§ Mr. W. THORNE
On behalf of the Members with whom I act I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words,
"But regret that there is no mention of any intention on the part of the Government to accept responsibility for the payment of pensions and allowances to all soldiers and sailors discharged from the Army and Navy on account of diseases contracted or developed during service with the Colours."
I shall say only a very few words in opening this Debate, because I am certain there is not a Member on either side of the House but agrees with the terms of the Amendment. The subject has been debated on several occasions; a great many questions have been put to the responsible Ministers, and there has been a great deal of correspondence in various newspapers in consequence of the attitude taken by the Government towards these particular individuals. For my own part I am unable to recognise where the Government get power to refuse to give pensions to these men, whether soldiers or sailors, who have been discharged for medical defects. 157 So far as I know there has been no Instruction or Resolution passed by this House giving the Government any such power. In travelling about the country, and at recruiting meetings, my hon. Friends and I, when urging men to join the Colours, and to prosecute this War to a successful termination, have on more than one occasion met with this difficulty. How is it that strong young men have joined the Colours and then, because of some medical defect, have been discharged and sent away in some cases with just a few paltry pence per day or with nothing at all? I have had several such cases brought to my notice by people in my own Division, and I do not believe there is a single Member of the House who is not aware of similar cases in his Division. This is a universal question. It applies, not to one particular constituency, but to all constituencies. I was amazed when, some time ago, I heard the answer that it was not possible to pay pensions to soldiers or sailors discharged for medical defects. In one case brought to my notice a man was in the Regular Army for three or four years, and then went into the Reserve. He was called to the Colours and was in the battle of Mons, when in consequence of the excitement he had a fit. He was then turned away as medically unfit, and was given the magnificent sum of 8d. per day. The reason given for not granting him more is that when he was a young boy he was in the habit of having fits, and that he ought to have made this known to the recruiting authorities at the time of enlistment, so that they might have considered whether they should accept him or not. My own view is that once a man is accepted the Government ought to take all responsibilities. The man had been medically examined, he had good intentions, his purpose was to fight for his country, and in my judgment it is a standing disgrace that he should be turned away with these few pence per day, in some cases with a wife and a number of children to support. Take a case where the man dies before any decision has been given. His wife and children are left to the mercy of the world, and have to rely on the cold charity of other people. Whether in the near future they will be in a position to obtain anything from this new Statutory Committee I am unable to say.
In my opinion in every case where a man—even if he is serving only for Home defence, he is still doing good service on behalf of his country—is turned away as medically unfit, he ought to receive the 158 same amount of pension as a man who has been to the front and discharged in consequence of wounds. I do not know who the medical board are, but in some cases they give very peculiar decisions I cannot say whether this Amendment will extract any pledges from the Government. I expect the Minister when he replies will say, "Look at the amount of money it would cost in view of the thousands of men who have been turned away as medically unfit." So far as I am concerned, I do not care what it is going to cost. These men ought to be properly looked after; otherwise it simply means that we shall have a repetition of what happened after the Boer War, and that a great number of men will be compelled to go to the workhouse. I believe it was reported in the papers last Sunday that one or two men have already been compelled to go to the workhouse in consequence of their economic difficulties. I think it is the duty of the Government to come to the assistance of these men and to give them more financial support. It is on these grounds I move the Amendment.
§ Mr. W. C. ANDERSON
I beg to second the Amendment. When the War broke out in August, 1914, there was a general feeling in the country that one thing absolutely essential was that the rights of the fighting men should be properly safeguarded by the country, and I am sure that that feeling is as strong to-day as it was then. After practically every other war we have had to face the fact that men who have gone through the stress of fighting, and sometimes have come back decorated with medals for valour, have had to beg their bread from street to street or to go into the workhouse. I am sure that the conscience of the country is firm in insisting that that ought not to happen after this War. It has come with a shock to quite a number of us that these men who have contracted or developed certain forms of disease, such as consumption or frostbite, should be discharged from the Army without any right to a pension. That is really the basis of this Amendment. I will illustrate what I mean by one or two examples. This matter was raised in the House of Commons as far back as 22nd November, in a question asked by the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Jowett). When that question was asked the Under-Secretary of State for War replied that no such case had come to his knowledge—that is, the case of the man discharged without 159 a pension who had contracted consumption in the Army—and the right hon. Gentleman asked for particulars of the case. The hon. Member for St. Augustine's (Mr. R. McNeill) has asked more than one question on this point. It is from the replies given to that hon. Member by the Financial Secretary, who is here to-night, that we get to understand what is the War Office point of view upon this question. What is the War Office point of view? The Financial Secretary to the War Office, replying to a question on 2nd December, said:In the great majority of cases it is not the fact that the disease was due to military service. On his discharge a man gives up his uniform, and receives a suit of civilian clothes or an allowance in cash.Apparently the point of view of the War Office is that if it can be shown that disease is not due to military duty, then the War Office has no liability towards the man from the moment he is discharged from the Army. That is an impossible and an untenable point of view to be taken up by the War Office. Let me give just one illustration of the sort of thing with which the War Office is going to be faced if it takes up that attitude. Here is an extract from the "Daily Chronicle" of last week. This kind of case will be repeated over and over again in various Courts throughout the country, and Members will be able to judge for themselves, when I read the extract, of the effect on public opinion. The paragraph is headed "Penniless ex-soldier," and it says:Limping badly with a stick a man, who said he had just been discharged from the Coldstream Guards, complained to Mr. Chester Jones at Lambeth that he could not continue the payments due to his wife under a maintenance order as he was now without means. He had been incapacitated by frostbite, and had received nothing from the Army. The police officer said the authorities had decided that the man was not entitled to a pension, and he added that there were many ex-soldiers who had got nothing after being discharged.Mr. Chester Jones said he would like to know more about applicant's case.In regard to this matter of frostbite it can hardly be objected that the man had severe frostbite before he entered the Army. Here, apparently, the point is that if a man is discharged owing to disease or frostbite, consumption, or other disease, the War Office, if possible, is going to relieve itself of financial liability towards that man, and is going to make that man dependent upon either public or private charity. The position of the authorities was stated in reply to a question, also by the hon. Member for St. Augustine, by 160 the Member for Lincoln (Mr. C. Roberts), who was speaking, I think, on behalf of the Insurance Commissioners. Dealing with the question of the treatment of these consumptive soldiers, and the matter of sanatorium benefit, and speaking for the Government, the hon. Member for Lincoln said:The military authorities are responsible for the treatment of tuberculous soldiers up to the date of their discharge from the Army. …That, surely, is important, because it means that they do not hold themselves responsible in any way after the man is discharged from the Army!In cases where further residential treatment is necessary on re-entry into civil life, special arrangements, both administrative and financial, have been in operation for a considerable time, and to secure that the necessary accommodation is made available without delay.That means that the authorities are willing to provide sanatorium benefit for the men, but that with regard to the monetary part a man is not eligible for a pension which he would under other circumstances receive. We say that the position of the War Office is an indefensible position, and one against which a great deal of public outcry will be raised. There have recently been various important letters in the "Times" newspaper. They help to drive home the argument which we are trying to drive home. I will quote a letter in the "Times" on 2nd February, signed by a district head of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society. The writer says:A short time ago it fell to my lot, as the district head of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society, to apply for a pension on behalf of the sergeant-major here, who was in the last stages of consumption. I was met with a refusal. I then enlisted the sympathies of the county secretary, who wrote to the authorities. His appeal was refused. The next step was to secure the interest of a Member of the House of Lords, who succeeded where we had failed. The promise of a pension arrived, but by that time my friend had passed away. There were very considerable arrears which were paid to the man's widow.But the gentleman who has more than any other person brought this question to the front and made it a real issue is Sir Frederick Milner in the letters which he has contributed to the "Times" newspaper. He has made it impossible, I think, for the Government any longer to evade responsibility. Here is an extract from a letter contributed by Sir Frederick Milner—than whom there is no greater authority in regard to this question—to the "Times" on 27th January last:In regard to the Incorporated Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society alone, assistance has been given to no fewer than 40,000 men from the time the war began till September 30th, 1915.161 Then Sir Frederick goes on:—Already there are numbers of men who have contracted consumption or lung trouble through the cruel hardships to which they have been exposed. The lot of these men is peculiarly pitiable. The State turns a deaf ear and refuses a pension of any kind. They are given free treatment in a sanatorium, which more often than not does little good, and the wives and children are left dependent upon charity. There is no institution to which they can be sent, and the workhouse infirmary is the last refuge. It does not matter whether they were sound or not when they enlisted. If they contracted this terrible disease on service they are done.That summarises the main point that we want to emphasise to this House. We say with regard to soldiers who contract consumption and frostbite that if they are discharged from the Army on that account they ought to have their pension like any other soldier who gets pensioned. We say—and I am very glad the hon. Member opposite is going to raise this further point—that if soldiers die by contracting such a disease owing to their hardship's, or if they contract diseases while serving with the Colours, their wives and children ought to be looked after by the nation. The duty ought not to fall upon private charity and the dependants ought not to be compelled to go to the workhouse. Sir Frederick Milner—and this is the last instance I shall cite—states in a further letter to the "Times":—
Of sixty men discharged as no longer fit for military service from a London hospital twenty-two were reported by the medical board—And I, like my hon. Friend, would like to know who constitutes the medical board; I think his objection to it is as strong as his objection to the Board of Control—reported by the medical board as C.P.T. (chronic pulmonary tuberculosis), all have stated that they were absolutely sound when enlisted and had never had any lung trouble in their lives. Yet, as the War Office refuse to recognise that consumption can be caused by service, even if it be proved that these men were sound when enlisted, and have contracted the disease when on service, all these wretched men will be deprived of any pension, and the workhouse will be their final home.That is really a very, very serious position for the War Office to take up. It is a position in regard to which, I think, the more they look at and think about it the more they will be compelled to say that these men must have proper treatment. Why should we have this cheese-paring policy in regard to these men? Do we pretend that there is not a great deal of luxury still going on in this country? Do we pretend that we cannot curtail the luxurious state of life, if necessary, in order to provide just payment and treatment for these men and their wives and children, if the men should die in these 162 circumstances? I do appeal, equally with all my colleagues on this bench, and I believe equally with all Members on all benches, because there is no question of party division in regard to this—to the War Office to depart from a policy which I believe to be against the opinion of the country, a policy which will amaze large numbers of people as they get to know about it, and I hope we shall have a satisfactory statement to-night which will help to relieve public feeling in the matter and will assure us that we are going to look after these men in a spirit which will appeal to the best sense of the nation itself.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I am sure the House has listened with very great interest, and with very great sympathy, to the speeches of the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. W. Thorne) and the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson). The hon. Member for West Ham told us that he thought everyone in every part of the House would be in agreement with the Amendment which he introduced. I think he was quite right in what he said, but I should like to add this—and I think I shall have the support of the hon. Member for Attercliffe when I say so—that I would have preferred it if the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for West Ham had taken the form of the Amendment which I have myself put down on the Paper. That Amendment is a far wider Amendment, and deals not only with the men who have suffered as these men have suffered, but with the dependants and wives of those men. It also deals with officers, and I think in a Motion like this officers and men should be included as one. It also lays stress upon the fact that the men passed a medical examination. That point was raised by the hon. Member for West Ham in the course of his speech, although it does not appear in the Amendment the Labour party have put down on the Paper. I quite agree with the hon. Member for West Ham that the responsibility of the State begins when the man has passed as medically fit for service. I should have no objection, of course, and I think the House will agree with me, if, in the course of a few days or a week, a man developed some latent disease which was discovered by the medical officer of the unit to which he was attached, that then and there he was told he was unfit, that the officer who examined him had made a 163 mistake, and that, therefore, he must leave the Service and find some other work to do. I should not object to that, and I do not think hon. Members opposite would object either. It might even be possible to have a time limit in these cases. You might say that if a man developed any kind of disease within three months—a less period than that, or a longer period—he should be discharged. It might be possible to have a time limit, and this might be a way—I merely throw it out as a suggestion—for the Government to get out of the difficulty in which apparently they find themselves.
