of aggravation was that we should not just take the A1 condition, as we did in the concession made in 1941, which worked very well, but should apply a similar condition to those in the lower categories; and the Government, after hearing the Debate in the House, where the matter was again mentioned, and after taking all those points into consideration, have agreed that where a man is taken in, at whatever grade, we regard it as a presumption that he was fit for that grade, and if he is discharged because he is no longer fit for that grade, there is the presumption that it must have been due to service, and my Department have to make out a very clear case if they want to show otherwise. I think that answers the point.
I am glad to hear that it has been the practice of my staff. I
have been told from all over the House of Commons that we have not done so. Anyhow, we have clarified the whole position now by putting this in the Royal Warrant, where it never was before, and I think hon. Members will agree that by removing the words "material" and "directly" we have improved the position of claimants considerably and given a very good point to those who are applying for pensions. A question was asked on this subject by an hon. Member opposite. Let me read from paragraph 3 of the White Paper:
While the Minister of Pensions will pay regard to any other evidence, including the consensus of medical opinion regarding a particular disease or group of diseases, which throws doubt on the presumptive evidence of the medical category in which a man was placed at the time of his acceptance for service, or on the presumption that service has played a part in the onset or development of the disablement, he will give full weight to the general view expressed above.
I am asked to give a clear explanation of how that paragraph will work. At the present moment certain diseases are listed as not attributable to service because medical opinion has stated that these diseases cannot be attributed to service, occupation or anything else.
I am dealing with the matter generally. In the light of medical research, medical opinion is changing, and new evidence is coming forward. It is my duty to get a consensus of medical opinion on these questions and to deal with the cases in that light. That consensus will go forward to the tribunal as well as to my. Ministry. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) mentioned in the other Debate the question of cancer and said that no medical can could say the cause of it. A good deal of research is going on. I hope they can find the real cause of cancer, and if the consensus of medical opinion trained in the study of that disease decides that it can be caused by service or occupation, we have something to work upon. That is what I mean by a consensus of opinion.
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned my name. It gives me the opportunity to say that I think he has met us very fairly on what I may call the positive point. That is to say, if it was subsequently discovered, after a man had been graded A1, that certain diseases were the result of military service, cancer for example.. he would be entitled to a pension; but suppose it were the other way about. What frightens some of my hon. Friends are the words in paragraph 3, which look as though, if it were subsequently discovered that a man had been wrongly put into category Ai, he would not be entitled to a pension. I would like my right hon. Friend to disabuse our minds on that point.
Certainly. That is not our intention, and if the words convey that impression, I am very sorry. We have never intended such a thing to be included. I think the Noble Lord knows sufficient about a Minister's job to know that on questions of drafting the Minister must be guided by the experts. If they have drafted this wrongly, but I do not think they have, I must say that we did not intend it to happen and that it will not happen. Our intention is not to take just one doctor but several doctors and a consensus of opinion. I can give the example of a certain disease which has been regarded as nothing to do with service, but there has been a good deal of research on the matter. I submitted a case to a specialist whose name is a household word in the country, and he went against the appellant, but I was not satisfied. I keep in close touch with medical journals and have to be nearly a doctor myself. I said I knew that letters had appeared saying that there had been researches into this matter and an alteration in the position. We called together those best able to advise us, and we took a consensus opinion and sorted the whole thing.
The doubt will apply in both ways, including doubt as to whether my decision, or rather the former decision of the medical man was the right one. You must have it applying both ways. While we want to give the claimant one up when we start—as it was described at a recent meeting—we must have the operation both ways, but the benefit of the doubt must be given to the applicant. Those are the instructions which will be passed on.
I can assure my hon. Friend that I am constantly looking over that list. If it were obliterated, it would be all the better for me. In doing my duty, I must take notice of a consensus of medical opinion, and the list is revised from time to time in the light of the new medical opinion that is brought forward. I think we have disposed of that point, clearly, and I hope it is satisfactory to hon. Members. I wanted to make it clear to hon. Members what the position really was on the point about consensus of opinion.
The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) also raised the question of accidents, and there were one or two points to clear up. The Lord President of the Council dealt with the matter in general. Reference to the White Paper will show that we have made very drastic alterations in regard to accident entitlement. We have met the point which has been raised from time to time in this House. The question was asked about a man serving abroad who was on leave, even though he went into some neighbouring town or city and met with an accident. What would be the position? The position under these regulations is that the man would be regarded as on duty in that period. If he were killed, his widow would get a pension, and if he were disabled he would get a disablement pension. The only case which does not come within that ruling is when a man is spending his leave at home, or with friends, or going about just like any other civilian, or doing some occupation which very often cannot be described as having anything to do with military service. The Government feel that they cannot go to that extreme and that the man must come into the ordinary social services for compensation.
I would like to ask the Minister to make one point clear. There has been some misconception on this matter. I read in one of the London newspapers about a man with 48 hours' leave being covered for the whole 48 hours, whereas men on seven days' leave are only covered when going and coming. This soldier is not covered during the whole period of his leave. It will be as well to get that point clear.
The hon. Member has got it quite right. If hon. Members look at the White Paper they will see that pension is now to apply to accidents during walking out in spare time. It has always been held that those who are going out for a walk in spare time were not covered. It was very often a method of keeping men fit, and there was a very good case to be made out for a man who was in and about the camp when the accident occurred. There was a question about the normal conditions of traffic, in camp. The man who is only going out in the evening comes into the pension scheme now. An accident sustained in travelling to or from home on short pass or long pass is also covered, and also an accident sustained when travelling to and from duty when a man has been allowed to live in accommodation privately arranged. It very often happens that when a man is stationed at a place in this country where he is likely to be for some time, his wife will come along, and he gets a sleeping-out pass. Many accidents have happened when men were going home during the black-out to places where they were allowed by military Regulations to sleep. We have felt that cases of that kind ought to come in for pension. We have covered the cases of accidents met with by men in travelling backwards and forwards when they were in a position to do exactly what they liked and to do what other civilians do, and I think we have met it fairly and squarely. There is not any great hardship about the other cases.
Before the Minister leaves that point, may I refer him to paragraph 9 of the White Paper, which says:
Past cases, which under the existing arrangements have been rejected by the Minister of Pensions, will, on application, be reviewed in the light of the new conditions and any award of pension will be made as from the date when the revised rates generally come into operation.
I ask, Would it not be from the date of the accident?
No, it means exactly what it says. This is a big concession, and the view of the Government is that it should date from the date of the concession, as it did in the case of the concession made in July, 1941. I think it will be found that that will pretty well give satisfaction all round.
From what one can hear, the Minister speaking now presented this question of leave quite differently from the Lord President earlier in the Debate. The wording of the White Paper is perfectly understandable. If I understood the Lord President aright, he said that overseas leave of, say, 48 hours' duration was regarded as military service and that an accident during that period would be covered.
That is right. I have just said that clearly myself. Any accident that happens to a man on overseas leave can be accepted for pension. I made that as clear as daylight. Probably I was not speaking loudly enough.
There is some doubt about this 48 hours' leave, and an hon. Member for whom I have a great regard takes a different view about that from my own. I say that on 48 hours' leave in this country a Service man is covered travelling to and from his home, but not when he is at home. To take an example, London-Glasgow covered, Glasgow back to London covered; he is at home, say, 20 hours, but that 20 hours at home is not covered in this country. Is that clear?
The Lord President and the right hon. Gentleman had better clear this matter up. The Lord President in answer to a question said that these categories were only put down to show what was not allowed before. Thus it says:
(b) Accidents sustained whilst travelling to and from home on short pass, i.e., leave not of more than 48 hours' duration, (unless the leave is of a compassionate nature).
I understand that he said that this would be struck out and that a pension would be allowed in respect of the whole time they were at home.
The categories mentioned by the hon. Member relate to accidents which were not allowed previously and which we are now going to allow. There is no difference between what I am saying and what the Lord President said. It is the same thing. We admit the man who has an accident, whether it is 48 hours' or seven days' leave, on his journey to or from his home, and that when he is at home doing exactly what he likes he is in the position of any other civilian, whether he is on 48 hours' or seven days' leave.
This is a big concession. I think it is a rightful one. A man in unfamiliar surroundings in a foreign country is not in the same position as he is in his own home. I think we have done the generous thing in meeting that point.
If my hon. Friend had been here earlier, he would have heard one of our colleagues fall into the same trap. In his reference to the White Paper he is dealing with what we have not allowed. We always did allow it if a man was on compassionate leave, and we do not intend to take away a provision of that kind which has existed for a long time.
I would now like to deal with rates of pensions. I want it clearly put on record once and for all about this question of the last war and this. I have been challenged time and time again on the ground that we are paying lower pensions in this war than in the last war. It is not true. I will give the rates. Under the Royal Warrant of 1914 the rate for 100 per cent. disabled man was 17s. 6d. per week. In 1915 that was raised to 25s.; in 1917–18 it was raised to 27s. 6d. A 20 per cent. bonus was added on 1st November, 1918, which brought it up to 33s., the highest that was paid during the last war. On 3rd September, 1919, after the Select Committee had brought in its report, and the cost of living figure was then 215, 40s. was given and it is that 1919 pension in relation to which there has been the difference between our rates and the last war rates. You have it clear now. It was after the last war.
I want to clear up the point of those South African pensions. What happened was that South African pensioners had a much lower pension than those I quoted. They were down to less than 17s. 6d. when the whole question of pensions was gone into so carefully by a Select Committee of this House. There never was a closer examination of the pensions system undertaken by any Government Department, and there never was a job better done. They said, "Here are these South African pensioners. We cannot leave them in the rear of the wagon. We will put them on the same level as the others," and put them on the 1919 figure. Because the Government were generous I have been charged with paying lower pensions than the South African war pensions. They were all brought up to their present level in 1919. There is, according to the Regulations laid down by the House, the provision that if there is an increase of 5 per cent. over 215 figure for cost of living, the bonus would automatically have to go up without the Minister being asked to do it. The pensions of both South African pensioners and new pensioners will go up automatically if that rise of 5 per cent. ever happens. Therefore it is not quite exactly what some people have thought.
I would like to put one point. I gather from the Minister that he has brought the rates up to the 1919 rates. If that is so, why is it the rate for a parent's pension is only 12s. 6d., whereas in the 1919 Warrant it was 18s. for one parent and 36s. for the father and mother?
I shall deal with parents' pensions a little later on.
We will now turn to the increase in the supplementation of widows' pensions. I think this has met with general approval. I do not think that that requires much comment from me. The hon. Member for Rotherham and one or two other Members asked what was going to happen about the rent allowance if a widow sub-let her house. The hon. Member used the term "lodgers"; I take it that he meant boarders.
No. If a woman has a house for which she pays a£1 a week rent, and she lets half of it for a£1 a week, as she may very well do in many cases to-day, she is not suffering in respect of rent. We think it reasonable to take that sort of thing into account; we must have some protection for the taxpayer. But if it were just a case of taking in a lodger, we should not take that into account. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I have discussed, time and time again, how to find a method of avoiding investigations by the Assistance Board. We do not want to have an inquiry into personal affairs. What will happen will be that the woman will send us the rent receipts—which is quite easy—or the receipts for the mortgage interest, and then we shall make an assessment on that, which we hope we shall not have to disturb for at least two years. We shall trust to the honesty of the woman, as we have done in other cases, to let us know if she is able to get a good "let." I have been urged, time and again, to pay the money to the landlord instead of to the woman, and I have repeatedly said that, because there may be an infinitesimal number of women who have not done their duty by handing over the money to the landlord, I am not going to condemn all widows of ex-Service men as dishonest by taking such a step. As the question of supplementation has met with universal satisfaction, I think I can pass on to the next question.
In considering how best we could deal with this matter, bearing in mind that the claim has been made that the war service grant should continue as it did while the husband was alive, we have to take into account the main items. The most burdensome items have been rent and rates, particularly in big cities, where they are heavy. The other things—not quite so important—are insurance, education and hire-purchase payments. Insurance payments, in the main, are on the man himself. If he is dead, they have got the insurance money, and the premium ceases. Education is provided for in our Warrant. We were left with only this question of hire purchase. These hire purchases must have been made before the man joined up; otherwise, it would not have been fair to the taxpayer. Very few of these agreements are for more than three years; the majority for only two to two and a half years. Where a woman has had the money through war service grant, and has paid it over, there is usually a very small balance—it may be a little bigger in some cases than in others.
