§ STATEMENT BY MR. HODGE.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £900, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Pensions, and for sundry Contributions in respect of the Administration of The Ministry of Pensions Act, 1916."—[NOTE.—£100 has been voted on account.]
§ The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Mr. Hodge)
In the first place, I desire to thank the Committee for the great consideration which they have shown to me since I became Minister of Pensions, more particularly when one thinks of the magnitude of the task. Its magnitude may be gathered from the fact that when I succeeded my right hon. Friend the Member for the Black friars Division (Mr. Barnes) the staff numbered 3,700 persons, whereas to-day they number 6,200; and the strength is growing rapidly, because of the fact that the number of names added to our books weekly average something like 15,000 men.
The "Ministry of Pensions" is not a very accurate description of the functions of the Ministry. It is too wide in the sense that we do not deal with all pensions, and it is too narrow in the sense that, to my mind, the greatest part of the work of the Ministry of Pensions is that of restoration and re-education. A man would be cold-blooded indeed who failed to realise the great possibilities which lie at the hands of the Ministry as far as restoration and re-education are concerned. At the period I took up my task, my predecessor had had little time to devote to the development of the Ministry, because of his work on the War Cabinet, and I very soon discovered that there was something wrong with the 688 machinery. I at once started to investigate the causes of the hundreds of complaints which I was daily receiving, not only from Members of this House, but from disabled soldiers and sailors, as well as from local war pensions committees, and the conclusion to which I came was that the machine was absolutely inadequate to the task. The question naturally arose as to the means whereby that machine could be improved. I paid a visit to Chelsea, which had received very severe criticism not only from the Press, but also from Members of this House. Chelsea, no doubt, had many sins to answer for, but I am afraid that they had to suffer for sins which were not their own. There were other Departments which were concerned, but, unfortunately, Chelsea had to bear the whole burden. I appointed a Committee, in the first instance, to make a Report. It then appeared to me that we really wanted some outstanding figure in the accountancy world of organising power to devise a scheme which would be more perfect than that in existence at that particular moment. Business men will realise how difficult it is to change a system. I was enabled to secure the services, as previously announced to the House, of Sir Woodburn Kirby, who is still engaged upon the task, and we are hopeful that by the beginning of August the new system will be completely installed. May I say—it will be within the cognisance of the Members of the House—that within recent months there has been a great speeding up in dealing with complaints, and my hope is that as the weeks grow into months there will be very little cause of complaint, except in so far as the frailty of the human machine is concerned.
Another point to remember in connection with the Ministry of Pensions, as showing the difficulties under which we have to labour, is that we are scattered over twenty-three different buildings. That is a great difficulty as far as administration is concerned. Unfortunately, I have not the power to commandeer hotels, if there be any left to commandeer, but whenever we have been in a difficulty I am glad to say that the First Commissioner of Works has always been ready and willing to help us. I also desire to say that as far as Chelsea is concerned Lord Derby, when Minister for War, gave to us Burton Court for the purpose of erecting offices there, and we hope, once 689 we are in a position to have them erected and occupied, that they will go very far to solve our difficulties in office accommodation by bringing the whole of the staff for Chelsea under one roof.
§ Mr. HODGE
May I say that, in addition to Sir Woodbum Kirby, we have been able to gather round us a great number of men eminent in medicine, in surgery, in business, and in technical education, for the purpose of helping us in developing the work of restoration and re-education? No doubt the House will be interested to know, as far as restoration is concerned, that I very quickly came to the conclusion that it required an expert for an expert's job. I do not profess to know very much about surgery or medicine, but I flattered myself that I knew quite as much upon these two topics as any Civil servant who at that moment was in charge of that particular Department. As a consequence, we started a Medical Service Department, with an eminent doctor in charge, and it is an undoubted fact that, since he took office and has had his staff completed, the developments in that direction have been exceedingly great. On that aspect of the question, may I say that, instead of concentrating the orthopædic treatment in two or three centres, we are decentralising, and we hope by and by to have in every town of any size an orthopædic clinic, where even the men who have obtained employment can find an opportunity, if it appeals to them, to have treatment? My belief is that the more you can bring these facilities to the door of the men, the more they will avail themselves of the opportunities. It is only due to our great physicians and surgeons to say how much the Ministry of Pensions are indebted to them for the disinterested and voluntary services which they have rendered not only as far as orthopædics are concerned, but also as regards those diseases which come more under the notice of the physician. Having dealt with the medical service and the question of the reorganisation of Chelsea, we came to the conclusion that the re-education and training of the disabled men should also be in the hands of an expert. Being a workman myself, and having some technical knowledge, it appeared to me that if there was to be that development in training essential to meet the circum- 690 stances of the case, it should be in the hands of an expert. That expert was appointed, and a separate Department installed. Whereas previously we were training tens of men, to-day we art training thousands.
Another difficulty that cropped up was the question of artificial legs, arms, and hands. There, again, it appeared to me that, if we were going to do the best possible for our disabled men, it was absolutely essential that a new Department should be created, and to that task I set my hand. I further considered that it was absolutely essential that we should have an experimental laboratory, so that all so-called new inventions should be exploited for the benefit of the disabled. We have discovered, as we have gone oil that under the Ministry of Munitions we could work in co-operation with them to our mutual advantage, in seeking to develop any idea which was presented to us as far as improvements in artificial limbs were concerned. I am pleased to say that during the last few months there has been a great development in that direction, and we are still taking advantage of any device that is submitted to us for approval and examining it carefully to see whether or not it can be made useful.
In the early days, unfortunately, our British limb-makers were very far behind, and we were greatly indebted to limb-makers from the United States of America for providing us with the limbs that were necessary. But even they failed quite to "fill the bill," and I undertook the task of summoning the principal artificial limb-makers of the United Kingdom to meet me. I am glad to say that as a result of the appeal made to them, they agreed to cast aside their own style of limbs, and to make to the specification of the Ministry of Pensions any limb which an Advisory Committee decided was the best to be made in the circumstances. They are loyally carrying out that arrangement. While a long waiting list has accumulated for the fitment of artificial limbs, I am hopeful that in the course of a very short time we shall be enabled not only to overtake the arrears, but also to provide every disabled soldier with a spare artificial limb. Anyone who knows anything about the life of a man who has to earn his living must realise that if he is to follow his occupation regularly, should anything go wrong with the limb he is wearing, it is absolutely 691 essential that he should have a spare limb so that he can carry on. We hope to do the same thing as far as artificial hands and arms are concerned. We have much greater difficulty with respect to artificial hands and arms than we have with respect to artificial legs. At the present moment the orthopædic surgeons are experimenting in this fashion. They desire, if possible, to prevent the men using crutches, and as soon after amputation as the stump has healed, they wish to give what is commonly known as a peg leg, so that right away a man may learn the art of balance, and that he should not be fitted with his artificial leg until the stump has shrunk properly. It is interesting to know that up to now this experiment has proved a very great success.
I dare say that we are all aware to some extent of the fact that, as far as local war pensions committees are concerned, there has been a great deal of ambiguity as to what their powers really were. Some of them, no doubt, have exceeded their powers, while some have not acted up to the limits of their powers. Consequently we came to the conclusion that it was absolutely essential, in the interests of the disabled men, that we should have an outdoor staff, whose duty it would be to keep the local war pensions committees posted up as to what their powers really are, and to encourage them to act in the same sympathetic spirit in which the Ministry of Pensions itself desires to adminster pensions and those other things which follow. Already I have received from the Chairman of Local War Pensions Committees thanks for the information, advice, and guidance which these new inspectors have been able to give them. May I add that out of some fifty inspectors who have been appointed, there are at least thirty-eight disabled men. The instruction given with respect to the selection was that, conditions being equal, a disabled man must be preferred.
Another failing which I discovered as far as the Ministry of Pensions was concerned was the lack of a Publicity Department. The Ministry of Pensions has had many true charges levelled against it, but it has also had many untrue charges brought against it. On one occasion a local magistrate was very severe in his strictures in respect of a discharged man who was before him. The moment we saw it in the evening news 692 papers we got on the telephone, and asked from the clerk of the Court the man's regiment and regimental number, so that we could follow it up; and some days later the magistrate made a complete explanation of how he had been led into making remarks based upon an ex-parte statement which was absolutely unfounded. We have discovered a few newspapers which have indulged in that kind of thing. A paragraph appeared in a very celebrated weekly as to our iniquities, and a letter was immediately sent asking for particulars. It was a complete "bowl out. "The middle peg went and no mistake about it, because a letter came back stating that they regretted they could not give the information, as the paragraph had been taken out of a provincial journal! On the whole, however, we are grateful to the Press in general for the helpful criticisms they have rendered to the Ministry. We do not object to being criticised, but we desire that the criticism should be of a helpful character.
From time to time, also, as a late member of a city council, realising the value of local control, wherever an urban council or a borough of 20,000 inhabitants. or over has asked for its own separate committee, instead of being only a subcommittee, I have at once acceded to the prayer of the petition, believing that if they can be entrusted with sanitation, and so on, they can surely be entrusted with the work of the Pensions Ministry. We have recently succeeded in prevailing on the local War Pensions Committee of the city of Glasgow, instead of having a central office where all the work was done, to decentralise by having district offices; and my hope is that, once the Glasgow experiment is proved a success, every large city will follow in its footsteps, because in all large cities it is a hardship for a man, or the widow of a deceased soldier, to have to come 3, 4 or 5 miles, with the expense entailed, to a central office, when, within reasonable distance of her own home, the business she desires to transact could be more readily accomplished.
Another matter which engaged a great deal of attention was the Amendment of the Barnes Warrant. The hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) knows how complicated is the Royal Warrant. I should be glad if it could be simplified. It is altogether too cumbrous. We have been able to achieve a great number of very valuable Amendments as far as that Warrant is con- 693 cerned. I look on what is now known as the Barnes Warrant as the Magna Charta of the disabled soldier and sailor. It may not have been everything that every one of us would have liked it to be, but at any rate it was a great step forward, as compared with anything which had ever previously been done for our disabled soldiers and sailors. But there is no one of us who would dare to say that even now what is given is adequate to the circumstances of the case.
Another thing which I have accomplished I know the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) does not agree with, and I expect he is lying in wait with his tomahawk and bludgeon, so that when I sit down he will generally squelch me. But we must agree to differ. He indicated in a question the day previous to the Adjournment that he did not agree with the institution of the voluntary fund for setting up disabled men who have been trained, or men who have come back and cannot restart their old businesses, for the lack of a little capital. I dare say in his opinion this is a duty which should have been undertaken by the Government, but is he willing that the men should be debarred from doing something for themselves while we are waiting for Treasury sanction? That to my mind is the position, and I am not quite sure that after you have trained a man it comes within the province of a Royal Warrant to set him up in business for himself, or even to aid in stocking his old business for him. Under the new Warrant this will be a much easier thing than it was previously. Under the old Warrant you trained a man, we will say as a carpenter and joiner. A carpenter and joiner must possess his own tools before he can get a job. Some men will have a kit of tools worth as much as £25. Generally speaking, the average worth of the kit is about £10. Out of the private fund to which I have referred, we have been able to give a man money for a kit of tools, and thus afford him the opportunity of earning his living. In the new Warrant provision is made so that we can give a man £10 for the purpose indicated. That, of itself, is a very great advantage to a man. In connection with the men whom we had trained as boot and shoe repairers or hand-sewn boot and shoe makers, I think it will appeal to those who know what it is not to be in a perfect state of health how much better it is for a man to be working for himself instead of for 694 an employer. If he is working for himself, when he is not well he can rest, and when he feels fit he can recommence work. We have been enabled to set up a great many men. I have received some two hundred or three hundred letters from men who have been set up, including one from an old Regular who was in the retreat from Mons, and who lost a leg. He came to-my house one Sunday afternoon and made his appeal. He could not wear his artificial leg, because the stump was suppurating, and he had to have a further operation to get rid of that. He said his difficulty was that when working for an employer the employer could not put up with him. Out of this fund we were enabled to equip him. I am glad to say that he can now wear his artificial limb because his stump is thoroughly healed. He says what a glorious thing it is that he can work: when he likes, and play when he likes. "But," he adds, "I never play except at the regular time, because I have a wife and four children to look after. "Then there is the case of a young man whom we equipped for poultry farming. He-writes to say how great has been his success and that what is needed is "to keep your fowls clean and you will get a decent return. "He is certain that a man who loves a horse or a dog can very quickly come to love fowls, even though he raises them for subsequent slaughter. The interest of the work, he says, enables him to forget the horrors of war.
Criticism has been levelled at me because I have gone about the country speaking to local war pensions committees, to disabled soldiers and sailors, and to joint disablement committees. I do not know that any of that criticism has come from this House. What I desire to say is that from time to time, in past years, we have blamed Government Departments from being out of touch with the people, and out of touch with the provinces. I have realised that, thoroughly to understand the problem with which we are dealing, it was absolutely necessary that you should get the point of view of the local war pensions committees and the joint disablement committees, as well as the point of view of the disabled soldier and sailor before you could thoroughly understand and appreciate what, under the circumstances, was essential. Not only so, but I have taken the trouble—rather, I should say, it was a pleasure—to address the women members of our staff. We have something like 5,500 of them, many of 695 them untrained. You hear a great deal of the mistakes that we make, but you do not hear anything of the ninety-nine cases out of a hundred when we do light. It is only the blunders for which we are bludgeoned. Realise that out of the staff of 6,300 we have to-day, from 200 to 300 are leaving, because, unfortunately, some other Government Departments can pay any kind of salaries they like, and that whenever we have got workers trained to be useful they are poached from us. It is natural that this sort of thing should add to our difficulties.