There is no doubt, as the hon. Member for Attercliffe has very pointedly put it, that there are in this country at the present time hundreds of men suffering from tuberculosis. Whether or not that disease was contracted in the trenches is not a matter which very much concerns the point which I wish to make, that that disease has been discovered since they were passed as medically fit, and since a great many of them have been fighting in the trenches. I would also like to point out that it is quite possible that a man may have latent consumption that may not come out, say, for a great number of years, if taken great care of, or if he had been following an ordinary occupation, going to a warm room to sleep in after working in a hot place all day, and wrapping up when he came out. But placed, as these men have been, in the trenches, with all kinds of weather, forced marches, and all manner of great anxieties, it is quite possible that this condition of things has brought about this disease from which they suffer, and may always have been suffering. This disease, however, might not have come out for twenty or thirty years, but owing to the conditions of life it has almost immediately made its appearance. I think, therefore, that the Government should consider the giving to these men of the same facility in regard to pensions and allowances as are given to men who are invalided out for wounds. Then take another complaint—that of rheumatism. How many of these men at this moment are suffering from rheumatism? There are a great number of Members in this House who suffer from rheumatism. I do myself at times. When I was a young man I did not suffer from it, and I never thought I should ever feel any rheumatic pains. I dare say a great 164 many of these men who are fighting in the trenches never thought that they suffered from rheumatism, but it has come out. I know of a man. He was a mechanic. He was a very hard worker, and never suffered from rheumatism in his life before. He is now in the Far East, one leg twisted round, and one knee unable to be moved because of rheumatism. What is to happen when he comes home? Is he to have no pension or compensation merely because his disease is rheumatism, and because he has not lost an arm or a leg? I am sure that never was the intention of His Majesty's Government. I do not think we need mention again the question of frostbite. It was brought forward by the hon. Member for Attercliffe. But there are several other cases to which attention might be called in regard to various diseases which would not have been brought out but for the fact that these men are leading a very different life from that they were leading before they went out to the War. I have received a great number of letters on the subject, as I expect every Member of the House has. I will not detain the House long, but I should like to read an extract from one letter received only this morning. It is from the widow of a man who has died in circumstances very similar to those represented in this House. Her husband went to the front and died at the front on 18th October. She says:—My husband, under patriotic impulse, threw up a very good round of work and joined the Labour Battalion of the Royal Engineers on 31st August last, and passed another medical examination at Southampton before being sent to France. On 18th October I was informed that he had died suddenly, and on Friday week last I had a communication from the Records Officer, Brompton Barracks, Chatham, informing me that I was not entitled to a pension as my husband had died from a malady he had suffered from for years, which I am bound to contradict because my husband had never suffered a day's illness all the thirty years I was married to him.That, I think, is a case very much in point. I wrote to the lady and asked her if she would tell me what complaint he had suffered from, but she was unable to give the information because the War Office authorities had never told her, and it was not stated upon the death certificate. She says:—I have to draw my allotments for another ten weeks, after which I shall be practically destitute, with two children under fourteen years of age dependent upon me.That is no exceptional case. There are a great number of women placed in the same position as that woman, and I appeal to 165 the Government to consider cases of that kind to see if they cannot find some way of relieving them. The hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson) mentioned the case of a Noble Lord who had been able to persuade the authorities at the War Office in regard to a case where he thought a pension should be given, and apparently the pension was given. I have heard of a similar case to-day where another hon. Member, representing Grimsby, did exactly the same thing. He himself made the application to the War Office authorities, and he was able to get what no other people can get, namely, a pension for which he applied. In this case, however, the man died within a week after getting his pension, and then the hon. Member was successful in getting a pension for the widow and an allowance for the children. If this can be done in those two cases why should it be refused to other cases? That is a point which perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty will be able to answer.
On another phase of this question, I should like to know what interpretation the House of Commons puts upon the measure which was passed through this House allocating pensions to soldiers and sailors invalidated out of the Service by wounds or disease? What was the interpretation? Were we told then, as now, that in the cases of men who were suffering from consumption, rheumatism, and diseases of a similar kind, if those diseases were developed while they were on active service they would be excluded from pensions? I do not remember anything about that. I think the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Thorne) was quite right when he said that we were all under the impression that all these men were included in those who were to have pensions, and there was no hard-and-fast line drawn, such as has since been drawn. I would like to ask the hon. Member representing the War Office (Mr. Forster) to go back to the time when the suggestion was made to this House that a Committee should be appointed to consider the question of pensions. The hon. Member was then sitting on this side of the House. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher), on the occasion when the Prime Minister moved that this Committee should be appointed to consider the question of pensions, said that the reference should be so-and-so, and he confined it to pensions and grants to officers and men in the naval and mili- 166 tary Services disabled by wounds. I have had the opportunity of discussing this matter with the right hon. Gentleman the Member fop Fulham, and I know what was in his mind at the time, and if the right hon. Gentleman can find time to look at the report of the Debate that took place on this point he will find that he made a suggestion that the reference was not wide enough, that we must put in words to the effect that pensions were not only to be given to men disabled by wounds, but to men disabled by disease contracted during the War. The Prime Minister at once got up and said he would accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham, subject to it applying to diseases not contracted during the War, but to diseases arising out of the present War.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
That makes all the difference.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
I agree that it makes all the difference, but I do not think that we have ever had in this House a definition of the word "arising." I have no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty is in a position to define the meaning of this word. It is quite impossible that we can accept the definition of the Government, without any reference to this House, upon a term which now finds itself in an Act of Parliament. If the House did not have an opportunity of discussing the meaning of the word "arising," then I submit it is the duty of the Government to give to this House a definition of the word. I will now pass from the reference to the Select Committee to the Pensions Bill itself. When this Bill was brought before the House the Preamble ran thus:—
"An Act to make better provision for pensions, grants, and allowances made in respect of the present War to officers and men in the naval and military services of His Majesty and their dependants, and the care of officers and men disabled in consequence of the present War and for purposes connected therewith."
That is a very wide statement, and if that accurately represents what was intended to be put into the Bill, then the case which we are now arguing is covered by the Bill, and these men and their dependants must have consideration by the Statutory Committee which has been set up in accordance with the authority given under 167 this Act. I quite admit, after the Bill became an Act, that Royal warrants were issued, and I have no doubt that in those Royal warrants some interpretation of the words "arising from" may appear. It may, or it may not appear, but at any rate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty will no doubt have the Royal warrants and be able to tell us what was in them. Let me carry the House a little further. In Section 3, paragraph (j), of the Act it says that the functions of the Statutory Committee shall be to make provision for the care of disabled officers and men after they have left the Service, including provision for their health, training and employment. It does not except men suffering from tuberculosis or from rheumatism. It is a general power given to the Statutory Committee to make provision for the care of disabled officers and men after they have left the Service, including provision for their health, training and employment, and I submit, if it is not possible for the Government at this stage to introduce any Amendment to their present scheme of pensions, that they ought in justice to themselves and in justice to the country to make it clear that the case of men suffering from tuberculosis, rheumatism, frostbite, or any other disease, comes within paragraph (j) of Section 3, and that the wives and children and dependants of these men also come within the purview of this Act. If that is so, of course it will meet the point, but it is quite clear that something must be done. We cannot allow these men to go to the workhouse, and we cannot allow their widows and their children to go to the workhouse. That I am sure was never the intention of His Majesty's Government when they brought in the Pensions Bill. It was never the intention of this country, and it certainly was never the intention of individual Members of this House, that there should be any question about a man suffering from any kind of disease which prevented him from carrying out his military or naval duties receiving the same pension as others.
