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

– in the House of Commons on 10th February 1944.

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Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

asked the Minister of Pensions what steps are taken by his Department in the case of disabled men discharged from the Forces unable to follow any employment, without pension or allowance from his Department because their disability was neither caused nor aggravated by military service, who are entitled to small weekly sums, or none, by way of disablement benefit from their approved societies, who are beyond rehabilitation and who must, therefore, resort to Poor Law relief or become street pedlars.

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

With one exception I have no power to deal with the case in which the disablement is unconnected with service. The exception is that of a member of the Forces who is under treatment which requires to be continued on discharge. In this case, although the disablement is neither attributable to nor aggravated by service, special allowances may be paid whilst treatment is being continued for a period not exceeding 26 weeks from the date of discharge. The rare case which is beyond rehabilitation does not differ from those arising exceptionally among the civil population, for which the general social service schemes are intended to provide.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Has the Minister ever considered the real problem arising here, which is that, at the end of every war, ex-soldiers have been compelled, because they had no income from any source, to become beggars and pedlars? Is he aware that Members of all parties, and the whole nation, do not want to see that occurring again? Can he do anything about it?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

Yes, Sir, I am well aware of that position. I have it in mind. I am as anxious as anyone in the country to avoid these men becoming pedlars or street musicians. We shall do everything we can to assist these men, so that they can be rehabilitated and trained to do a useful job of work.. In the very rare cases I have mentioned, that is a matter which will have to receive close consideration.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will state the circumstances in which there is sent to ex-Servicemen a printed form stating that the application for a pension has been considered and refused, prior to any such application being made; and in relation to a certain case in the Midland region, particulars whereof have been furnished to him, when and by whom the application was made, which was stated to have been considered and declined.

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

When a member of the Forces is discharged on medical grounds his papers are referred automatically to my Department for consideration, and no formal claim to pension is required. Except where the papers show beyond doubt that the member does not consider himself entitled to pension it is clearly in the interest of all that prompt information as to the Ministry's decision should be sent, together with notice of the right of appeal when that decision is unfavourable. By no means all of these cases are rejected, however, and pensions are awarded in many. This procedure avoids correspondence and belated claims; it should cause no inconvenience to those who did not wish to claim since no action need be taken by them.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

Could not the form have been more happily worded? As it is, it indicates to the man that his case has been turned down before it has ever been put, and before his statement has ever been made to the Ministry. Will the Minister be good enough also to answer the second part of my Question?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

We instituted this procedure in the interests of the men themselves, and this is the first time I have had a complaint about it. Indeed, I have had many letters thanking my Department for having considered these claims, particularly in the cases where the pension has been awarded. I do not think that it would be wise to alter this procedure, in the best interests of the men themselves.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

May I have an answer to the second part of the Question on the paper?

Photo of Mr Walter Womersley Mr Walter Womersley , Grimsby

I think I have answered that Question completely.

Photo of Major Abraham Lyons Major Abraham Lyons , Leicester East

On a point of Order. May I ask for a reply on the specific case mentioned in the Question?

Hon. Members:

No.