In respect of hospital accommodation, as well as office accommodation, we are always dependent upon other Government Departments for assisting us. I should dearly love to have the right to commandeer, and then, I think, a good many delays would be avoided. Another thing we have done. We have succeeded in relaxing the stringency of the Special Grant Committee's Regulations. My hope is that in the future we may be able to still further relax them. Members are no doubt aware of the Inter-Allied Conference and Exhibition which we held last week in London. That Conference gave all concerned, experts and others, the makers of artificial limbs and those who train the men, an opportunity of meeting together and interchanging opinions and ideas. Those who have spoken to me upon it say that it was most valuable from every point of view. Last Saturday, the closing day, was most successful, as the nature of the Exhibition was only beginning to be really known. So successful was it, and so many have been the requests for an opportunity of seeing it, that we have decided to reopen the exhibition in the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Road, next Saturday, and to keep it open for a fortnight. Thereafter we propose to take it to Glasgow for a week, to Manchester, Birmingham, and Cardiff, so that the people in the provinces may have the opportunity of seeing the great developments which have taken place in the directions I have indicated.
May I further say that the Ministry of Pensions have been very much indebted to the Red Cross, and to Sir Arthur Stanley in particular, for the great services they have rendered, are still rendering, and are still willing to render? We have been able to do a great deal 696 of work through the Red Cross which would have been delayed, hampered, and harassed if we had had to make application to the Treasury for the necessary money. As far as Scotland is concerned, the same thing holds good. The Red Cross of Scotland have been extremely generous, under the guidance of Sir George Beatson. We have had an institutional committee composed of the Scottish Red Cross, with representatives from the War Office and from the local war pensions committee, with the Parliamentary Secretary as chairman. Although it was instituted only in July last year, the institutions already opened, which have not cost the Treasury anything, include three orthopædic outpatient clinics, one neurasthenic home of recovery, one colony for epileptics, one sanatorium for tubercular cases, two hospitals for rheumatism, and three convalescent homes; while for the moment there is in hand one orthopædic clinic, one sanatorium, one farm colony for selected tubercular cases, and two convalescent homes. May I add that to-day I have accepted from Major Grant, of Perthshire, the offer he has made of a mansion he owns and several acres of grounds, for the use of disabled soldiers and sailors, not only for present purposes, but for all time, as a home of recovery? So successful has the institutional committee for Scotland been, that I have agreed to a petition which has come from North and South Wales to give them a similar committee. It remains to be seen whether the Welshmen will be as generous in the provision of homes of recovery such as I have indicated as their so-called hard-headed and close-fisted Scottish brethren.
I believe that it will interest the House to know that up to the end of April, the number of disabled men who have received pensions was 341,025. I worked out the percentages of certain injuries. I have often been asked what were the percentages. They have never been worked out until now. This includes officers and men of the Army, and officers, warrant officers, petty officers, and men of the Navy—the whole complete. The figures are: Eyesight cases, 2.8 per cent. of the whole; wounds and injuries to the legs necessitating amputation, 2.6 per cent.; wounds and injuries to the arms necessitating amputation, 1.4 per cent.; wounds and injuries to legs not necessitating amputation, 697 11.9 per cent.; wounds and injuries to arms not necessitating amputation, 8.45 per cent.; wounds and injuries to hands not necessitating amputation, 4.45 per cent.; wounds and injuries to the head, 4 per cent.; hernia, 0.8 per cent.; miscellaneous wounds and injuries, 5.55 per cent.; chest complaints and tuberculosis, 11.6 per cent.; rheumatism, 6.5 per cent.; heart diseases, 10.3 per cent.; epilepsy, just over 1 per cent.; nervous diseases— shell shock, neurasthenia, and miscellaneous nervous diseases—just under 6 per cent.; insanity, 0.75 per cent.; deafness, 2 per cent.; frostbite, including amputation of feet or legs, 0.9 per cent.; miscellaneous diseases, such as Bright's disease, debility, ulcer of the stomach, varicocele, enteric, malaria, spinal appendicitis, and various other diseases, 18.36 per cent. Then there are awards made by the War Office and the Admiralty which have lapsed or not come up for renewal by the Ministry of Pensions, 0.2 per cent. These indicate the nature of the casualties. When I have compared them with the returns for the month, I find that the percentages are very similar to those which cover the whole period.
Another reform that we accomplished was the setting up of medical referees all over the country. Continuously we were receiving complaints from men that they were under-assessed. I have never yet had a complaint that a man was over-assessed, and I do not suppose that I shall ever have one. Consequently I felt it was absolutely essential that we should have medical referees, so that a man might have the opportunity of going before a local doctor of repute. There is another aspect to this. The average Briton, if he thinks he is being dealt with wrongly and is given a chance of appeal, will be satisfied, at any rate, that he has had a run for his money.
Then, while we have had a very excellent system of general practitioner treatment for disabled men in this country, we had nothing of the kind in Ireland. Recently we have had inquiry made, and we have been selecting medical referees in Ireland for the same purpose as that for which they have been selected on this side of the Irish Channel; and, in addition, we are making provision for general practitioner treatment for disabled men in Ireland, so that they may 698 have exactly the same facilities as disabled men in Great Britain. Our great difficulty was as to whether the system should be under the auspices of the Local Government Board or the Insurance Commissioners. The average man, no matter to what part of the British Isles he belongs, has an abhorrence of anything that savours even faintly of Poor Law, and we determined that this services would as a consequence be placed in the hands of the National Insurance Commissioners.
Another point of interest will be that, as far as the Ministry of Pensions is concerned, we have been endeavouring to set an example to other Government Departments in the employment of disabled men. We have 200 or 300 now employed. The armless men will probably in future be our greatest difficulty. As a consequence out of seventy messengers we have something like fifty-five one-armed men, and I do not know that one could have a better opportunity than this of making an appeal to all municipalities or public utility companies who require messengers, that they should give the preference to one-armed men. Recently several cases of the exploitation of disabled men have come before me. I cannot find language strong enough to express my condemnation of any, one so mean as to seek to take advantage of a disabled man. As to whether it may be possible to introduce legislation to protect the disabled man from exploitation, I cannot say. At the moment we are considering the subject, and, if it be possible to frame an Act of Parliament close enough to get at people of that kind, I, at any rate, shall not hesitate to ask the House of Commons for the power essential to give effect to this idea.
Then we find that in the case of some employers there was a difficulty under the Workmen's Compensation Act. Our great insurance companies, to their credit, declared that they would not charge any extra premium so far as disabled men were concerned. But a great many employers did their own insurance, and we found that they were less amenable than the insurance companies. As a consequence of communications with the Home Office, a Committee was set up for the purpose of considering the problem. It has made a Report which is now the subject of consideration, and by and by no doubt a Bill, if such a thing be necessary, will be introduced into 699 this House to give sanction, as far as these men are concerned, to a slightly increased premium.
One of the great difficulties with which we have had to deal is the apprentice question. I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends will have something to say upon that particular aspect of the pensions problem before the Debate finishes. The case is described as one of some difficulty. To my mind it seems incredible that we should permit the apprentice or student of 1914 to be handicapped, as compared with the conscript of 1916. As to how this can be remedied I do not quite know, but there is this much to be said, the House of Commons is supreme, and it is for the House of Commons to declare its will as far as this aspect of the question is concerned. Then we were also enabled to improve the Regulations as far as contractual liabilities are concerned by raising the limit from 8s. to 12s. I have no doubt that every Member of the House is perfectly aware of what was done, and that it is unnecessary to dwell on that aspect of the question.
I must apologise for having taken up so much of the time of the Committee, but before sitting down I would like as a final word to refer to the voluntary funds. At the moment we have set up something like 1,000 disabled men at an average cost of £1713s. 4d. each. That means that in some cases a man applies for £2 and gets it, and another man applies for £20 and gets it. In the early days the trustees were restricted as to the method of application. With respect to the Sir John Leigh Fund, which has been referred to already, I have been able to secure from that gentleman the unrestricted use of the money as far as disabled and discharged men are concerned. A man may have had a little newspaper or tobacco business, which his wife has been running while he was away. When he is discharged and returns he finds that it has not been doing so well as it might have done had he been there himself. We have been in a position to help that man to restock his shop, and that is an extension compared with what it was at the beginning, when it was restricted to the mere giving of a grant.
It is my intention to set up an Advisory Committee, under my own chairmanship, 700 for the purpose of taking charge of this voluntary fund; and may I say that, while I referred in the earlier part of my statement to what other people have done, I omitted to say how much the theatrical and music-hall profession have done, by way of raising funds for the general benefit of disabled soldiers and sailors? I also desire to give my trade union colleagues their need of credit for what they have done. It has been absolutely essential that we should enter into arrangements with the various trade unions for the training of men in certain departments of industry. We have been enabled to do that, and it was essential to do it, because the carpenters, the joiners, the blacksmiths, and the pattern makers had a right to feel that no Government Department should flood them out with men who, once peace was declared, would depress their wages. We have, therefore, been working in the closest co-operation with the various trade unions, as far as the number of men to be trained are concerned, the conditions under which they shall be trained, and the wages they shall receive while under training.
There is another point with which I desire to deal, namely, the question of Golder's Green. There is a controversy raging over the fact that I have indicated my intention of closing that institution, as far as neurasthenic patients are concerned. In coming to that decision it was not done without consulting the experts, and, of course, the experts, as far as Golder's Green is concerned, differed. One lot of neurological experts say, "It is quite all right; the men suffer nothing from air raids. "Others say, "But they do suffer. and suffer badly." That is where the man of common sense comes in, "Well, you doctors can differ, but I am going to decide, and I have decided, in the belief that I do possess common sense, that Golder's Green is not a place for shell-shock patients. "I regret very much that there should be any difference of opinion with Sir Arthur Stanley on this particular matter. If I had been aware at the moment of my coming to a decision that the using of the Golder's Green Institution was due initially to the Red Cross, as a home of recovery, as a matter of courtesy I should have consulted it, but not knowing, it was not consulted at the time I came to a decision. I am told that if I do this thing, all the money that has been spent will be thrown away and wasted. Nothing of the kind. My desire is to see 701 the place used for other purposes—for another class of patients, who will not be subject to the same injurious effects from air-raid bombardments as are shell-shock patients. I can only say how much I regret that there should be any controversy on the subject. In coming to the decision I did, I had no axe to grind. I had no other ambition than to benefit the shell-shock patients; and, as far as I am personally concerned, I may add, that the whole of my work, as far as the Pensions Ministry is concerned, no matter the time, no matter the energy which one has to expend, is to me a work in which I realise that it is for the sake of men who have suffered and have made sacrifices for me, and I can but hope that as time goes on we may be able to demonstrate, even to a greater extent than now, our obligations to the men who have done so much for us.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I have listened with interest to the perhaps rather discursive speech of the right hon. Gentleman on certain of the problems affecting the question of the award and administration of pensions. I was also interested to observe how very few seem to be concerned about this pension problem at all. The Pensions Minister has said this afternoon that the House of Commons in all these matters is supreme. I do not know why he happened to raise his head from the desk at that time, whether it was to look at the House of Commons, or whether or not his remark was cynical. As a matter of fact, to me personally it appears a disgrace, upon this the first afternoon of our reassembling, when we are dealing with a problem which affects the men of whom, out of Parliament, it is said that they have saved this country, that there should be such a miserable attendance of Members, and that on the Government Bench there should only be the three Ministers who have been specifically identified with pensions, while on the Front Opposition Bench, until about ten minutes ago, when one or two appeared, there was no member of that party present to take any interest at all in affairs connected with this important Vote. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO!"] I have been here longer than hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I know what I am talking about. I have been here from the beginning of the sitting, and I think it is disgraceful that when we are dealing with a matter of this extreme importance, not only to the men themselves, but 702 to widows and dependants, that we should see this afternoon only three Members of the House who have given their continual attention as Ministers to the question of pensions on the Front Bench—
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present: House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. HOGGE (resuming)
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn for taking the action he did, because I consider that I was right in saying that it is a disgrace to the House that so few should be present, and I am glad that my hon. Friend called public attention to the fact, when we have to discuss the interests of the men who fought for us, and of their dependants, that it should have taken all this time to get forty Members present. May I congratulate the Minister of Pensions, not on the fact that he has a large heart, or any of those other things which we have heard ad nauseam, but on the fact that he is really getting down to the problem which really concerns the men, and with which it ought to be the duty of the Ministers to deal? Without wasting any time with further comments, I propose to get right down to the questions which do affect the problem. The first point I particularly want to raise has reference to the fact that since the last Pensions Estimate we have had two separate Warrants which have not been brought before the House of Commons, which have not been discussed by the House of Commons, and which, therefore, represent the wisdom of the Pensions Ministry, and the minimum that they have been able to extract from the Treasury. The Warrant, which, as I understand, will probably be called in future the Hodge Warrant, to distinguish it from the Barnes Warrant, differs from the previous Warrant in only three particulars—the increased allowance to children of widows in receipt of pension, the increase of percentage in the alternative pension that was open to widows in receipt of the scale pension, and the increase in one specific pension, namely, the pension given to men who had lost their arms. That is the sum and substance of the improvement in the new Warrant upon what was known as the Barnes Warrant. I will deal with that 703 later in detail when we come to discuss some of the problems. I would like to remind the House that what we have got in the Hodge Warrant compared with the Barnes Warrant does not amount to very much, and it certainly does not amount to nearly as much as I am convinced the Minister of Pensions himself would like to have secured.