This is not the first time I have raised this question in this House, though it is the first time I have raised it since the War. Hon. Members will remember that a long time before the War these questions arose over and over again. I have had several cases in my own Constituency where no pensions have been given to men who suffered in the Boer War, where no 168 pensions have been given to men in the Navy who ought to have had pensions, and where no pensions have been given to their wives and children. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) will remember that three years ago I proposed an Amendment on the Navy Estimates. I suggested that there should be some reform in the system of giving pensions and that it should not be possible for the Government to say that a disease from which a man suffered was not attributable to his naval service. It is perfectly absurd and absolutely ridiculous, and certainly wrong, that a medical board, as to the composition of which we are entirely ignorant, should have the power to say that this man or that man is not eligible for a pension because in their opinion the disease from which he is suffering is not attributable to the War. I would like to emphasise the point that this Debate is carried on not merely in the interests of the soldier, but also in the interests of the sailor. Soldiers and sailors must in this instance be placed exactly on an equality, and not merely the men, but also the officers. Pensions are just as necessary in the case of officers as they are in the case of men. An officer who is invalided out of the Army or the Navy in similar circumstances should have a pension, and, if he dies, his widow and his children should have the same kind of pension and the same kind of allowance.
§ Mr. BARNES
I wish to associate myself with all that has been said by the previous speakers, and to say how important I think this matter is at the present juncture. It will be within the recollection of everyone present that a year or so ago there was an agitation carried on throughout the country with a view of making better provision for our soldiers and sailors. Many people went about reminding us of the figure of the soldier who had been left to beg his bread in the gutter, and a great deal of public feeling was then engendered, with the result that a Committee was set up and a Bill was passed. The average person in the community congratulated himself or herself that we had reached a different state of affairs altogether, and it is very disappointing to me, and I am sure it is to the hon. Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke), as well as to many others, to find now that this question has again to be raised in this form. I associate myself with what has fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for West 169 Ham (Mr. W. Thorne) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson) as to the nonparty character of this question. It so happens that the hon. Member for West Ham was called upon to move this Amendment. It is also perfectly true that my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport has raised this question over and over again, in conjunction with myself, during the last two or three years. Therefore, although we are called upon to voice this grievance, it is not a labour grievance; it is a matter upon which everybody feels keenly.
I lay down the general principle that if a man is examined by a medical officer, acting under the authority of and paid by the State, he should be considered as fit for military or naval service. If subsequently he is found to have developed a disease as the result of that service, the State has no business to inquire very closely as to where he contracted the disease. A man may be suffering from incipient consumption, and may even come from a consumptive family, but I think the latest medical testimony is that, although a man may be born of a consumptive father or mother, he need not himself necessarily die of consumption if he leads a fairly comfortable life, such as that of a man who sits on that Front Bench, and he may live to be eighty. On the other hand, if a man of that sort, with a contracted chest and a certain physical structure, happens to be put in circumstances in which he has to stand up to his knees in water or liquid mud two or three nights on end, he develops consumption. Then he comes along and claims a pension, and from what we can learn these medical gentlemen, acting on behalf of the Government, and behind the backs of Parliament, come forward, and by their medical skill, examining the man's history, so to speak, and not only his history, but possibly the history of his father and mother, they find that he comes of a consumptive family, and they decide that he has not contracted but merely developed the disease in the service of the State. We submit that that is a very unfair advantage to take of that man or of the dependants of that man. But I am not going to follow that point up
I want to raise a question which has not been brought forward by other speakers. I want to know about the man who gets hurt in France or Flanders, or somewhere 170 else, not in carrying out some order directly given to him by an officer, or indeed in carrying out any order at all. Let me take a case which I have in my mind; it is that of a man in France who fell out of a window and broke his neck. He was killed. It was said of him that at the time that he met with the accident which caused his death he was not only not carrying out any military order, but was acting contrary to orders. In another case a man fell off the tailboard of a wagon and was injured in that way. In both cases the pension has been refused. Why should it be so? Let us take what is done under the Workmen's Compensation Act. That Act, which was carried by large majorities in this House, imposed upon private employers of this country, whose resources are surely less than those of the Government, certain obligations. For instance, if a man is hurt while going to his work, even though he may be half a mile away from the place where he is actually employed, but if he is anywhere within the precincts of the employer's premises—for instance, he is employed by Armstrong, Whitworth and Co., who have over 60,000 men working for them, and whose works extend over a very large acreage—if any such man meets with any mishap between the gate of the works and the point where he is ordinarily employed, it is treated as an accident "arising out of and in the course of his employment," and the employer is consequently bound to pay him compensation. If the Government applies that principle to a private employer, why should they not also employ it to themselves, especially having regard to the national interests involved? I do not suppose anyone cares a fig what happens to a man who works for Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. But everybody cares what happens to a man who meets with a mishap in France, and I want to see it laid down that if a man is medicaly examined and certified to be fit for service, if he goes into training and is afterwards sent to France in order to be used to win this War, then if a mishap happens to him in France, whatever its nature, it should be treated as an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment as a soldier. I hope the Financial Secretary to the War Office will give me an explicit answer in regard to this matter, and not merely with respect to cases arising out of chest complaints or even 171 of syphilis—and I believe the latter disease is one of the strongest points on which the War Office base their refusals of pensions. Even there, taking a humane view, it would, I think, be better to pay pensions in such cases because, after all, if a man has a wife or children, they have to be maintained somehow, and if the State do not pay the pension then they may have to go on to the rates. But I want to have an answer apart from these cases of disease. I want to know, Are the War Office going to apply to themselves the principle which has been applied by this House to the private employer, and, if they are not going to do so, will they explain in plain terms why they will not so apply it?
My third and last point is this: It seems to us a wrong principle that the Department should be both judge and jury in their own case. In respect of that I do not think they are carrying out the idea we had in our mind when we set up this Committee last year. I am not suggesting that they are not carrying out the Bill, because it is rather vague in its terms, but we had in our minds—and I believe it was the general impression in the country when we issued our Report—that something should be done by way of setting up an appeal against the Department, if necessary, an appeal either by the dependant or by the soldier himself. I am not making any charge against the medical board. I have heard it said from the Front Bench that the medical board, as a rule, stretches its warrants generously in favour of the man rather than in favour of the State. That may be so. But at all events the fact remains it is a medical board which is set up by somebody or other, and its work would give greater satisfaction if there were some power of appeal against its decisions.
There was an Appeal Court set up under a Bill passed a few months ago which consisted of a more or leas popular body. It is not an elected body, but there are a large number of members nominated by this House and nominated by the trade union and by various other organisations outside this House having direct experience in the administration of funds of this character. This body is a judicial body which carries behind it the weight of large organisations in the country, and I would suggest to the Front Bench that, in order to get out of that present difficulty, they might very well set up another statutory body with some additional powers to those 172 already possessed, so that there may be some appeal for the widow or dependant of a soldier or for the soldier himself against the decisions of the medical board. I believe if that were done their decisions would carry more favour in the country, and would prevent a great deal of the ill-feeling and unrest which is now growing up as a result of the hard cases which have been mentioned by my hon. Friends. I associate myself heartily with all that has been said: I hope that, as a result of this brief Debate, we shall have some assurance from the Front Bench that something will be done to allay, to a great degree, this discontent and to do something by which recruiting will not be jeopardised and prejudiced, as it is at the present time, by the publicity given to the many hard cases that are now cropping up.
§ Colonel YATE
I would like to add a few words in asking that some steps be taken to secure a wider interpretation of the rules which govern the conduct of the Pensions Committee in their treatment of the invalided officers and men who are discharged from the Service as medically unfit, and also a more generous treatment of their widows and families in the case of death. We see an enormous amount, indeed millions of money being spent on buildings and all sorts of things which most people consider will be useless after the War, while, on the other hand, we see the utmost meanness concerning individuals. I ask that a stop should be put to that meanness, that the rules and regulations should be widened, that instructions should be given to the Pensions Committee, who are bound by those regulations, that they are not to be bound hard and fast by them in future, and I ask for special indulgence for all men who, as mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Barnes), have served in France. It is most important for the country. There is nothing that brings a Government into greater odium and that does more harm in the country than this meanness to the personnel. I ask the right hon. Gentlemen who have the control of these matters in their hands to try to get these rules altered, and to give us an assurance that in future these men who have served abroad will be liberally treated, and that in whatever way they save money they will not save it on those who are sick and wounded.
§ Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS
I desire to associate myself with the appeal made to 173 the Government to deal with this matter, I will not say in a generous but in a just spirit, because I consider it is distinctly a question of justice which we are now considering. I remember that when some months ago in this House we were discussing the Pensions Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) spoke of the possibility of men after this War begging their bread at the street corner—men who had been invalided from the War. I remember saying at the time that I thought that that was impossible, because the pension would, at any rate, be sufficient to prevent that in all cases, even though it were not supplemented as it would sometimes be supplemented under the Bill we were then discussing. It seems that I was wrong, and that unless we are very careful we shall have the distress of seeing many of those who have sacrificed their health and strength and the power of earning their living in the service of their country begging their bread at the street corners. One other point, and I have done. There have been a great many cases—I am not going into details of them—in my own Constituency where men have come home ruined in health as a result of their experiences in the War, and where they have had no provision or very inadequate provision. Again and again my friends have written to me begging me to try and get something done in these cases, not only for the justice of the thing, but because it was interfering so much with recruiting in the constituency. To-night we have heard that argument mentioned again. There is another way of looking at it. In those days recruiting was purely voluntary, therefore the men had to some extent a remedy in their own hands, and the knowledge that hardships of that sort stood in the way of recruiting tended to get justice done. Now that we have adopted the principle of compulsion in recruiting it is more than ever incumbent upon us as a people and a nation to see that no man suffers unjustly for the services he has given to the country, lest it should be said of us that we had taken advantage of the compulsory powers to put men in the fighting forces and then were careless as to the obligations we had incurred in regard to them.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I should like to express my sympathy with the principles underlying the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. W. Thorne), seconded by the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson), 174 and supported so very ably by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Barnes). Representing as I do a very large working-class constituency, I feel that although this is a matter which is, perhaps, not entirely a matter for labour, yet it is one with which, to my knowledge, labour is very intimately concerned. I think that we may appeal to the Government in a case like this to see that if they are going to exercise economy, which we all hope they will exercise in every possible direction, they will rule out this one direction as being an impossible direction, because economy at the expense of the poor man who has given himself to the service of his country cannot be true economy in the interests of the State and must be false economy. I would urge the Government to remember that if there is a form of taxation which must be avoided it is the taxation of those weak vessels who return home from the War crushed and broken. You must not tax these men and let off the other taxpayers. I say tax everybody else and put the burden on the strongest shoulders, not on the weakest shoulders. I would also urge the Government to remember that we look to them to take up the position of a model employer. No employer can be regarded as a model who takes the services of a man in the great crisis of his life, and then, when that man suffers as a result of the strain and stress of that service, casts him aside and tells him to beg his bread. On these grounds I beg to support this Amendment and to urge the Government to give it their most sympathetic consideration.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Forster)
I am quite sure that the whole House will sympathise with the object my hon. Friends had in moving the Amendment now before the House. I am very glad to have the opportunity of saying something which I hope may tend to remove the impression that the War Office is so bound in red tape or so lost to all sense of consideration or feeling and all sense of justice as some hon. Members seem to suppose. I most gladly recognise the spirit in which hon. Members have addressed themselves to the Amendment in the speeches they have made. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) truly said that this is not a party question. It is a national question, pure and simple. It is a question of how we are really to look after those who have suffered in and by their military service. I think I shall 175 be able to show that the attitude of the War Office in regard to this question is logical and intelligible; then I hope I shall be able to show that the Government, not satisfied with the comparatively restricted area in which the War Office has to work as regards these pensions, has set up a new body which will be able to deal with those cases which fall outside the strict limits of the terms of the Royal Warrant.
§ Mr. FORSTER
There is no doubt in anybody's mind that these cases will have to be dealt with largely, if not mainly, out of public funds. I should like to remove an impression which appears to be comparatively prevalent that we have in any way gone back or done anything to disappoint the hopes and expectations which have been aroused with regard to the granting of disability pensions. I think the best thing I can do is to remind the House of the fact that the administration of these pensions is governed by the terms of the Royal Warrant. The terms of the Royal Warrant lay it down that, in order to qualify for a disability pension, the disability, disease, sickness, or injury must have been in and by the Service—that is to say, it must be due to the man's service as well as having originated within him.
§ Mr. BARNES
At whose instigation was the Royal Warrant made? Was it by the direction of Parliament or the Department?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I acknowledge freely that the Royal Warrant has been in operation for so many years that I am afraid I cannot answer offhand as to who is responsible or how the words came to be framed. But I should think there is no doubt that in those days it would rest, as it rests now, with the War Office to frame the phraseology in which the Royal Warrant is couched. I invite the House to look with me at the system under which the interpretation is put upon those words. A man who contracts some disease and is invalided out of the Service is examined by a medical board, who certifies either that the disease was due to his service or was not. If the disease is due to the Service the man gets a pension. If the man is certified by the medical board to be suffering from some disease which, though it may have occurred in, is not really due to his military service, he has, 176 under the terms of the Royal Warrant, no claim to a pension. But it is quite a mistake to suppose that there is no appeal from the medical board. I have known a great many cases in which an appeal has been made to the higher medical authorities at the War Office and to the Director General, who brings to bear on the examination of these cases the most expert knowledge and great sympathy; and I think it is true to say that the medical authorities, as well as the whole staff of the War Office, approach the consideration of these difficult questions with the greatest sympathy. I quite agree that in dealing with cases of this kind there should be a reasonable interpretation put upon the terms of the Royal Warrant. It may be—I do not think it is—that some medical boards have taken an unduly harsh and narrow view of the terms of the Warrant. Such cases have occurred. That is unfortunate, and I hope that medical boards will realise that they should use their best endeavours to arrive at a reasonable interpretation.
§ Mr. FORSTER
If it were necessary to invite medical officers to use their reason I should undoubtedly, but I should hope it would not be necessary to issue formal instructions for medical boards to take a reasonable view of cases which are brought before them.
§ Colonel YATE
Will my hon. Friend alter the words of the Royal Warrant? Something surely must be done.
§ Mr. FORSTER
Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to carry the matter further before he makes that suggestion. The course urged upon the House by those who have moved the Amendment is that the country should take responsibility for all diseases and, if I understand my right hon. Friend rightly, all accidents which occur in the course of military service. With regard to the question of disease, which forms the subject matter of the Amendment, I should like my hon. Friend to think for one moment what the effect might be of adopting the form of words in which the Amendment is couched. They urge upon us that the Government should accept responsibility for the payment of pensions and allowances on account of disease contracted or developed during service with the Colours. I do not 177 think my hon. Friend would think it reasonable that the case of a man who developed, let us say, tuberculosis within a very short time after enlistment would be a right and proper case for which the State should accept liability.
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think my hon. Friend will realise that the medical examination to which recruits are subjected is directed more to seeing that they are likely, from the physical point of view, to render efficient service rather than to search for seeds of disease. I am bound to say if the Amendment were carried the kind of medical examination to which recruits would be subjected would be materially altered. We should have to make very much more stringent medical examinations, and look for signs of disease which at present may often, and I am afraid do, escape observation.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Has my hon. Friend seen the new order which has been given to medical officers which runs thus:—No grouped man presenting himself for medical examination is to be refused as unfit unless he fails to come within the following heads.Then follow six heads, one of which is "sedentary work and clerk's work." Has my hon. Friend taken into consideration that order?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I think that is a preliminary order, and that the passing of the medical examination to which that direction referred is subject to a further medical examination when the man comes to the depot. If this Amendment were forced upon the Government, and we had to act in conformity with it, we should have first of all to lay down a time-limit within which, if disease occurred, no claim for a pension would be created, and secondly, recruits would have to be subjected to a very much more stringent medical examination than is possible under present conditions. Although the War Office is naturally tied by the terms of the Royal Warrant, it is not the only authority which deals with pensions, and it is because the Government realise that the terms of the Royal Warrant might preclude a certain number of soldiers who ought to receive pensions that they have given power to the Statutory Committee to deal with cases which fall outside the terms of the Royal Warrant.
§ Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE
Is the hon.Gentleman aware that there is no money in the Statutory Committee?
§ Mr. FORSTER
We all know that money has got to be found. I think that a great deal of the complaints—I hope there will be no grounds for making them in the future—would have been met if it had been possible to bring the Statutory Committee into existence at an earlier period and clothe it with funds as well as with powers. That is the step the Government have taken, and I think my hon. Friends ought not to forget that when they are dealing with this question, and I think the public and my hon. and gallant Friend opposite ought to bear that in mind. I hope that before very long they will see the fruits of the labours of those who form this Statutory Committee, and that these distressing and distressful cases to which attention has been drawn will be few and far between.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I am sure we all acknowledge the sympathy with which the hon. Gentleman has spoken on this question, and we are quite convinced that he would desire to see all these cases dealt with in a generous spirit, but I must confess, after listening to his speech, that I think we find him still bound rather with red tape in connection with the War Department. He refers always to the Royal Warrant as a sort of Magna Charta. I cannot see why the Royal Warrant should not be taken into consideration and some Motion brought forward, even if legislation be needed, to alter it. I think this War has really altered our views to a very large extent in connection with many of these cases. There are cases arising out of disease and there are cases arising out of accidents which no doubt fall outside the words, which were all right in previous years, but which really do not fall outside the general opinion that is held in the country as to the reason why these cases should have relief at once. We expect our soldiers to serve in almost every possible clime, and in climates which lead undoubtedly to special forms of disease. We banish our soldiers to very distant places where accidents happen to them, and surely that is in the course of their employment. The hon. Gentleman himself confesses that there are a great number of cases which they would like to deal with, but which they are unable to deal with. Surely we ought to have some method by which these cases could be 179 dealt with, and dealt with at once, instead of being referred to another authority, where the relief is only a compassionate one. That is one reason why I think we cannot quite accept the second reference to which the hon. Gentleman alludes. We want these cases dealt with at once, on the ordinary lines that they have suffered through their service. That is a different matter to being referred to another committee, whose whole action is really compassionate, and which gives allowances according to the funds it has from one aspect, and according to the attitude taken by the committee in another aspect. The case does not go there by the right which I think many of these cases really have for relief. It is on that ground that I hope the Government will still take this matter into consideration and see whether, if not in all cases, at least to a much larger extent than at present, they can widen their views and take in a number of cases which hitherto have been left outside, and which the hon. Gentleman says may be referred to the Statutory Committee. We want them dealt with at once by right.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I want to ask my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hardy) what suggestion he has to make for the alteration of the Royal Warrant? I understood him to say that all he asks for is that the men who contract illness by reason of their services to the State, and during the period they are serving, shall receive what is due to them. That is the attitude which the Financial Secretary has taken up, and on which, as he has informed the House, it is the duty and practice of the War Office to give pensions.
§ Mr. HARDY
The Financial Secretary said that undoubtedly they were tied by the words of the Royal Warrant, and he showed that there are many cases which they would like to deal with, but which they were prevented from dealing with by the language which bound them, and therefore these cases had to go over. I want to ask the War Office to take in hand the Royal Warrant in order to make it wide enough to meet the sympathies of the War Office itself.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The Royal Warrant says that the man who receives his injury or illness in and by the Service shall receive a pension. Is not that sufficient?
