§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 12th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Mr. HOGGE
I wish to raise this question on the Adjournment, but I would not have done so at this late hour had I not seen here the Minister of Pensions, who. may expect me to raise it. I shall, however, keep the House no longer than is possible. I wish to ask a question with regard to the scale of gratuities which has been drawn up by the Minister of Pensions, who has already said on more than one occasion that the scale does exist, and that a scale has been drawn up under which gratuities can be awarded. He has also said at various times that the payment of those gratuities will be largely at the discretion of the Pensions Minister. I trust my right hon. Friend entirely, and so long as he with his colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary, are at the Ministry of Pensions, the gratuity will be dealt with generously by both of them. But, obviously, when they have both gone, it will be the official machine which will be left with the distribution of the gratuity, and, as both of them know, the gratuity will be distributed very much according to the literal wording of the scale. Therefore, what I want my right hon. Friend to tell us is on what scale are the gratuities going to be paid? We know that the maximum is to be £150; but suppose that the disabled soldier who is entitled to a gratuity only gets £10, or £20, or £50, or whatever the sum may be, how is that going to be awarded? I think that the public and the soldier are entitled to know this just as the soldier is entitled to know how his pension is going to be awarded. The disabled soldier knows the degree of his disability, whether it is 100, 80, or 60 per cent., and that he gets a certain pension, and he knows the amount of that pension. Can we know something of the same kind about the gratuity, and the way in which it is awarded? I want to know the principle, because when the whole thing is settled both pension and gratuity will continue to be paid by officials under that 1645 machine, and that obviously will create difficulties. If the right hon. Gentleman gives some assurance it will probably save me a lot of trouble in putting questions and save him a great deal of trouble in answering them.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
I have had some correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman about the case of Mrs. Mary Power, of Dungarvan, who had four sons in the Army. Three of those sons have been killed and two were married. An unmarried son, to whose case I particularly refer, joined in February, 1914, and at that time there were no allotments and no regulations as to pensions and allowances. That unmarried son was killed in September, 1914, and the Minister of Pensions refuses to recognise a claim in any way. The County Water-ford Pensions Committee has called attention to this case, and the county secretary of that Committee referred the case to me, so that I might get some satisfaction. It is a case which, I submit, deserves sympathetic attention and consideration. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman is to the effect that he had no evidence that the mother was dependent on this son and that therefore he was not in a position to award any pension to the mother. The answer of the City of Waterford Pensions Committee, which has also dealt with this case, though the mother lives thirty miles away, is, I think, a good one. This case, I may say, is one which has attracted great attention, and I think the Ministry of Pensions will be judged in county Waterford by the way in which they meet this case. I have pointed out that at the time this son joined he could not make an allotment as no regulations of the kind existed. In the reply of the Pensions Committee it was pointed out that in September, 1914, the mother was not a very old woman, something over sixty, and was then able to make out a living for herself by working in the town in which she lived. Now the position is changed. Her health has suffered, and probably the loss of her three sons has brought about that result. Three of her four sons have been killed, and the fourth has been wounded. It is no wonder under these circumstances that her health has suffered. If her son who was killed, and whose case I have specially mentioned, had lived long enough to find his mother suffering in health, and to find that she was unable to make a living, 1646 I have no doubt that he would have come to her rescue. The other brothers had wives dependent upon them. I think that is a very extraordinary case if the Ministry of Pensions can do nothing—as they say they can do nothing—for the mother of a boy who has been killed in the War like that.
There is another case I want to put before the right hon. Gentleman. I am referring to a particular case of an Irish Guard. This soldier has been totally disabled in the left arm, and the forefinger of his right hand has been wholly disabled, shot through, the knuckle pierced. He has been discharged from the Army and has a pension at present of 18s. 9d. a week. He has applied to the National Health Insurance Society, to which he belonged before the War, and has asked them to give him since 17th August last, when he was discharged—as I think he is entitled to claim—10s. a week for twenty-six weeks of disablement benefit, and then 6s. a week. The benefit society to which he belonged declined to pay him this 10s. a week. They say that if he is wholly disabled the Ministry of Pensions is bound to provide for him; that his pension ought to be more than 18s. 9d. a week, and that they ought not to be called upon to find 10s. because the Ministry of Pensions has only given a pension of 18s. 9d. I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell me something on these two cases.
§ The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Mr. Barnes
Taking the two eases in order, the first seems to be a very sad case indeed, and I am afraid it is outside the scope of the existing Warrant. The principle of pre-war dependence runs through the whole Warrant. It is a thing that is in this Warrant, and has previously been in all Warrants. We have got through it with regard to the apprentice and the student, and with regard to the woman who has been widowed during the War, but I am sorry to say that all other mothers are subject to this—that they must prove some dependence on the son prior to the son going away. It is not a question of the son not having made an allotment. It used to be a fact that if the son had not made an allotment then the mother, even if there had been prewar dependence, would not have been entitled. We have done away with that, and if the mother showed pre-war dependence on the son she would be entitled to the extent of that pre-war dependence.
