§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I desire to ask a question with regard to the method in which old age pensions are now being paid. I unfortunately did not hear an answer given to-day, but I have been told what it was. The information was conveyed to me, and I have every reason to believe it to be accurate; that instructions have been given, I presume by the Treasury, to the officers concerned with paying these old age pensions that they are not to regard any sum of money that the pensioners are earning, but to pay the pension irrespective of that amount. Instead of the limit of £31 10s. the person might be earning £52 and he would still receive the pension of five shillings per week. I have had a little conversation with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu), and I gather that some such instructions as that have been given. On what authority has he given those instructions? I have read the Bill through very carefully, and I find any number of Clauses dealing with the manner- in which the money is to be paid, and the total of £31 10s. stated, but I cannot find any Clause which authorises the Treasury or any Government official to depart from the directions given in the Bill.
1795 It may be that the right hon. Gentleman will say that this is only a temporary instruction given under temporary circumstances. I think that is the answer, but there is no authority for doing so in the Act. There is this direction in the Act, that the sum earned if there is no other way of ascertaining it shall be the sum earned in the preceding year, but even if the right hon. Gentleman founded any argument on that I think he will be met by this, that as soon as the £31 10s. has been earned then no further money can be paid during that particular year. I do not want to raise any question as to whether or not five shillings is sufficient or insufficient. I am not quite sure whether it would be in order because any alteration would require legislation, but I think I am in order in saying this, that if the Government are dissatisfied with the amount in the Act the proper way is to say that circumstances have arisen which require the revision of the Act. It is not the proper way to take advantage if they can—I do not think they can—of any loophole, if it exists, to do something which was never contemplated by the Act without coming to the House of Commons for the necessary authority by an amending Bill. Old age pensions are at present costing the country over £13,000,000 a year; we were told when the Act was introduced that they would cost only £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. At a time when everybody is urging economy upon private people and private people are urging economy on the State, it is a very bad policy to introduce a system which really connives at fraud upon the intentions of the Act.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Montagu)
Perhaps I ought to explain exactly how this matter arose. There have been from time to time in the House of Commons requests to alleviate the lot of old age pensioners faced with war conditions and the increase in prices, and from all quarters suggestions have been made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the rate of the pension should be increased. For obvious reasons, and mainly because of the large demands now being made on the taxpayers, these demands have been most regretfully resisted. Besides that, there have been repeated requests from all quarters of the House not to let casual war receipts operate to reduce the pension, and the particular instance quoted has always been the agricultural labourer who, in 1796 order to repair the shortage of labour, undertook, as I think most patriotically, to assist in getting in the harvest. The case was pressed very strongly by the present President of the Local Government Board in the Debate on the Board of Agriculture Vote. It was in accordance with those representations that my predecessor, the late Financial Secretary, made this statement, which has not been quite accurately represented by the hon. Baronet. There have been no instructions to old age pension officers not to take into account the means of applicants for old age pensions.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
There have been no such instructions. I will read the statement—Instructions will be given to pension officers not to raise questions in the case of existing pensioners in respect of any temporary increase of means due to the pensioner's re-employment on account of shortage of labour arising out of and during the war, provided there is no evidence of a desire to pay on account of the pension less than the proper rates of wages.That is all. I venture to think that, on its merits, the overwhelming sense of the House would be in favour of such a lenient operation of the law, and that if the House of Commons wants to seek economy it will not do it at the expense of the old man over seventy who, in order to repair the shortage of labour during the War, goes back from his retirement, and seeks temporarily a certain amount of valuable remuneration for work which the State cannot do without. We want labour, and we are anxious to enlist everybody who will work. For that reason, and for that reason only, it has been suggested to pension officers, that for temporary employment arising out of the shortage of labour during the War, they should not raise questions about the means of existing pensioners. As to the legal authority. The Act says that the means of the old age pensioner should not be more than £31 10s. a year. The whole question turns upon how those means are to be ascertained. I am quoting broadly the effect of the Act, which says that, subject to certain conditions, a person shall be entitled to an old age pension. The pension officers may at any time raise before the Local Old Age Pensions Committee the question as to whether the statutory conditions continue-to be fulfilled. We have given instructions to the pension officer that he has to regard 1797 this as temporary employment. It is, I would remind the House, the case of an old man over seventy. It is not likely to be prolonged employment, and there is no reason at the outset to suppose that it will increase his means over the statutory limit for the year. There is nothing illegal in our taking the one test of what he earned last year. We have asked the pension officer not to raise the question before the Local Committee simply because an old man has come forward and done a little work in a time of shortage.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman has not the Act before him. It does not quite convey all he says in his explanation. The first Section says:—Every person in whose case the conditions laid down by this Act for the receipt of an old age pension (in this Act referred to as the statutory conditions) are fulfilled, shall be entitled to receive such pension under this Act so long as these conditions continue to be fulfilled.