But there was another Warrant issued to which the House ought to pay some attention, at the same time that the new Royal Warrant was issued—the Warrant described as the Royal Warrant for Pensions to Soldiers Disabled, and Widows of Soldiers, in Former Wars. We were promised by the Prime Minister, or if not by the Prime Minister, by the Leader of the House, which means the same thing so far as a Parliamentary pledge is concerned, that one of the first things that would be done would be to bring the old Pensions Warrant into line with the new and existing Warrants. What has been done in regard to that I will call the attention of the House to the fact that this Warrant does not fulfill by any means the promise given to the House of Commons. As far as I can see it does not touch the question of officers or officers' widows at all. I do not know whether the Pensions Minister's attention has been drawn to that fact, but this copy, which I have in my hand, the only one available for Members of this House, does not deal with the question of officers; it may be there is another Warrant still coming which will deal with that question, but the present one certainly does not; it only deals with the pensions arising out of previous wars if and when the man is totally disabled. But that was not the promise which was made by the Government. There are a great many men who, as the result of previous wars, are suffering from disability who, if they had Buffered the same disability as the result of this War, would be in receipt of a pension. But these are excluded under this Warrant, and I want to ask the Pensions Minister how ho can justify giving one class of disabled soldiers and one class of widows or dependants arising out of previous wars a pension which approximates to the existing Warrant while he refuses all cognisance of the men or dependants of men partially disabled in the same way, whereas men who have been partially disabled in this War are drawing pensions on the existing Warrant. 704 Obviously you cannot stop here. That is why I protested against these Warrants being put into print before the House of Commons had discussed them. If the Government would only do us the courtesy of thinking that some of us have suggestions to make which might be useful it would save not only the necessity of printing and reprinting Warrants, but of going backwards and forwards to the Treasury to get consent to them. The Government, having given a promise to deal with the pensions of men in previous wars or of their widows or dependants, I regret they have only produced a single sheet of paper which has never been discussed in the House of Commons, and they have offered no explanation of it. I would also draw the Minister's attention to the fact that this new Warrant has not been brought even into line with existing Warrants. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at paragraph 2 he will find that the seven years' period is retained in this latest production of the Ministry of Pensions, although long ago it was removed from existing Warrants. The promise which was, therefore, originally made still remains to be fulfilled.
There is another point I should like to draw attention to. We have had no figures this afternoon from the Pensions Minister as to the cost of these pensions. A large number of estimates have been given from time to time, and after the Debate last year I understand the cost of the pensions to the State was £40,000,000. I would like to ask the Minister, or whoever may speak later in the Debate on his behalf, for some information with regard to the cost of these pensions this year. I am not asking because I am afraid of the cost. Personally I am willing and anxious that as much money should be spent as is necessary, whatever the amount is. But the House in considering the question ought surely to be put in possession of the facts as regards cost, and also with regard to the problem as the Pensions Minister knows it. He gave us no figures this afternoon with regard to the extent of the problem. The last figures I have of that extent are these, and I should like to have them corrected and brought up to date later on in this Debate. At the beginning of this year pensions were being paid to 311,500 officers, men and nurses, 123.500 widows, 568,000 children, and 132,000 dependents. That was certainly before the recent German push, which involved, as most of us know, considerable 705 casualties, and there must, therefore, be a very considerable addition to those numbers. I think we ought to know what the real problem is, and if the figures can be brought up to date I should be very much obliged.
With regard to the other points raised in the Minister's speech there is only one question I am going to draw attention to before I deal with a sequence of points, but it is perhaps the most important statement of the afternoon, namely, that the Government is contemplating legislation to deal with the question of the exploitation of labour of men in receipt of pensions. If that is a firm promise and not merely an indication that it is in the air it is probably the most interesting statement contained in the Pension Minister's speech because, as I shall show later on, the problem not only of the treatment and training but of employment, does fit in as a matter of fact with the right hon. Gentleman's motto as Minister of Pensions— re-education and reconstruction. One can bring any amount of evidence to prove that now during the War the labour of discharged disabled men is being exploited, and that it needs to be protected. How it can be protected it is not within my province to suggest this afternoon, but if the Government really have in contemplation steps in this direction, I repeat this is likely to prove the most valuable sentence in the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
I will now come to the consideration of the administration of the Ministry of Pensions. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon has dealt with a great many interesting points—from Golder's Green to his own charitable fund. But the soldier who is discharged and the dependants of the discharged soldier are primarily concerned with the rapidity with which they get put into their hands the pensions and allowances to which they are entitled, and it is for this reason that I want this afternoon to deal with, I will not say the maladministration, for it is not as bad as that, but with the ack of good administration at Chelsea and at the Ministry of Pensions. My right hon. Friend will believe me when I say, of course, there may be excuses for that. I think the best excuse is this, that the percentage of trained men dealing with this problem in the Ministry of Pensions to-day — the percentage relative to the temporary untrained people dealing with this question is ½per cent. I do not think my right hon. Friend would 706 care to deny the accuracy of that statement; it certainly is as near about the truth as can possibly be arrived at. It represents a very serious position, when you find that there is only one trained man for every 200 officials in the Ministry of Pensions. The Minister himself told us that his staff had now increased to 6,700, and I do beg him, and I beg the Government, to pay more attention to that side of their executive work. After all, the problem as it presents itself to the discharged man, or to the widow or dependant, has relation to the delay that obtains in getting that to which they are entitled after the man has 'been discharged, as compared with the ease with which the man was recruited into the Army. They contrast those two things. The woman says: "When my husband joined up there was no difficulty in his getting into the Army, but the great difficulty comes after he is out of it, and is entitled to something for his disability; then there are continuous delays. "The Pensions Minister may say what he likes; of course, he must make the best case he can for his Department, but I can give him case after case which has not been settled yet by his Department. I see my right hon. Friend the Member for Black-friars (Mr. Barnes) is here; he was Pensions Minister before my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton(Mr. Hodge), and while he held that office, I personally sent a case to Chelsea which has not yet been settled. I could produce this case quite easily at a moment's notice. Of course, neither of these two right hon. Gentlemen are to blame, but surely there is something wrong in the system, and they must know it. I would far rather see both the Minister for Pensions and his Undersecretary confine their attention rigorously to the administration at Chelsea than making speeches in various parts of the country. I would rather see more effective administration at Chelsea even than the Inter-Allied Conference in London in Whitsun week, a conference intended to attract public attention to this question of the treatment of discharged and disabled soldiers; yet, although Their Majesties were present at Caxton Hall, the building was not one-third full. This attempt to stimulate interest in the public mind in the question of how these men should be dealt with can wait until we have dealt, first of all, with the problem of administration.
707 5.0 P.M.
I will give my right hon. Friend a case in point to show the kind of thing I have in mind. It is the case of a man who enlisted in 1914; he was then fifty-five years of age. He served in France twelve months and was discharged from hospital in March, 1916. When he went into the Army he weighed 11 stone 7 lbs. when he came out his weight was 7 stone 11 lbs., and, except for one journey in a cab to the office of the local war pensions committee, and one to Chelsea, the man never left the bed or sofa in his room from the day he was discharged until the day he died in September, 1917. His pension was 4s. 8d. on the old lines, up to August, 1916, when he was paid the sum of £7 10s. as a commuted amount, that man got nothing more from August, 1916, until September, 1917, when he died. Throughout 1917, his case was laid before the local war pensions committee and before Chelsea eleven times in all; it was acknowledged twice by the Chelsea people. In September, 1917, it was promised urgent attention by the local war pensions committee, to whom the papers were taken; they were kept by that committee and an action had ultimately to be taken in the County Court to secure their return in order that the case might be taken to Chelsea. In September, 1917, when a personal call was made at Chelsea with regard to the case, the statement was made that the file had been mislaid. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Pensions will remember the notorious case that he himself investigated. He dealt with that case of the filing of letters by one of his officers, and found it out. It was an illustration of what has been and is taking place. The second reply to this man, when the case was taken up, was that the man who was engaged on the case would be away until October, and that nobody else knew anything at all about it. The person who set about this case stuck to Chelsea like a barnacle, and secured that a doctor should be sent to the man. This person was told that a doctor would be sent through the local war pensions committee. It took that doctor eleven days to reach the man. The man lived in Wands worth, and the application was made in Chelsea. On the 21st September notice came awarding him, after all these efforts, 27s. 6d. a week for life. He drew £10 of that on the 26th September, the day on which he died. 708 Since he died he has had three notices from Chelsea to come up for re-examination. Although my right hon. Friend has been informed twice out of the three times he has been called on to come up that he cannot come, I do not know whether he intends to pursue the man further, and in some mysterious way to recover him for further medical examination. That is one case the facts of which I know personally. That is a man's case.
I had an officer's case on Friday of last week in London. The wife of an officer invalided a year ago out of the Army, whom at this precise moment the Pensions Ministry owes over £50, cannot get her money from the Ministry of Pensions. When she goes to the Ministry of Pensions she is referred from one person to another with a monotony which is extraordinary. On that Friday she went to the Ministry with a personal note from myself to an official at the Ministry, who had pledged his word to me that he would look into it that afternoon, as I was going out of town. When I came back I found that this woman had been through I don't know how many departments, and on the Saturday morning nothing had been done. We had to secure for this wife of a British officer, who is owed that money by the Ministry and who had pawned her wedding ring on Friday morning of last week to get food for herself and her husband, a £2 grant from the Officers' Families Fund to tide her over the week-end. What I want to impress on my right hon. Friend is this. I do not want to blame him. I know the difficulties as well as he does, because I have probably handled as many cases outside as he has inside, but I want to impress on him the fact that the House would be really glad if he would concentrate more on getting the actual immediate administration of pensions put into order. We would forgive him a lot with regard to the other schemes of training and terms of employment, and so on, if we could get an assurance that the actual administration of the award should be made effective.
The Minister of Pensions referred to the charitable side of the Ministry, and said I would probably blame him. I do, quite frankly. I have said more than once that I am strongly opposed, and I hope I will remain strongly opposed, to the collection and administration of any charitable funds at all by the Minister of Pensions. The Minister of Pensions, of course, can get up in the House of Commons and can draw 709 a picture of the grant of £2 to a coster who wants a donkey, but he knows, and he would be the first to say if he were not on that bench, that the accumulation of all these funds, apart from the Ministry, means a temptation, and a certain temptation, to the State to avoid its responsibility with regard to the man who is serving. The Minister of Pensions knows his own difficulties in dealing with the Treasury. As a matter of fact, he had to threaten to resign his position as Minister of Pensions before he got his last Royal Warrant. He had to bring that kind of pressure to bear before the Treasury would meet him, and even when they did they did not meet him nearly so far as he had the tolerable right to expect. For him, therefore, to collect in the Ministry of Pensions and to invite to the Ministry of Pensions an accumulation of voluntary funds to relieve the State of power given to the State by these Warrants to deal with the rehabilitation of the discharged man is, in my view, almost a criminal offence so far as policy is concerned. The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of the apprentice. I am glad to know that he himself practically stated that the continuing practice in regard to allowances to apprentices, which are administered through the war pensions committees, is a crying and a standing scandal. If I am not wearying the House I can put it in a couple of sentences, because it is a point on which Members are very keen and which the Minister wants to alter quite as much as we do. It is this: In 1914 and for the first nine months of the War lads who were apprentices joined up voluntarily. They were then in receipt of apprentices' pay; the parents could not, therefore, make out a case for pre-war dependence, and they have no pre-war dependence allowance. The boys who did not join remained until they were conscripted. That is my point of grievance They received the benefit not only of increased wages, but of war bonus, and when they were conscripted and joined up there was no difficulty in their parents establishing a pre-war dependence, because there was the money. The mothers and dependants of the boys who went of their own free will are handicapped as against the mothers and dependants of the boys who waited, got the advantage of these wages, and then joined. Why is it that if the Minister agrees—I know the Under-Secretary 710 agrees, because we have often discussed this matter—and if this House is supreme, none of us can make the Treasury give the legitimate pay to the mothers of the boys who rendered a bigger national service than the boys who joined subsequently? I do not know what process the Minister of Pensions requires to make it emphatic, but I think I am right in stating now that practically everybody in the House wants that reform put into force. We want it put into force now, and we regard it as a crying scandal that the interpretation of what pre-war dependence amounts to should be left to the local war pensions committee. So far as we are concerned, we want the Pensions Minister to know that we wish the parents and dependants of these boys to get separation allowance on the same basis as the mothers and dependants of the boys who joined up later.
There are many other interesting points one could raise, but I do not want to take all the time of the Debate up, and I will skip one or two in order to raise one other which I think is rather important. I hope I may have the sympathy of the Pensions Minister in this matter. What I am really concerned about in the award of the pensions is the practice that obtains —Iam taking the latest and up-to-date practice—by which a man on his discharge is supplied with four coupons. For the first two weeks of his discharge he gets 27s. 6d., while his wife and children get the whole of the separation allowance; but in these second two weeks the wife's allowance drops. The soldier gets his 27s. 6d. and the separation allowance for the children for the second fortnight. I do not know, but I should like to know, the explanation of that—Why during the four weeks in the first two weeks the man's wife gets separation allowance but in the second two weeks the wife's allowance drops out and only the children get the allowance? That is satisfactory so far as the first four weeks go. If you take a typical case you see how it works out. A wife and three children living outside of London get a separation allowance of 28s. The husband on discharge gets 27s. 6d., so that for the first fortnight the husband, wife, and three children will be drawing 55s. 6d. a week. That obviously secures them from want. That is a fair thing to say with regard to that provision. In the second fortnight the wife's allowance goes out, and therefore the total allowance will drop from 55s. 6d. in the first fortnight to 711 42s. in the second fortnight—13s. less going into the house in the second fortnight. So far so good, but what happens at the end of the month? At that time the man is assessed for pension according to his ability, and although I should be glad to be corrected if I am wrong I think I may say that in the majority of cases the man's disability is probably not above 50 per cent. I think that is a fair thing to say, but if I am wrong I shall be glad to be corrected and to put the figure higher. I see the Under-Secretary agrees. What does that mean? It means that he goes off with 13s. 9d., with the equivalent allowance for the children, which is 50 per cent. of the full allowance, namely, 7s. 11d.—half of 5s. and half of 4s. 2d.—so that in the fifth week in that case the figure the family has to draw drops down from 42s. in the second fortnight to 21s. 8d. for the fifth week, less by 6s. or 7s. than the separation allowance that the woman was drawing a month before.