§ Mr. TENNANT
If it is alleged against the War Office that we do not put into practice that which we are bound by the rules to do, it is a totally different complaint. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the terms of the Royal Warrant are either insufficient or inadequate, or too stringent, or too severe and ought to be amended. I am bound to say that so far as I can see the justice of the matter, the terms of the Royal Warrant are quite adequate and quite just. It is a question of interpretation and administration. If it is alleged that the administration is faulty, and I understand from the Debate that that is the allegation, then I hope the promise which the Financial Secretary gave that sympathy will be used to even a greater degree than in the past will satisfy the Committee.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I was hoping that there would be no occasion for any hon. Member to follow the hon. Gentleman who has spoken for the Government on this question. The hopes which I formed from his opening sentences and the promises of sympathy which he used in relation to the object of this Amendment have not, however, been realised by the announcement he has been able to make on behalf of the Government. I believe that if he himself had the power to meet the claims that have been made in this Debate he would make short work of the terms of the Royal Warrant, and shape them into words that would meet the sympathy with which he opened his statement. I think he will have to take it for granted that his answer is regarded by those who sit on these benches as quite inadequate to the occasion, as an unsatisfactory answer, and as one that will oblige us to return to this question on the earliest opportunity we can. In saying that, I feel I am expressing the common feeling of the House. That this is no party question has already been admitted. The more this subject is ventilated and the more the facts are made known in the country, the deeper will be the sense of astonishment and injustice which the people will feel when they realise what the position of the Government is on this question. I do not believe that in comparison with the 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 men serving the country in all the branches of national service, that the number of men who would come within 181 the claims presented to-night is very large. They are comparatively a small number of men. We cannot consent to the state of injustice in which many men have already been placed and in which more men will be placed if they are treated in the terms of the Royal Warrant upon which so far the Government has been acting. I certainly do not interpret the answer given on behalf of the Government as sufficiently meeting the case that has been presented, or sufficiently covering the typical cases that have been mentioned. I submit this as a typical case. I quote it from evidence recently presented in the "Times," from several cases, by Sir Frederick Milner. It is the case of a man named Perkins, No. 3951. He gave up good employment at which he was earning 35s. per week. He and all his brothers enlisted in the Army at the beginning of the War when there was an urgent need of men. He contracted a severe chill which developed into consumption. The doctor in the sanatorium stated that the consumption was in the primary stage, and was quite consistent with the result of a severe chill. The Surgeon-General, Sir A. Kehoe, does not dispute that the man was quite well when he enlisted, and that there was no trace of consumption in his family. He admits that the disease was contracted on service, but says that the medical board decided that it was not contracted by service.
That is the kind of case that makes one's heart really sink when we try to settle these claims on something like a logical and human basis. We are told also by the War Office that they treat this question on a human and logical basis, but to call it either a logical or human basis, to say that the disease was contracted in the service but not by the service is merely quibbling and seeking to evade the obligations of common justice. Consider the position of this man. His claim has been refused, and his wife and family are substantially neglected by the State, which, as has been pointed out in this Debate, imposes upon private employers an obligation which, as an employer itself, it is now seeking to evade. I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the War Office that we are not tied down to the terms of this Amendment, though I believe that the terms themselves are not too comprehensive, but that they could with justice be broadened to bring in a class of men who are not at all named in the Amendment. What we want is that a main set of claims that are typical of what we have pre- 182 sented should be acknowledged as claims that ought to be covered by pensions and allowances, and I would leave the language to the Government itself if they accept the broad object which we are seeking to attain. The Royal Warrant, as has already been pointed out, is not an Act of Parliament. It is not the product of the collective capacity of this House. It is the private creature of inside War Office officials, who are not really in the ordinary way subject to the criticism of the House of Commons.
There is one point on that question relating to the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act that has not yet been put to the House, and therefore I return to that subject. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) referred to what an employer has to do in paying compensation to a workman, even when that workman is injured at a time when he is not actually in the employer's service. If he be on or about the employer's premises, though not actually engaged in his duties of producing profit for the employer, the Compensation Act imposes an obligation upon the employer to pay compensation in the event of an injury occurring. That has been explained to the House. But there is this further provision in the Workmen's Compensation Act, which I think constitutes an even better parallel case than the one already quoted. The Workmen's Compensation Act provides that an employer must be responsible for paying compensation, if a man dies through a disease contracted in the occupation. That is a case exactly parallel to what we say is the situation of the soldier who contracts an ailment or disease because of the circumstances of service. The fact is that a man may possess the germs of some disease, and live a long time, live even to a ripe old age, without those germs developing or expanding to any serious or fatal extent, if he follows an ordinary civil occupation. But his whole life is changed when he turns from being a civilian to being a soldier. I have experience and knowledge of some of these results, even in the case of some of my own relatives. They are taken from their ordinary homes, and sent straight away to some military quarter of the kingdom, where there are no proper beds, and no proper food arrangements, and no four walls. They are housed in huts. They have not that medical treatment to which they are entitled when the first symptoms 183 of illness occur. Indeed, the whole conditions of their lives are changed, and the tendency is that the military training in the nature of things stimulates and expands those germs of disease earlier than would have been the case if the man had remained in civilian life. That is a condition for which the War Office ought to accept responsibility.
There is no use in referring to the terms of the Royal Warrant, and saying that this is the law, because when you meet a man—I am making no complaint against the War Office at all on this point, but I am merely mentioning a fact—and when you want the man, and it is necessary to close one eye to the terms of the law, the eye is very easily closed. I know cases of young men of sixteen and seventeen years of age offering themselves for service though the age of acceptance is nineteen, and they have been told to go and walk round once or twice or perform some other little feat, and then it is supposed that they have added some additional years to their age, and they go back and are accepted, although it is within the positive knowledge of the military authorities that they are not of the legal age of nineteen. And if you are not going to pursue what are, strictly speaking, the conditions in regard to accepting men for the most dangerous jobs for which men can offer themselves, you ought not to rest upon those other nice distinctions when it is a matter of experience that these war conditions in the nature of things tend to expose men more than ever to the risk of disease and of ailments.
Take, for instance, the condition of men who have to be vaccinated. You impose virtually compulsory vaccination upon the men who offer their services with the Colours. Many men do get through vaccination very easily. On the other hand we know that, as a result of vaccination on entering military service, when all the conditions of life are altered, that many men have had to be discharged, and yet it is not admitted that they are men for whom liability should be accepted by the State. I put it, then, that this is a question to which we shall be obliged to return, and I am certain that no arguments of the Government in this matter will avail. I do not believe that the sum total of the cost would be extremely severe, but whatever it be it is just part of the bill that ought to be met. You can imagine that in certain streets, in the more thickly popu- 184 lated parts of the country, individual soldiers have already come back, men who are broken down without ever having been able to get out to do their bit in this War. But they offered their services, and the system of training has broken them down. You do not train your soldiers in time of war as in time of peace. You cannot, when the War is on, allow the leisurely arrangements that are common when peace is on, so that a Royal Warrant which was really designed for conditions of peace is not the instrument by which you can settle all these by-products of a state of war. This matter cannot be closed with this discussion, and I appeal to the Government, who I know have genuine sympathy with these men, stricken down under these conditions, to seek an early opportunity of reassuring them in regard to this question.
§ Mr. TICKLER
I associate myself with the hon. Member who proposed this Amendment, and I agree with him that when the State accepts the services of men it should assume the responsibility of making provision to the utmost possible in the case of those who are invalided home as unfit for further service. I have a case in my own Constituency of a Reservist who joined the Colours on the outbreak of the War, and who took his part in the trenches. He developed tuberculosis, and was sent home as being unfit for further service. Under the Royal Warrant he was not entitled to pension. His employers assisted him, and wrote to me on his behalf. I appealed to the pension authorities at the War Office, and, after considerable hesitation, they decided to grant a pension of 25s. a week to the man. Unfortunately he did not live many weeks to receive the pension, and the question arose on his death as to continuing this pension, which was dropped, and his widow and family of three—the eldest fourteen years—were left without any means of support except what they earned themselves. The widow went out charing and she had partly to depend on charity. I approached the pension authorities on behalf of these dependants, and another authority to which I wrote on the matter. After having had the report of the medical board, they decided that they could not grant a pension in this case. The question which arose was as to when the disease was contracted, and it was held he did not contract tuberculosis while in the service of the State. However, I approached them again, and they wrote to another medical 185 man. A doubt arose between the two medical men concerned as to whether the disease was contracted before or during the time the man was in the service of the State, with the result that he War Office took a sympathetic view of the case and granted the widow an allowance for herself and three children, for which they are very grateful.
I think it appears to be the universal opinion amongst the Members of this House, that this Royal Warrant requires revising; the wording of it needs to be altered so that no occasion may be given for doubt, and so that the medical board may be able to give the benefit of any doubt to people who require this little assistance from the State. In listening to this Debate I have been anxious to hear if anything would be said about men engaged in mine-sweeping. We have at Grimsby some 5,000 men engaged in mine-sweeping, and I took occasion to put a question to the Admiralty as to whether these men did not come within the scope of the Naval Pensions Act. This mine-sweeping is a special service. Of course, the House is well aware that it is a new branch of the Service, and I believe the men engaged in it are paid 3s. 6d. a day—previously they were only paid 3s.—and of course they get their food. That pay is considered to be special pay. I think it is well within the knowledge of Members of this House that we have lost from Grimsby alone some 300 men at least since the War began. It is a very dangerous occupation. They go out to sweep up these mines, they are subject to the attacks of submarines, and they carry their lives in their hands. Yet we have never found any difficulty, I believe, in manning mine - speepers. Captains of mine-sweepers," who have had control of these men, say they do not wish for better men, or to go to sea with better men than they have found them to be. I think it-would only be fair to grant these men a pension similar to that which is received by the men of the Navy. I am not aware that there is any pension allowance to these men, but I think the House will agree with me that in the service in which they are engaged they undergo grave risks, often having to do their work under the guns of the enemy. I think, therefore, that they deserve to have consideration at the hands of the State and Members of this House. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty to give this question his careful and sym- 186 pathetic consideration, for I am sure there is no body of men in the service of the State who are more deserving of that consideration which I believe every Member of this House will be ready to grant them.