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I appreciate that. The whole question between us is how we are to ascertain whether or not the statutory conditions are fulfilled. For that purpose we have suggested in this time of stress to the pension officers that they are not to raise the question of temporary employment before the Local Committee. I venture to assert that the hon. Baronet can find nothing in the Act which makes that a non-fulfilment of the duty of the pensions officers. He has got to be satisfied before raising the question before the Local Old Age Pensions Committee that there is a reasonable expectation that the earning will continue long enough to justify the reduction. How can he be so satisfied in the case of an old age pensioner who goes back to work? I agree that in normal times the pensions officer has to assume that the old age pensioner — ruling out all notoriously casual earnings—will only take on such work as he can do, and the onus of it being only temporary is thus thrown on the old age pensioner! Would that be reasonable in the present emergency, when we want every man to work, and do not want him to risk his pension to the detriment of the offer of his services? If it is any satisfaction to the hon. Baronet to know it, I may say that though we have given instructions to the pension officers not to raise this before the Local Committees it does not mean that they are not to report these 1798 cases to the Board of Customs, to whom the pension officer is responsible. We have knowledge of the eases. We shall be able to see that this concession is not abused. There have only been some 400 or 500 cases of the sort out of a million pensioners. I venture to suggest that it would be very hard and totally against the public interest if the House were to endorse what the hon. Baronet says.
§ Mr. MORTON
I desire very briefly to bring before the House a question which was asked by my hon. Friend this afternoon. It refers to the case of the late Private William Gordon, Sutherland. I am sorry I did not have notice of the question from my hon. Friend. If I had I should certainly have attended here at question time and I regret, of course, I was not here, and that the usual courtesy was not extended to me of giving notice that the question was to be brought forward. This case was brought to my attention some weeks back, and of course I am taking an interest in the matter because it is in my Constituency. I at once submitted the case to the late Financial Secretary to the War Office, and asked for its consideration, and, if possible, the granting of a pension to the widow in the usual way. No doubt there was a little delay owing to the change of Government, but as soon as the new Financial Secretary took office I wrote calling his attention to the case and asking for its consideration. I later wrote again stating definitely that I thought it was a case that ought to be attended to, and that the widow ought to have some pension. This man had been in the Territorial Force for some years, and he joined the Lovat Scouts last Autumn. He was taken ill and discharged as being unfit in health for the occupation. He was away from the Army when he died, and that, I am told, is the difficulty in connection with the matter. But the point raised, and very properly raised, so far as I understand it, is this: the medical officer who examined him, passed him as being in fit and proper health for the service of a soldier. It is all very well to say the doctor might make a mistake; no doubt doctors do sometimes, but they ought not to make quite such a big mistake as that, and allow a man to take up work for which apparently he was quite unfit. The result was that in a very short time he became ill, and was unfit to work, and was finally discharged. I do not want to make any complaint about anybody, but I must say that if all your 1799 medical officers acted in this way, you might have a very poor Army indeed. I received within the last day or two a very long, detailed letter from the Financial Secretary explaining the whole circumstances, and I am very much obliged to him for sending it. That I sent off yesterday to the relatives of the widow at Brora, and, of course, it has hardly been received yet, so that any comments which they may wish to make cannot be expected yet. I wish to say that, generally speaking, I have received the greatest attention to the number of cases which I have brought before the Admiralty and the War Office, and consequently I have not troubled the House with questions upon them. It is quite clear that the doctor ought not to have passed this man, and if his death was not actually caused by his duties as a soldier, it would certainly be accelerated. I think that his widow and children are entitled to the consideration of the Government, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to do something to meet this case. It is a hard case, and I trust that the War Office will do something to settle it in a reasonable and Christian spirit.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
The matter I wish to bring before the Government is the question of the expulsion from Ireland recently, under military authority, of a number of persons. I wish to acknowledge the way in which the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland has discharged his onerous duties, and nobody will think that I am saying anything to embarrass him in the discharge of that duty, or that I am doing anything other than to make a suggestion which I believe will be helpful to the Government. It should be remembered that the Irish people en masse have for the first time in their history thrown in their lot cordially and willingly with this Empire in the great struggle in which we are engaged. That being so I would submit that any slight temporary aberration by a very small minority should be somewhat indulgently treated. It must be remembered that Ireland in the past has suffered very grievously and memories of this still remain, although many of our grievances have been redressed If you expel men from Ireland without cause shown they only go over to America and they do far more harm there by influencing public opinion in America than they could do at home, where their words and actions can be measured and where every allowance 1800 can be made of what they say and do. From the point of view merely of expediency I would suggest to the Government that great caution is necessary before you turn a man out of house and home and compel him to find a living elsewhere in a strange country.