There is your real problem in pensions administration. I know the retort the Pensions Minister would give: "Ah, yes, but probably this man has a right to apply for an alternative pension. "So he has, but the Minister himself will also agree that the award of an alternative pension takes on an average through the local war pensions committee three months to get through. Again I shall be glad to be contradicted if that is wrong, but I think it is usually three months before a man gets his alternative pension settled. Therefore, during two of the three months after his discharge the man's family is living on practically one-half the amount that he is entitled to in the first fortnight after his discharge. I believe that this gives rise to more discontent than any other practice. I have always submitted that pensions administration would be better, and you would get better results as regards the physique of the men and public opinion if you gave the discharged man a longer time to look round before you forced him again to work as a result of the economic pressure. If a man has had his fill of fighting, on the top of that has gone through hospital, and is discharged to his home, he ought not to be forced too soon out again into the industrial conflict. I am perfectly certain of this, that wide provision ought to be made to give that man not only time to look around and accommodate himself to the new condi- 712 tions, but he ought to be given that ease of mind which will enable him to recover, and not to be worried by the common little worries of food, rent, and clothing for his family. I have thought—I do not know if it is extravagant—that the remedy is the provision of separation allowance until the man's permanent pension is. assessed. I do not know what the House-thinks of that suggestion, but ultimately the man's pension must be permanently assessed. Until it is assessed, the theory is that you have not discovered his disability. Until you have discovered it you cannot determine how he is to be trained and what he is to be trained for. Therefore you must mantain the wife and children; if you do not, you are going to cause tremendous trouble.
Here is a case that illustrates it. This again is a true case from the North of England. The district is well known to my right hon. Friend. Here is a man who was in the Northumberland Fusiliers, and after service was discharged N.Y.D., which means "Not yet diagnosed." He was put on a 4s. 8d. pension. He had a wife and two children. That man's wife got out of a sick bed less than a month ago to make room for her husband to go in and die. The man did die on the same-bed. At the time of his death there were two children in the room in which the corpse was lying, both practically naked— one suffering from Bright's disease and the other from influenza. The man was being buried as a pauper. I have given my right hon. Friend the circumstances of the case, and I have no doubt he will investigate and see if the widow and children are entitled to what I think they are. An incident of that kind in a colliery district in the North goes all over the place, and is regarded as typical of the way in which the ex-Service man is treated. One wants to stop that if one can, and you cannot stop it unless by the further provision I am suggesting, you make it possible for the man, however small his pension may be, not to be compulsorily thrown into the industrial conflict straight away. The same thing applies to the dependants of the single man who is in that position. I do not know if the House has realised that while the wives and children of disabled and discharged soldiers get certain allowances, you can never get them for the dependants of single men. It is true you can get separation allowance now for the dependants of the single man, just as you can for the dependants of the married 713 man, but when it comes to allowance for pension, you cannot get it. If, for instance, a son who is maintaining his mother is disabled and discharged, and that mother was in receipt of separation allowance, as his child would have been if he were a married man, why, if that man has, say, 13s. 9d. and 50 per cent. disability, should not his dependant get 60 per cent. as dependent allowance? You cannot stop short and draw a hard and fast line, admitting it in the one case and not in the other.
At this point let me make a criticism about a similar case—the application of the prinicple under Article 21 of the Royal Warrant which deals with the -dependants of soldiers who are single, dependent parents. That is unsatisfactory, and creates as big a blot on the Warrant as the separation allowance for dependants does on the administration of the local pensions committees. At the present time there is a minimum pension of 3s. 6d. and a maximum of 15s. in these cases, and unless the parents can prove they are in actual dire poverty there is little chance of those parents getting more than the minimum pension of 6d. a day for the life of a boy who, we say on the public platform, has saved his country. That is the kind of phraseology we use on the public platform, and the Pensions Minister gives the dependants 6d. a day, which will buy, I believe, a pint and a half of Government ale. It is a curious sense of the value of a boy who has saved his country. I am sure my right hon. Friend will not leave it there. If the Treasury will not give him the money, why does he not go round and give lectures to the men at the Treasury as he does to his own colleagues? Let him ask them to assess their value as compared with the value of those who have saved the country. There are various opinions expressed as to their value, looked at in that way. It is absolutely preposterous that the State should take the life of a man, a life which may have a potential value to his parents, and when it is wiped out should give so small a pension. This House and this country have to get down to bedrock facts as to the principle on which pensions should be awarded. This country is asking everybody for one of two things: either your money or your life. The money we are lending to the State is secured to the people who lend it by British credit, and British credit is upheld by, among others, 714 discharged and disabled men who have already fought and are now working to maintain British trade. Every penny of that money will be paid in full to the people who lent it. As to the life, you take it and use it in the field, where it may be destroyed altogether or impaired. You cannot restore the husband to the widow, or the father to the fatherless. You restore to everybody who has lent money everything that he lends, and there in no less principle that will do for the administration of pensions than that you will do all you can for those who lend life, just as you do for those who lend money.
Take the case of the mother whose boy has given his life. She is entitled to a minimum pension of 3s. 6d. and a maximum of 15s.; it cannot stand. None of us could go on a platform and say it was enough; everyone of us would say, "As far as we are concerned, we do not think it. is enough. "But we are told by the Ministry of Pensions and the Government that they cannot get the Treasury to consent. After all, the Treasury is part and parcel of the Government. I put it to my right hon. Friend, I am perfectly certain of this, if he wants pressure put in that direction on the Treasury, the House of Commons will put it any time and every time he asks for it. For instance, if he cannot get the money, I will suggest this: I will put down, and get any number of colleagues on both sides of the House to put down, a Resolution that money be found for this purpose, and ask the Leader of the House to give a day for it and a free vote. It will be over in half an hour without a speech. The Division could be taken and there would be nobody in the Government Lobby against it. That is the feeling of the House of Commons on that question, and it does seem to me so great a pity that we cannot settle it.
Two points, and I have finished. I would like my right hon. Friend really to look into the question of hospital stoppages in treatment cases. When a man goes into the hospital for treatment, as he knows, his pension is raised to 27s. 6d. a week and allowances. His wife and children get a kind of separation allowance while he is in the hospital. What happens to the father? The man gets taken off 7s. a week for maintenance. I have never understood why; I have never understood why they trouble to give him 27s. 6d. and take 7s. off. Why not give him 20s. 6d. right away and save all the book-keeping? But, mark you, the 715 soldier who is taken in has already paid for free treatment through the national insurance scheme, of which he is a member, and it is absolutely illegal and unjust to raise the man's pension to the full disability rate and then not pay it. You take away 7s. before you give a penny, and, as a matter of fact, in the other 20s. 6d. there is 5s. owing to him under the national health insurance benefit, which he would have got if he had not been a soldier. So that the real payment by the State is 15s. 6d. Now that is wrong, absolutely wrong and most unjust, and the Ministry ought to deal with a problem of that kind. I would like to raise the question of when a man is entitled to draw his pension. We have many cases in front of us in which a man does not know the way to go about it to get a pension, and he gets it from the date of his application, not the date of his discharge. Will my hon. Friend the Undersecretary, who is listening to this part, defend the position of a soldier who is now in receipt of disability pension for the first time, who has not got it before through no fault of his own, who has carried that disability all the time from his discharge to that date—will he defend the withdrawal of that man's arrears from him? There is a question for my hon. Friend, and I am sure he will deal with me frankly. It is robbing that man of his due, and it is the shabbiest kind of robbery, because it is robbing a man who has served his country and been disabled in the service of his country. There is always such a tendency on the part of officialdom to save money for the State rather than to give the man what he is entitled to.
Take the case of the widow, which is a similar case. A widow whose husband has been killed gets separation allowance for twenty-six weeks, and she may then be entitled to a pension which is bigger than the separation allowance. Is not she entitled to a pension from the day her husband dies? Obviously the widow is entitled to all the money from the date of her husband's death in the service of the country. No State Department ought to be allowed to rob the poor in the way that you are robbing these women when you keep them for six months on a lower sum of money than that to which they are entitled. The least you can do is to pay the widows in every one of those cases. I fear I have taken up too much time of 716 the Committee, although I have not touched on many points, such as treatment and employment, and the new Appeal Court. But I do appeal again to the Pensions Minister to concentrate on administration first of all, and get that right. Stop the correspondence which Members are getting every day from people complaining that when they go to the local war pensions committee the committee say that it is Chelsea; when they go to Chelsea, they say it is the local war pensions committee. Never mind making speeches about the country or providing exhibitions throughout the country. Go down to the Ministry and sit in the Ministry. My right hon. Friend can sit there quite easily, and I should like to see him stick to the Ministry, in season and out of season, until he was certain in his own mind that, when a man was disabled, or a widow or a child a dependant, inside a week the State was going to support that disabled man, or that widow or child, with proper money. That is what the House of Commons wants more than anything else, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will achieve that, and will excuse me for putting it perhaps so bluntly.
I had not intended to touch on more than perhaps two points to - day until I heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and I must confess I agree with almost every word of the hon. Member who has just spoken with regard to pensions' administration. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions made a very interesting speech and touched on a large number of points, but they are all, in our opinion, absolutely unessential unless the ordinary everyday routine of pensions' administration is carried out, and no one can be a Member of this House and have a post-bag without realising that the Pensions Ministry in everyday routine—I know there are very great difficulties—is almost as bad as bad can be. The question of Baker Street, which was very much criticised a little while ago, I must say, from all accounts, has been immensely improved by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions, and we owe him some congratulation on a great change and a great improvement there. If that has been done at Baker Street, why should it not also be done at Chelsea? If you take the ordinary routine of Chelsea to-day, a very simple reorganisation there would do a very great deal to improve matters. Let me 717 draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one or two main defects. First of all, there are constant delays. I do not take isolated instances. I could bring down cases that have reached me which are far worse, but I take a typical case, such as is occurring every day, of delay in determining the amount of pension in the first instance. There is the case of a soldier who was discharged on 16th April. I can give the right hon. Gentleman the actual particulars. Up to 23rd May there was no settlement by Chelsea. You may say that is only a few weeks. I could quote cases where there has been as many months, but I have chosen one of only six weeks' delay. Why should there be this delay if there is any decent administration in Chelsea?
I am willing to withdraw what I have said if I cannot satisfy the Pensions Minister afterwards. I have been into the case very carefully. This was a case which was due for settlement by Chelsea. There was no settlement up to May 23rd, and I believe there is none now. On May 1st the man was told by the medical board that he would receive a gratuity. He wrote three times, and each time was sent an identical form to fill in. I only mention this point because it shows a typical case of bad administration, and it is the kind of thing we want to see remedied, if we can, at Chelsea. It may be said that these delays are inevitable, or at any rate that in a case like this the soldier can. always get relief by going to the local sub-committee. But what is happening in the case I have just quoted is typical. Here is a man who wants to get from the Government what is due to him and to get away and start life afresh, but he cannot do so. We only desire that the matter should be dealt with in a businesslike way where there is no difficulty. There are immense difficulties in a great many cases, but where a case is straight forward we do claim and ask that there shall be organisation so that the man can get what is his right and due, and go away and get on with his livelihood.
Another typical case is that of delay in judging appeals for increase of pension. 718 Chelsea often refuses to reassess a pension even when it is pretty obviously too low. The result is that a man with a semi-chronic or chronic illness, such as malaria or severe rheumatism, has to come back after treatment before he can get his case heard. That is unfair. Why should not his case be heard while he is having treatment? Why should he have to come back again before he can get his case heard? Again I will support this with an instance, the detailed particulars of which I shall be very glad to give to the Minister. It is the case of a soldier who appealed for an increased pension on 5th February and got no answer till 2nd May from Chelsea. Then Chelsea asked for a report from a convalescent home which he had previously left on 19th December. Chelsea did not seem aware that he had been for nine weeks in another convalescent home since then, and he is, almost at the beginning of June, still waiting for a decision as to whether he is to have his increase at all. Again, I am not taking an extreme case here, but have chosen a case which I think any business man would say was one of maladministration. Chelsea was not aware of what the man was doing. They skipped nine weeks in the convalescent hospital. There is obviously no proper organisation for following the case up. I know the hon. Member opposite could give far more extreme cases. I have purposely not chosen extreme cases, but tried to give typical cases of bad administration.
There is delay in hearing appeals, especially against decisions of non-attributability. These are heard by a special Appeal Tribunal under Judge Parry, I believe, and the cases are prepared by subcommittees of the local war pensions committees. These sub-committees are supposed in all cases, I believe, to be advised by Chelsea, so that when cases come down they know on what grounds the awards have been given. Chelsea constantly fails to notify these local committees as to attributability or non-attributability, and so hampers the work of Departments which are voluntary largely in nature, and have to depend on an insufficient staff and very often insufficient knowledge, but which very often do very good work. They are not assisted by Chelsea. On the other hand, Chelsea is hampering every movement by its inefficiency, and very often these voluntary committees are blamed for not getting work done, which is largely owing to Chelsea. There is great 719 delay before the sub-committees can get advice from Chelsea as to attributability or non-attributability, and then often six weeks' delay in obtaining the medical officer's report from Chelsea. All this delay occurs before the case reaches Judge Parry's tribunal, and then, Heaven knows what delay will occur. I will support this by a recent case. On 15th March, 1916, a certain soldier was discharged with chronic nephritis. He was unable to work since February. He appealed for a pension on 7th February, and has not had a reply yet. In this case there is a special hardship, as the man has to get a special diet for his particular disease, and as he has not a pension he cannot get it. Why cannot a man, without month after month of delay, get an answer from the Ministry? It is really insupportable in a case where a man has already suffered great hardship for his country.
There is one thing I should like to add to my criticism of bad administration. It is that the Regulations of the Ministry seem to be very ill thought out as regards the detailed, everyday work. I will give a case. The last editions of Part II. of the Regulations as to treatment and training of disabled men were issued in August, 1916, and early in 1917. Since then there have been amending circulars at the rate of one every three days which are distributed to local sub-committees through the local committees, and these unfortunate committees have to keep just under 200 of them. They have never been collated or put together. These 200 emendations are thrown upon these unfortunate committees, who in every one of these difficult cases, with a man standing at their table trying to got an award, have to turn up these new Regulations which have been changed from day to day and week to week. It is impossible for them to do their work rapidly and efficiently under these circumstances, and I think this does show lack of co-ordination between the Ministry and the people who are doing the everyday work. If the right hon. Gentleman would consider whether he could get greater contact with the local committees by getting a joint committee with a set of officials in the Ministry of Pensions which, by constantly sitting, could deal with the difficulties and needs of the organisations which are doing the work, I believe he would render very great assistance to the voluntary sub- 720 committees and the local committees, and he would also gain great benefit himself. There is another point which only indirectly concerns the right hon. Gentleman, and that relates to Roehampton, where the artificial limbs are fitted. I believe it is the case that men have to wait anything up to twelve months to get into Roehampton, because the congestion is very great. I think something is being done to provide other places for this work. During the time the men are waiting I understand they get pay and rations, but they are not discharged from the Army. They are kept waiting with no employment of any kind, and they cannot be trained simply for the red-tape reason, which would appear to outsiders that the Ministry of Pensions does not deal with anybody until they are discharged.