My hon. Friend called attention to this matter some time ago, and I have been trying to find a solution. Now we have found one. We send someone from our regional offices to interview the firm concerned with the hire purchase agreements, and we have got them in all cases to accept a much lower sum in settlement, because they have still got sufficient profit to allow them to do that. We have got the money either from the King's Fund or from assistance by the British Legion. We have liquidated something like T,000 of these cases already, and we will deal with every one that comes. It would not be wise to introduce a Bill to deal with an element of that kind, when we can deal with it some other way. Under War Service Grants we work on what is called a minimum unit figure. The first figure, known as the Rowntree figure, was 16s. We have put that up, in the light of experience, to 18s. We worked on sample cases, and we found that in the worst cases of all it left something over the 18s., and that in some cases it made things better. Sir William Beveridge suggests in his report that 10s. should be the standard sum for a working-class house. We found that it was not the right figure, so we went ahead of Beveridge. We have made quite sure that we shall have something good for the widow. and that there will be no means test needed. I am glad that hon. Members in the main agree with us.
I would like to mention the question of widows with no title to pension. A great deal has been said about this matter, and I am rather surprised, because I feel very proud at having succeeded, on this question, in doing something which has never been done before. You have the case of women who, in certain circumstances, because their husbands have not made contributions, could not qualify for contributory pensions. You could not ask the Minister of Health to bring in a Bill to make a contributory pension a non-contributory one. You could not bring them in under the Royal Warrant, because the position was not attributable to, or aggravated by service. There were 300 of these cases. The question was, whether it was worth while bringing in a major alteration to two Acts of Parliament, or even to one, or whether it was better to deal with the matter in some other way. I have tried to deal with it in the best and fairest way, so as to bring the woman in the same pension as she would get under the contributory scheme, and to get her supplementation where it was needed.
We are dealing with it by a method which is not a charity at all. The widows, no doubt, would prefer to get a pension from the Ministry of Pensions. Everybody prefers to get a pension from me rather than from anywhere else—I do not know why, but there it is. But we must make the point that they are not entitled to any pension under the present law. The Patriotic Fund derives its money partly from service sources. What the hon. Gentleman said about it is quite true. It gets some from other sources, where contributions are made, and it is true that it is not entirely Treasury money. But the Auditor-General is responsible for auditing the accounts. It is a semi-Government, if not fully a Government Fund.
On the Board all the Services are represented, and I do not see how you can describe it as a charity. It is not actually coming from the Treasury direct, but it is a convenient way of meeting the difficulty, bearing in mind that we have control over it. The question was asked, But would they control it? The answer is that, if any Member of this House has a case where a woman has applied for pension—we shall pass the names forward automatically—and it has not been reviewed, he can put a Question to me and demand to know why it has not been reviewed. I am clearly responsible, and I do not want to shirk my responsibility.
I do not think that that really matters. The point at issue is that the Treasury will find money for these widows now. I can give an assurance on that, but arrangements may have to be made with regard to supplementation. At the moment they are supplementing war widows' pensions. Before we ever introduced our scheme of supplementation, they have been doing it already in a semi-official way. It is better to leave it to them, and I am certain that when hon. Members inquire into this matter they will find that the women are not at all adverse to going to that body as they might be if you sent them to some other bodies.
I come next to the question of seriously disabled men who are unemployable. A lot of questions have been asked about this, and I want to deal with them, if I can. One question was whether officers come into this, and it was pressed by one or two hon. Members. The answer is, Yes, they do come into this, but the supplementation is the same as for the rank and file. It is not made according to their rank or is not a graduated thing. We are making this a very democratic thing and giving a supplementation of 10s. if a single man, and£ if a married man and not drawing wife's allowance already, and he is available for constant attendance allowance, if it is necessary for a man to have constant attendance allowance. I think I have answered that already. I do not find any strong objections to applying this to these unemployable pensioners. In dealing with this case, I want to emphasise what the Lord President of the Council said, that the real reason why we are breaking away from the definite principle is because these are definitely exceptional cases. These men are deprived of earning money because of their disability. They are also in the unfortunate position that they cannot qualify for the social services which would be available for them if they were qualified. The question was asked about casual earnings and how you are to decide whether a man is unemployable or not.
I agree that there will be administrative difficulties in dealing with this matter. You cannot go forward straight away in anything without meeting difficulties, and, therefore, we are going into it fairly and squarely to try and find a solution. We went into the question of difficulties that might arise with regard to administration. In the first place, we have today a scheme of rehabilitation, training, and placing in employment which is being handled by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour when the men leave my hospitals. It is working extraordinarily well. We have a good test there. A man is sent to the training centre because our doctor thinks he is capable of being trained. They try to train him. If the Ministry of Labour officials and the Ministry of Labour doctor came to the conclusion that it was not possible to train a particular man because he was so badly disabled, we should accept that conclusion without question. But there would be an examination before that by our own medical man, who would find out those who were definitely unemployable. I do not think we shall have difficulty about men coming in their old age and claiming that their disability was due to service. We get that in a modified degree with regard to war pensions. It is a question of saying what is the position of the man who cannot be trained and cannot be employed. We can test this in two ways, medically and by getting reports from those responsible for training, and I do not think that we shall go far wrong when dealing with these cases.
On the question of casual earnings and how it is going to affect them, if a man is employed by an employer, he immediately becomes an insured person from both the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health point of view. Therefore, that puts him right for the social services available to other citizens of this country, and whatever improvement is made in those services he also will get the benefit. If a disabled man is not employed, of course he cannot. We do not want to discourage men who are sometimes very diligent from sitting up in bed, as men do, making tapestries and all kinds of fancy things. It is astonishing what they can do. They try to earn a few shillings, and it restores them to a feeling that at any rate they are not on the scrap heap. We have placed the figure at£1 in the light of our experience in our hospitals, where we have had men since 1915 who have never been out—I am glad to say they are not a large number—but who have found some pleasure in being able to do something. One man had a small machine beside his bed and was able td knit ties, and he sold them now and again and was as pleased as punch that he could sell them. That is the kind of thing with which we want to deal, and we thought that if we fixed the sum at£1 we should be on the right side. If we find that it is not the right figure, we shall be prepared to reconsider it, but I think that it will be in the light of the experience we have had. We are just dealing with the really hard cases because of the dual disability of not being able to earn and to qualify for social services in any way. I have already mentioned that officers come under this scheme.
The right hon. Gentleman keeps on talking about the exceptional case and the very hard case. I am under the impression that perhaps as many as two out of three of the seriously disabled men of the last war will in fact get this benefit, It is because I believe this that I welcome it as rather widespread and generous. As the emphasis he puts on hard and exceptional cases indicates that he thinks it much narrower, will he answer the question asked earlier to-day? Will he consult us about the Regulations before he puts them into practice, so that we may know what "seriously" is and "unemployability" means?
I will give that matter consideration. I would not like to say straight off what I can do on that point, as I should have to consult my colleagues, but I will bear it in mind. As regards the veterans of the last war, they certainly will be taken into account and must be in whatever we are doing in this White Paper. Hon. Members will agree that I cannot say that old veterans that I knew in the old days should not have it and new ones should. It is right and proper that we should apply it to the old cases. We shall have something like 25,000 cases of TOO per cent. disablement to go through, and we shall go through them carefully. Personally, I do not think we shall have anything like the percentage number that my hon. and gallant Friend suggests, but we cannot say until we have tested it. I am going into this matter carefully to see how it works out.
I have said that I intend to consider the question of whether they shall be laid on the Table or not. I hope that we shall be able to do something that will meet with my hon. and gallant Friend's approval. The next point I want to deal with is the question of parents' pensions.
Paragraph 35 on page 7 of the White Paper, dealing with non-attributable neurosis cases, says:
These allowances will normally continue for the period for which continuous treatment after discharge is necessary up to a maximum period of six months.
Does that mean six months after discharge or a maximum period of six months' treatment at any time after discharge?
It means exactly what it says—continuing treatment. Treatment is given after a man has been discharged from the Service. There is up to six months' treatment, and if the doctors are not able to cure him by then, I have seriously to consider a pension award. Pensions have been awarded when doctors could not make a cure, but I thing the hon. Gentleman knows the full story. I need not recount how successful we have been up to now, acting on the best medical advice we can get. I do not want to spoil the effect by making a pronounced statement at the moment. This is a definite improvement on anything which has been done before, and I hope hon. Members will accept this. As regards treatment allowances, I have not a closed mind; I want to consider the best interests of the people and what is the fair thing to do. While these are the Government's proposals, they do not mean that I am not prepared to consider the matter further as time goes on. Before we can consider a man for a pension we shall consider what we can do about treatment allowances. If a man does not respond to treatment successfully in six months, we can then begin to consider whether he should have a pension. It is exactly the same in civilian injury cases. We pay injury allowances for six months, and at the end of that period we say that if the person is not better, it looks like being a permanent injury and we had better get a pension established. I do not think hon. Members will find us so bad as some seem to think.
As regards the parents' pension, I want to say something, because there has been a good deal of talk and controversy about it. I feel, after giving it most careful consideration—and I am fortified by the Select Committee of 1919 and by the advice I receive from those who work voluntarily for the Ministry of Pensions in all parts of the country—that to revert to that very limited number of people who in the last war were receiving a flat-rate 5s. pension would not be right. That pension was qualified The man had to be under 26 and have no other commitments of any kind, and in addition there were other pensions where the question of the needs test came in. It was strongly recommended by the Select Committee that that system of the flat-rate pension should be abolished and that there should be substituted a scheme whereby
you took into account what the person was allowing before he joined up and what he allowed during the time he was in the Forces and use that as a basis of determining the needs of the parents. We have carried that out fully, but we have made improvements; we have increased the maximum amount for the parents, either one parent or the two. The main point—and it is mentioned in the White Paper, although it is not too clear—is this:
His Majesty's Government are opposed to the revival of the flat rate 5s. pension in respect of the loss of a son or daughter irrespective of the circumstances of the parents but the determination of need will be on a more generous scale.
After that little cross-talk we might perhaps get on. We have taken the standard rate as laid down by the experts, Sir William Beveridge and the rest, and we have added, up to a certain sum, to what the man allowed. We have gone beyond that and said what he would be expected to allow because there have been cases of apprentices who, if they had stayed in their occupations, would have been earning good wages and would have been allowing their parents something if they had needed it. We propose to go further and load it up by the entire amount, however great. If the man thought it necessary to allow his mother and father 10s. or 12s. a week or more, then this will put the parents in a favourable position. If the man was in his 50's and was working at his own occupation, getting his standard rate of wage, you would expect him to keep his wife and family. You would not expect him to contribute to his parents' household because of the need, although he might do so for other reasons. Further, the young man is making his contribution on a temporary basis, because in all probability he will get married and would have to contribute towards the upkeep of his wife and children. You could not expect him to contribute to his parents' home, although we know that when parents have fallen on evil times their sons, although married, have made great sacrifices to assist them. We shall have the position of the State taking the place of the young man who has gone. The State must try to visualise what that young man would do and what you would expect him to do. But you must take into account other male members of the family. I had a case put to me where there were eight sons, one of whom was killed. The State was expected to contribute the whole amount of maintenance of the parents because of the loss of one son. Some of the others were earning good salaries and when approached refused to pay a penny.
But we made a generous allowance in that case. We went as far as we could possibly go But if I had been that boy and had known that my brothers were not prepared to help in any way, even to the extent of Is. a week, I should have thought they were not doing their duty. But we must do our duty by the boy.
It strikes me from the White Paper, as well as from the right hon. Gentleman's remarks and those of the Lord President, that this question is being treated in rather an abstract way. He is talking about the flat rate pension. Is he aware that the case has always been put on the ground that there are actually mothers and fathers who lose sons who have allowed them 7s., sometimes 10s.? We know that very fine type of character. When the son is killed, the allotment stops. That is a fact in a large number of cases. If that boy had been at home and had been working, compensation would have been made. Has the Government considered that case on its merits? It is not a matter of considering the abstract principle of a flat rate at all.
The Government have considered this from all aspects and have gone into it very deeply and carefully and I am satisfied that when we work out, as we will do, the details of the scheme that I have tried to outline there will be no cause for any complaint whatever. We shall take into account all the disregards in coming to a conclusion as to what the amount of income should be. We shall disregard any disability pension up to the first£1, friendly society sick-pay, the first 5s., national health, the first Dos. 6d., the first£2 of any maternity benefit, superannuation the first 7s. 6d.,£375 of war savings, the Prince of Wales pension, awarded by the British Legion—we disregard all those and we feel that we are going to bring these people into the position that, where there is the slightest need they will get the pension and in every case where the parent was dependent on a son who has been killed they have the assurance that they have established their right to a pension and, as and when circumstances so change that they came within range of these regulations, it will be given them. It is an insurance policy to insure that if, owing to old age, unemployment, prolonged infirmity or sickness they are in need of help which they would expect the boy to give his parents, they have that policy in their pocket all the time. It-is some assurance that, if those circumstances arise, they can have something in the way of assistance.
Will the right hon. Gentleman be more generous in such a case as this. A widow has a son who is killed. He has not made a contribution because he was an apprentice with a small wage. The mother goes on working and she is told that, because she was not previously dependent but was in receipt of wages, she can have no pension.