I would like to contrast the way in which these offences in Ireland have been dealt with in England. I was appalled to read in to-day's "Times" that a man who was caught signalling from one of His Majesty's ships in the Irish Channel, doing what is an act of war, for which if I were Commander-in-Chief I would have him shot out of hand, got three months' imprisonment. Three months' imprisonment for signalling in a channel invested with submarines and with all kinds of dangers to be encountered! Again, I read in some paper of a Dutchman, caught for the second time making signals, being let off with three months' imprisonment. Compare these offences of actual crimes with the fact that you impose perpetual banishment on men in Ireland for mere suspicion Of course, the Irish people read these contrasts, and take them into account, and my suggestion to the Government is this: Unhappily gentlemen like General Friend, and the present Under-Secretary, Sir Matthew Nathan, in Ireland, are practically situated as if I were sent to Sumatra, and had to deal with the' problems which arise there. I would suggest to the Government that they should associate with the military authority some persons who would give them independent advice which would not be tainted as some of the advice which they get by mere police suspicion. You can hardly take up an Irish paper in a morning now without reading of some incident. It is comparatively a new matter. It did not go on for the first eight or nine months of the war. Take yesterday morning's paper:—Queenstown, Thursday.—At a very early hour this morning a party of police, under Head Constable B. Byrne, visited the residences of John Dowling and Patrick Curran and served them with notices to leave Queenstown within 24 hours, and forbidding them to reside anywhere within the confines of the county Cork. Dowling works as a fitter at Haulbowline, and is a native of Queenstown. Curran came to Queenstown as manager of the local Co-operative Society, and is said to be a native of the county Meath.I can understand turning a man out of Queenstown. There may be a reason for that, and it is not banishing a man out of his own country. But I read of four men— nearly all of them have English names, Blythe and Mellows, and are men not 1801 likely to belong to clans in Ireland or to command any general public sympathy— being expelled from the country altogether and without any notice. I am far from saying that when we gave these powers to the Government we never expected that they would be exercised, but the growth of these cases is well calculated to kindle men who are friendly or at the worst neutral and arouse them into hostility. I have seen a good many ups and downs in Ireland, but I have never known any good come of imprisoning or banishing anybody. I do not know that the existence of a state of war makes any great difference unless the man comes out as an open enemy, and then of course he can be dealt with. From what I know of the suspicion of what goes on in certain districts, where sometimes there is private malice, I can only say that my experience is to incline me to doubt the wisdom of these proceedings. I must entirely dissociate myself from any sympathy with these men. If they in any way contravened the real military necessities of the case, I would entirely support the Government in any action they took. The Government will not therefore take it that I am partially criticising or anything of that kind. Do not run any risk of inflaming Irish feeling. Do not run the risk of sending missionaries to the United States of America or elsewhere, who feel that they have been treated unjustly. Some schedule or form should be prepared, and the police and military should put in writing what it is they have against a man. It is a most useful thing to put in writing matters of that sort; it makes the man who does it justify himself. If you had a precise record of the charge against these men it would constitute a check; at present you have no check; a policeman may take a dislike to a man, he may make representations to the military authorities, and the man is at once ordered for expulsion. You need greater precautions and greater circumspection; it would be in the interests of the military themselves that you should have it.