1647 I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if he will send in the case again to us we will have it carefully considered, and I think I can say for the Statutory Committee that something will be done for such a hard case.
With regard to the other case—it rather comes within the Department of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green (Sir E. Cornwall)—certainly someone has erred. If the man has had awarded to him anything less than the full rate of disability pension, he is entitled to all he has paid for and been led to expect from the Insurance Committee.
I take it—of course, I cannot speak for my hon. Friend—that it is the duty of somebody to see that the society should pay what he is obviously entitled to, namely, 10s. a week for twenty-six weeks, and then 5s. a week as long as he lives, in addition to anything less than the full disability pension. That is his legal right, and I have the word of my hon. Friend that he will look into it.
§ Mr. BARNES
The full disability pension, flat rate, is 27s. 6d., and he would be entitled to the full 10s. for twenty-six weeks and 5s. a week thereafter as long as he lives
§ Mr. BARNES
The awarding officer has regarded him as a man who still retains some capacity, therefore he is not entitled to a full pension. In any case, it will be reviewed under the terms of the new Warrant automatically, so that he will get something in addition to the 18s. 9d. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) wants to know why the gratuity men are not to have their gratuities as something certain, just the same as the disabled men.
§ Mr. BARNES
A disabled man has a specified injury or disease and we measure his pension accordingly, whereas a gratuity man has no specified injury or disease at all, and it is impossible to say what amount he would be entitled to, because the Warrant lays it down; that he is entitled to a sum of money according to length and character of service. Those are the main things in connection with it. He is entitled to a maximum of £150, and in speaking of a scale in this connection I am afraid I have used the word in rather a loose sense. It is true we have a scale, but that is a scale only to an amount of the £150. A man might not have been in the Army more than a month, and therefore he would be entitled, other things being equal, compared with another man who had been in a year, to a small amount. But there may be circumstances in connection with that man's month's service which would entitle him to more than a man who had been in for a year, and therefore what we have done is this. We have said, "We will draw up a rough scale for our own guidance as to the particular amount of £150."I think it is up to £80 for a private and £100 for a non-commissioned officer, and we have retained £50 in our hands, so to speak, to play with. In the case of a man who had only been in the Army for a month, and who would only be entitled, on length of service, to a small amount we might say that he should be awarded £10; but then he might have had some hurt. I heard of a case the other day of a man who had been in the Army for a short time only and had been sleeping under canvas, and owing to the draughts had become very deaf. That would be a clear case, either for a pension or a big gratuity—probably a pension if the disease had been aggravated by the man's service —but if not for a pension, certainly for a high gratuity, notwithstanding that he had only been in the Army for a short time. Supposing we were to publish a scale, it would not be true unless there was a clear explanation accompanying it of what it meant. Consequently the only reason that we do not want to publish a scale is that we do not want to mislead anybody. The thing is only experimental, but as soon as the scale, or whatever you like to call it, has been drawn up in more 1649 or less permanent form I should have no objection to anybody knowing all about it I might allow myself just to give a few figures as to how the matter stands up to the 11th, one week after the new Warrant came into operation, and to show what had already been done. We had on the 11th 13,000 applications from old soldiers for pensions or gratuities. A large number of these gratuity cases had hitherto had nothing. We have not had time to analyse them all, for the figure is a very large one. We have not had time to see how many have earned pensions and how many gratuities, but it is quite certain that so far as we have gone all will get something. There were 475 cases of aggravated widows whose husbands' disease was aggravated by the War, and who were entitled under the old Warrant only to a gratuity equal to about 5s. a week. Of the 475, we had already dealt on the 11th—a week after the Warrant came into operation—with 114. There were 1,229 widows who had no claim under the old Warrant. We have dealt with ninety-eight, and of those eighty-seven had been given pensions. There were a few cases of parents dealt with up to the 11th—that is to say, thirty-four out of thirty-eight had benefited by an average of 3s. 2d. per week. Of 2,819 dependants only forty-one had been dealt with, thirty-seven having been granted pensions, and only four 1650 rejected. In the light of these few figures, I think I might comfortably claim from my hon. Friend that this is not a question of Appeal Court, but that things of this sort will sink into comparative insignificance when we come to look at the matter after a few weeks. You will then find that a very large number of these men who hitherto have been denied pensions will at once, some of them, get pensions and some gratuities. What is of equal importance is that a large proportion of these widows will be lifted up very appreciably in the scale of allowances and pensions level. I think I can ask on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary and myself that we should be allowed a sufficient amount of freedom—shall I say, that we shall have the confidence of the House?—in putting this new Warrant into operation. I can assure the House that all we have in mind is not to make promises, but to carry out the Warrant in its literal interpretation— that is to say, that every man whose disease has been aggravated by the War shall get a pension; every widow entitled to it shall get a pension; and that all those men who have been discharged as medically unfit shall get a more or less substantial gratuity.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-five minutes after Eleven o'clock.