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the point why there is a differentiation in the parents' rate of pension in the new Warrant and the rate given in 1919?
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer a question to which I attach some importance? Where the widow of a private soldier is under 40 and has no children she gets 17s. 6d., and if she is over 40 she gets 25s. There is a disparity there but, in the case of the widow of an officer, there is no difference, no matter what the age. Will the Minister see if he can bring some kind of equality between the rate for a private soldier in comparison with that for an officer?
I will go into that very carefully, though I am a little fearful of entering into any controversy which might raise any question of class distinctions. I think I have dealt with the main points that have been raised. My Parliamentary Secretary will be very glad to answer further questions that may arise and, I am certain, will give the right and proper answers. There are one or two points I want to make on my Estimates. First I want to pay a special tribute to the Committee presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West St. Pancreas (Sir G. Mitcheson) on which the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) did work of great importance. At my request, and with the addition of others who assisted us voluntarily, they undertook a thorough examination of the administration side of my Department and of the working arrangements to see whether economies could be effected and, more important, whether greater efficiency could be got from my staff. As a result of their thorough investigation, and the fact that I put into operation most of their suggestions, I claim that we are one of the most efficient Departments in the whole Government. Some Members have visited my head offices. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has, and I am sure he will say we have a very good, efficient and sympathetic staff, who are doing their best. I have promised them to make one thing clear to the House. They resent certain statements which are being made that it is their purpose in life to use all their skill and ingenuity to cheat claimants.
Surely it is quite improper for my right hon. Friend to quote the opinion of civil servants about things that are said in this House. Is that what he is attempting to do?
I am sorry to press this and I am not doing it out of hostility to my right hon. Friend. It has always been held by successive Rulings of the Chair that a Minister is not entitled to quote the opinion of a member of his staff in criticism of any Member of this House.
There is no secret about it. It was made by the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards), and it is in Hansard. The words are "skill and ingenuity to cheat claimants." I must be allowed to reply on behalf of the people I represent. Practically everyone in the male section of my Department is an ex-Service man and most of them are disabled. Is it likely that they would be unsympathetic and try to cheat men who are suffering the same as they are? We have a big staff of women who have come to our rescue to help us out of our difficulties. The majority of them are wives of men who are serving and every one has a brother or someone in the Services. Commonsense will show that they would not do a thing like that, and I want to repudiate it on their behalf.
My right hon. Friend has referred to more than one visit that I paid to Blackpool. I have seen the staff at work, especially in the War Service Grants Section, and I wish to confirm—
I am glad the hon. Member has made it clear that he confirms what I have said about the staff. The Parliamentary Secretary and I have spent many hours considering the old Royal Warrant and how it can be amended. We have also spent a good deal of time considering what we can do beyond what is just contained in the Royal Warrant, because I am a great believer that money compensation, however great, is not enough for these men, particularly those who have fought for the country. Ninety per cent, of the difficult cases I have to deal with are those of men who have not been out of the country but who have suffered impairment of their health through service in most cases. They must receive the same consideration from me.
I am pinning my faith to a slogan, "Pension plus employment." I am pinning my faith to what is known as the Tomlinson scheme operated by the Minister of Labour in conjunction with myself. I would like the hon. Member to come down and see the beginnings of that scheme, the rehabilitation side of it, at our hospital at Roehampton. Our object is the same as that which was declared to be the object of St. Dunstan's when it was formed to deal with blinded men. I am dealing with men disabled in other ways. As St. Dunstan's then stated, we want to impress on the man that
he must not think of himself as disabled. He must not be put in segregation. To segregate is not to rehabilitate. He must be retrained to work and to play. When he is trained, we equip him with whatever special facilities he needs and, where it is possible, send him back to his old home—first making sure that his home is fit to receive him. We have established almost all our men in the towns that they know—in the place and amongst the people whose looks they remember. And there they have settled into normal life in their normal scenes and relations. If you were to follow them to their villages, you would find them not only earning their living, but going in for sports—rowing, swimming, road and track racing, skating and attending soccer and cricket matches with enthusiasm.
That is something St. Dunstan's has done for blinded men and I want to pay my tribute to them. I want to pay a tribute also to the Star and Garter Home at Richmond, which has done remarkable work in assisting men to become, although disabled, able to take their part in ordinary life. Then we have the Ex-Services Welfare Society which in their marvellous place at Leatherhead have treated neurotic cases so successfully and well. I would like to pay a tribute to the Incorporated Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Help Society, to Lord Roberts's Memorial Fund and Workshops, and to the British Legion, who with their Preston Hall treatment has been so successful under that remarkable man, Dr. MacDougall.
I want to carry this sort of thing into something far greater than in the past. I believe it is possible with skilful treatment and right methods to rehabilitate a tremendous number of these men and to give them something which is far better than anything else, namely, the feeling that they need not regard themselves as inferior to other people and that they can take their places in the normal life of the country and establish themselves among their fellows, not only as regards earning but as regards their self-respect and their feeling of pride. We want to carry that as far as we can. We think that money is far better spent on it than in some other ways. We are not going to be sparing in the money that is required. During the period of treatment, in addition to pension, the men get training allowances. Men will not be left on just their pensions until they are able to earn. There will be wives' and children's allowances. I have had many offers from firms to take men, train them and pay them the full standard rate during training, which shows the right patriotic spirit, and I hope that we shall get more applications like that.
I am glad to say that we have a definite agreement with the trades union people for the period of the war to allow these men to work alongside those who have served their apprenticeship.
I believe in taking one stile at a time. I am hoping that the persuasive power of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will induce the trade unions to continue to do so after the war. I am certain that when they see that these men can work alongside the other men without its being detrimental to the interests of the other men the unions will continue. Anyhow, I should like to thank them for what they have clone up to now and what I hope they will do in the future.
In the light of alI these improvements I should like to say that the Parliamentary Secretary and I, and my chief officers—and let me say they are as sympathetic as any hon. Member towards these men—are trying to find ways and means of making it almost impossible, or at any rate improbable, that any of those who have served their country, or the dependants of those who have served their country and died, shall ever have to go to the Poor Law. I realise that it is a stigma which we do not want put upon people who have served the country and those who have suffered. I know that it is perhaps a great ideal that I cannot reach, something in the nature of a dream, to say that no man or woman will ever have to go to the Poor Law, because circumstances may arise quite outside anything we can conceive, but as far as it is possible from our side we are trying to give the most help where there is the most need—that is the policy behind all this—to give help where it is really needed, and to prevent that sort of thing happening. There is nothing about this in the White Paper, but I should like to make it clear that that is why I do not favour the old system of commuting pensions, which ended very often in disaster for the man and was often the reason why he had to go to the Poor Law. I think I have now dealt with the main points and I hope hon. Members are satisfied, and if there are any other points they will be answered by the Parliamentary Secretary.
My right hon. Friend has with distinction and good humour discharged the hardest task which can fall to a Minister. He has answered the points in a long and technical Debate in which matters of great complexity were examined, with complete mastery of his subject. It was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) that these proposals were the result of pressure put upon the Minister. If that be so, I am sure that the pressure was congenial to him, for he has shown to-day, as throughout his administration, that he has the interests of the Service man at heart. Government in this country is always a matter of compromise, and the treasures that my right hon. Friend has extracted from the lucky bag and put into this White Paper are valuable to those who have been members of His Majesty's Forces and who are or will be pensioned. Under every one of the chapter headings there is an improvement recorded, and while there is room for further progress, and while there are anomalies, I think the Committee and those hon. Members who have been associated with this subject must be pleased that so much has been achieved. There still remain anomalies and antinomies, and there still remain diversities of rates in the pensions and allowances. For instance, it is hard to explain why a widow should receive 9s. 6d. for the first child, 8s. 6d. for the second and 7s. 6d. for the third, while the rates in respect of the children of a pensioner are 7s. 6d. for the first and 6s. for the second. Also, it is difficult to explain why there are different rates of pensions for disabilities contracted in different wars. The solution of this problem is to be found by taking the administration of pensions in peace-time away from the separate Service Departments and centring it in the Ministry of Pensions, and I hope that my right hon. Friend who leads the House will consider that matter in the War Cabinet.
So would many other points, but of course I will not pursue it. The explanation of these discrepancies lies in the fact that we have various Departments concerned with what is, after all, a single problem. To pass from the particular rates of pensions, some of which are considerably increased, some of which represent real reforms—such as the entitlement of a pensioner called back to the Service to double pension if he becomes disabled—I want to make clear one matter which I consider fundamental to the whole problem and which I think my right hon. Friend left in some doubt. The rates may be increased, but if a person is refused a pension, that is of little interest to him. I think it is important, because the matter is bound to arise in the future, that we should clearly understand exactly what are the conditions which confer entitlement to a pension. I am not trying to be churlish, because I recognise that the position, as it is set out in paragraph 3, is much better than it has been heretofore It is made clear in that paragraph that His Majesty's Government accept the view that
The fact that a man is accepted for service in the present war in a certain medical category may be taken as presumptive evidence that at the time of his acceptance he was fit for the kind of service demanded in that medical category, and in the event of his being subsequently discharged on medical grounds any deterioration in his health which has taken place is due to his service.
If the definition rested there, I do not think any difficulties would arise in the future. There is, however, a proviso. The next sentence begins with that ominous word, "While." When somebody says that he is going to put all his cards on the table, it is the moment to look up his sleeve. Similarly, suspicions must always be aroused by this use of the word "While." Having accepted, as the French always do, in international affairs, the proposal in principle, let us see what is stated in detail. My right hon. Friend according to his White Paper must have regard:
to the consensus of medical opinion regarding a particular disease or group of diseases.
—not regarding what is said in respect of the particular claimant but what is said about a particular disease or group of diseases.
I have explained this in my speech, if the right hon. Gentleman w:.11 read Hansard. There is a misunderstanding about this. I did make it clear and I am sorry if hon. Members were not present to hear.
I am not saying that my right hon. Friend did not make it clear to his own satisfaction. I am saying that I was left in some doubt. I am not saying what I am saying in any niggardly spirit, and I am going to say what I think the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation was, and if I am right I feel that everybody will be satisfied. What this White Paper says, irrespective of what my right hon. Friend says, is, that having given a presumption in favour of the man, which he is directed to do, the Minister is called upon to have regard to what is described as the consensus of medical opinion in regard to a particular disease or diseases.
Maybe. There is a presumption in favour of the man, that is clear, but there is a group of diseases in which that presumption is called into question. What are those diseases? If a man is discharged from the Service with let us say cancer, my right hon. Friend has to have regard to the consensus of opinion about cancer. He can be as generous in his heart as he may wish, but if something called a consensus of opinion states that cancer may be constitutions: in origin, it throws doubt on the presumption. That is one of the diseases. What are the other diseases? Hotchkiss disease and certain heart diseases? In justice or in equity it may be quite right for a pension to be rejected because one of those diseases was or may have been incurred before a man joined the Service, but we are dealing here with something bigger than a technical question.
We have to convince a man and his family that when a man has been accepted for service and has served his country faithfully and perhaps with distinction, and is subsequently invalided out of the Service, although he was passed in A.1, that you are dealing with him fairly when you are depriving him of a pension. We all see a number of these cases, and I see perhaps more than many hon. Members. because I represent a Service town. These questions arose before the war. They are not an invention of my right hon. Friend; he has very much improved the position. Some years ago tuberculosis was in this category of disease. A man was thrown out of the Navy after some years, perhaps. He had been living in confined quarters, which set up a presumption in his favour, but doctors held that consumption was a constitutional disease. One went round to these homes. One saw a dejected man and an unhappy wife, with a grievance. They often came from the best sections of the community, who had traditionally served the country, and they could not explain to themselves why the breadwinner should be thrown on to the Poor Law, although he had done good service for the country. In the White Paper it says that in such circumstances, where a concensus of medical opinion holds that a disease may have been constitutional, the man shall rely on the social service provisions. There will be no economy. He will get the money from the national or the local purse, but he will get it as an aggrieved person. Surely it is far better that he should receive it from the employer, the service in which he gave the best efforts of which he was capable during his working life. It is a psychological question.
If I understand the Minister rightly, whereas that has been the practice, he can interpret this consensus of medical opinion now in such a way as to say that if there is any reasonable doubt about the man having incurred the disease in the Service, and "if in my lay mind there is any reasonable doubt, I will allow that man to gel his money from my Ministry rather than let him get it from some other Department." That is what I hope this means. I point this further fact out to the Committee, that in July, 1941, the Minister made a concession, out of his humanity, which. we all recognise and praise, and he is now extending that con. cession. The effect is that any degree of aggravation leading to discharge will be regarded as material. The words "material" and "directly" are taken out, not only from category r, but from another part of another category in grade II. When the Minister agreed to relieve the man of the onus of proving that he had a material aggravation so that he had to show only that he had had an aggravation, he brought in 70 per cent. of the cases that he had originally rejected under that head. That is proof of the Minister's generosity and the consistency with which he has always fought for the Service man.