§ Mr. HOGGE
A matter to which I drew attention at Question time raises a much wider question than has been elaborated by the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. Morton). It is the case of Gordon, Sutherland, a private in the Lovat Scouts. This man was recruited as far back as 5th August. He was then medically inspected and I have here a letter from his brother—a friend of mine who asked me 1802 to bring this matter up in the House—in which he states his brother was at the depot when the Scouts were medically examined, that the examination was a very thorough one, the men parading with nothing on, that a few were rejected, but that he was passed as fit. The inspecting medical officer was Dr. Campbell, of the 2nd Regiment of Lovat's Scouts. This man after being enlisted was taken with his companions into the King's Service, and in the month of September was put to work as a cook, work which the War Office described as light. Subsequently in September he had various illnesses for which he was treated medically by the military authorities. There is some question as to whether the method of his treatment accelerated his attack. I do not however wish to discuss that. I wish to base my claim for consideration of his case on the wider point. Finally the man was discharged and travelled to his home in Brora, Sutherlandshire, where he died on the 19th March—ten days later. The medical certificate showing the cause of death can be produced if necessary. It is obvious that the disease of which he died was contracted after he had joined His Majesty's forces.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I must interrupt the hon. Member. I understood him at Question Time to admit that this disease was contracted long before the man entered the service.
§ Mr. HOGGE
No. I do not want to argue it on any basis but that there is a common ground between us. It may be the case of the War Office that this man was so affected, that they are entitled to say that he was in a certain condition before he was enlisted. That is not my case. My case is a wider one, and determines a principle which must be 1803 applicable to all cases, namely, that Dr. Campbell passed this man as medically fit, and that the Army retained his services from 5th August, the day after war was declared, and the day on which he joined, until 5th March in the following year. The man returned home in a very ill condition on the 8th, and he died on the 19th. The point at issue is this: As my right hon. Friend knows, the War Office statement is that where a man dies of wounds which he has received abroad, or from disease which he has contracted either abroad or at home while in the service of the Crown, that man's dependants are entitled to a pension. Not only that, but my right hon. Friend also knows that if it can be proved that the cause of a soldier's death is wounds, or disease contracted either at home or abroad within seven years of the close of the War, that man's dependants are also entitled to a pension. That is why, if my right hon. Friend will excuse me putting it in this way, I am raising the wider question on this individual case.
The wider question is whether or not the War Office are intending to stand by the declaration of policy, whatever their view may be about an individual case.— I will argue that in a moment—it does not affect the general proposition that they stated this ground quite closely and that they ought to maintain that bargain. In the case of this man, I claim that the fact that he was passed as medically fit and remained in the Army for that length of time is the only fact upon which the War Office can base their action. This man has left a widow and six children; the eldest is a girl of fourteen and the rest of the children are correspondingly young. The effect of this action of the War Office in that district of Sutherland-shire is that the Army will not get another recruit out of it. The intensity of feeling with regard to the treatment of this man after that length of service is such that the men who recruited him and the other men who then went into Lovatt's Scouts will not raise a little finger to raise another man for the War Office. That is a state of things which everybody obviously regrets, and which ought to be remedied, and it can be remedied only by the War Office fulfilling their contract. This is a question which cannot be left in its present position. If the case of the War Office, which we shall hear presently, is that this man was affected in a certain 1804 way before he joined the Army, I am prepared to debate that at any moment on evidence I have that that is not the case so far as those who were most intimately connected with this soldier can state, and I want to fix the War Office down to the point that the man was passed as medically fit at a moment when others were rejected as medically unfit, and that he contracted this illness while with the forces of the Crown.
§ Mr. HOGGE
He is now dead and he has left a widow and six children who are unprovided for for the moment—the War Office are not making any provision—and at present are living on the charity of their neighbours. There is the broad principle which must be decided now or discussed at some time in the House.