My information is that until quite recently a man could not be trained during his period of waiting.
I am glad to hear it, and I am sorry to have raised the criticism, but I have been informed on very good authority that what I have stated is the case. I may now understand from the right hon. Gentleman that a man while he is waiting to get an artificial limb fitted at Roehamption can be given training immediately, however long he may wait. I am very glad to know that, because it makes a very great difference.
I hope, at any rate, that the right hon. Gentleman will consider the suggestion I have made as regards getting into closer touch with the committees who are doing the work. They are doing their utmost to help the Ministry of Pensions most loyally, and would assist them more if they were not flooded with new Regulations from time to time, and if they had greater access to the Ministry.
§ Sir H. HARRIS
My attitude as chairman of a local war pensions committee should be one of respectful admiration for all that the Ministry of Pensions does, or leaves undone, but perhaps, as a Member of Parliament, I may venture to offer a few constructive criticisms and a few suggestions. I realise the very serious defects which still exist, but I congratulate the Ministry upon having accomplished a great deal. I can do that the more sincerely because I was never one of those who thought that the mere creation of a Ministry of Pensions would at once remove all the drawbacks of the divided administration of the past. It has necessarily taken a considerable time to build up an organisation to deal with the growing volume of work and the new problems that are constantly arising. While I recognise the considerable progress that has been made by the Ministry of Pensions and the local sub-committees who work with it, I confess that I would like the actual administration to be very considerably improved. I could quote a great many cases, but I do not do so, because I think quoting cases is rather apt to give an unfair picture of the whole, although I agree with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) that the very cases that are quoted are cases which give a wrong impression to a great many people in the country. Both my hon. Friends seemed rather inclined to suggest that the Minister of Pensions and the Parliamentary Secretary should devote the whole of their energies to improving the administration at Chelsea, and put aside what is called the after-care of the disabled men. I hope that will not be done. I do not see why we could not have both these things. I want the administration at Chelsea made as good as possible, and, at the same time I think, a great deal of the after-care of the disabled men. I am not entirely satisfied with the provision which is now being made in that direction.
722 I should like to say a few words on the subject of treatment. The Minister of Pensions took credit for having established medical referees all over the country, so that I may be excused if I boast that the London Committee was the first to establish medical referees. I think they have been a very useful institution. In regard to neurasthenics, my right hon. Friend has not made a statement as to the provision for this difficult and somewhat large class. He mentioned that he proposed to close the Home of Recovery at Golder's Green. He may be right or he may be wrong; I do not venture an opinion; but I know that that home was a great boon when it was started, and when we had a great difficulty in knowing what to do with neurasthenics. If the home is to be closed, what is to be done with the men? Are homes of recovery to be started in more suitable districts, or what provision is to be made? The Ministry of Pensions has allowed the London Committee to send neurasthenics who are not serious cases to country homes, and I am glad to say that very considerable success has attended that experiment; but there still remains the cases of men who are suffering seriously from shell-shock and neurasthenia, and I shall be glad to know if something is to be done to meet their cases. In regard to tubercular cases, I may say that in the London area the provision has improved, although the period of waiting for sanatorium treatment is still very considerable. The period of waiting varies from three weeks to ten weeks, and the delay is especially great in the early cases, which is very unfortunate, because it is the early cases which are so important to be taken in time. It also takes a long time to get treatment in the case of men needing a second period of sanatorium treatment. The stay in the sanatorium is also too short, and therefore inadequate. So far as the advanced cases are concerned, I am very grateful, speaking on behalf of London, to the Minister of Pensions for having placed at our disposal a number of beds for advanced cases in a Metropolitan Asylums Board hospital; but whereas when we were allowed to deal direct with the Metropolitan Asylums Board we could sometimes get a man in at an hour's notice, it now takes a week to ten days getting through the London Insurance Committee. I do not think that is altogether reasonable.
723 Training has been considerably hindered partly by unavoidable causes, the need for men to work on munitions, and the attractive nature of some offers of employment which are made to discharged men; but the progress of training has been delayed by the very long time it has taken to get agreement between the representatives of the employers and employed in the various trades. Until that agreement has been reached local committees are obliged to exercise great caution in training men for particular trades. The Ministry of Labour has set up trade advisory committees in order to get these terms agreed upon, but the fact remains that until recently the only agreements arrived at were in the building trade and engineering trade. We are without any agreement in the case of the electrical trade. I think the Government might have done more in bringing home to the representatives of every trade the national duty of doing something for the disabled man as quickly and as ungrudgingly as possible. The result of not being able to give men the training that they desire is that men fall away and go into employment which they will probably find is blind-alley employment after the War comes to an end. Where the trade advisory committees have come to an agreement, and the local technical advisory committees have been set up they work extremely well, and we have found in London that directly the local technical advisory committees get into touch with the men, the result is all that could possibly be desired.
I desire also to call attention to the inadequacy of the present training allowance. I submit that 27s. 6d. a week is not sufficient. Even for a single man being trained in London 27s. 6d. is scarcely an adequate allowance, and in the case of married men who are able to live at home 27s. 6d. is really not a possible allowance. It means that the men who accept training have to face in many cases a serious reduction of income, because in many cases they are earning money which with their pension is considerably in excess of 27s. 6d. a week. Apart from the reduction of income, at the present time in London, with the prices of food and high rents, a man and his wife cannot live in comfort on 27s. 6d. a week. Local committees, therefore, and certainly the London committee, are finding it very difficult to induce men to accept training or even to accept outpatient treatment, because that involves 724 knocking off work. Therefore the men refuse what is of the greatest importance for them in connection with their future life. I cannot help contrasting the allowance which is made to a man who becomes an in-patient and the allowance which is made when a man goes into training. If a man goes as an in-patient into an institution he is credited with 27s. 6d., of which 7s. is deducted for his keep in the institution. That leaves him with 20s.6d. a week at his disposal. In addition his wife gets. an allowance of 13s. 9d.; therefore, the man and his wife, if the man is an in-patient, get 34s. 3d. plus the man's keep, but if the man goes into training or takes out-patient treatment he only gets27s. 6d., and the man has to be kept and the wife gets nothing. It may be said that the allowance made to a man and his wife in an institution is liberal, and possibly the man may be able to put something by against the time when he comes out of the institution. The local committees get a good many applications for some allowance while the men are endeavouring to find employment. The training allowances of 27s. 6d. are not quite adequate if you desire men to take up a training which will benefit them in their future life. I hope very serious consideration will be given to this point, because it is one of great importance to London, where rents are high, and consequently Londoners are in a worse position than people in other parts of the country.
Turning to another subject, I should like to ask what the Government is doing with the mechanical prothesis for manual work. The one-armed man is a great difficulty at the present time. On this subject I could not help being struck when listening to papers which were read at a conference last week with the progress which had been made in other countries in providing men with mechanical apparatus to enable them to work in various mechanical trades. Professor Galearri gave an example of a man with an amputated forearm who with an artificial hand had attained such dexterity in a trade as to give, on an average, the same production as a normal workman. The French delegate also showed how all kinds of agricultural work could be carried on by one-armed men, and pictures were also shown of men engaged in carpentry and agriculture. I want to know if the Ministry is studying the experiments which have been made, and are they experimenting themselves? It is not only 725 necessary to provide an efficient substitute for a hand, but it would be necessary to convince the men who have to use it that the substitute is efficient; and you will also have to convince the employer. If it is possible to supply an efficient substitute for a hand, I hope my right hon. Friend will do his best to make the thing thoroughly well known.
The question has been raised of the relations of the Ministry with local committees. I think that perhaps local committees do not always appreciate the difficulties of the Ministry on the one hand, while on the other hand I am quite sure the Ministry do not always appreciate the difficulties of local committees, otherwise they would not be so casual in the way they issue Regulations, Warrants, and Instructions.
I will give an example. Regulations 7 (1), (a), (6), and (c) are important Regulations transferring a large part of the work of the Civil Liabilities Committees to local committees. Those Regulations were contained in a circular which was dated March, but this was received by the London Committee, and I suppose by other committees, in the third week in April, although it came into operation immediately it was issued in March, and we could not get sufficient copies of the Regulation to send to each of our local committees. No warning was given that this very considerable amount of work was going to be handed over to the local committees. I do not complain of this, but I think they ought to have notice when work of that kind is coming to them, and they ought to have time to make preparations for carrying out that work. I am sure that no firm would transfer one branch of its business to another department without warning that particular department that it would have to undertake that work. It seems rather the habit of the Ministry to be very casual in the way in which they deal with local committees. I think it is unsatisfactory that the new Warrant should come into operation on the 1st of May and we should only receive a copy on the 3rd of May.
Voluntary funds were advertised very largely in the Press, and large numbers flocked to the local offices and forms were given to those who applied, but the local committees received no information and no instructions. The same thing happened with the circular sent out dealing 726 with maternity grants. I do not wish to complain, but I want to point out that it does make local committees look like fools if people apply to them under some Regulation or Warrant, and they have had no information about it whatever, and I hope my right hon. Friend will try to help us in that matter. My right hon. Friend said that local committees were sometimes under some ambiguity as to their powers, and he is setting up an outdoor staff to help them. I hope that staff will be thoroughly well trained, and will realise the importance of working in harmony and sympathy with local committees, who have-now acquired a great deal of knowledge, and much will depend upon how they work with the local committees. While offering these criticisms I am thankful to the Ministry for what they have done, and I am sure the local committees are only desirous of assisting the Ministry in every way they possibly can.
Sir HOWELL DAVIES
The only part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech I wish to refer to is that in which he dealt with the insurance in civil employment of those 300,000 disabled men. I thought he left that matter in rather an unsatisfactory position. He referred to the fact that the insurance companies are prepared to allow these men to form part of the general employment scheme without charging any additional rates of premium. I can quite understand that insurance companies and private persons are quite willing to do a great many things during the War that they may not be prepared to do afterwards. There is great sympathy for the men who have suffered in this War and are disabled, and it is the general wish of everyone to render them every possible help. But when the War is over and a few years have passed we may find insurance companies not so willing to pay premiums or to accept the responsibility of disabled men. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that some employers do their own insuring and accept the risks, but I do not think he will perfect his work at the Ministry of Pensions until he has placed every man in as good a position as it is possible to place him in, and it ought not to be in the mouth of any employer of labour to say, "I cannot employ this man because there is additional risk. "We know that before the War it would be impossible for us as employers to employ one-armed men or one-eyed men, because employers would not take the risk, and if we could not insure them 727 we could not employ them. We have these men with us to-day in very large numbers, and we must discharge our duty to them and we must not leave this question to the tender mercy of insurance companies or to "the sympathetic treatment of employers. We must see that we do our national duty and put them in a position in which they can go to an employer and say, "If an accident arises through my incapacity or disablement you are not going to lose by it because the Government will stand behind me. "If these men are not secured in this way, we shall find a very large number of them quite capable of doing useful work who will be upon our streets, as we have seen in the past after other great wars, and unfortunately we shall have a very much large number to deal with than we ever had before. The right hon. Gentleman said that he might probably bring in a Bill, and I hope he will.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir Donald Maclean)
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman said, but matters concerned with legislation are not in Order, and the point which the hon. Gentleman is now dealing with cannot be pursued on this Vote.
Sir H. DAVIES
I will not attempt to pursue the matter any further, but I think I have said enough to cause my right hon. Friend to realise that, in the opinion of a great many people, he will not be discharging his duty to the disabled men until he has secured for them an opportunity of engaging in private life with the least possible disadvantage arising out of their disablement, and I am sure he will give this point his sympathetic consideration.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I should like, first of all, to emphasise a point that was made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) as to the necessity for some speeding up of administration in connection with pensions. I find repeatedly, when Members of Parliament bring individual cases to the attention of the Minister of Pensions direct that they are dealt with in a very speedy way, but there is something wrong with the system behind the Minister or it would not be necessary for Members constantly to bring cases to his attention and to bring forward various grievances and complaints. The Minister of Pensions himself in a speech at Bolton on 20th October, 1917, said that 728 the delay that had occurred in dealing with hundreds of cases was a disgrace to the Department concerned. Lord Derby agreed that it was a shame, and Lord Derby and himself were going to find a remedy for this state of things. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen), speaking at Shore-ditch Empire in October, 1917, told the discharged soldiers that they were going to close Chelsea at Christmas and overhaul it entirely, so as to avoid future delays. Unfortunately, in spite of anything that may have been done delays do occur, and they certainly cause a great deal of hardship and dissatisfaction. Various cases have been given, and it is possible to cite many cases. May I give two as illustrating what still happens? I have one case of a soldier resident in Marylebone who is at present dying of tuberculosis. He was discharged from the Army in February, 1915, and his pension of 27s. 6d. per week was only settled in March, 1918, after endless applications. He was not even examined until January, 1918, when he was so ill that he was already in a sanatorium. There is the case of another soldier in London who was discharged from the Army in 1915. He was called up to Chelsea for examination twice in 1917, once in November and once in December, only to be told on both occasions that he could not be examined because the papers had not arrived from the Record Office. His case is still pending in May, 1918. It may be said that these are extreme cases, but there are hundreds of others in which the delay is of various length, involving very real hardship, worry, and uncertainty.