The new concession will bring in a higher percentage of those who would have been rejected. It shows how far we have gone. There remain something less than 30 per cent. of persons whose claims are rejected on the ground that medical opinion considers their disease to have been constitutional or because they have inflicted wounds on themselves or in some way misbehaved. We are dealing with a very small class of persons here. If the Minister could, in his next White Paper—I take it that our arguments will be considered—carry this concession a stage further and allow these particular diseases which most frequently cause a man to be rejected, to be included in its benefits, the Minister would have removed the major grievance which now operates against his Department. I do not know whether I have interpreted this concession rightly. My right hon. Friend has not interrupted me, but I hope that in the new conditions, whatever some doctors may say, if there is any reasonable doubt about a disease, cancer, valvular disease of the heart, or any other which may now serve to exclude a claimant from pension, my right hon. Friend will be able to give a pension notwithstanding. Even if he is not, I must, and the Committee must, acknowledge that this has been a great forward march. There is still some territory ahead of us in dispute, which we have to capture. I hope that, on the next occasion, my right hon. Friend will have the privilege of planting on that disputed territory the flag of generosity which he bears so willingly aloft.
The course of the Debate so far has quite clearly shown that the changes in the pensions Warrant are very great. I venture to think that they are greater than even the Minister or the Committee realise. The speech to which we have just listened led up to a point which I am very glad to have the opportunity of making on the same lines. The old- fashioned structure of the pensions Warrant is completely broken up by this White Paper, and the old conception of the pensions Warrant lingers only in the form of phrases and certain limitations. For the main purposes the old pensions Warrant is dead, and I would have the Committee realise that fact and take steps to bring the necessary changes into operation.
I believe there is a case for reconsideration of this whole matter again, not only on account of the pensions Warrant, the provision of pensions, and the justice of providing the pensions, but also on account of the place of pensions administration in connection with the men and women in the Services, in the national administrative machine and, especially at this moment, in the national war effort. It was said to me to-day by a very high military authority that it takes about 10 hours of administration to deal with one hour of war at the front. I think that may be true. Even if it is an exaggeration, the proportion of administration to effective fighting in the front line is certainly very large. This pensions administration of which we are now talking has been in the past extremely complicated, and the complications did not only affect the Pensions Ministry but, of course, the Services; they affected the medical boards, the Army, Navy, Air Force and all the rest of it, an extremely complicated business. They affected the pensions appeals tribunals, which have to come after the Ministry of Pensions. There is a whole complicated structure of administration which takes, I suppose, in the aggregate millions of hours of man-power per annum at a time when every atom of man-power is extremely valuable.
I welcome this White Paper not only for the extensions of benefit—and there are great extensions of benefit—it gives, but also because of the simplification of administration which it will bring in its train. I need not emphasise that perhaps, because many other speakers have made a good many of these points and have shown, as my right hon. Friend who preceded me, that the Minister has, by this new White Paper, introduced a very comprehensive form of insurance. Having gone so far, why should we not, as my right hon. Friend very nearly said but did not quite say, include all diseases, not only those in which there is a consensus of medical opinion as to their attributability whatever that may mean? If it is to be put into a document, "consensus of medical opinion" will have to be defined more accurately than it is at the present time.
It is quite clear—and I speak with experience of pensions appeal tribunals—that if a case is refused by the Minister on account of the consensus of medical opinion, and then that individual case goes before an appeal tribunal with a legal chairman, a Service representative, and a medical representative upon it, that tribunal will consider that individual case on its merits as an individual case, and, as has often happened, as the Minister knows, will give a decision in favour of the appellant, even in cases which the Minister himself, advised by his medical advisers, has turned down because he considers that the consensus of medical opinion did not consider that it could be attributable to, or aggravated by, war service.
I want to put another consideration on these lines before the Committee. The chief diseases which are regarded by the consensus of medical opinion as outside the scope of ordinary awards are those such as tuberculosis, of which there are many cases, most cases perhaps, neurosis and cases of unstable personality, diabetes and coronary thrombosis. There are other diseases. I will not trouble the Committee with a long list, but these are some. In every one of these cases a very good case can be put up for the aggravation of the condition, if it existed on enlistment, by Service conditions. Many of those cases would, I think, be granted by an appeal tribunal if a case appeared before them.
Take the case of neurosis and unstable personality. It is regarded by one school of thought, not by all schools of thought, but by a very important school indeed, that all these cases are constitutional, that the man who breaks down under war conditions would have broken down under the conditions of civil life. That may be true, but is it relevant if a man who is of this constitution is taken into the Army, where, I may say, he may do admirable service? I cannot reveal the exact facts, but I can say in general that one of the most important military operations at an early stage of this war was planned, designed and the operation as a whole, involving the co-operation of armies, was carried through by a man who is definitely a person with a split personality, a neuropsychotic. Men of that kind can do admirable work. That kind of thing brings up this consideration, that if the Army takes a man of that kind into the Service—and numbers of these men have been taken into the Service—and his condition becomes aggravated, then in all justice he must be given a pension. His condition was known, and he must be given a pension.
The same thing also applies to diabetes and coronary thrombosis. I had a case brought before me some time ago of an airman who had enlisted in the Air Force before the outbreak of this war, had served for some years during this war, had been in France at the time of Dunkirk, and later on had been in the Near East and had had a tremendous lot of experience. Subsequently, he came back to this country in order to act as an instructor. He came back from a flight on which he had been instructing, stepped out of the aeroplane which I believe_ he had been piloting and turned to speak to someone on the landing ground. As he spoke the first few words he fell over. People rushed to him and found he was dead. There was a post mortem, and it was discovered that he had coronary thrombosis. I do not recall his exact age; I believe he was 31. [Interruption.] It is known to be, and is, a constitutional disease. It is a disease of the blood vessels, of the heart, but I am afraid my hon. Friend will realise that one has to have a medical education to understand completely what it is. Let us agree that it is accepted by a great many people as being a constitutional disease. That case was turned down by the Ministry of Pensions. It is very difficult indeed to say that that man's condition was not aggravated by his service.
May I ask a question? This is a point which I raised in a previous Debate. Would it be possible to detect whether or not this man had this disease at the time he joined the Service?
In this particular case the man had joined the Service to years prior to his death. Therefore, it would not have been at all possible to detect it. It is a condition which would not have been detectable. In all these cases there is a case for aggravation, and as has already been said in the Committee to-day, so many new classes of cases have been admitted that only a comparatively small number of cases of the total number of cases of illness and death in the Services remain outside the scope of pensions. Take those cases of the diseases regarded as not attributable or aggravated by Service, regarded as being constitutional diseases. Tuberculosis is a disease of men of military age, so you must exclude that. Neurosis, which we have already dealt with, is a disease of men of military age. Certainly it must be regarded as aggravated. Diabetes is probably more a disease of later life. So is coronary thrombosis. Cancer is usually a disease of later life, not the earlier years. What I am suggesting is that any of these cases, if they appear before an appeal tribunal, are likely to have aggravation given to them. It would be very desirable to discover, and I had hoped that the Minister would be able to tell us, how many cases of this class of "not attributable to or aggravated by service" constitutional diseases are in the Services at the present time. I understand that there is a real reason for not giving the actual figures, but the Minister might be able to give us the proportions, or some other indication. These diseases do not particularly arise among the younger age groups of the population, or among most of the men of the age for military service at present.
It is time that instead of having this old-fashioned pensions Warrant, based on conceptions dating from the time of the Boer War, we had a new conception, that the Services should accept an all-in liability for every kind of disease and disability of all persons in the Services. See how that would simplify the situation. The Minister made a special point to-day that he has arranged with the Royal Patriotic Fund to give widows with no title to pension an equivalent of what they would have got under the contributory pensions scheme. But it was not necessary to do anything so elaborate. Every man in the Services has National Health Insurance and Unemployment Insurance contributions paid on his behalf. A large proportion of the men have already got their cards paid up for the necessary 104 weeks. But suppose a man goes into the Services and has not got his card paid up. If he remains in the Services two years, his card is paid up, and the widow is entitled to a contributory pension. All that separates the other widows from getting a pension on exactly the same footing is the fact that their insurance cards have not been paid up for 104 weeks. Would it not be quite simple for the Ministry of Pensions to pay the 104 contributions, by arrangement with the Ministry of Health, and to wash out this business of the Royal Patriotic Fund?
I am sorry to interfere in this way. I suppose it is not right that I should do so. But if it can be done in this case, anybody who is not in benefit, if he has, say, 25 stamps on his card, can say, "I will pay up the others, and get the pension."
I am not dealing with the general population, but with the Service men's widows. I am suggesting that there should be some means by which this very small group of people in the Services could be put into benefit. I believe that if the Minister would consider this question of an all-in system of insurance, so that whatever the accident, the injury, or the cause of death, the Services should accept liability, it would be better. I must confess that, in view of the tremendous risks to which Service men are exposed, the tremendous labours they are undertaking and the responsibilities which rest on their shoulders, I do not think it is too much for the country to do for Service men and women. If the Government would do that, the probable result would be a slight, not a great, increase in the cost of pensions, and an enormous economy, which it is very difficult to estimate, in administrative expenses, especially in regard to the man-hours of work in the Services on everything which leads up to pensions—medical examinations, and so forth.
I bow to your Ruling, Major Milner. I think the Committee has seized my point. I have suggested to the Minister the setting up of a Committee for other reasons. I seriously suggest to him that he should set up not a Committee of the House but an inter-Departmental Committee of the Ministry of Pensions and the Services, to ascertain, firstly, what the cost of general insurance provision would be, and, secondly, what the saving in man-power would be with regard to administrative services. If it is true, as I think, that the amount of time spent in the Services in connection with this sort of thing is out of all proportion—say, 10 to one—to the amount expended in war in the line, any economy in man-power would be of immense benefit. And this would be largely an economy in medical man-power, of which there is a great shortage. I believe that an inter-Departmental Committee could in a comparatively short time give guidance to the Minister, and the Minister no doubt would hand on that information to the War Cabinet, and it might he possible for us to have a much better, more workable, more economical, and, especially, more efficient use of man-power. That would do away with those complicated difficulties in discussing which we have spent so much time to-day. In the interests of simplicity and of the saving of man-power, I beg the Minister to give serious consideration to the setting up of an inter-Departmental, fact-finding Committee. I hope that he will agree to do so, and that he will present the facts to this House at a very early date.
We have heard a great deal about paragraph 3 of the White Paper. I would like to draw attention to paragraph 6, which states:
To give effect to the above modifications, the existing Articles in the Royal Warrant regarding entitlement in both death and disablement cases will be replaced by the following comprehensive Article.
I would ask that attention be given to the words of that Article. They seem to me of far more importance than those of the prefatory paragraphs. The next paragraph starts off:
The disablement or death of a member of the military forces shall be accepted as due to war service for the purpose of this Our Warrant, provided it is certified that (a) the disablement is due to a wound, injury or disease which—
(i) is attributable to war service ….
The words "it is certified" have a meaning peculiar to this Royal Warrant. They mean that a medical officer or board of doctors appointed by the Minister must give that certificate. That is the meaning under the old Warrant. As I understand this new paragraph, it follows that if the board give a certificate the Minister will really have no discretion about whether or not a pension should be granted. If they refuse a certificate, it appears that the Minister is in law bound to refuse a pension. It appears to me to follow, notwithstanding what is said in paragraph 2—
it is and will continue to he the duty of the Minister of Pensions to reach a decision based on an impartial review of all the evidence "—
that a claim to pension will depend not on the Minister's review of the evidence, but on whether a certificate is given by the doctors appointed by the Minister. If that be correct then it follows, in my view, that this question of "benefit of reasonable doubt" and what weight shall be attached to the presumption in a man's favour, will have to be weighed up by the doctors before they grant the certificate. There will be no question of the Minister taking these matters into account. If that conclusion be correct, I must admit that I am completely at a loss to understand the concluding sentence of paragraph 3, because hon. Members will see from Clause I, Sub-section (3) of the new Article, on page 3 of the White Paper:
A certificate under paragraph r shall be given unless the evidence shows that the conditions set down in the paragraph are not fulfilled
I do not understand at all how the Minister can have regard to any other evidence, including the consensus of medical opinion if evidence is not put up before this medical board to rebutt the presumption that a pension must be granted and the board grant a certificate. I should like to see the Minister charged with the responsibility deciding whether a claim should be allowed or not. Therefore I should like to ask the Minister to consider whether the words: "it is certified" should be left out of the proviso to the new Article. If they are left out, then the responsibility will be the Minister's, and the Minister's alone. It will be for him to review the evidence. The last sentence of paragraph 2 of the White Paper will have a real meaning. I fear
that if it is left as it now is, one will meet With this difficulty. A case will come before the Board. The doctors will consider it and one will not know what weight they have attached to the words "benefit of reasonable doubt" and what weight they will attach to this presumption in a man's favour. All that one will get will be a letter similar to that sent out to-day by the Ministry which says that before pension can be granted it must be certified that death was attributable to or accelerated by war service, and on the facts before the Ministry neither of these conditions is satisfied, and so the pension is refused. I feel that a great deal of this trouble has arisen through the processes of certification, and the casting on the doctors of a very heavy burden. I do not wish to make any attack on doctors, expressly or by implication. They are trying to consider whether a person is suffering from a disability or the immediate cause of death. They are the most competent persons to decide that, but it is quite a different thing to say, to what the disability is attributable. A doctor can say that a man has a cold, but he cannot tell how a man caught the cold.