§ Sir GEORGE TOULMIN
I should like to impress upon the Government the state of public feeling in regard to this matter, and to suggest to them the advisability, if necessary, of reconsidering the exact terms of the Royal Warrant. I do not doubt the sympathy—in fact, I have had experience of it in regard to several individual cases—of the Parliamentary Secretary of the Admiralty personally, but I must say that I think his answer was rather dry and official. He admits that there are cases which are well deserving of consideration that do not come under the Royal Warrant, and he refers to the new machinery devised by which what is practically a charitable grant may be given. But I do not think the House desires that soldiers should feel they are under the necessity of applying for what has any suspicion of charity about it. I think this House rather desires to give to each soldier, as part of the payment for the great sacrifice he is making, the right to this consideration, if he be disabled by accident or by wound. The Royal Warrant may be too harshly interpreted as it is now framed. Let the phrasing of it be amended. The disease, I suppose—indeed we are told—is to be "due to the service or by reason or in consequence of the service." There is great room for discussion in that wording. It may be primarily due to the service and granted, or it may be secondarily due and refused. There have been cases where a breakdown has been due to the training or service of a man whose health was such that he was accepted for service under the conditions in which the nation found itself when it called him to service. If the State accepts him, then I think it ought to take the whole responsibility.
There is, for instance, the question of consumption. Either a man has or has not the germs of consumption in him when he is accepted. Practically the Financial Secretary said, "Oh, perhaps we do not examine sufficiently carefully to find out whether the man has the germs of consumption in him." The conditions under which he receives his training are very different from those which prevail in civil life. They may in some respects be more healthy, but the man also may be placed under conditions of wet by which he contracts a cold and from that cold he may 187 be liable to get consumption. I know of a case where a man has undoubtedly been under conditions by which he contracted the disease. He was in a hospital near a consumptive case and contracted the consumption in that way. The medical examination has been of such a character that a man with an undeveloped weakness may be taken and may be broken by his training or service, and sent back to civil life unable to follow the employment at which he was going on perfectly well before he voluntarily joined the Colours. There may not be many of those cases, but a case or two of that kind will cause a very widespread feeling of injustice. With regard to the question of accidents, I cannot see how the State can do anything less than undertake the statutory liability of an employer of labour. The State ought not in any case to be inferior to the employer of labour as to accidents which happen to the soldier, unless the accident is due to some deliberate action on the man's part. If the soldier goes across to France and meets with an accident there I should say that under almost any circumstances, unless there was some personal fault like drunkenness, that the accident arose in the course of his employment, and I think in such a case the State ought to undertake at least all the liability which a private employer undertakes.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I should like to add a few words by way, if possible, of adding weight to the arguments which have already been advanced on this subject, as to which there is very widespread feeling. I am glad that the matter has been raised, because the grievance is one under which soldiers and sailors have suffered for years. The Warrant has been carefully framed, in my judgment, to exclude the most just cases. Men have entered the Services and they may have had some weakness on doing so, and they are invalided for life and never receive a single halfpenny. That I am right in thinking that this Warrant and the Regulations have been so framed in regard to these matters, I think is beyond doubt, because when the Committee on Pensions reported upon the general question of pensions and compensation they so framed their Report as to exclude these particular cases, and they adopted the words on the old Warrant. The House may or may not recollect what happened in connection with the Pensions Bill. I personally introduced a Clause to enlarge the 188 Warrant under which these pensions are payable in order to include this particular class of case, but, of course, the inevitable happened and the Chairman ruled that proposal out of order on the ground that it would result in an increase in the charge of taxation on the subject. There can be no question of the fact that this is a matter which requires to be dealt with speedily. We have been promised a Bill dealing with all these matters. It is to do so compendiously. I trust it may not be long postponed, and I hope that the House will insist that the matter shall be thoroughly dealt with. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect many cases which I brought before him and which had been ignored, not by him but by the Treasury, owing to the limited language of the Warrant. I will give one illustration, and I could give many. It is that of a case of a sailor who at the opening of the War had built up a business earning £2 per week. He was called up in this War, and instead of being put on light duties was sent to the North Sea. He had been invalided out of the Service, but had regained his health to the extent of being able to carry on business and to earn £2 per week. That man, who has a family, was invalided home from the North Sea absolutely crippled and broken down, and the Service from which he has been so invalided refuses to pay him a farthing. I put the case before my right hon. Friend. I agree he deals most sympathetically with these cases and endeavours to do what he can, but he is bound by the language of the Warrant and by the action of the Treasury.
Let me mention another aspect of this question. We have just passed the Military Service Act bringing in all unmarried men of military age unless they have good reason to the contrary, and quite rightly. But one of the instructions issued to recruiting officers is that every man is to be passed, and if he is not fit for one purpose he will be fit for another. I do not say a word against that, but I do say that if that is done in the interests of the State, surely it is the first duty of the State to make proper provision for the men who are crippled in the service of the State. You may get many men perfectly sound in civil life and capable of performing their duties in that state, but who yet are not able to undertake arduous duties in the trenches or the North Sea or tasks of that kind, and who may break down under the strain. It is idle to tell us in a 189 case of that kind that the man was a weakling before. If he was, do not take him; and, if you do take him, you ought to take the responsibility. I quite agree that the language of the Warrant ought to be altered, and I trust now that the subject has been ventilated that we shall have the promised Bill immediately, and that it will put this whole question of pensions under one body and that it shall provide that all these men shall be dealt with honourably and justly, so that we are not to have after this War a number of men saddled in our midst who are paupers and who have served the State.
§ Mr. HOGGE
This is a question in which I am interested, as I believe I brought forward the first case last Session and fought it on the Adjournment with my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench—the case of a Highland soldier in Sutherlandshire, which case has never been satisfactorily settled. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham on having brought forward this Amendment to the Address, because I feel that this cannot be the last discussion on the subject if what we have heard is the decision of the Government. The Government must realise that only the other day we had the statement that five or six million men were in the ranks of the Army and Navy, and that those men will have to come out of the ranks and go into civil life. Those men are the electors who will send us back or refuse to send us back to this House in the near future. These cases will arise in every? one of our constituencies, and whatever we may do here we will be unable to get away from these cases in our constituencies for many years to come. Therefore, the Government must face the question much more resolutely than they have done to-night. I wish to add my testimony as to the sympathetic attention which both the Under-Secretary for War and the Financial Secretary to the War Office gave to practically every individual case that we bring before them. I do not think any of us can complain of the sympathy with which they address themselves to the cases and endeavour to do as much as they can within the limits of their office. At the same time, many of us have been disappointed with the little they have been able to do. A great many hard cases have been put before the House, therefore I will not detain the House by recounting any further instances. Every Member could quote hard 190 cases in his own constituency which he has himself investigated and tested. I want to address myself to two points which have not yet been cleared up. Take the Derby recruiting scheme. Members know that towards the end of that scheme men were accepted for the Army without any medical inspection whatsoever.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If my right hon. Friend says that, I would remind him that among the Regulations issued by the Local Government Board, and sent to Members within the last two days, there is a clause concerning men who have voluntarily attested and who, according to those Regulations, arc unable to appeal for exemption on the grounds of either ill-health or conscientious objection. What does my hon. Friend make of that? These men cannot appeal on the ground of ill-health. That is to say, the Army Council are passing these men into the Army. As a matter of fact they are passing anybody at the present moment.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I really must interrupt. I think my hon. Friend is quite mistaken. It has been laid down that the men who were not medically examined under the Derby scheme will, before they are accepted by the Army, certainly be medically examined.
§ Mr. HOGGE
My right hon. Friend is always courteous, and he is obviously in much closer touch with sources of information than some of us are. I am repeating this on the authority of a man who is passing men for the Army. I know that men who are unable to perform arduous duties are being accepted for other duties inside the Army in which they may develop the same kinds of disease as have been referred to. They are not able to fight in the trenches or on board ship, but they are being accepted for garrison duty, clerical duty, and other kinds of duty. 191 According to the Regulations published by the Local Government Board under the Derby scheme these men, despite the promises given by the Government, are not allowed to appeal for exemption on the ground of ill-health. I hold the view very strongly that if the Army Council do not take adequate means to determine whether or not a man is medically fit when he is accepted as a soldier, they must from that time accept all responsibility. That is a fair point to make. If a man tries to insure his life he knows what kind of examination he has to go through, and once he is accepted as an insurable life, provided he has made no false representation, if he dies the next day the insurance society has to pay. They have to accept responsibility. Why should not we? We ask these men to endure for us the tremendous risks that they have to undergo. Why should we not be fair with them and turn them down if they are not medically fit—not sneak them into the Army under the cloak of being medically fit and then afterwards turn them out and say we have no responsibility with regard to pension? We all know what happens to a great many of these men. Many Members must know cases in their own constituencies where the calling of a man to the Colours has meant not only the giving up of his occupation, but the breaking up of his home and the giving up of his house, because the wife cannot pay the house rent and the children cannot be maintained in the condition to which they have been accustomed. If such a man is thrown out without a pension he has not only to get back his civil employment, but to get his home together again. That is a great hardship, and I do not think we ought to try to put it behind us. The Financial Secretary says we have set up a new body—the Statutory Committee. I am glad the Secretary to the Local Government Board is present, because he may be able to give us some information on this point. We have been told that these men can appeal to the Statutory Committee. What are the facts with regard to that? This Committee has been set up, but it is a fact that it is not prepared and will not be able to take over its responsibilities until the 30th June of this year.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Hayes Fisher)
That body, owing to an arrangement made with the National Relief Fund, will not take over until after 192 the 30th June that part of its duties that appertains to separation allowances. That work will continue to be done under the auspices of the National Relief Fund by te Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association. But so far as the rest of its functions are concerned, it will take them over as soon as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given us the financial help which he has already promised.