With regard to the scales that have now been fixed, there is a feeling that the money that is being paid, viewed from pre-war monetary standards, is still inadequate. A pension reaching even up to 27s. 6d. per week is very much less judged by the prices of commodities in pre-war times, and when you get down to a widow's pension of 13s. or 13s. 9d. per week it really is not worth more than round about 1s. per day. That is not at all a satisfactory arrangement. There is a danger that this question of pensions may become to some extent a party question, and that you may have parties competing against each other as to what ought to be done. It would be a very lamentable state of things if you had competition between the various parties and if you had pensions made purely a party question. It 729 would be far better if there could be some strong advisory committee behind the Ministry of Pensions, composed of men and women of all parties, and including representatives of the discharged soldiers themselves, to try and adjust this matter from time to time on a basis fair as between the nation and the discharged men. The political element should be taken out of it, and the element of competition ought to be entirely removed from the question. Men of all parties ought to try and decide what is the fair and just view. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh spoke of the feeling that is undoubtedly caused by individual cases that come up constantly. These individual eases do infinite harm. These men now have organisations, and when a wrong thing is done to one man many others get to know about it, and they state again and again that there is still great room and need for improvement in the treatment of the discharged men. I myself receive many cases, and I send many of them, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, to the Ministry of Pensions. Some of these cases indicate, as various hon. and gallant Members have suggested, that there is room for a real speeding up in the administration of the pensions themselves. Here is the case of a man belonging to one of the Wessex regiments who was discharged in 1916 with a pension of 18s. 6d. per week. He was called up under the Review of Exceptions Act on 11th November, 1917. He was classified B and was sent to France, despite a doctor's certificate, which stated distinctly that he was suffering from cardiac disease and chronic rheumatism, and was quite unfit for further service. The doctor adds:I consider it scandalous that a man like this should be called up again, as his return to service can only result in a waste of public money.Nevertheless, he was called up for service, and went to France, and broke down completely. His pension was reduced to 13s. 9d. per week. His former pension expired on 18th March, 1918, and since that time no further payment has been made, either on the larger or the smaller scale. The man is now lying in hospital awaiting his discharge, and he has been completely wrecked as the result of his experiences. These are actual cases of what is happening, and in my opinion there is not the least room for surprise that there should be dissatisfaction and bad feeling. Here is the case of a man who was discharged on 20th 730 July, 1917, having been disabled by a bullet shot through the right knee joint. He was awarded a pension of 13s. 9d. per week, but it was afterwards reduced to 8s. 3d. per week. He uses a stick when walking, and he finds his illness handicaps him in earning his livelihood. As the result of a personal appeal which I made to the Minister of Pensions his pension was increased to 13s. 9d. per week for sixty-five weeks. These sums are altogether inadequate, and there is need for a real examination into the whole-question, in order to find a better basis upon which this matter can be placed. Many of the men who have been discharged suffer from tuberculosis, neurasthenia, and heart disease, and in the settlement of their pensions the most inadequate results are sometimes reached.
When men are discharged from the Army after having had, say, a leg amputated below the knee, this is what happens again and again: The man is given a pension, perhaps of 13s. 9d. per week. He goes to the Labour Exchange in order to try to get a job, and he goes to various employers. The employers, for one reason or another, partly because of the question of compensation, are-chary about taking him on, and he applies to undergo training. If he is a married man and has a family he finds it very difficult to maintain himself on 27s. 6d. per week whilst training. Many of these men get rather despondent and begin to feel that they are not being properly treated, and a good deal of the steel is taken out of them. I know this from the actual experience of men who take a great interest in this matter and who are doing good work among these men. It is true that in certain cases employers of labour take advantage of the man's pension in order to try and force down the standard of his wages. I should not be in order in suggesting any legislative remedy, although in point of fact it was mentioned by the Ministry of Pensions; but whatever means, whether administrative or otherwise, it is very essential indeed, and I agree heartily with the right hon. Gentleman that every possible step should be taken to prevent any exploitation of these men and to prevent their pension being used as a means of depressing wages in any shape or form. I also hope that it will be possible to meet the grievance of the apprentices who joined in the early days of the War. That 731 is so glaring an injustice that it requires no argument at all to bring the matter home. I am quite sure, if the Minister of Pensions will take this matter in hand, that he will have no difficulty in securing support from every quarter of the House in order to get what is obviously so unjust a matter put right.
I would urge very strongly that the number of training centres ought to be substantially increased. There is nothing like a sufficient number of training centres at the present time to grapple with this matter. I would also like to suggest that the period of training is too short. If men are really going to be made efficient and to be turned out good workmen, a minimum of nine months' training is necessary. In many cases and for many industries a six months' training period is altogether inadequate. Then, when men have been trained, they ought not to be left simply to the scramble of the ordinary labour market or to the tender mercies of employers. There ought to be some method whereby the State still keeps a friendly eye upon them, helping them and safeguarding them in some way. The nation, having given the man his training, ought not to throw him into the rough-and-tumble of the ordinary labour market to compete in many cases with his fit fellows, but it ought to recognise that he requires special care and attention. At present in some districts, at any rate, only single men are going in for this training, because the wage of 27s. 6d. per week is not sufficient to allow a married man, with family responsibilities, to do so. Many married men are really going into blind alley occupations in preference to coming under the schemes of the Ministry of Pensions. In certain cases the discharged men take serious objection to the many inquisitorial questions that are asked, not always, but in certain districts, when they are appealing for re-examination or a revision of pensions. They resent it, especially where a man has actually been passed as an A 1 man and has been sent overseas. They are asked for a report from the man's doctor as to his health prior to enlistment, for are port by the man's National Health Insurance Society as to the sickness benefit paid to him prior to enlistment, and for a report by his pre-War employer as to the time lost by the man through illness prior to enlistment. In places where that is still being done the men feel that there is far 732 too much inquisition about it and that the medical boards ought to be able to decide what is the real state of a man's health and to apportion his pension. Men are sometimes kept waiting a long time and have to be subjected to repeated examinations by medical boards. They feel that three examinations ought to be sufficient and that by the time the third examination has been held the Board ought to know pretty well what the man's condition is and what pension he should receive. In addition to a man being kept in a state of great uncertainty, he feels it is a great hardship to be called up in this way, because sometimes a man is put to no end of inconvenience. I know the difficulty, in dealing with hundreds of thousands of cases, of giving attention to any individual case, but it is only by bracing up the whole system that these individual hardships will be reduced to the minimum.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Then I am prepared to put the facts and information in his way. I am afraid that his intentions at the centre are not always carried out in the various local districts to anything like the extent he thinks is the case. I shall be able to put local information at his disposal to enable him to put extra pressure there. With regard to the local committees themselves, this may seem a small matter, but many of them sit at an hour, perhaps eleven in the forenoon, when it is very difficult for certain classes of people to be present and take their part in the proceedings. For example, it may be difficult for representatives of the soldiers themselves to be present at that hour in the morning, and it may also be very difficult for Labour representatives to be present when the meetings are held at eleven in the forenoon. Where that is the case, it would be far better to find a more suitable hour. I think the evening would be the best time in which these committees should meet, and it would probably be more convenient all round. These are the main points I wish to make. I desire to emphasise very strongly that in spite of what has been done—certainly changes and improvements 733 have been effected—there is still need for gracing up and speeding up the administration of the Ministry.
§ Sir C. NICHOLSON
The Minister of Pensions seems to have been submitted to a considerable fire of criticism with regard to the work he has been carrying on, and I think some of us ought to give him some need of praise for the enormous amount of work that has been done and the enormous improvements which have been effected during the last six months in the administration of pensions. I need only refer to one thing that has taken place during the last week, the fact that he has organised a Conference of all the Allies upon the subject, as a result of which we are able to get a great deal of information both on the subjects of training and treatment and of the means by which men with artificial arms and legs might be made use of. For organising that Conference the right hon. Gentleman deserves the thanks of every member of the Committee. One hon. and gallant Member offered a criticism on the question of the employment of men while in hospital. Some misunderstanding has arisen between him and the Minister of Pensions on this subject. Undoubtedly at a large number of these hospitals, especially Queen Mary's Workshops, King's Hospital, and other places, a great deal of instruction is being given to the men while they are still under treatment. The fact remains, however, that a certain number of men who are discharged from hospital are sent away and have to wait a considerable time before being taken in at Roehampton and other institutions for the purpose of having their arms or legs fitted. There is some considerable reason for complaint in that direction, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to speed up the production of artificial arms and legs so far as it is possible for him to do so. I also wish to allude to some of the remarks which fell from the same hon. and gallant Gentleman on the question of appeal cases. Those are cases of men who have not been given a pension or who have been given a gratuity and who appeal against the gratuity and ask for a pension. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said there was considerable delay in sending papers from Chelsea to enable the local committees to come to a proper conclusion as to what ought to be done. I may say that I sit every Thursday upon an appeal committee of this nature. We deal with at least thirty cases a week and sometimes 734 forty cases a week. I do not know a single case where we have failed to get the necessary and proper papers from Chelsea. From my experience I can say that during the last two or three months I do not remember a single case of delay occurring through the papers not being sent from Chelsea.
As to what fell from the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson) on the subject of inquiries, I may say it is perfectly true that when those cases come up to us for final decision, and before they go to Judge Parry's Committee, they have to go before the medical referee. We have nothing to do with the fact that the medical officer in charge of the case has made his own report to Chelsea, nor have we anything to do with the opinions expressed on the report presented by the medical officer. Those are matters of ordinary routine which are carried out during the time the soldier is in hospital. But if this Committee is to come to' any conclusion at all as to whether a man is suffering from any disability which is attributable to or was aggravated by his war service, it is evident that they must have some idea of the state of the man's health before he joined the Army. I know of no other way of getting it except through his approved society or by applying to his employer to see if he was off work for any considerable period of time. Therefore, these inquiries necessarily have to be made.
May I now turn to those subjects in which I am most interested—the question of training? I wish to allude to a little incident which took place only a day or two ago, when I happened to be down at Brighton. There is a large establishment being gradually erected there for the purpose of introducing into this country a trade formerly carried on to a great extent by the Germans. This is an opportunity which, if it is not seized now, by the time the War comes to an end will be lost entirely. Therefore, there is all the more necessity for a considerable amount of speed in capturing that trade for the use of this country. At least some hundreds of men are being employed there now. I am told that if the proper extensions could be carried out the factory would be able to employ 1,000 of our disabled men. It is an employment especially suited to men who have lost their legs and who have their hands free. The gentleman who is carrying on the business has been perfectly willing to put down all the money required 735 to erect the factory and necessary to carry out the work, but he is stuck because he cannot get permission from the Ministry of Munitions to complete the factory. I would ask the Minister of Pensions to use all the influence he can command to induce the proper authorities at the Ministry of Munitions to give this gentleman the power to erect this factory, which will not only bring a new trade to this country, but will also be the means of employing a very large number of our disabled men. I should also like to call attention to a point raised by almost every one of our Allies at the Conference which took place last week, namely, the possibility of educating the men during the time they are actually in hospital. That is an extremely necessary thing, A great many of these men are many months in hospital doing practically nothing at all. They are bored to distraction. The only work given to them in almost all cases is a certain amount of needlework or wool work, or things of that kind—things which cannot interest a man or any large number of men. It seems a great pity that this time should be thrown away when all sorts of possible means of education for a man not only to use his hands but also his mind and brain are at our disposal.
The next point I wish to raise is the question of the training allowance, which has already been alluded to by the hon. Member for South Paddington (Sir H. P. Harris), who is the chairman of the London local committee. I should like to support him in the statement he made that the present rate of allowance is insufficient. I would give as proof of that that we here in London, having the largest number of such institutions in the country, are taking in for the purpose of training men who come from the counties outside, and it is necessary for us to make some arrangements by which these people can be housed and fed during, the time they are undergoing training. Some very kindly disposed people have placed a number of hostels at our disposal where we can put up these men. I daresay that at the commencement the allowance of 27s. 6d. was quite sufficient to keep a man going, but now that prices have risen to such an extent that in many hostels a man is having to pay 20s. or 21s. a week merely for food and lodging, that does not leave him very much for himself. When you take into consideration the enormous 736 competition there is outside for labour and the very high wages that are being paid, it is not at all a matter of surprise that a great many of these men are being tempted away from the training which is being given in order to obtain these high wages. Only the other day I was going through a school where a considerable number of men are being trained. I asked the head of the school if the men stuck to it, and he told me that something like one-third of the men went away because they could not manage to get along on the allowance made to them. I happened to mention this fact to one of the delegates who came to the Conference the other day, and he put in my hands a certain number of cases which he had brought from another part of the country. One man said:The reason I left the school was because I could not do with the money I was getting to keep a wife and three children. I was satisfied in the trade I was learning.Another man said:My reason for leaving—thought would be considerable time before efficient to earn a living. Should have liked to have carried on at school but what capital I had I have had to spend for living purposes. The teachers gave me every attention and were kind and patient.It is a matter which the Pensions Minister will have to take very seriously into consideration as to whether this allowance of 27s. 6d. a week ought not to be increased. There is a good deal to be said for not making the allowance too high. The man who says, "I am prepared to sacrifice a certain amount in the way of what I can earn now and to take a smaller sum in order to be taught a trade "is evidently a man who will stick to it, whereas those who are easily discouraged will very likely throw up their training if they can get a liberal allowance. At the same time it seems tome to be a point which the Pensions-Minister should take into serious consideration. I should like him also to think very carefully whether it is not necessary some how or other to reserve some occupations. Allusion has been made to the extreme difficulty of finding employment for one-armed men. Owing to the marvellous things which have been done by surgeons a certain portion of that difficulty may be solved in the future, but it is an open question whether certain occupations ought not to be reserved for men who cannot face the ordinary rough and tumble of everyday life.