§ Mr. MAURICE HEALY
The case which the hon. Gentleman has brought before the House is not at all a solitary one and I can give him the facts of a similar case of injustice which in the past week I have submitted in writing to the body that purports to grant pensions in these cases. It is the case of a young man, strong and healthy so far as anyone could see, who enlisted for the City of Cork at the outbreak of war. He was sent for training to one of the camps, and lived in a but or shed, some of which w ere constructed in a manner which left something to be desired from the point of view of comfort. At the end of six months, as the result of cold contracted in one of these buts, phthisis set in. The man was sent back to Athlone, and was discharged as medically unfit, and on his discharge his commanding officer told him he would get a pension, and that he was entitled to one. He returned to his home in Cork, and received an announcement that he was entitled to no pension. I have submitted the facts in writing to the Department that deals with these cases. It seems to be exactly on all fours with the case that the hon. Member has brought before the House, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is a considerable difference between the theory and practice of the War Department in these matters—their theory when they are asking recruits to join, and their practice in the manner in which they treat them when they are disabled for service. 1805 So far as I know there is no question as to the facts of the case. So far as I know it is not denied that the condition of health of this young man is the direct result of the hardships which he sustained while on military service. He is the only supporter of his family. While he was in the Army there was a separation allowance going to his mother, but at present neither he nor his mother and family are getting a penny from the Crown. He has lost his health, and I fear will lose his life in consequence of the hardships he has sustained. I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that if the facts are as I state justice will be done to the man.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I was glad to hear from the interjection made by the right hon. Gentleman that he does not base his attitude in this case on any question of principle, but that he bases it on the facts of the case. Of course, it is always possible that there may be some mistake as to the facts. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) after careful examination of the facts has given one view. It often happens that these cases are presented to the War Office by the soldiers or their relatives, who are not adepts at stating a case or presenting the facts. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be agreeable to examine the case in the light of any additional facts which my hon. Friend may be able to submit to him. In my own experience I have not found the War Office adopt a non possumus attitude in regard to these cases. So far, I have had several cases presented to me, but I have only approached the War Office in regard to one case up to the present. In regard to the case which I brought to their notice the War Office examined it very carefully and they gave a temporary pension to the man, who had suffered in health as a result of his short term of service in the Army.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I would like to make a suggestion in regard to this matter, because there will be a number of similar cases. I think they will increase in quantity as time goes on. It would be well if an inquiry were made as to whether they have got life assurance policies, and what the companies have done to meet these claims on the certificate of death. The man may have made some slight misrepresentation. He either concealed some material fact, or he was unaware of the condition he was in. These cases occur very frequently in industrial life 1806 assurance and sometimes they are cases of great difficulty. I should think that it will be found that a side-light of a very definite character can be thrown upon many cases by looking into the life assurance policy—they are nearly all insured in some industrial company—and seeing what information can be got from that source. I throw that out as a suggestion.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend from Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) will allow me to deal with his point first. In relation to that I should like to say how glad I was to hear the observations which fell from him as to the capacity and character of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Ireland, to which I would add my humble tribute. Of course, we all gladly acknowledge the response which has been made generally from Ireland during the great crisis in which we now find ourselves. When the House of Commons passed the Defence of the Realm Acts, no one was more conscious than my hon. and learned Friend of the enormous powers which Parliament was placing in the hands of the Executive by that instrument. It was obvious that in a crisis of this kind some such powers were absolutely necessary, and I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman also concluded in his own mind that these powers were not going to be taken by the Executive for nothing, and that there was—I was going to say a great chance—certainly an obvious chance that they would be used at times when their use would, almost certainly, be found to be difficult to the persons charged under them. It stands to reason if you bring into use such great powers as these the person against whom they are used will experience some inconvenience, to say the least. But in the main, I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will bear me out, these great powers have been utilised by the military authorities with caution and discrimination. As far as my information goes, they have never been put into use except after careful consideration of all the aspects of the case, and the benefit of the doubt, if any, has nearly always been given to the person concerned. At the same time, where there is real necessity on the part of the military authorities, I am sure the House will bear me out that if there be doubt the State ought not to be the loser. In such a case you ought to give the benefit of the doubt to the 1807 State. Maybe my hon. and learned Friend has in mind a case where he thinks injustice has been done.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
I was speaking rather of the impression of injustice produced on the country than of the fact of injustice.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The impression on the country, I agree, is a matter of the greatest importance, and we should all be anxious that there should be no impression of in justice having been committed. I can assure my hon. and learned Friend I shall be glad to co-operate with him in any case he may bring to my notice where he has ground for fearing injustice has been done. Passing to the case referred to by hon. Members on this side, I was a little surprised in listening to my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh, because he seemed to take different ground from what I understood was common ground between us at Question Time, namely, that this man had been the victim of heart disease for a very considerable time. That point was made almost ad nauseam at Question Time—
§ Mr. TENNANT
That he was suffering from chronic heart disease, there is no question about that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, there is."] He was suffering from pericarditis, so that I do not think my hon. Friend has much ground to go on there. He is stated by a board of three doctors to have been suffering from chronic heart disease, and you do not get chronic heart disease in five minutes. He had really been suffering from this for a considerable period. My hon. Friend is inaccurate when he says the man joined the Lovat Scouts in August. He enlisted on the 6th June, 1910, so that he had been in the force nearly five years before he died. As the House is aware, there is no medical examination for the Territorial force when they first join, therefore it is not ascertained whether a man is or is not perfectly sound.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member had better allow the Under-Secretary for War to make his answer. The hon. Member made a very full case, and surely he should give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to make his reply.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to make his reply if, on every statement made, the hon. Member puts in his own statement; nor would it be possible to conduct a debate in the ordinary way if that course were followed.