On what does the hon. and gallant Gentleman base his view on the doctor who has certified, as to the legal point of view? Surely the Minister does that legally. Take the case of a man or officer killed by enemy action while sleeping in his own billet at the end of 1940. I say 1940 because of changes that were made. There is no doubt about the man having been killed by a bomb. That is the medical opinion, but the Minister said at that time that he was not entitled to pension because his death was not attributable to war service. He has subsequently changed his view. It is the Minister and not the doctor who certifies in a legal sense.
I should think the legal sense depended entirely on the wording of the Royal Warrant. I should have thought from the new Article in the White Paper that the granting of a certificate was a condition precedent to the granting of a pension. I cannot myself see why it should be a condition precedent to that grant. I would like to see these words struck out entirely. I wonder, unless the burden is put on the Minister, really how these powers claimed
by the Minister come in. It puts a very unfair burden on doctors to make them decide these issues—not only the disability and the cause of death, but to what it was attributable. It might have been some time ago. They have to assess the weight to be placed on conditions of service they may never have experienced. I should like to see that burden put on the Minister. I would illustrate my argument by one actual case, that of a colonel who was commissioned in 1915, served in Gallipoli and France in the last war, a Regular officer who served all through the years of peace and passed AI at the beginning of this war and who died this year at the age of 45 in these circumstances. He went on a motor cycling course, very strenuous, and from that he went straight on to manoeuvres, also very strenuous, which lasted a long time. He returned to his own unit at a home station, where he dropped dead. The doctor, who made a post mortem examination, gave this as his opinion:
As a result of the autopsy which I carried out I found that he died from heart failure due to degeneration of his heart muscles. His death was undoubtedly accelerated by reason of the strenuous exercises which he had undergone.
Given a normal life, I can see no reason why he could not have lived for many years, but no man of his age with his heart muscles in such poor condition could undergo battle courses without causing severe damage to the heart, if not causing, as in this case, death. The case went before the board or doctor, and was turned down. It was put up again and turned down. You may get cases rejected in precisely the same way without being assured that the benefit of the doubt and presumption, are being given effect to, as provided in this Article. People might say that all that can be put right on appeal. It may be so, but I am not sure. The appeal will be on the Minister's refusal to grant the claim and as to whether he acted rightly in rejecting it in the absence of a certificate. When the appeal comes before the tribunal, the tribunal will be bound to say that the Minister was right in refusing the appeal because no certificate was given by this Board nominated by the Minister. I would like the Attorney-General carefully to consider this problem, because I am sure it is the intention of us all that there should be a rehearing on the appeal and that the matter should not be disposed of in that way. I, too, welcome the great advances which are contained in this White Paper. I do not want to go over them in detail, but I would like to see some provision made for assisting, not only the widows of other ranks in relation to rent and rates, but also for assisting the widows of officers. You may find, in these days cases of officers who have been commissioned from the ranks, as so many are, whose widows are suffering great hardship, compared with the widows of those men who remain in the ranks.
There is an old saying, "All things come to those who wait." I have been waiting here for seven hours, and I know others too who have waited a long time, but waiting makes one develop the philosophy that if only you wait long enough, there will be an opportunitiy. Moreover, waiting is not altogether a waste of time, because it gives one a chance to listen to the points made by other Members and perhaps to develop an argument that one would not have developed had one spoken earlier. I think the issue of this White Paper shows the House of Commons at its best. During the war we have been taking things too easily and allowing the Executive to have their own way. On this question the House was determined that recognition should be given to the people who are fighting for us, the Executive had to take note of what we said, and they have brought in something which the House of Commons was anxious to get.
Haying said that, I want to make one or two criticisms. This question of entitlement stops short of what it might have been. The term, "Fit for service, fit for pension" is applicable even now. We have been told by the Lord President of the Council and the Minister of Pensions that this White Paper embraces everyone in the Forces and almost everything that could happen. What is left out? Only two cases. One is self-mutilation, which nobody would recognise, and the other is the contraction of sexual disease. The person who contracts sexual disease is not to be entitled to pension. While no one would defend self-disablement, I wonder whether we ought to be so strict as regard sexual disease. We know that 99 per cent. of our men must have and do have sexual intercourse. Some fall by the wayside, and I wonder whether we are wise in taking the stand we are taking now. The men who contract this disease must be kept by somebody; the cost falls on the State. Yet we are nibbling at this question with the object of trying to find out those people who have this disease. I believe the Government would have been better advised to have taken the full step and said that the only thing that would debar a man from pension was self-disablement. After all, a man is medically examined before he goes into the Service. Suppose a man dies of cancer. It might not develop if the man was at home, but because he is in the Forces and it develops quickly, who will say that it was not due to war service? I shall not be satisfied until the principle, "Fit for service, fit for pension" is brought in by this or some other Government.
The second point I want to deal with is the question of the post-marriage settlement. This has been held off a long while by the powers-,that-be, in spite of the argument we have heard many times that when a man comes back from the war he should be entitled to the same treatment and allowances when he is married as though he married before he joined the Forces. Only now are we getting some small recognition. At best the injured man gets only his wife's or children's allowance if he is said to be totally disabled and cannot do any work. If that is the only entitlement he is to get, we are not going as far as we ought. Many men who have been called up have refused to be married because they thought it better to wait until they returned. When they return, marry, and have children, who will say that they are not entitled to the full award in the same way as others who married before they went into the Forces? Then there is the question of a man who dies while receiving pension and whose wife does not receive an allowance. Will she be brought in under this White Paper? That is a point that wants answering. If she is entitled to pension, I shall be greatly relieved.
The third point I want to deal with refers to the flat-rate allowance for every parent. I want to put forward a scheme of my own which I think would be reasonable. Any parent who loses a son or a daughter is entitled to greater recognition than merely a letter from the Ministry of Pensions. There ought to be a monetary grant to show that the State had some liability to the parent and wanted to recognise it in some way. Five shillings a week has been mentioned. May I suggest to the Government and the Minister that where a person dies of war injuries and leaves a mother or father, or both, not dependent upon him—and they cannot claim a pension—the State should make a grant of 5s. a week for a period of five years and pay it in a lump sum? They should award£65 in every case where a pension cannot be claimed. The Minister might ask what would happen if in the interval the family be-same dependent on the State. Well, if that happened, you could deduct the 5s. a week already paid from whatever amount was given to them. Failing that, every parent should be entitled to some monetary allowance from the State for the loss of a son or daughter. These are the important points I wanted to emphasise in my criticism of the White Paper.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said these things had been brought forward before, and he could not understand whether it was the Minister or the Advisory Committee who had been lacking in their duty. I am on the Advisory Committee. It includes seven Members of Parliament, two from the Labour side, three from the Conservative benches, one Liberal and one Independent, with representatives of the British Legion and others. I have had the question of "Fit for service, fit for pension" before the Committee for a long time, so it is not my fault if it has not been brought before this House before now. I have also advocated the matter of post-war marriages. It has been another of my strong points. We have done all we could to try to get these things recognised, but, having sat on that Committee, we do not want to shout about what we have not been able to get. When I have argued with the Minister I have told him how difficult it is, when I have not had all my own way, to come to the Floor of the House and say that I did this, that and the other. It was a point of honour between us not to do that kind of thing. My hon. Friend turned to me when he remarked that he could not understand why I supported that sort of thing, and I felt that I was bound to make a statement when I got the opportunity.
It was my way of looking at it, and there is a feeling that you do not want to shout about what you have done. I should not have mentioned the matter, but, being given the opportunity by my hon. Friend, I thought I ought to defend myself, or he might think I am not the same fighting man on an Advisory Committee as I am in other places. I hope we may succeed on my three points, and I am very pleased that I have had the opportunity of putting them before the Committee.
I am going to confine myself almost entirely to one point, which has not been mentioned in the Debate and is not specifically mentioned in the White Paper. I should like first to say, on the question of entitlement, that I feel that the Government and the Minister have intended to be as generous as they could, but I have been very much impressed by the strong speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). I should very much prefer Section 3 with the last six lines omitted altogether. I was very struck with what the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said about post-injury marriages and supplementation of pensions of seriously disabled pensioners who are unemployable, and I would ask the Minister not to lay too much emphasis on complete unemployability. I feel that that can be overdone. Of course, bo or 70 per cent, disablement is serious, but it is not complete unemployability.
Coming to the particular point that I wanted to raise, perhaps it has been overlooked. The cases with which it deals are very few. It is with regard to treatment allowances. I have a concrete case in mind, that of an officer or man on partial disability retired pay or pension, as the case may be, who needs renewed treatment as an in or out patient. During such treatment he will, of course, be away from home and will be unable to carry on his usual occupation, which may be a small holding or a small shop or a post office which he runs with his wife's help. During his absence his wife, with or without extra help, will carry on the business, and their joint income will not suffer, though it will be because she is working extra hard. When he applies to the Minister for treatment he is told that during the treatment he will be given too per cent. disability pay or pension, but from that total amount certain deductions will be made, which will include, according to the letter I have in my hand, the profits of the business, whereas the White Paper, in paragraph 30, mentions only a deduction in respect of home savings while in hospital. The position will be that if the total of his partial disability pay or pension plus the business profits is greater than his 100 per cent. disability pay, he will be worse off while in hospital drawing the roe per cent. than if he had said nothing about it, though the maintenance of his business profits at the full rate is entirely due to the extra exertions of his wife.
I think there ought to be some proviso to prevent a man who is under further treatment being worse off because he has applied to the Ministry for treatment and for the Too per cent. disability pay while undergoing it. Quite possibly it is only in this way that he can get the extra treatment that he needs. The business will normally be in his name, and the income, for tax purposes, will be his, though it is jointly earned by himself and his wife, but I think he would be bound to disclose the full amount of his income from that source, and apparently the Minister is entitled to deduct it from the roc, per cent. disability pay. Of course, from the Minister's point of view, the deduction of what a man normally makes is arguable, and probably sound and provided the partial disability rate plus the income from the business is less than the total proceeds of the roe per cent. disability pay, the man would be better off, but I do not think it is right that he should actually lose in income when he has gone to hospital for necessary renewed treatment. I very much hope my right hon. Friend will be able to look into it.
I do not want to detain the Committee for two reasons, one because of the lateness of the hour and because a number of other hon. Members want to speak, and the other because a great number of arguments have been expressed for or against the White Paper and I do not propose to go over the ground again. I would like to offer my congratulations to the Minister of Pensions upon the much happier position he is in to-day than he was a fortnight ago. A gloom then descended on the Front Bench. It is true they got into a huddle and that as a result they wisely decided to refer another matter back to Committee. At that time I participated in the hunt against the Minister of Pensions, and I want to submit that the hunt and the revolt were perfectly justified. The White Paper has been produced, and it may well be that the Minister of Pensions and the Parliamentary Secretary were both delighted, although they were thrashed and pushed by Parliament, to get a much more satisfactory state of affairs in this White Paper and the Royal Warrant that will follow. It is rather interesting to note that this result has been so successful, and it will be followed by further revolts if the Government prove adamant to the opinions of the House.
The Minister of Pensions took the opportunity of paying a tribute to his staff. I am glad that he did so, because I can speak from personal experience. It has been my privilege to witness the work of the Pensions Ministry, and I give the highest praise to the staff from top to bottom, not only for the conscientious nature of their work, but for the sympathetic attitude which they display towards it. I am convinced that they, like the Minister, were fettered and bound by the Regulations under which they had to work. The gravamen of our complaints against the Minister was that he had not come to the House asking for greater powers. This White Paper gives him greater powers, and I am confident that no one will welcome it more than the staff who have to work in the Ministry.
We have had an interesting and sympathetic speech from the Minister. Obviously there are points in the White Paper with which we do not agree and improvements that could be made. I doubt whether a time will ever arrive when the whole of us will be completely satisfied with all the Regulations. The White Paper is a tremendous advance and improvement. We have had a sympathetic and very long, but not too long, speech from the Minister, in which he has answered in a sympathetic way the questions that have been put to him. I would like to pay tribute to both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for the personal work they have put into this matter. I feel confident that they will be happier now that they have this White Paper to work under. I am rather perturbed about the provision relating to consensus of medical opinion. While a medical Member was talking about coronary thrombosis there seemed to be disagreement even among the medical Members of this Committee. There always is a divergence of opinion between doctors.