737 There are going to be an enormous number of orphans in the country. I am told the number of children received into Dr. Barnardo's Home in the last few months is something enormous. So far as London is concerned, we have been able to make provision for something like 2.500 of these children. They get their children's allowance and, thanks to the good offices of the Pensions Minister, those allowances have been increased and the difficulties we were under previously are not so serious as they were before, though I rather doubt even now whether the allowance made to orphans will be sufficient for their real maintenance and clothing. But that does not cover the whole point. You cannot take away a child from a poor home and plant it down in another house direct. This has to be done through a sort of clearing house. It is obvious that children have to be cleaned, and often disinfected, and provided with clothing before they can be sent to their new home. It is therefore necessary that these clearing-houses should be established in different parts of the country, and their maintenance is a matter which obviously cannot fall upon the children's allowances as they are provided by the Pensions Ministry. It seems to me that it will be necessary, if you are going to make a success of this, that a sum will have to be provided in order to set up and maintain these clearing-houses where children may be collected and from there distributed to the various homes to which they are to be boarded out. I should like to add a word on the subject of tuberculous men. I am afraid the tuberculous soldier is falling between two stools—the Treasury on the one hand and the Insurance Commissioners upon the other. It is quite clear to me that there is not sufficient accommodation for these men at present, and it is necessary for the Treasury to provide the Insurance Committees with the necessary amount of funds in order to enable that accommodation to be provided. Very considerable delay occurs at present in providing accommodation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman alluded to the great quantity of Instructions issued by the Pensions Ministry. I am afraid that is unavoidable, but it would be very useful— certainly we, and no doubt every other loca1 committee would appreciate it—if a new edition of Part 2 of the Regulations could be issued at the earliest moment. It would facilitate all our work and enable all the local committees and sub-committees to carry out their duties much 738 more efficiently. My criticisms are made in no hostile spirit, I recognise the energy the Pensions Minister has put into his work, and having been concerned in this matter practically from almost the beginning of the War I can say that the whole country is very grateful to him for the work he has done on behalf of the discharged soldier.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
The hon. Baronet has alluded to the training of soldiers in military hospitals. It is a curious thing that according to the military regulation a soldier can be compelled to work quite hard in hospital in tidying up, or washing up dishes, or doing anything in connection with the work of the hospital, but the slightest pressure cannot be put upon him to learn any trade. He can be compelled to be a he were of wood and a drawer of water, but cannot be compelled to learn a trade. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to communicate with the War Office and see whether some modification cannot be made in that Regulation. It seems to me absurd that at Sidcup, where there are 1,000 patients, and most wonderful things are done, and men are sometimes under treatment for six months, they can be compelled to wash dishes and chop down trees, if you like, but cannot be compelled to make use of their time in learning any trade for after-life. I put aside any idea of compulsion. If a man can be compelled to do ordinary work, he must be compelled to do some useful work.
We have had a great deal of criticism of Chelsea, and in spite of the hon. Baronet's gallant effort to stand up for it I am afraid not much can be said for it. Chelsea has undoubtedly broken down. It is overworked, and the delays are doing an infinite amount of harm, and, connected as I am with an organisation for soldiers and sailors which has a large body of members, I come across instances daily of damage to the good feeling which ought to exist between the pension authorities and ex-sailors and soldiers, brought about not by the right hon Gentleman or his officials, but by the congestion, disorganisation, and chaos which exist at Chelsea. The sooner the right hon. Gentleman can get Chelsea right the sooner he will have peace and quiet in his Department and contentment among the ex-sailors and soldiers. I should like to join in paying a really sincere tribute to the good work which he and the have done for discharged and disabled men. It must 739 be a little discouraging for Ministers year after year, when their Estimates are on, to have nothing but criticism, but I most gladly bear witness on behalf of a large body of ex-soldiers and sailors who are very grateful for what is being done for them, but, being Englishmen, want a little more. I am going to ask for a little more on one or two points in a friendly and not a carping spirit. The first point to which I would ask attention is with reference to the pension granted under Article 9 of the Royal Warrant. That refers to men who have been discharged either because the term of their service has expired or because they are not likely to become efficient soldiers, or for some reason of that sort. After they have left the Service it often happens that they develop some disability which is eventually found to have arisen or to have been aggravated through their service. They are granted a pension, but it only runs from the time the official decision is given. Sometimes a civilian doctor discovers a disability, and an application is made, but the official decision that the man is entitled to a certain pension may be four or five months after he has been partially disabled.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of PENSIONS (Colonel Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen)
It dates back to the date which the man establishes that he was disabled.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I apologise for taking up time. There is another point. At first sight it seems, perhaps, unreasonable, but on consideration I think it is a fair point on which to make a concession. If a pension now is issued in error, the money is liable to be refunded to the State. In theory that is perfectly fair, but in practice that is very hard for a poor man, who has a very little amount of money which has been issued to him by error by the Ministry of Pensions, to be obliged to refund it, and it is especially hard in the case of separation allowances. Cases have come to my knowledge where the separation allowance has been partially stopped in order to make up for debts which the soldier has incurred in France. That would not come under the right hon. Gentleman, but I am giving it as an illustration.
740 I agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) that it is very desirable that these new Warrants should, as soon as possible, come up for discussion in the House of Commons. It would probably avoid the issue of amending Warrants, but on the broad principle the House of Commons is the Assembly which votes the money, and its opinion ought to be taken as soon as possible as to the manner in which it is being expended. I am a sufficient stickler for the traditions and rights not only of the House of Commons, but of the electors of this country, that they should through their representatives have the earliest possible opportunity of saying whether they approve of the way in which these millions of money are being spent. We have not had the slightest indication, so far as I can find out, what the total cost of these new Warrants is going to be. What is going to be the cost of pensions in the present financial year? I would press the Under-Secretary to let us have some rough idea—it must be rough, I know—of what is going to be the Pensions Budget for this year. That is a matter which ought to receive very serious consideration, because, while we are not grudging a single penny that is being given to soldiers and sailors, yet when pensions are running into £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 a year, and after the War probably over £100,000,000, the House of Commons ought to have some information as to where this money will come from and how it is going to be expended.
There is one point of general principle that I want to press very strongly upon the Pensions Minister; it is this: Recently there has been a new Royal Warrant which raises the pensions of certain soldiers who were disabled in previous wars. That is to say, anybody who suffers from total disability owing to his being a soldier in previous wars can get a minimum total disability pension similar to the man who has been disabled in the present War. That is a great concession, and a great advance. But if that is right, on what ground of justice or equality do you absolutely rule out the partially disabled man of previous wars from any increase at all? There can only be one reason, and that is, that the Treasury have got in the way. If it is right and proper—and it is not open to argument—that you should give a certain pension to a man who has sustained a certain disability in this War, and that 741 the same rule of necessity applies to those who have sustained similar disabilities in. previous wars, then the man who suffers from partial disability contracted in any previous war should at once without delay be put on exactly the same footing as the man who is suffering from partial disabiltiy sustained since August, 1914. I would ask the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to reply to this point. But he can have no answer, unless it be that the Treasury will not find the money. I think I may say, on behalf of the House of Commons, that hon. Members certainly desire that if it is right to make up the pensions of men disabled since August, 1914, that disabled men of the Boer and the Crimean Wars should be placed on the same footing.
There is another point in the new Warrant. Very rightly the pensions awarded to the widows of private soldiers killed in previous wars are raised to the rate of pensions of the men killed in this War. That is perfectly fair. The Ministry of Pensions, I presume because of the action of the Treasury, has stopped there. They have not raised the pensions of the widows of sergeants, or warrant officers, or sergeant-majors. We have, therefore, this ridiculous position. That the widow of a sergeant-major killed in this War gets the not ungenerous pension of 21s. per week, but the widow of the sergeant-major who died in the Boer War gets only 13s. 9d., the same as a private. That cannot be defended on any ground of justice. The only ground for it would seem to be the action of some niggardly, cheeseparing official at the Treasury, who probably argued that as there were not many sergeants or sergeant-majors it would be possible to ignore them, whilst, as there were a great many private soldiers who might have some one to plead their cause, they could not be put to one side. I stand up, however, for justice for all ranks, whether in any particular rank there be ten or 10,000. I should like the hon. Gentleman to reply to this point.
There is another rather small matter, but one of some importance to the men who are concerned. I refer to the matter of artificial limbs. At the present moment the Ministry of Pensions undertakes—I think I am right in this—the repair and renewal of the artificial limbs of the private soldier and of the non commissioned officer, but it does not do the like for the officer. It simply provides him with a first set of limbs, and 742 then says, "You have got to keep up your limb or limbs yourself. "That is a considerable hardship for the officer, for this reason: I am informed that from eighteen months to two years after a limb —say, a leg—has been fitted, the man's own limb has shrunk to such an extent that, although fitted at Roehampton in the first instance with a good artificial limb, it has become useless, and an entirely new limb is required. The private does not suffer, because the State provides him with a new limb. I press the hon. Gentleman to put the officer on the same footing as the private soldier in this respect. It would not, I think, be a very expensive thing, and I am sure it would be a good thing. I am told by two or three friends who have lost limbs, and who have had personal experience, that at the end of about two years from amputation taking place, it is necessary to be provided with a new artificial leg, which, when fitted, practically lasts for a man's life.
§ Sir J. BARRAN
Let me associate myself most heartily with what has just fallen from the lips of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite in regard to our recognition of the Department which we are engaged in criticising this afternoon. If there is any need to remove the impression that because we have criticism to offer we are, therefore, failing in our recognition of the strenuous. and sympathetic work done by the Department under conditions of abnormal difficulty, I, for one, am very glad to take part in removing the impression. In any remarks I have to offer I shall certainly aim at offering them in a constructive and in no unfriendly spirit. Before I come to the chief matter to which I ask for a short while the attention of the House, may I, in passing, say how entirely I agree with two particular features in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe? I refer more especially to what he said on the question of apprentices and to what he said as to the removal of the whole pensions subject from the sphere of party political action. The case of the apprentices seems to me, as the hon. Gentleman truly said, a perfectly clear one. I do not see how anyone, by any means, can contend that an apprentice, or those dependent upon him should be less well placed, because he has chosen to make sacrifices 743 during his earlier years in order to make himself a skilled tradesman, than he would be if he had not made them; and nothing will persuade me that the ingenuity and the resources of the Department are exhausted until they have contrived, by some method, to place this matter on a perfectly fair and satisfactory basis. Then as to the keeping of pensions out of the sphere of political activity. I believe that it would be a disaster, and worse than a disaster, if we were to allow this matter to become the subject of political give-and-take, and of all those underground workings which have certainly taken place in other countries and on other occasions.
§ Sir J. BARRAN
I hope that my hon. Friend opposite (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) will give the clearest possible indication to the Committee that he agrees both in principle and in practice with that general proposition.
May I, for a very few minutes, say a word or two upon the general question of employment, so far as it falls within the responsibility of the Minister of Pensions? I am not going to refer specifically to the question of training, though I recognise the supreme importance of that. I would, however, invite the attention of the Committee to this broad fact, which seems to me one of first-class importance—that out of every four men who are being discharged at the present time from the Army, three look to the Ministry of Pensions for their re-employment, and, if through this Ministry they do not get employment, there is no one else to whom they can look for it. It is a rather striking fact, which certainly did not come home to me until recently. In view of my own experience, and I dare say the experience of many other hon. Members, of a certain number of men — it may be the number is not large, but certainly they exist—who are to be found drifting about the streets, applying here, there, and everywhere for employment, and declaring that they cannot get it, and saying that they are not getting their rights and so on—in view, I say, of that rather disquieting feature, I set myself to inquire exactly what is the system. The system, apparently, is something to this effect: There are. two streams by which men are 744 discharged from the Army into civil life. There is the smaller stream, which flows from the discharge centres in the various Military Commands. That stream is throughout under the control either of the War Office or the Ministry of Labour, and therefore does not come within the powers^ or the responsibility, of the hon. Gentleman opposite. But there are two features in the handling of that stream of discharged men which I venture to think are worthy of attention. The first is that there is in every Discharge centre a representative of the Ministry of Labour who interviews every single man, and passes on, in duplicate, a card giving that man's name, age, trade, and all other relevant circumstances to the local Employment Exchange at the home of the man. That is the first feature.
The second is that, when the local Employment Exchange receives that card, if the man fails to present himself for employment, he is communicated with up to three times, and not till then is he abandoned as a case that cannot be helped. It is my impression—my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—that these features are either entirely absent or very little present in the scheme of the Ministry of Pensions. I commend them very seriously to their notice.
The main stream of discharged men in this country, however, flows, not from the Discharge centres, but, to the extent of something like 75 per cent., from the hospitals, either military or V.A.D. hospitals, and it is that main stream with which I am more immediately concerned. In the pre-discharge period of the man who passes through these hospitals what happens? A certain amount of visiting is done by, the hospital visitors of the Ministry. A certain amount of distribution of pamphlets takes place. But the visitors may not be enough in number. They may not be suitable, by virtue of their own knowledge, tact, or temperament, to deal with cases — difficult and delicate cases. The pamphlets may not be forthcoming, or they may not be suitable or adequate. The visitors themselves may not be given a proper chance to know exactly who the men are who are to pass shortly out of hospital. I believe it is true to say that while there is much individual care and trouble during the pre-discharge period, no regular or systematic effort is being made at present 745 to find out during that period what are the needs, intentions, and possibilities of the soldier who is to be discharged. On this I desire to make two suggestions.
The first is that the War Office is largely responsible for the blame, so far as there is blame, for that state of things. The War Office, I can quite believe, does a great deal to discourage the indiscriminate visiting of men in hospital. It is part of their policy that men who may be discharged from hospital, not into civil life but back into the ranks, are not to be encouraged to set their hearts on civil life and employment, and I can well believe that facilities are sometimes withheld and often not very readily given to visitors of the Ministry of Pensions who seek to take information to the men in hospital. In addition to that, other men are being discharged from military hospitals all over the country. These hospitals are very numerous, and it is clearly very difficult for visitors, and for local committees from whom these visitors come, to find out, among such an enormous number of hospitals, just where the men are who require their help. It follows, therefore, that great assistance will be given to the Ministry of Pensions if the number of hospitals from which men are discharged into civil life could be reduced. I have reason to think that something has been already done in that direction, but, I believe, not enough. I hope that the Ministry of Pensions will press the War Office—and in this I think they will have the support of this Committee and of the country—so to arrange the discharges from military hospitals as to make it not only possible but easy for visitors representing the Ministry of Pensions to do their work among the soldiers who are passing through.