§ 12.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am not questioning the statement of my hon. Friend. The man was medically examined in August. I was only stating that the man joined the force so long ago as 1910. I do not make any particular point of that, but it is the fact. My hon. Friend asked me if men who contracted disease, and were invalided out of the Service, would be pensioned if they survived, or whether their widows would be pensioned if they died. My answer is, yes; but the whole of my contention is that this man did not contract his disease during Service. If my hon. Friend is prepared to prove to the War Office, by evidence which has not been before us that we are mistaken, I should be most ready and willing to listen to the evidence which he has to bring. I am perfectly prepared, also to agree with my hon. Friend that it is a very sad case, and I am exceedingly sorry for the widow and children. I think it is one of those cases which might be brought before the Statutory Committee when it is set up. I do not think it is possible for the Department to alter its standing rules with; regard to pensions in the way suggested. I do not think it is possible to say that persons who come into our Service already suffering from one of those various diseases should be allowed to receive a pension because he died in our Service. But I do make this suggestion to my hon. Friend, that I can engage to put the case before the Statutory Committee—about to be set up—in a special way, so that, as I hope and believe, a representation coming officially from the War Office 1809 might be treated in the most generous manner. I am exceedingly sorry for the poor woman and her children, and it is really a hard case. Having said that, and having said that I do not think it is possible to use public funds in such a case, I cannot see that there is anything more that I can say. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Cork, I am sorry he did not bring to my notice the case which he had in mind. If the particulars had been put before me I might have been able to deal with the question with advantage, and certainly generously. If the hon. Member will give me particulars I will make it my duty and pleasure to look into the case and see whether anything can be done. Generally speaking, I do not think the charge lies against the War Office of want of generosity in these matters. Of course, a great Department like the War Office must lay down some rule. It is not possible to say because it is a case which presents a very sad picture that it should be dealt with in a particular way. Cases do come along when it appears to the casual observer who does not know of the difficulties of the case that we are really a hard set of people, but that is really not the case, as we have to draw hard and fast lines.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
We all recognise the sympathy and consideration with which the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for War has dealt with these cases. None of us desire to reproach him in any way. I am sure of this, that every Member of the House who has had occasion to bring before him any hard case in relation to the Army or to dependants would bear witness of the kindly and sympathetic way in which he has dealt with everything brought before him. But this particular case is of great importance because of the principle involved in it. I am not going to go into the facts as to whether this disease was contracted before the War. I think, however, we ought to have a statement from the War Office as to what value they place upon the medical examination of recruits. When a man enlists in the Army and passes the medical examination he naturally infers that he is not suffering from any disease, and consequently that should he be wounded or die of wounds or of any disease after he enlists that his widow and those dependent upon him will be entitled to pensions and have the allowances which are held out by the War 1810 Office as inducements to men to enlist. I think he is entitled to believe that that will be the position of his dependants.
However, we have this further point to consider, and to my mind the War Office have not given sufficient consideration tort, and it is this. You may have a man who is suffering from disease going into the Army. He then submits himself to-training, very severe training, and the very-period of that severe training may so aggravate the disease as to produce fatal results in the case of a man who if he had been going about his normal occupation might have lived many years. This man was apparently healthy and was going about his usual occupations at the time of the outbreak of war. None of those who knew him seemed to think there was any reason why his earning capacity would be effected by any physical incapacity. There is in this case the probability that his disease was so aggravated by the training as to bring about the fatal result which occurred in his case. Surely in a case of that kind, if there be organic disease which escaped the notice of the examining officer, there is ground for the belief that the death of the soldier was accelerated by the course of training which he had to undergo, and surely that is a case for the War Office-to consider as entitling the dependants to a pension. I hope that the War Office will consider such cases. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), had a special case which had come to his notice, which he was extremely anxious to bring before the right hon. Gentleman this evening, but unfortunately he had to leave the House before this Debate could arise. I know that the special point which he desired to put was that in cases where there was reasonable ground to believe that death was accelerated in this way the War Office did not raise the question whether it was a disease contracted before the man entered the Service, but should act on the basis that death had been accelerated by the training, and that his dependants should be entitled to the pensions and allowances which the War Office grants in cases where the man dies from diseases contracted after entering the Service, I trust that my right hon. Friend, if we can bring any further evidence and information under his notice, will fairly consider the matter.
§ Question put, and agreed to.1811
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow (Friday).