§ Mr. HOGGE
That, of course, is a fair answer to the question that I put. I know, as a matter of fact—and the right hon. Gentleman has corroborated the fact—that the Prince of Wales' Relief Fund is going to supply all the money that the War Office ought to pay until the Government makes its arrangements. Why should we be in this position in February, 1916, that the War Office, to whom we have voted the money, cannot do its duty, but that the money must be paid out of charitable funds? My right hon. Friend says that as soon as the Chancellor of the Exchequer induces this House to agree that he will be able to set this Committee to work. What is the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to do? We have been told by the Chairman of the Statutory Committee that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to ask for £1,000,000. We have not been told whether that is to be a Grant or whether the money is to be capitalised after the Statutory Committee gets it. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can tell us. It would be of great interest to know whether the Statutory Committee is going to have the £1,000,000 this year or whether it is going to have the money handed over to it as capital? I shall be very glad if my right hon. Friend can inform us.
§ Mr. HAYES FISHER
I do not know that I can anticipate the Bill which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has undertaken to introduce, I think very shortly.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am exceedingly sorry to see that an important member of the Committee, such as my right hon. Friend, does not know what money he is going to get, and in what form he is going to get it. Here again, at any rate, we have evidence that money to deal with this question is not yet forthcoming, and cannot be forthcoming until this House reaches, presumably, the next financial year, or unless a separate Bill is brought in before 31st March. What does this mean? It means, first of all, that all those cases have got to 193 be referred to the Statutory Committee, which may or may not have the £1,000,000. Inside of that expenditure there is the restoration to health, and the training and employment of partially disabled soldiers. Out of that money, too, there has got to come supplementary allowances and pensions, not only—mark you!—of the men who cannot get their pension, but of the officers. I may say here that the case of the officers, with regard to supplementary allowances, is a very real case, and a case which must be met. If it is not met it will mean a great hardship to the widows and children of very many men, who, owing to the nature of our New Army, hare become officers in that Army, and have made great social sacrifices in order to fill these posts.
It will be very hard if the widows and families of these men are left in a position which will be a reproach to the rest of us who have remained at home. So I say finally that the Government must realise—and I hope whichever Minister is going to conclude this Debate will say they do—the Government must realise that whether or not they can get past this present discussion, that this discussion will not end the question. It cannot end this question, because this nation must always meet any need that exists; and there will be a tremendous need, and a need which will be more oppressive as peace approaches. Every one of us knows that when we have achieved the victory which we hope, and mean, to achieve, that there will be a tremendous wiping up in this country of a great many things which at the moment we cannot consider. There will be an intense amount of hardship among the people of this country. That hardship will bear most severely upon these wounded and disabled men who are not entitled to a pension by this fancy rule of the War Office and the Admiralty. The situation will require to be met. I hope the Government will meet it with both hands openly. I hope that they will not require us to come here on Address after Address, on Adjournment after Adjournment, on Vote of Credit after Vote of Credit, to plead for fair play, justice, and generosity to a class of people which every one of us recognises has contributed enormous service to the people of this country in the sacrifices they have made by joining either the Army or the Navy.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am sure the House will agree with me when I say that I hope the impression will not 194 be created in regard to this particular aspect of the matter that this country at this time is dealing with its fighting men and their dependants in anything approaching a niggardly spirit, because that is not the case. Whatever may have been the case in the past, it is not the case to-day. We are making provision even beyond the recommendations of the Select Committee, or rather beyond the first White Paper, and all parts of the House agree that we must deal with these men sympathetically. The provision made is beyond all comparison with what this country has done in the past. We must get this in its right perspective. It is not only beyond any effort contemplated in the past, but beyond anything that has been carried out by any country in Europe engaged in this conflict.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Very well. Here we are on a particular matter, and no one wishes to complain of my hon. Friends in all parts of the House for dealing with this or any other aspect of the matter. We should be very ungrateful if we did. I only wanted the question of the general provision that is made not to be lost sight of. The hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Hohler) spoke with some severity in his criticism of cases which arise under the Admiralty, and the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) said the Admiralty and the War Office ought not to be tied down by fancy rules. I say this with regard to the Admiralty, and with the most complete confidence, that our administration of the existing Regulations, by which we are governed, is entirely sympathetic.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I say it on behalf of the body of Civil servants in the Accountant-General's Department who, day by day, give great care and sympathy to the cases that come up. That, I think, my hon. and learned Friend knows. We do not proceed under Warrant, but under an Order in Council, and the Order in Council under which pensions are granted to disabled seamen provides for a grant or pension in all cases where a man's discharge is due to injury received, or disease contracted, directly on account of service. These are the regulations which govern us—" Injury received or disease contracted on account of service." Of course, in the 195 case of actual wounds, or accidents, there is little difficulty in interpreting them, and in the case of disease the definition of what we call attributability to the service has been so broad, I make bold to say, in administration that probably every seaman or marine who serves with a ship at sea under war conditions or in the trenches, and contracts or develops any disease attributable to service, is bound to get a pension on the basis that the scale provides. My hon. Friend says that if by a hasty medical examination you take wrongly a young man unfit for service, and if thereby he immediately breaks down without undue strain or exertion from a disease contracted before this medical examination, then it is your look-out, and you have to give him a life pension. Is that proper?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke) put the case very clearly of a man who having consumption might have lived quite a long time as a civilian under ordinary conditions, but when put into the trenches to undergo the extreme exertions of a soldier or the strain of sailoring develops consumption very rapidly and is unable to maintain himself, whereas under ordinary civilian life that state of things would not have arisen for several years. Speaking for the Admiralty, I say that that is a case which would receive the most sympathetic consideration. I want, however, my hon. Friend to consider the case of the hasty medical examination of a young fellow who after joining breaks down without undue strain, and who, if he had remained in civil employment, would probably have broken down.
§ Mr. HOGGE
You cannot say what would have happened if the man had remained in civil life. You take him into the Army or the Navy on the medical certificate of your own appointed man whom you pay a large salary as a fit and able man. Having appointed those men for that purpose, and having passed those men, you are entitled to look upon them as soldiers and sailors and not argue as to what might have happened in civil life.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
That means that if your medical expert makes a mistake then you must pay for it in this way, but I think that is going much too far.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
We are in favour of a very generous interpretation in regard to this matter, and our action does not rest upon this new proposition, which I have been very interested to hear. The case has been put very thoroughly. It is the case of a medical man who may have made a mistake by a hasty examination of a man, and who may have broken down without any undue strain, and he is to be considered entitled to a pension. I am doubtful whether we can go so far as that. The Amendment which has been proposed asks the Government "to accept responsibility for the payment of pensions and allowances to all soldiers and sailors discharged from the Army and Navy on account of diseases contracted or developed during service with the Colours." That means contracted in any way whatever, and that is what is desired. That is the proposition which we are asked to accept. If it can be shown that it is due to service during the War in any degree whatever, then you must consider the case, and not turn it down in a niggardly way as has been done in the past.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I can only speak for the Navy, but I feel my hon. Friend who represents the War Office would consider the other Service, and would be willing that a man should have a pension under those circumstances. This is not a case merely of the phraseology of the Warrant or the Orders in Council, but it is a matter of the most generous examination of the conditions and the administration of the Warrant itself. I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend will be prepared to leave it at that. I should make no complaint of further discussion on future occasions—not at all. We cannot be better employed than in seeing that these men get fair play. I associate myself, as everybody must do, with the tribute which the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Tickler) paid to the dauntless courage of the men engaged in mine-sweeping. Their services, their coolness, and their bravery are equal to the bravest deeds of the Army and Navy in this great War. I was very glad to hear the tribute he paid to them, and I am very glad to have this opportunity of associating myself with that tribute 197 The case of their dependants is dealt with under a separate scheme, called the Injuries in War Compensation Scheme, and I will send the hon. Member a complete copy of it.
§ Mr. MORTON
We must all freely admit that the Government and this House have done a good deal for both the soldier and the sailor, but we want them to recognise their responsibilities and to do a little more, and especially to deal with these difficult cases. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) mentioned the Brora case in Sutherland-shire. I have not yet had a reply from the War Office to my last letter with regard to that case, and I hope that they may yet do something. I very much regret that they have not seen their way to do something to get this troublesome question as to who is to blame in the case of the person who had disease before he joined the Army or Navy settled. We want the Government and the House to be a little more generous, and I regret that we have not heard to-night that the Government are going to do something more to meet my hon. Friend who brought this Amendment forward. This is no case of offensively attacking the Government. We must all admit that it is a very difficult matter to deal with a Royal Warrant or an Order in Council. I am afraid that they consider these things too sacred to interfere with at all, but I hope that they will have the courage to deal even with a Royal Warrant. After all, they are only waste paper, and an Order in Council should not be considered much better. A great many injustices have been done by sticking to these Royal Warrants and Orders in Council. It is a very big order that which we are asking the Government to do. We ask them to treat soldiers and sailors in a reasonable and Christian spirit with regard to pensions and allowances, and the House will have to recognise that in this, as in many other things, we shall have to adopt the American principle, the principle laid down by Washington more than a hundred years ago, that if a man fought for his country and lost his life it was the duty of his country to make allowances by pensions and otherwise to his wife and children to compensate them. That was laid down as a rule at the time, and it has been acted upon ever since by the American Government. I am told that in this year the American Government are actually paying 35,000,000 sterling to men injured or damaged in 198 wars in which they have taken part. That is the spirit we want our own Government to act upon. It ought to be recognised that a man who risks his life for his country is entitled to this consideration.
I do not want to blame the Government too much; all I ask them to do is to deal fairly with these cases and not to be too tightly bound by legal niceties. Let them bear in mind it is their first duty to compensate in every possible way those who are injured as well as the dependants of those who have sacrificed their lives. We are not making any offensive attack on the Government. I have done fairly well with both the War Office and the Admiralty. But I want a little more, and I hope someone will remind the Under-Secretary for War that I am still awaiting an answer in the Brora case, and I trust it will prove to be a favourable and Christian-like settlement. We all ought to recognise our responsibilities towards the men who fight our battles and thereby protect our lives and property, and I hope in these matters we shall be guided, not so much by the precedents of the past as by what is right.