There is a grave disagreement between the medical men, and I am hoping that whenever a consensus of medical opinion is obtained it will be a substantial consensus before the appellant is not given the benefit of the doubt. In every case where there is any doubt at all the appellant should receive the benefit of it. I hope that that Clause of the White Paper will be interpreted in the Royal Warrant in that spirit. That is what I believe the Committee desires. I was delighted with the sympathetic interpretation which the Minister gave to what he proposes to do on the question of parents' pensions. If he carries that interpretation into practice, as I believe he will, his Ministry will receive greater approval of their work.
I would like reconsideration of the question of widows with no entitlement to pensions. Despite what the Minister said, there is something that savours of charity and benevolence about the Royal Patriotic Fund. I wish that we could get away from these benevolent institutions doing the work that the State should do. I object to the creation of any fund like the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, the Paratroop Fund and all the other funds for the various forms of service. If these things are wanted, it is the duty of the community to see that the needs are satisfied. I hope that the Minister will give further consideration to this matter and, if possible, bring these people away from the Royal Patriotic Fund and himself become their father and take care of them. The number concerned is only small, and, therefore, the administrative difficulties should not be great. I am certain that the country would desire it. We do not want people who have served the country in its hour of need, whether in the last war or this, to have to go to any form of benevolent institution for any of the means whereby they can maintain life.
There has been expressed in the Committee a general satisfaction with the terms of the White Paper and the Royal Warrant that will be based upon it. May I express the hope that the Minister, if he finds in his administration that there are still things he would like to do and which he feels ought to be done, justices that should be granted and injustices that should be removed, he will have the courage to come to the House and ask for an amendment of the Royal Warrant so that injustices can be removed and justice done to all? What we do for those who have served us well, in sickness, in ill health and in days of affliction that may lie ahead, we want to do it not generously but justly, and justly will be no less than would be generously. We want to deal with them to the utmost of the possibilities of the country. I hope that with the new Royal Warrant the Minister will go on from success to success and that he will see that it is administered with the greatest possible latitude, so that all that can be done shall be done and that when there is any doubt the benefit of it shall be given to the individual and not to the State. If the Minister does that the next time he comes to the House to give a record of his Ministry, he will meet with a response far different from the response he met last time but more akin to the response he has received to-day.
It may not be amiss that a voice from Northern Ireland should be heard before the close of this Debate, because we there are as much interested in this pensions question as are hon. Members in Britain. I welcome the White Paper as marking a great advance. I welcome it as of great value, not because it is perfect in itself, but because it opens the way for other things. I should like also to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions upon the masterly statement he made. He clarified many things and though there are other matters which need to be clarified, I have no doubt he will do that in due course. I have had to make many applications to the Ministry of Pensions on behalf of constituents and others, who desired assistance from that quarter, and I never doubted the good will of the Minister. I look upon him as an able man of good commonsense who always seeks to meet one fairly and squarely, but I have always had the feeling that at the Ministry there was too much legalism and too little of the human touch. The Ministry should think of that for a moment, because you cannot build a structure on legalism. We must accompany it with the touch of love if we are to have this pensions problem solved, and, indeed, it is the solution of all problems. I hope sincerely that the spirit of brotherhood will prevail. The spirit of brotherhood is one of the outstanding characteristics of Parliament, and I hope it will go outside these four walls that through the Ministry of Pensions we shall make these men, women and children feel that they are in that great brotherhood.
It is said of Tolstoy that one morning he was taking a walk and met a tramp who asked him for some assistance. Tolstoy put his hands in all his pockets but could find no money, and said," Brother, I am sorry I have not got any money." The tramp's face lighted up, and he replied "Thank you, thank you." Tolstoy asked, "What do you thank me for?" and the tramp replied, "Because you called me 'brother'." We want that spirit of brotherhood to be made manifest to all. Here we have a great problem to solve. A celebrated man once said, "If there exists an actual necessity for a great reform, God is with it, and He supports it," and to that I say "Amen." God is with every great reform in which we manifest the Christian spirit of love and generosity to our fellow men. There can be nothing but discontent and dissatisfaction if we do not provide these people with the ordinary necessities of life. They must have them if they are to be contented, satisfied and happy. I think those who have served their King and country have a strong claim for Christian and humane treatment; they should not be dealt with simply according to the letter of the law. Those who have been wholly or partially disabled should receive very special treatment.
There are things more important than figures and doctors' certificates. The widows of those brave men who have fallen in the fight should be provided for by the State, and the State should take over their children and make provision for them in loco parentis. Greater kindness should be shown to parents. We are told that "the determination of need will be on a more generous scale." It would need to be. I hope, when a mother has lost her son who assisted her in the upkeep of her household, that if she has courage enough to go out, as many have done, to earn something, that those earnings will not be held against her and taken into account in considering her means. I have had one case of that kind, and I admired the heroism of the woman, and I did not much approve of the attitude of the Ministry of Pensions. I hope that the review of all past cases—and there are many serious cases to be reviewed—will be conducted in a kind, Christian spirit.
I hope the Minister will keep before him the duty of recognising the claims of men wearing the King's uniform while on leave for proper compensation, and in the case of death make proper provision for their dependants. If a man is insured against accidents, he is insured whether he is working or not, and I have had a very strong feeling that the present rule should be amended and that a man wearing the King's uniform, whether on duty or off duty, if he is unfortunate enough to meet with an accident, should be provided for properly and decently and cared for until he gets back to health, and if he meets with his death, his widow and children should be provided for. Selfishness and niggardliness always produce bitterness and misunderstanding. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) said this White Paper had appeared late in the day, but "better late than never," and I am glad that its appearance marks a great advance. Some time ago I asked for a recasting of the Royal Warrant at the suggestion of some organisations in Northern Ireland, and the answer I got in the House led me to infer that the Royal Warrant was sacrosanct. I have learned now that it is not, and this is only a beginning. I believe the Royal Warrant could be further extended with great advantage to many, and I hope that no one will ever rise in this country to say that the Ministry of Pensions neglected him or his children after he had served his King and country faithfully.
I want to say in closing that the Christian way is the high way in which the State must walk in dealing with pensions. I would put all legalism out of it; if one cannot perhaps altogether banish legalism I would have far more of the human touch in dealing with those seeking pensions. We must also mete out even-handed justice, nothing more and nothing less, and do it in such a way as to make these people feel that the State they have served cares for them. I thank God for this advance made by the White Paper, and hope that it is the beginning of still greater things.
I think it was George Bernard Shaw, with his cynical mind, who said, many months ago, "When you get a perfect man you will get a perfect nuisance." When we get a perfect White Paper it will be a perfect nuisance, but I think it is true to say that this White Paper brings in its train some very important and long overdue changes in the pensions payable to men and women who have served their country in its hour of need. Reading the White Paper very carefully, I cannot find any mention of dealing more quickly with applications for pensions. This is a very important matter. The Committee and the Minister himself will agree that more expeditiously dealing with claims for pensions is all to the good, because it has a tremendous psychological effect on the claimants, whether they be men or women.
My main point in rising was to state briefly two cases among the many which have come to my notice. They are from my own little village. Case No. 1 is that of a young man, aged 26, who enlisted on 5th October, 1939, and was discharged on 25th March, 1943, without a pension. We all know the usual words in the discharge paper to the effect that he was not fulfilling the physical requirements, but that was after 3½ years' service, during which he had been the subject of many medical examinations. On every occasion he was passed as being in Grade r. Naturally the young man made every attempt to establish his right to a disability pension, and his claim was backed up by strong medical evidence from his own medical practitioner, who had been his attendant since birth. I have in my possession that medical evidence. It may not be due to the Minister himself or to the Parliamentary Secretary, but to some administrative defect in the Ministry of Pensions in dealing with the case, but when I went home from this House three weeks ago, that man had died and had been laid to rest. Now the question is about his widow. I am given to understand that, consequent upon the man not having proved his claim to pension, she will be denied the right to a pension for life.
Case No. 2 is that of a young man aged 29, who enlisted on 6th August, 1935. This man also was accepted as AI. He served at home and abroad. His foreign service totalled one year and 229 days. While he was in Ceylon he was involved in a military transport accident, along with 13 other persons. Unfortunately, two of the 13 were killed, and seven others were seriously injured and taken to hospital. He was among the seven. He was in a Ceylon hospital from 16th July, 1937, to February, 1938, hovering between life and death. He was sent to this country on 1st September, 1939, two days before the war broke out. After being sent here as convalescent and an invalid, he was re-examined when the war broke out and was certified to be in Grade i. He was sent out with the British Expeditionary Force and served in France for 243 days. He was in the retreat at Dunkirk and was unfortunately knocked out on the beaches there. When he regained consciousness he was on the deck of a ship in an English port. He was taken to Colchester Hospital and subsequently to Chelmsford Hospital, and was discharged on 10th June, 1941, without a pension and after six years' service at home and abroad.
I speak on these two cases with some feeling, because I knew both young men, took part in their sports, played their games and enjoyed their hilarity. Now one has passed, and the other is trying to get a pension for service rendered. In the second case, many attempts have been made to establish the right to pension, but the Ministry of Pensions—I say this with all respect to them—are adopting a policy of procrastination. If it were not for a beneficent and humanitarian employer in the little town in which I live, this man would be at the mercy of the world. Surely the Minister ought to do something to speed up the machinery for dealing with cases of this character. We all want the administrative machinery to be speeded up, and humanised too. If I might pass on a slogan to the Minister, it would be, "Do as you would be done by. Err, if you have to err, on the right side, that of
generosity." When men must fight, we who may not do the fighting this time do not want to see the fighting men penalised for fighting. So long as we fail to cultivate the art of living together in the world, so long shall we have to deal with fighting and with pensions. When the fighting men die, as so many have already died, we must see to it that their m
I draw a lesson from what takes place in other walks of life. When a man or woman goes on a job of work for a private employer, the general and proper rule is that accident and misadventure while on that job, unless it is wilfully incurred, become the moral and financial concern of the employer. I say that what is true in the common walk of life ought to be true in regard to our Fighting Forces. I do not want to see serving men or women in a position less favourable than people in ordinary life. Once a man has been passed as fit for service by a medical board, if anything happens to him or her we should assume the loss of health or the accident while on service to have been due to the conditions under which they served. The cost of this war is colossal, I know. We are told that we must afford it, but no less must we afford to treat the men and women who die, or who are broken and bruised in the battle for freedom, with the same gratitude, affection and kindness as we try to treat one another in the daily round and common tasks of human life. If we intend to make progress, as we ought to, there must be humanity in all our actions. There must be sympathy with the suffering and not chilly Regulations of a niggardly kind. Those are the principles in which I believe, and I beg that the Minister, while he has done his very best to introduce a spirit of humanitarianism and sympathy into the White Paper, will bring forward a new Regulation, in which we shall see some of the humanitarian principles put into practice. If he does that, not only will there be a halo around his head, but he will win the eternal gratitude of those men and women who have been broken and bruised on the field of battle.
I agree with my two hon. Friends who have just spoken that this problem of pensions is more a human problem and not merely a legal and medical one. If the purpose of the White Paper was to calm a political storm, then I think the White Paper will have succeeded in its object—for the time being. But if it was to bring forward proposals which were to put the question of pensions on a satisfactory basis and to stop the agitation for improved conditions, then I think the course of the Debate has shown that that object is not likely to be achieved, because it has been quite clear from the course of the Debate that although the White Paper is an advance and many anomalies have been removed, there still remain some anomalies of a major kind which will prevent the general acceptance of the present position. I want in a very few moments to mention three points in which I think the White Paper falls short of requirements. If some of us are suspicious of the intentions of the Government in the matter of pensions, it is because we have had so many experiences of hard cases that we feel we must examine all the proposals that are brought forward for any change with very great care. We must ask ourselves, "Do these proposals give the ex-Service man and his dependants what they ought to have, and are they really what they appear to be? "I think the administration of the new proposals will have to justify them if they can be justified at all.
With regard to the question of entitlement, I welcome the acceptance by the Government of the principle that the onus of proof will rest with them, but I am concerned with the limitation which they have put on that acceptance, and unless the last six lines of paragraph 3 can be removed, there will remain considerable doubt as to what the Government mean about this matter. It seems to me, quite frankly, that what the Government have given with one hand they are proposing to take away with another. In the first part of the paragraph they seem to give what is necessary; in the second half they appear to take it away. I have not been convinced that the Government are justified in not accepting the principle "Fit for service, fit for pension." Under that principle everybody would know where they stood. As the matter is left in the White Paper no Service man now can know in advance, if he should be discharged from the Service on the grounds of ill-health, whether he will get a pen- sion or not. I feel that he is entitled to know that. Under the principle of "Fit for service, fit for pension" he would know where he stood, the Government would know where they stood, and also the medical boards who pass the men into their categories in the Services would also know what responsibility they were undertaking. I believe that if this principle was agreed upon, there would be fewer cases of men being passed into a category which is really higher than their medical condition justifies.
