HC Deb 13 March 1918 vol 104 cc289-93
7. Brigadier - General McCALMONT

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty whether arrangements have yet been completed under which local war pensions committees can be authorised to make cash advances to the dependants of mercantile ratings serving in His Majesty's ships in the same manner as is already done for the dependants of naval ratings?


I explained to my hon. and gallant Friend last week the steps we have already token to meet the case of dependants of men of the mercantile marine engaged in our service. The outstanding question is that which he now puts to me. I explained to him that on representation to the Treasury upon this point, that Department thought that the Ministry of Pensions should be consulted, inasmuch as the advances which would be made would come from the funds at the disposal of that Ministry, through its local pensions committee. I have been in communication with my right hon. Friend the Pensions Minister, and hope to get a decision immediately, when I will communicate with my hon. and gallant Friend.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give any idea as to when a decision is likely to be arrived at?


No; it is not in my hands, but directly it is, I shall communicate with my hon. Friend and the hon. and gallant Member for whom he has asked the question on the Paper.

18. Mr. BYRNE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War if he can state when at is proposed to increase separation allowances?


I am not aware that any such intention has been formed.

35. Mr. FINNEY

asked the Pensions Minister whether his attention has been called to a resolution passed at a meeting of the guardians of the Wolstanton and Burslem Union, complaining that widows and orphans of soldiers and sailors are granted pensions which are much below the amounts paid as allotment and separation allowances, and requesting that they be paid at least the same amount after the death of the bread-winner as before, together with sickness and other grants that were payable previously, and also asking that the whole question of payments to soldiers' dependants and widows and orphans of soldiers should be reconsidered; and whether he will indicate his intentions respecting the same?


I am aware that many boards of guardians have submitted resolutions in the sense indicated in the question. The rates of pensions to the widows and orphans of sailors and soldiers have been engaging my earnest attention for some time, and I regret that a decision in the matter is being delayed by the consideration of the wider problem with which it is connected.


Which is the wider problem?


I suppose my hon. Friend is as good at answering conundrums as I am.


May we assume that my right hon. Friend has been telling the House something that he does not understand?


No, not necessarily. The question, as was indicated last week, is under the consideration of the Treasury, and I am haying a conference with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Friday morning which I hope will be conclusive.

48. Mr. HOGGE

asked the Prime Minister whether he can state before the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill the proposed increases in pensions to widows and children, and the date of issue of the new Warrant; and whether any opportunity other than on the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill will be given to discuss the same?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative, but, as soon as a decision is taken, I shall, if there is a general desire for it, give an opportunity for its discussion. I am as anxious as the hon. Member that no unnecessary delay shall occur, but I would remind him that the proposals not only involve expenditure of a large amount, but raise social and economic considerations of the greatest complexity. It is necessary, therefore, that they should be subjected to the most careful examination, and this is being done as rapidly as possible.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that on every occasion a decision has been come to without any discussion in this House, and is he also aware that at the present moment the widow and dependants of a soldier are now receiving less than the separation allowance, and, therefore, before the decision is come to will the right hon. Gentleman definitely give us an opportunity of discussing the matter?


I do not think that would be a proper course, and I think it would be a very unusual course. I should like to say also to my hon. Friend and to the House that everyone has the greatest sympathy with the people affected, but it is the duty of the House to give some support to the Treasury when they make every effort to see that the taxpayers' interests are protected.


Are we to understand that an opportunity will be given to discuss the new Warrant before it is issued?


No; I did not promise to give an opportunity for discussion before it is issued, but I will consider that, though I can give no promise of an opportunity for discussion before the Government have made up their minds.


Has the alternative of a war bonus to cover the increased cost of food been considered?


It is just that kind of consideration which is causing the delay in the Treasury in coming to a decision, and I may say I am not so sanguine as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hodge) that our meeting on Friday will be conclusive.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this Warrant is the fourth Warrant? Every one has been changed because of opinion in this House, and would it not be better to allow the House to discuss it before the Treasury fix the amount?


I do not think that is historically accurate. The changes have been made to a large extent because of the changed conditions.


Nothing of the sort!

2. Colonel L. WILSON

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in the case of married ordinary seamen or privates of the Royal Marines whose wives are receiving less separation allowances than those granted to wives of soldiers, the special grants committees are instructed to bring the amounts issued, without application from the women concerned, up to the amount issuable to wives of privates in the Army; and, if so, whether it would save unnecessary work on the part of these committees if the Admiralty separation branch issued allowances on this scale?


It is not the fact that the local pensions committee are instructed to bring Navy separation allowances up to the Army level without application. The Regulations under which the local committees work prescribe that in special cases, where the wife or dependant of an ordinary seaman, able seaman, or stoker (second class), or relative rank is receiving by way of separation allowance and allotment a sum less than that payable to the wife or dependant of a private soldier, a supplementary separation allowance may be granted not exceeding the difference. I am communicating with the Pensions Minister respecting certain aspects of this matter.

26. Mr. T. WILSON

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, in the case of a soldier's wife dying and leaving helpless young children, any allowance is made, or can be made, to a person willing to act as guardian until the father comes back home?


Where a soldier's wife has died, and a guardian enters the home with the soldier's approval and takes charge of his children, local war pensions committees have power under the Regulations of the special grants committee to grant an allowance if the separation allowance which then becomes payable at the higher rate appropriate to motherless children is less than the total amount previously paid to the wife.