§ Mr. WING
I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the last speaker and with those of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Tickler). I was rather disappointed with the reply of the Secretary to the Admiralty to my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby, who had asked that the advantages granted to men in the Navy should be extended to the minesweepers. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman was that he would to-morrow send my hon. Friend particulars of the new scheme. But that scheme does not touch the question of pensions for injured mine-sweepers at all, and when we come to consider that the men engaged in mine-sweeping require no training at all at the hands of the naval authorities and cost nothing in that respect but go straight from their usual industry to the War and perform their duties with dauntless courage, it is, I think, not unreasonable to ask that they should get the same consideration as other men in the Navy, of which, after all, they are members. This difference of treatment causes a great deal of heartburning, and I do not think it is sufficient to tell these men that the Order in Council will not allow of their sharing these privileges. These men have a technical knowledge of the sea which enables them to detect the course of a wave or the discoloration of the water or 199 the mark of a periscope, by which they can chase a submarine. They know exactly the means by which they can capture the submarine. All this expert knowledge should not be badly treated. I do not believe the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty desires that they should be so treated. Something should be done by way of pensioning these men in the same way as other units of the Navy.
There is another point with regard to giving a grant for things which are directly the result of the War. I have no reason to complain of the sympathy given in all the cases I have brought forward by the Financial Secretary to the War Office. There was the case of a young fellow who had tuberculosis of the spine. He was discharged. The family doctor made an affidavit to the effect that there had been nothing of the kind in the family. Although I was very fairly met by the Financial Secretary, who agreed to a special examination, yet there is a feeling that the disease was the direct result of the man's connection with the Army. This young fellow, who was sent into the Cavalry, is now walking about with the aid of two sticks. The only thing he has in relation to the Army is a bitter memory and the feeling that he has been badly treated. That is shared by the family. It in no wise popularises the Army in the district where the young fellow resides.
This question is in no sense an attack. It is brought forward with a view to the sympathetic consideration of these matters and, if possible, a readjustment. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty will make a special note of the question of pensions for disabled minesweepers and of placing them on the same level as other units of the Navy. They do practically the same work. No great naval operation has taken place, either in the Mediterranean or the North Sea, that has not been preceded by the trawler which has cleared the ground, made it possible for the "Dreadnoughts" to act, and preserved the "Dreadnoughts" by taking up those things which endangered them. Work like that ought not to be treated in any shabby fashion, but with a generosity worthy of the courage displayed.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I wish to associate myself with the other hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate in the tribute they have paid to the sympathetic consideration which the representatives alike of the 200 War Office and the Admiralty have given to all cases brought to their attention in respect of pensions and allowances. There is no question in any part of the House as to the generous administration of the Royal Warrant in the one case and the Order in Council in the other. We are equally agreed with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty that never before in this country, or in any other country, at any other time has a more generous provision been made for soldiers and sailors defending their country. But that is no reason why we in this House, when we see a weak point in the Regulations, should not press that point upon the Government and do our very best to have what we consider a grievance removed. Here we sincerely believe that there is a grievance and that the Government has not adequately met the case which has been presented to the House. The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty read the terms of the Order in Council and I believe the terms of the Royal Warrant in the Army are similar to those which he quoted. He said that the Government accepted responsibiliy for injuries received or diseases contracted directly attributable to service. I regard that as much too narrow. That is a much narrower phrase than what is used in the Workmen's Compensation Act. It is a narrower obligation than the Statute Law of the country imposes upon an ordinary employer. Surely the State in calling upon men to serve it for the defence of the country is entitled to undertake in respect of soldiers and sailors what is already the obligation which the State imposes upon private employers. I think that is a fair proposition. In the days before this War, when there was ample leisure to have a strict medical examination of every man who entered the Navy or enlisted in the Army, it might be a perfectly safe rule, and it might give rise to very few hardships. I admit cases did then arise, but where you had leisurely, strict and rigorous examination the difficulty was not likely to arise. Under the conditions of the present War, however, we are in an entirely new situation. We have had very varied medical examinations. The medical examination has varied with the individual examiners. In the early days that was so, but more recently the situation has very considerably changed. Medical officers have been accepting practically anyone for the Army. Only last Sunday I was talking to 201 a medical officer who has been examining recruits for the Army, and he told me he was passing any man who could breathe—men who had come out of a sanatorium.
I can give another case, and this is a near relative of my own. This boy offered to enlist in September, 1914, and was rejected because of heart trouble. He had had rheumatic fever some years before. The doctor said, "You will break down under training within three months." He went to the same doctor again six months later, and the doctor said, "You need not think of it. You will never be any use." When Lord Derby's scheme came along he came forward to attest, and was passed. He told the doctor he had been rejected. "Now," he said, "you are quite fit for ordinary military life." What is the position of that boy? The fact that he offered to serve in September, 1914, showed that he was ready to serve. But he is not looking forward to that prospect now. Why should he? He has been told by a skilled medical man that he will not stand it for three months, and he does not see why he should go and expose himself to that risk. He is fit in his present employment to go on leading his ordinary life, and will probably live to sixty or seventy years if he is not subjected to any special strain. But if he is subjected to the strain of training in the Army he has been told that he will break down within three months. Under the Royal Warrant he will be relegated to civil life, disabled, without the right to a penny of pension. I quite agree that the Financial Secretary will probably deal with his case sympathetically, but is that the position in which any man in this country ought to be? He ought not simply to be bound to throw himself upon the generosity of a fair-minded official. He ought to have rights, and it is for rights that we are pleading here. He can only have a right if we have an Amendment of the Royal Warrant in the one case and of the Order in Council in the other. Oases have been raised under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and we have had judicial interpretations in regard to them. The question as to whether a given accident was the cause of death, for example, has given rise to a good deal of litigation which has gone to the House of Lords. There have been cases there where it has been clear on the evidence that the man who has succumbed to an injury had been suffering from the disease before the alleged acci- 202 dent occurred; but the Courts have held that if the accident accelerated death, or caused the development of the disease in such a way as to be fatal, then the responsibility rested upon the employer. I think that that judicial interpretation of the Workmen's Compensation Act should be adopted by the Government for the purpose of defining their liabilities for pensions and allowances in respect of soldiers and sailors.
It is not an extravagant thing. I do not believe that the ultimate financial obligation imposed upon the country will be a serious one. After all, if these men receive no pensions, they and those dependent upon them are going to be a charge upon the State. They are bound to be a charge upon the State. Is it not better that men who have served their country honourably and patriotically should not be thrown upon the tender mercies of the Poor Law, but should be able to hold up their heads and be in receipt of an allowance to which they are entitled from the State? That is the claim we make, and I think it is a claim to which there is no answer. Until the Government see their way to relax the strict terms of the rules by which they are at present bound they may take it that this question will be raised time and again in this House. It has been raised several times already, as my hon. Friend knows. I think the first occasion on which it was brought to the attention of the House was by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), in June or July last. He then raised it upon the Motion for the Adjournment, and he made out a clear case in respect of, I think, the Brora case, to which the hon. Member for Sutherland (Mr. Morton) has referred, a case which is still unsettled. That is the case of a man who had been, so far as anybody could tell, a perfectly healthy man in civil life; a man who was working in a mill, and who had been insured under the Insurance Act, and who had only been for a fortnight under sickness benefit under the Insurance Act until the time when he enlisted. Within three months of his enlistment he broke down under training. I do not think that he had any disease at the time, but the heavy training developed a disease which would not otherwise have developed. The conditions of his employment in civil life would never have developed it. He might have lived twenty or thirty years under the ordinary conditions of civil employment to which he was 203 accustomed, but the war training to which he in common with other members of the New Army was subject immediately revealed this latent weakness. He was put subsequently on light work and was retained in the Army for several months and then discharged in the spring of last year. Within a week of his discharge he died, and his widow and six children are receiving nothing. They are only entitled to make a claim on the Patriotic Fund, which is not in a position to deal with the case. There are many other cases of a similar kind that have arisen, and I think that if you relax your strict rules it will be possible to deal with these cases. It is only by relaxation of the rule that you will have any security that these cases can be fairly and adequately dealt with. Attempts have been made to lay down a principle. I think that is possible. After all, the Government should accept some responsibility for the medical examination, otherwise it is only a farce. I think that there should be Government responsibility if a man has been medically passed by the medical officer for the Army or Navy, and that at the time of that examination he has made no false representation—that is an important matter, because the doctor might suspect, for example, some trouble of the heart and might ask the man if he had had rheumatic fever or rheumatism, and might pass him if he said "No," and if he said "Yes" he might turn him down. A false representation of that kind might affect a man's rights. It should also be provided that the ailment or disease should not be due to wilful misconduct on his own part. But outside those two things I think it is the duty of the Government to accept complete responsibility for injuries received and for diseases contracted during service.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
A great many men have been accepted for the Army and have been put on lighter duty, and I desire to draw attention to the risks which they run in certain cases. I am referring at the present time to what is called the Garrison Battalions—men who have not been passed for ordinary work in the Army, though I believe that some Garrison Battalions have been sent to India. When you take men of forty-five 204 and send them to the Indian climate they are very likely to develop disease which, although it might have been latent, would not have come out if they had not been sent to India. Is the War Office going to repudiate men who are suffering in that way? I simply want to point out that there are those cases, and to suggest that the Royal Warrant and the Order in Council, though sacred in the eyes of the Department, can be modified by the Ministry. I can quite understand right hon. and learned Gentlemen who have been defending the policy of the Government saying that they are sympathetic, but that they cannot get over it. But there is a still higher authority to which they can appeal. I hope the Prime Minister will be able, before the end of this Debate on the Address, to give some assurance that the Royal Warrant and the Order in Council will be so modified as to include those cases which cannot be dealt with in ordinary circumstances.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned accordingly; to be resumed to-morrow (Thursday).
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Rea.]
§ Mr. GULLAND (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)
The Resolution in regard to the time of the House will not be taken to-morrow. The Debate on the Address will be continued tomorrow. We do not propose to ask the House to sit on Friday?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at One minute before Eleven of the clock.