The second matter to which I wish to draw attention is the refusal of the Government to agree to give without a means test a pension to the parents of a man who has been killed, when he was unmarried and had been making an allotment to his parents. I do not think in an instance of this kind we ought to argue the matter entirely on the basis of the need of the parent. We ought to take into account the feelings of the man who has given his life for his country. If he made an allotment to his father or his mother, or to both, he did not ask himself whether their financial position was such that they needed assistance from him. He had of his generosity of heart given them what he wanted them to have, and I feel that the State, for whom he has given his life, ought to be prepared to accept the obligation at least to honour his memory by continuing the allotment he was giving. I must say from my own experience that there has probably been nothing in the whole of the pensions administration that has caused more bitterness on the part of a parent than the refusal when a son has been killed to admit liability for pension. I do ask the Minister to look into this matter further.
The third point is one in which I think even the proposed new Warrant is inferior to the Warrant that existed in the last war, and relates to the matter of an alternative pension. I feel that there is a very strong case that in every respect the Warrant for this war should be at least as good as that of the last war. But in the last war the principle was recognised that there are men whose earnings prior to service were such that cognisance should be taken of this fact in allocating pensions. I believe that if the Government will be prepared to reconsider their proposals in the three directions I have indicated, they will go a long way towards satisfying public opinion, public opinion which is anxious that the Service man and his dependants shall have a really good deal. We often talk about our debt to the men who are fighting, and I think we civilians cannot over-estimate what that debt is. I would plead with the Government to do what I believe the country wants them to do, to show by their pension proposals and pension administration that they are prepared to pay that debt in full.
I feel that the White Paper and the discussions upon it in the Committee to-day are really a tribute to the House of Commons. It is a recognition of our paternal responsibilities exhibited with true filial piety towards those who have served us in the war years with such fidelity and at such cost. The fruits of the White Paper in the first instance will undoubtedly raise the standard of life of hundreds of thousands of people in the country and will remove that carping care and uncertainty once and for all. We recognise that the Committee has repeated that the White Paper does not go far enough. I am one of those who feel that the advances which are shown in it are really the fruits of a Coalition Government. Had we had party government, and the controversies and compromises inevitable under it, we should certainly not have had a White Paper of this advanced character. There are still anomalies which might be swept away. For instance, officers' widows under 40 or over 40 are treated alike, but that does not apply in the case of widows of serving soldiers. That is an illustration of the class disqualifications which have crept into even the Royal Warrant
On the question of entitlement, I am glad that we have had a certain amount of criticism. It is very satisfactory that the onus of proof will not be on the claimant. But when we have the qualification that the cause of certain diseases or disabilities must be settled by that section of the community who differ among themselves so frequently, the medical profession, that is a weakness in the Paper. I regret that it has not been thought necessary to provide that a man would be fully entitled, whatever the cause of the disablement may be, after service or during service, to a preliminary examination as to whether a pension should be allowed or not. I think we are parsimonious in respect of disablement which is not attributable to service. I contend that so long as a soldier is in uniform, his environment is largely selected by his service. He is not able, like the civilian, to select his refreshment and entertainment and method of life. I have met several cases in which, shortly after the first travelling has been done, an accident has occurred—in one or two cases, fatal—which would be ruled out under the qualification that when service is over, by however short a period, there is no right of pension.
We are gratified to know that, whatever changes may occur in the position of the recipient, the pension is an act of gratitude on the part of the State. I am also glad that the really unemployable 200 per cent. cases are to receive special concessions, and that this will apply to pensioners of the last war also, and that pensioners of less than 200 per cent. disability will be permitted to earn up to 20s. a week. That is a generous concession, and it will be an inducement to men who might otherwise be inclined to sit back and rely on their pensions, to go on rendering service to the community. We must always bear in mind the extreme urgency of maximum production by all sections. With respect to parents' pensions, I suppose that that unfortunate qualification must be permitted, although it is not satisfactory in the matter of widows' pensions, that the widow and her children will receive less than if she had been the widow of the disabled man. That is a matter that ought to be very seriously considered, with a 'view to amendment at the earliest moment. Post-war and post-injury marriages clearly should not be penalised but encouraged. The Minister is smiling, but I had hoped that he would approve of that. Last Friday's Debate on the trend of population indicated a most serious decline, which must be combated by all the powers which Parliament possesses. Children are a prime necessity for our national progress and expansion and for the maintenance of our leadership among the nations. Encouragement should be given by this Department and by all other Departments, and Parliament must keep this point of view very vigilantly before it. We can only hope that the Minister will exhibit the utmost tolerance and generosity in interpreting these great powers which can be so benevolently used by him and by his able deputy, in order that when he again comes before us and gives us an account of his attitude and of the fruits of his labour, this House will be prepared to say, as we say to-day, "Well done, and go forward in the interests of the community upon these lines."
In view of the lateness of the hour, I will try to condense my remarks. Let me add a word of welcome to the White Paper in general. Reference has been made to the fact that it is generous. The noble Lady the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley) has looked up the meaning of that word, and has said that it means "willingness to give." I should have thought that it was more usual to describe it as giving more than is necessary. If that be the test, I do not regard the White Paper as generous, for it does not do more than it should. There remain certain anomalies, but, taking it broadly, people will find satisfaction from the terms of it. The points seem to fall into two main objects in dealing with this subject—the form of the Royal Warrant and the manner in which it is interpreted. The interpretation in practice is scarcely less important than the wording of the Warrant itself. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. D. Adams) both took exception to the terms of the Royal Warrant because it failed to provide for the principle of "Fit for service, fit for pension." They were apparently willing that the pension should be paid, regardless of the origin of the disability, to people in the Forces. That is a point of view to which I for one cannot subscribe. The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), on the other hand, took the view that it was proper to pay pension in these circumstances because you would never get people to understand that, notwithstanding that the disability had no relation to war service, a man is denied a pension who is classed in the Army A.1 merely, from what I understood from his remarks, on the ground of failure to understand that that was the reason why sooner or later he would reach that position. I am glad the Government are endeavouring to confine pensions to disabilities attributable to war service and not to things which are not attributable.
When we come to the interpretation of the Royal Warrant three particular words have a special significance. There are the "consensus of medical opinion," the meaning of the words "war service," and the meaning of "unemployable." I confess that I was somewhat apprehensive in the earlier stages in drawing attention to the effect of the modification of the presumption in favour of the applicant. I hope that the phrase "consensus of medical opinion" will not be used to whittle away the presumption which, without it, would be available for the applicant. In connection with the interpretation of "war service," I feel I owe a word of apology to the Minister. I would like to explain how it was that I suggested that he contradicted the Lord President of the Council on the question of injuries on leave. The hon. Member for Gorbals asked whether it was a correct impression of the White Paper to say that the only injuries in respect of which a pension might be paid in relation to leave were injuries sustained to and from journeys to the man's base. In reply, the Minister referred the hon. Member to the White Paper and said it was clearly stated what the limitations were. There is no mention in the White Paper that I can see of the fact that an injury during short leave overseas renders a man eligible for a pension. Therefore the reason some of us who were doubtful on the point and wanted it reaffirmed was because no mention was made by the Lord President of the Council of that difference, namely, the payment for an injury during service overseas, whether in fact on leave or not.
The third point I would just touch upon in connection with interpretation is that of "unemployability" for the seriously disabled man. He will be regarded as employable if he is capable of earning a week, but there is still great scope for generous interpretation even with that ruling. Clearly, it would not be the ability to earn£1 a week in one week and perhaps even two weeks. When the application in that particular aspect is dealt with I hope it will not be done in a niggardly way and that undoubted ability to earn reasonable wages will be established before the concessions applicable to that are denied to people seriously disabled. These questions of interpretation might have to be defined. The hon. Member who spoke from the benches opposite asked that "consensus of medical opinion" should be defined. I hope that it will not be necessary to define these phrases, or it may very well be that in forming a definition the applicant might unwittingly be debarred from coming in, apart from any of the definitions which experience might show were not possible. It might be that some form of protection of these broad words might be necessary. I hope that the Minister will give such instructions as will render unnecessary a definite limitation of these words in order to fulfil the hope we all have of the White Paper.
I desire to detain the Committee for only a short time to make a few observations on what I consider to be a reasonable reading of this White Paper. From what my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Summers) said with regard to the question of "Fit for service, fit for pension," I desire to differ. I rather gathered from the views taken by an hon. Member opposite and by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) that their contention was that the theory of "Fit for service, fit for pension" should be accepted and that the White Paper does not accept it. With that there is much agreement, but I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton. I think it would be advisable to put some kind of time limit of six months on this arid, in effect, say that if there has been service of that time by a man enlisted as AI medically, the charge should be on the State.
I see the argument. Although one cannot call the White Paper generous, I think it would be a gesture to say that at any time application is made the State would carry the burden after a certain period. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) said that nobody wants to be churlish about this matter. I agree. We must recognise that a great step forward has been made by this White Paper to-day. We gratefully acknowledge it, but that step forward is the result of the rising tide of public anger reflected by Members of all parties in this House. One rightly recognises the step forward, although one should remember that it was that rising tide of public resentment, and nothing else, that brought it about. It has come late; it ought to have been brought forward long since, and it must not be regarded now as the be-all and end-all of the system of real generosity to men who have given most to the Services and their country.
There is no need to have this circumlocution about the onus of proof. Paragraph 3 should have stopped at the first simple statement that the onus of proof should be on the Crown and not on the discharged soldier. The last few lines may whittle down the point for which so many of us have been asking for for so long. The Minister was rather cross when I interrupted him on this point, but I submit that it is a reasonable point which ought to be dealt with.
The Minister may pay regard to any other evidence including the consensus of medical opinion.
What does he mean "the consensus of medical opinion," and is he going to disclose to the applicant what he holds in his hand as the consensus of medical opinion whose advice he has taken? Is he going to give the discharged soldier the right to challenge that consensus of medical opinion or is it to be dealt with secretly? Will the soldier be given opportunity to controvert it? If the Minister or anyone in his Department is going to be allowed to listen in secret to medical evidence which the man himself is given no right to contradict or challenge, it reduces the onus of proof to a farce. A year ago, I asked the Minister in a Supplementary Question whether it was not time to initiate some alteration whereby the onus of proof would be removed from the soldier to the State, and my right hon. Friend said he was prepared to accept that suggestion then. Is it to be acted upon under the new White Paper, any more than it has been in the last 12 months?
There is one other matter. In certain circumstances the discharged soldier is entitled to a certificate of entitlement:
Where an injury or disease which has led to a member's discharge or death during war service is not noted in medical report made on that member on the commencement of his war service, a certificate under paragraph (I) shall be given unless the evidence shows that the conditions set out in that paragraph are not fulfilled.
I ask the Minister again, what evidence? Is it evidence taken in front of the man, a copy of which is given him, or evidence taken in secret behind his back, of which he can know nothing and can offer no observations or contradiction at all? If so, the whole value of the certificate goes.
If a man is classed A1 and has been recognised by a medical man as fit for a high category of medical service but after a certain time has to fall out from a disease which is only too evident, is not that sufficient to warrant entitlement? Why have all this hedging and all these qualifications? What is it going to cost in relation to the monthly cost of the war, and what is it going to do? It is going to give some small guarantee to those who are broken down in the service of the country. I think a clause such as that would be welcomed and not objected to by any section of the community. Let us not trim at the cost of the discharged soldier.
We wish the Minister well in his future work. Under the new provisions we trust injustice will go. An hon. Gentleman on the other side said earlier in the Debate that the Royal Warrant appeared to have broken down.
I am sorry if I trespassed outside the bounds of Order. I shall content myself with saying that if this is a breaking down of an old system and the starting of a new one, we shall do well, but it will be watched closely by all concerned. Let me say to the Minister in no unfriendly spirit but as one who welcomes the White Paper as far as it goes, that what I have described as the rising tide of public resentment is arrested for the moment but this is no matter which will be allowed to be forgotten. If time shows that this White Paper is not sufficient, a call for amendment will be made with the same strength of feeling as the agitation that preceded its introduction at this late hour.
I desire to say something upon a single aspect of the White Paper. From time to time, in speeches in the House and with the assistance of some of my hon. Friends in putting down Motions and in other ways, I have endeavoured to draw the attention of the Minister to the difficulties in which the flat rate scale of pensions has involved widows whose homes happen to be situated in those parts of the country where the average rent levels are abnormally high. Therefore, even at this late hour of the Debate, it is, I think, right to acknowledge what I regard as the sympathetic and, indeed, the handsome manner in which the Minister has dealt with that particular form of hardship in the proposals which are contained in the White Paper for the supplementation of widows' pensions. These hardships have been particularly acute in the Greater London area and particularly so in those boroughs in the Eastern area. I have made such inquiries as I have been able to make since Friday last, and my information is that the proposals in the White Paper will probably be effective in removing these hardships. Indeed, in some ways their proposals seem likely to meet the case more generously than the proposal which some of us have made from time to time, that the war service grants should be continued during the pension period.
