HC Deb 17 October 1916 vol 86 cc360-5
27. Mr. BYRNE

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware of the delay caused in the payment of pensions to discharged soldiers; if he is aware that in many cases pensions have been reduced without just cause, and that soldiers have been discharged with inadequate pensions, many soldiers with large families only receiving sums from 4s. 8d. to 6s. a week; and what steps he intends to take to remedy the complaints of men disabled in the service of their country?


The whole question of pensions has been and is receiving consideration. I may, however, explain to the hon. Member that the small pensions to which he refers are for disabilities which are not due to military service.

30. Colonel GRIFFITHS

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps are being taken to prevent any possibility of a discharged or disabled soldier being left in a penniless condition due to delays at Chelsea or elsewhere in the issue of pension papers; whether he is aware of the indignation that men who have fought for their country should be so treated; and whether he will take immediate steps to issue in simple form a book of weekly certificates entitling the holder to a weekly Post Office drawing allowance on demand of not less a sum than 30s. per week for a period of not less than six weeks or such time as is necessary to cover the period taken in the preparation and issue of pension certificates'?


When it is decided that a man is to be discharged for disability, the date of discharge will be fixed for three weeks later, and the pension-paying office immediately informed. If the pension is not fixed by the date of discharge, the pension-paying office will send him 14s. a week as a temporary allowance in advance of pension. During the three weeks before discharge he will be entitled to pay and allowances; and separation allowance is paid to his family, or other dependants, until two weeks after discharge. With these improved arrangements, it is hoped that cases of hardship will not arise.


In the event of the pension papers not being completed within the fourteen days or three weeks, and the individual comes on for the allowance of 14s. a week, will the separation allowance be continued or not?


The separation allowance continues for a fortnight only after discharge. The allowance of 14s. a week goes on until the pension is announced.


Will the hon. Gentleman take care that no gap intervenes between these two payments, and if I send in particulars of men who have been without any allowance for several weeks, will be take those cases into consideration?


My right hon. Friend and I have been looking into this matter very closely, and I think we can say, setting on one side the very exceptional cases, that the steps we have taken will prevent that gap from occurring?


Have the arrangements which the hon. Gentleman has just announced actually been put in force?


Yes. This answer was drafted some little time ago, and I notice it is couched in terms of the future. The arrangements have been made, and are now in force.


May I ask whether arrangements could be made by hospital authorities to notify local pension committees as to discharges—that is to say, where men reside?


I am very reluctant to throw any additional work on the hospital authorities, but I will consider whether or not that could be done. I am afraid that I cannot promise that it will.


Where a soldier suffers this disability for no fault in himself, but purely owing to delay by official circles, could some means of compensation be arranged so that in cases where he has been obliged, as to my knowlege, to borrow money to live, he may be in a position to pay it back?


He will be in a position to do that out of the accumulated arrears he receives when the allowance reaches him.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will circulate with the Votes a copy of the Royal Warrant governing the grant of gratuities to wounded officers and also a copy of the Royal Warrant governing the grant of pensions to officers wounded or disabled by disease or whose incapacity has been aggravated by military service?


The Royal Warrant for the pay and non-effective pay of the Army contains the main body of rules, and my hon. Friend will find a copy in the Library. Modifications of these rules are published in Army Orders, copies of which are regularly furnished to the Vote Office so that they may be available for the use of hon. Members. Under the circumstances, I do not think it is necessary to reprint these documents. I will, however, send to my hon. Friend for his guidance a brief summary of the main rules.

38. Mr. DEVLIN

asked whether, in view of the number of cases to be dealt with from Ireland relating to claims in connection with military pensions and allowances, he will consider the advisability of opening a central office in Dublin for the purpose of dealing with such cases?


The creation of such an office is a matter for the War Pensions Committee rather than the War Office.

68 and 69. Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether his attention has been called to the case of Gunner Smith, who, after completing nearly seven years in the Royal Artillery, was invalided out as unfit for further service; whether he is aware that the War Office authorities allowed this man to commute 3d. per day off his life pension of 1s. 3d. a day, making a lump sum of £53, in order that he might use this money towards defraying the passage expenses of himself, wife, and five children to Australia; and will he say on what grounds the War Office permitted Smith to commute his pension; and (2) whether he is aware that Gunner Smith on his arrival in Sydney was not in a position to support himself and his family; whether at the present time there are any small farms and equipment available in Australia on which ex-Service men from this country may find homes; and whether any steps were taken by the War Office to ascertain if this was the case before allowing the man to commute his pension?


The Chelsea Commissioners sanctioned this commutation because they had assurances which led them to suppose that it would be distinctly to the man's advantage to be able to emigrate to Australia. He had a nominated passage, and the Commissioners were told that he had friends and relatives in Australia to help him and that work would be found for him.


Does the hon. Gentleman object to making that assurance public?

Major HUNT

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the reason Smith got this money was because there was no place ready for him, and but for the fact that he had this money he would have starved?


I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the Commissioners do everything in good faith, and they believed that this man had worked and had relatives in Australia. I quite agree that it is very undesirable to do this except in cases where it is reasonably supposed to be certain that the man will get work when he gets to his journey's end.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the rise in the cost of living, especially of food prices, steps will be taken to increase substantially the scale of allowances and pensions paid to soldiers and their dependants?


I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh on 29th May last.

88. Mr. J. P. FARRELL

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, in the case of Sergeant Eugene M'Manus, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, killed in France on 15th September, who left an aged father and mother wholly destitute, the War Office will grant them a pension to maintain them in their old age, and also see that whatever back pay is due to this man will be paid over to them?


I am making inquiries and will inform the hon. Member of the result.


asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office why, after notifying the relatives of the late Private P. O'Connor (No. 9979, 2nd Leinster Regiment) that he was killed in action in France on 9th July, 1915, they disputed the claim of his brother, Mr. Thomas O'Connor, Park Road, Longford, to any pension or compensation for his loss, and will he now direct that this be done?


No application seems to have been received in this case, but I am having inquiries made, and will inform the hon. Member of the result.

90. Mr. HOGGE

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, seeing the War is still continuing, he can see his way to increase the amount of separation allowance payable to parents of lads who could only secure small amounts owing to the fact that they joined up in the last year of their apprenticeship?


I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to a similar question on 12th April.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he has not altered his mind since April?


No, Sir, I am afraid not.


Has he considered the matter at all since April?


I must remind my hon. Friend—he is perfectly aware of it—that this system is based on the Report of the recommendations of the Select Committee, and without further consideration by the House I do not think that I could make a departure from it.


The Select Committee had nothing whatever to do with separation allowances.


Perhaps my hon. Friend will remember that they distinctly laid down the principle.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the prices of the bare necessaries of life have gone up since last April?


Of course I am aware of that fact; but my hon. Friend will remember also that the Government have appointed a Statutory Committee to deal with cases of hardship.

62 and 63. Mr. HOGGE

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he can now state the Cabinet's decision about a single pension authority; whether he proposes to reconstitute the old Select Committee to reconsider the existing scale of pensions; and whether he proposes also to refer to them the consideration of any increase on the existing scale of separation allowances in view of the continuing increase in the cost of living or to deal with this in any other way; and (2) whether he proposes to make any temporary provision for disabled men whose disability is said not to be due to or aggravated by service until such time as other and permanent arrangements are made to deal with them?


A Committee of the Cabinet was recently appointed to consider the whole question of Pensions and Allowances. They have now reported and their Report will be immediately considered by the Cabinet, whose decision I hope to be able to communicate to the House either on Thursday or early next week.

Forward to