There is one aspect of this matter on which I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to give us an assurance. Does rent include the payments of interest and the instalments on the mortgage debt under a building society mortgage? I do not know whether that aspect of this matter has been fully considered or whether the Parliamentary Secretary is in a position to give me a reply. If he would prefer to postpone his reply and give us an assurance that this point will be considered, I should be content. I will put down a Question later. I desire to impress on him that unless rent is to be regarded as including payments on building society mortgages, the provisions in the White Paper for dealing with this matter will to a large extent fail in their purpose. These cases of hardship are very common, perhaps more common where the widow is living in a house which is being purchased under a building society mortgage than where the widow is a tenant. I would say to my right hon. Friend that if "rent" is not to be regarded as including these building society payments, it really puts a premium upon being a tenant. That, I believe, is not what he desires. The difficulty in which these widows are placed in these particular cases is that they are not at present able to move out of their homes, even if they desire to do so, and go to other premises. They will still be in that difficulty when these White Paper proposals come into operation. Therefore, I do ask my right hon. Friend to consider carefully whether, at any rate, until the present housing situation is relieved, it may not be possible to treat building society payments in the same manner as he proposes to treat the payment of rent and rates.
The White Paper is, undoubtedly, an improvement upon what we have had in the past. The present Minister of Pensions, whose good will towards ex-Service men is so well known, and who merits great praise from everyone who has had any interest in pensions, is sometimes a little too sensitive about certain types of criticism—critics are sometimes not unjust—and some part of the work of his Department has been beyond praise. Take, for example, the work of the hospital at Roehampton. As he knows, some of us have visited it and know a great deal about it. Speaking impartially I would say that Roehampton is almost a model for certain institutions in this country. It has not quite reached the acme of perfection on the rehabilitation side that I think it will reach, but from the orthopaedic point of view, its staff, its organisation, its management, its results are unequalled throughout the country, and the Minister deserves great praise and credit for the particularly personal interest he has taken in this institution and the great work done there by a perfectly tip-top staff in keeping things at full concert pitch in every direction.
That is a quite generous, well-deserved but perfectly impartial medical criticism. It happens to be praise. But I am still rather perturbed about certain conditions in the White Paper which, perhaps, were best crystallised in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha). From the medical point of view, it was an astonishingly good speech from a layman. I know that all the political hens, when they want to lay an addled egg somehow, somewhere, always make a point of the differences among medical men, as if no other professional men ever had differences of opinion or as if a difference of opinion were not, in some cases, a laudable feature of our ordinary life. Why should not medical men differ? Take that phrase" the consensus of medical opinion." Everything depends upon what you mean, as a celebrated member of the Brains Trust on the wireless says. How is this consensus of medical opinion to be translated? What is consensus of medical opinion? Does it mean ordinary, orthodox, medical opinion? Do you mean to take it in the ordinary way from the point of view of causation? Remember that some of the medical men who sit on boards or on appeal tribunals qualified 30, 40 or perhaps more years ago, when medicine was not in its modern state. Views have changed. The Minister has frequently talked about the way he goes to certain sources for independent medical men to get an opinion. I have warned him before that in the type of man and organisation to which he goes, independence does not exist. The Royal College of Physicians, to whom he frequently goes for help and independent and impartial opinion, is not a body to give him an independent and impartial opinion. It is only an examining body like the Royal College of Surgeons which has built itself into an influential position because of the diplomas resulting from its examinations. One could devise a much better way of getting independent medical opinion.
How is he to get that independent medical opinion? Medical men are trained in diagnosis and the treatment of symptoms, and they tend to treat diseases rather than human beings. They are more keen on questions of diagnosis and the proper treatment than they are on the fact that what they are treating is not disease at all but human beings with certain abnormal symptoms that are grouped together under a certain name and regarded as a certain disease. I have always kept in mind that I was not treating disease at all but treating a patient or a human being with a supposed disease. How are we to get that opinion? Medical men are seldom trained in questions of attributability, aggravation or causation of disease. The difficulty of assessment of causation, especially when causation is doubtful or not known, is extraordinary. There is no medical training on that point in this country, believe me. A great deal depends upon the personal factor, such as upon the man chosen or the composition of the appeal tribunal. After the last war I had some experience behind the scenes in the Ministry of Pensions, and I again want to press the point which I emphasised before: Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether assessors will still be allowed, not having seen a case, to vary or change the opinion or assessment to which medical boards have come?
Another point. Will the Parliamentary Secretary emphasise that when a précis is prepared for his pensions appeal tribunal by his medical officer who prepares the précis, that it is done in a perfectly fair and impartial way, giving both sides of the case? I know, because I was once sent to do précis work, because I was supposed to be too generous to the boards. I know how précis are prepared and how sometimes they were prepared in a way which was not doing justice to the man, when submitted to the appeal tribunal. I think this may have improved since that time. The Minister and his medical officers will have seen the changes which have taken place in that direction, although there is still a lot of leeway to make up.
Earlier in this Debate, a reference was made to coronary thrombosis, and I suggested to the hon. Member, not from the point of view of disagreement but simply because it had not been explained, that he should tell the Committee that coronary thrombosis was nothing but a clot of blood, a blockage in the arteries that supply the heart muscles. Take any of the ordinary diseases which are supposed to be in doubt from the point of view of a concensus of orthodox medical opinion; it will be much better to say that those cases will be considered medically from all angles and not from one, and not only from the orthodox point of view of medical opinion but from every side, always with a chance of showing that the benefit of the doubt should be given to the claimant or the applicant. I have time and time again seen—I do not say it was done deliberately—medical knowledge used to the detriment of an ex-Service man in a way which has prevented him from getting a pension.
I want to put a point to the Minister which I have considered very carefully and which relates to that which was raised by the hon. Member who last spoke. Medical officers may have decided that on the medical evidence a case should be dealt with in a certain way. The medical evidence is not disclosed either to the claimant, to the Member for the constituency, who may have asked for the information, or even to the claimant's medical man when he has asked to be allowed to see it. In fact, the Minister simply says that on the medical evidence available he has decided against the applicant. I think that the Minister in certain cases like that should say, "This is my decision on the evidence of my officers. I cannot go behind their backs. I must take medical advice. I am not a medical man myself. But in the strictest confidence I will show you the evidence." And here I want to make a point that until we have "soldiers' friends" for these claimants and appellants we will never really get justice—soldiers' friends chosen by the men themselves or by their organisations. Until that is done we shall never get really decent administration of pensions in this country.
Take certain cases. Coronary thrombosis has been mentioned. That is rather a difficult one. Take certain things like tuberculosis. It is known that some cases take years. Some rapidly occur in a month. A man is taken from his civil conditions and put to work or to live under entirely different conditions, it may be wet, cold, draughty camp conditions, bad tents, marching and in close proximity with people, and perhaps an affection which he had had and recovered from in civil life is lighted up again. Then it is said, "He has had it before, he has had it in civil life and he is not entitled to a pension." There are cases like the disease, disseminated sclerosis, which are patches of scar tissue scattered through the central nervous system. Cases have occurred. I have handled them for the organisations I work for, the trade unions, and submitted them to the Minister, and he has said, "On the advice of my principal medical officers I can only come to the conclusion that this man is not entitled to pension." Why? There is a certain group of medical men, perhaps not holding the consensus of orthodox medical opinion, who hold that things like disseminated sclerosis and other diseases are due to infection. If so, the infection may quite easily occur during service. We do not know quite frankly the real cause of this disease.
Take pernicious anæmia. Of this it is said it is a thing that can arise in civil life and therefore that it is not directly due to service. How does the ordinary consensus of orthodox medical opinion know that these things cannot arise during Service life? The same thing applies with regard to other diseases—brain tumours, various forms of eye degeneration. I have had a case which came to me to-day of eye deterioration. This man was passed A.1 when he went into the Service. Nothing wrong with his eyes. He served six to eight months under very bad conditions, and then the eye condition arose. It is deteriorating. He has appealed for pension and has been told definitely he has no claim to pension. Why? How do we know he did not get infection under his conditions of service? He had a clean prewar sheet, was passed Grade A.1. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt that this thing may have occurred during service? There are crowds of other diseases. I could mention certain forms of deafness. I mentioned cancer. Before I come to that let me deal with neurosis. I want to make a special appeal to the Minister. If he will start an institution on the perfect lines he is running Roehampton, I think cases of neurosis by good administration. by good psychotherapy, by good arrangements and recreational facilities will yield excellent results. I believe he will reduce the incidence of pensioners with neurosis in its various forms. Although I have sometimes been critical, both inside and outside the House, of the Minister, the latest steps he has taken are, I think, in accord with the well deserved reputation which he has in the country, and I feel sure that he has shown enthusiasm and derived joy in doing something for the ex-Service men.
Like previous speakers, I intend to be very brief. I will confine myself to answering some of the specific points which have been made. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mi. Hore-Belisha) talked about the difference between the rates for the children of widows and the children of disabled men. It is true that the children of widows have a higher rate and that, I think, is as it should be. Often the pension is the only income coming into the home of the widow, but in the case of the disabled man there is often another income. My right hon. Friend also raised the question of entitlement. He said something with which I very much agree, that the rates and the various other matters mentioned in this White Paper,
important as they were, were not so important as the matter of entitlement. I think that that is the most important point in the White Paper. I have listened with interest to the whole Debate, and particularly to that on paragraph 3. Perhaps undue prominence has been given to the second portion of that paragraph. I feel sure that this alteration is going to make a great difference to thousands of people, who are going to get pensions when they have not done so so far. My right hon. Friend and I have been worried about this matter for years, and we feel that we are now going to achieve a great advance. I think that the last words in the paragraph:
we will give full weight to the general view expressed above"—
refer to the first part of the paragraph, and not to the second. If so, it is apparent that the first portion is the more important, and I think it will achieve the result we all want.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. H. Guest) raised the question of the 300 widows and the Royal Patriotic Fund. I do not wish to say anything, except that if we could have done it in some other way we should have. I am not exaggerating when I say that my right hon. Friend has been worrying about this question for two years. He has indeed explored every avenue that it was possible to explore. We decided that this was the best way to settle the business, in view or the difficulties that beset us. The hon. and gallant Member for Daventry (Major Manningham-Buller) raised a rather important legal point. It is rather a complicated matter, and I will only say now that we will look into it. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) raised the question of post-injury marriage. We all know, particularly in the Ministry, that he has been interested in this matter for a long time. One can understand that, not having got all he wanted, he was disappointed, but he can derive consolation from the fact that at least a breach has been made in the principle and the concession has been partly granted. He also asked about a man drawing partial disablement pension who had been married after his injury, and whether if the man died his widow would get a pension. Unless, as his wife, she got an allowance whilst he was living, she would not get a pension after his death. Nor would his children. [Interruption.] She would get a contributory pension, of course. My hon. Friend was referring to war service pensions.
The hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Major Mills) said, among other things, that he hoped we would not be too hard in our interpretation of complete unemployability. I hope so. I hope that in six months' time, when we have had experience of this, he will be able to say that we are not too harsh in our interpretation. He raised another point, which was technical and complicated. I will not answer it to-night, but we will look into the point. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Tom Brown) raised two cases in particular. He complained that we did not deal with the cases expeditiously. I think that the ordinary case that comes up for pension is dealt with expeditiously. If a man is wounded and loses a leg or arm and is discharged from the Army, no time is lost. It may be that there are cases in which there has been delay. They are asking us to look through them again, and some cases appear to take a fairly long time. I can assure hon. Members that where that is so, it is very often due to the fact that we are seeking to get all the information we can about the man both before he went into the Service and afterwards. The more information we can get, the better for the man as far as the pension is concerned. If a long time elapses, I hope we shall be forgiven, because that is what we are doing.
I was not sure that 12 months was the period from the time when the case was sent to us until the final reply was received. I imagine, though I am not quite sure, that several replies or decisions had been given in the interval although the decisions were not satisfactory. In any event, I will look into the case. I agree that 12 months is a long time and there must be some particular reason for it. The hon. and learned Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) raised a point, and the answer is that the interest will not be counted on capital repayments. The scheme has been very well received by the Committee. A big change like this must, inevitably, meet with some criticism and it would be a miracle if it suited everybody in every shade and particular. That could not possibly be, but having heard most of the Members who have spoken to-day, and in spite of the fact that there may be criticisms here and there on details, or even on principle, the fact remains that the Committee welcomes this change in the Warrant. I welcome it too. It is one of the biggest things done in the history of pensions in this country and tens of thousands will benefit thereby.