My second suggestion is that the War Office shall undertake to supply the Ministry of Pensions, as far as possible, with adequate notice of men for whom discharge is pending. The least that they can do, I should say, would be to give two or three weeks' notice. That is not too much notice in order to enable visitors to do their work. Then the whole system of visiting and of the material employed in the form of pamphlets and so on should be very carefully overhauled by the Ministry of Pensions. I do not believe that the staff is adequate. I do not think that the material is adequate. It is perhaps difficult for anyone who has not taken part in this work to realise how very delicate 746 and difficult it is, and how much depends on temperament, understanding, tact, and sympathy. I am not at all sure that the Ministry ought not to employ paid visitors —men or women -whose whole time should be specially devoted to the work of moving about among these men, and who are peculiarly fitted by their own knowledge and experience for doing the work. My right hon. Friend should consider seriously whether the staff should not be strengthened in that respect.
In the post discharge period, through which these men next pass, what happens? There are Local Pensions Committees, and if a man who is discharged is satisfied, or makes no protest, with regard to his pension, the probability is that he does not go to a Local Pensions Committee at all. Does the Committee take any step to find out whether the man has gone into employment or not? It is laid down as a distinct part of the duty of these committees that they shall take the initiative in doing that. My impression is that in the vast majority of cases the Local Pensions Committee does not inquire into the cases which do not come before it. That does not imply that these men do not find employment. In the present state of the labour market the probability is that they do. But here we see the importance of all that has been said about special training. The man very likely goes into employment, and in his present condition of mind and body, such employment as he can perform may be by no means the best employment for him. What may happen in future when demobilisation takes place and the labour market becomes slack or stagnant? The man who goes into an employment which, as the hon. Member for Attercliffe has said, is very often a blind alley employment, may, through lack of training, then find himself ousted by some more successful competitor. It is due to these men that now, while employment is good and opportunity is available—and nothing less is due to them—they should be given every possible assistance and encouragement to secure at the first the employment which will ultimately be best for them, and, therefore, best for the country. I think that it is no exaggeration and no injustice to the Minister of Pensions to say that at present there is little or no systematic effort on the part of the local committees to find out that every case that passes out of the Service is not only employed, but suitably employed.
747 On that I have two suggestions. The first is in reference to the joint sub-committees which have now been set up as a link between the Local Employment Exchange on the one hand and the Local Pension Committees on the other hand. These joint sub - committees, I understand, are operating now all over the country, and consist very largely of the same members who staff those two separate committees. They are a most admirable institution, and capable of doing most valuable social and public work I should like to see those committees extended both in power and in activity. There, again, I hope that my hon. Friend opposite will consider, and will suggest to the Ministry to consider, whether those committees might not even include certain paid members whose (special functions would be to visit men and get into touch with them in various ways and make sure that they are happily and suitably placed as regards their employment.
There is one final suggestion, and then I hope my hon. Friend will feel satisfied that I have carried out my promise that my criticism should be constructive. One of the obvious difficulties in this whole question of employment is that so many Departments have a hand in it. There is the War Office, whose concern is with the soldier to be discharged, and whose concern is, moreover, for its own credit, if for no other reason, with his happiness and welfare after discharge. There is the Ministry of Pensions, through whose hands such a large proportion of the discharged men pass. There is the Ministry of National Service, to whom it is of the utmost importance that every man coming out of the Army should be as efficient a workman for his country as is possible. There is the Ministry of Labour, whose task it is to place the man, and there is the Ministry of Reconstruction, which is concerned with these problems in a general way. I believe that it is the case,—and if I am wrong in this, I can be corrected—that these Ministries, all concerned in one way or another with the discharged soldier and his employment, have never met once in conference on that subject. I have made inquiries and cannot hear of a single case in which they have put their heads together for the purpose of exchanging information and finding out what they should do which might be of advantage in carrying out this work. At any 748 rate, if there has been no such conference,. I would suggest that such a conference could do no possible harm, and might be productive of a great deal of good by speeding up and leading to a better understanding, and I would urge it most cordially upon the attention of the Ministry in the interests of the discharged men and of the country as a whole.
Sir MONTAGUE BARLOW
I have listened with a great deal of interest and satisfaction to the speech of the hon. Member opposite. One of the great complaints which we have, so far as we have complaints, in connection with the whole question of pensions, is that, though a great deal has been done in the way of improving detailed points of maladministration, there seems to be a very considerable want of vision about dealing with the problem as a whole. I suppose that in a case of this kind the Minister who is responsible for the Vote generally comes in for more kicks than half pence. I do not want to administer either the one or the other unduly. So far as I have any contribution of either to make, it would be rather in the direction of giving a few halfpence, because I do think that we are greatly indebted to the present Minister —and in saying this I do not wish to cast any slur on his predecessors—for infusing a new flesh-and-blood spirit into the administration of pensions. But while I do not want to administer any kicks, I do wish to draw attention to a few points of administration which still seem to me to be unsatisfactory. I shall do so very rapidly, because a good many of the points have been touched on already. But it is only by the cumulative drawing of attention to these points that a remedy is-achieved in the end. Before I sit down I desire to draw attention to one or two broad points of principle with regard to which the administration of the whole of this matter is at present in an unsatisfactory condition. But, first, I will take one-or two points of detail.
I am sorry to say that we have still to grumble about delays of administration. It is all very well for Gentlemen here at Westminster, who have still something left in the way of banking accounts, and some background to their lives, to view with a certain amount of. I will not say complacency, but at any rate with an absence of vexation, any delay that takes place, but for a person living on weekly wages, who has no background to his life, such delay is an appalling thing. it 749 is all very well to tell him that such-and-such a form has been filled up, but, unfortunately, has been lost, but that another form can be supplied. It would not make much difference if it did not matter whether the weekly income comes in regularly every Saturday or not, but it is an appalling hardship in a case in which, if the weekly money does not come in at the end of the week there is nothing but starvation to be faced. The delays that occur are such that I do think that a remedy is possible and must be found. Take the question which has been referred to already, the question of appeal to Judge Parry's Committee. The position of that Committee is a little difficult to understand. I have never been able to find under what Warrant or Treasury Regulation it is constituted. I understand that at present it is in a somewhat fluid condition, but I also understand that it does deal with what I may call the question of attributability. Unfortunately, a great many men are sent away without the proper form coming through from Chelsea, dealing with the question of the circumstances in which the man is discharged. In other words, the question of attributability ought to be settled on that form. It is not, and when the form is not properly filled up a delay occurs, very often of three or four weeks, before the form is sent back to Chelsea. When filled up, it is sent down to the local committee. Then inquiry has to be made into the case. That again causes delay. Then the appeal goes to Judge Parry's Committee, and it is no exaggeration to say that the delay in many cases on a matter of appeal which ought not to involve any great difficulty is from three to six months.
Take another cause of delay, namely, that of providing adequate sanatorium accommodation. I do not want to elaborate that point, but I do not wish it to be understood that I do not think it is a real grievance, for it is a real grievance. There is not enough sanatorium treatment; it is not given quickly enough, nor is it long enough when secured. I agree that this is not a subject which comes directly under the Ministry of Pensions, but I urge the Department to give its assistance where it can. Then, again, there is great delay in reinstating men, on leaving the Army, in regard to their insurance. The system which is pursued in the Navy is better than that which is followed in the Army. A man who enters 750 the Navy has the name of his society registered at the time of his entry into the Service, and this is notified at the time of the man's discharge, and he is consequently reinstated in his position in the society at once. Unfortunately, where a man leaves the Army there is no similar machinery supplied, and it may be that the man has even forgotten the name of the society in which he was insured, with the result that there is great delay before he can again take up his position as an insured person. These are delays which are perfectly remediable, and ought to be remedied. There are other cases of real administrative hardship. We have already had reference made to total disability pensions, in connection with which the persons concerned have been docked of 50 per cent. of their sickness benefit. The man who is so docked is not only hurt, but he feels that he is the subject of a gross injustice by being deprived of something for which he has paid. He thinks why does he not get a proper return for what he has paid, that this was a matter of bargain, that he had paid so much—9d. for 4d., or 2d., or 3d., as we used to hear—that he had paid his contribution, and that yet he was denied half of his sickness benefit. Of course, in sanatorium treatment it means, in many cases, that not only half but the whole benefit disappears, and men so circumstanced must feel it a real grievance that they should be deprived of something for which they have actually paid.
Reference has also been made to the question of supplying surgical aids, and on that I do hope something will be done, and done quickly, for in many cases the delay in providing these surgical appliances is a real grievance and hardship. Then again there is the subject of treatment and training. The whole question of treatment is a difficult one; there can be no doubt about that. The Minister of Pensions has inaugurated a scheme which I think it on the right lines. He says to a man that there "shall be no compulsion, but we want to make the training so satisfactory that from your point of view you will gladly take it up. "I believe that is. a right policy to adopt. I fear, however, that in the present state of the labour market the facilities offered, or if you like to put it so, the proposals put before the men, are not sufficient, in the case of one with 27s. 6d. a week, plus the children's allowances. We should not overlook the 751 fact of human nature, and of the likelihood there is of a man saying that he could make more in an unskilled blind alley employment without any training. That is an unfortunate fact, and I grant that a man ought to take a wider view than that. Though there is a possibility of making £210s. or £3 a week now, a man will not be able to do that when the labour market becomes fully stocked, and the endeavour should be made to get training now. Unfortunately human nature is not so constituted as to get beyond the fact that the bird in the hand is more worth while than the bird in the bush. There is no doubt that the arrangements which at present exist to induce men to take up training are not going so well as could be desired, but all that has already been emphasised this afternoon. All these questions of security of pensions, security of treatment, and of training, can readily be summed up by the use of the French word rééducation. What is needed is that we should help men by training and so forth to enter upon a really active life and to take their place in the body politic. That can only be done if the burden of life be so adjusted for them that they can have suitable and satisfactory work, because no man leads a satisfactory life unless he gets work which is suitable to him, and in regard to which he feels himself fully qualified.
Very little attempt has been made to consider the whole subject of employment, and I think the previous speaker put the real fact when he stated that the local committees have not se is in of the men, because if a man is satisfied with his pension, the committee do not carry out that portion of their functions which requires them to see what the pensioner is doing, and what is the proper policy to be pursued with regard to him. I would like to know what is the policy of the Ministry with regard to the whole of that question. Are they going to say that it is not their job, and that it was really a matter for the Ministry of Labour? If that is what we are to understand, then we can begin by going to the Minister of Labour. Or are the Ministry of Pensions going to say that to-day is too early a day to deal with the matter in so large a way. Or, again, are they going to say that this is a matter entirely for the local committees. If they are going to say that all these steps have to await the action of the pensions committees, then I sup- 752 pose we shall have to wait to see what are the views of those committees. But I suggest to the Minister of Pensions that now is the time to deal with the question in a broad and general way for the whole country, and my view is that they have a great opportunity of doing that at the present time. But if they are going to try and throw the responsibility on somebody else, either the Labour Ministry or the pensions committee, I do not think that satisfactory results will be obtained. Obviously, if you leave the question of employment to local pensions committees, you cannot deal with the matter in a national way. It is quite obvious that this question must be dealt with in a national way, for employment varies at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. While at one time there may be a demand for labour in the North, there may be a demand elsewhere at other times. If the employment of discharged men is to be dealt with properly it must be dealt with as a whole. I do not say that it could not be dealt with locally as well. The whole principle of government in this country is that the localities deal with details and the central authority lays down broad and general principles. I submit that the Ministry of Pensions should take up the burden of laying down broad general principles.
We have heard a good deal of what is being done in Lord Roberts' Workshops, where excellent results are being obtained by actually employing men under arrangements whereby he can be engaged at once at not less than £l per week, with the prospect of advancement as he becomes more efficient. There are certain training centres where men are taught the boot trade, and other trades, and so on, but there is not enough of that. There seems to be no general policy, at any rate, I have seen none, as to how men are to be dealt with, how they are to begin, and whether the onus is to be thrown on the employer to take so many men, although they are not, strictly speaking, remunerative, or what is to be done. I admit that this is a difficult subject to discuss, and that one's words are liable to be misconstrued, but I join most heartily in what was said by the Minister of Pensions about insisting that men should not be exploited by bad employers merely because they have got pensions, and, above all, that the fact of a man having got a pension should not be used 753 to drive down the standard of payment, or to upset the principle, so generally accepted in this House, of a living wage. Still, I would point out that we have to look upon this whole subject from the point of view of the stern facts of life. It can hardly be thought that the injured man is as efficient as a man who is uninjured, and the time will come, with the labour market fully stocked, when pressure will be put upon employers by insurance companies not to take on those who are in any way injured. We have had adumbrated, time and again, though nothing effective has been done, the establishment of commissions or committees—as under the Whitley Report— in all parts of the country, of employers and employed, who will deal with this question of employment, and I hope that something will be done in the same direction and in the same spirit as have guided the steps that have been taken under the Report of the Whitley Commission.
It must surely be obvious that if a man has lost an arm or a leg, his work cannot be so remunerative as if he were sound. No doubt he is capable of a great deal of work, and whatever work he does must be properly paid far. We want his work to be properly paid for, every ounce of it, quite irrespective of his pension; but we must recognise the stern fact that the work of the injured man cannot be so remunerative as that of the sound man. The arrangements under which injured men can be employed should be considered, with good will, both by the employing classes and the trade unions, and I think there ought to be set up—I understand it is being done—bodies of employers and employed to deal with problems of this kind. I think there is still far too much ignorance throughout the country of the work that is being done by the pension authorities, and of the facilities which the new Warrant permits for the payment of grants to which the men are entitled; and I would urge upon the Pensions Minister that he should exercise a little more of the virtue of publicity and self-advertisement. I do not mean self-advertisement of a personal character, but advertisement of what his Department is doing, and, above all, of the Regulations and of the opportunities which the new Warrant secures to the wounded soldier and to the discharged man, and their dependants. I do not presume to say how he should do it. A good deal might be done through the local Press, or by lectures up and down the 754 country, or through the hospitals. I rather welcome the suggestion that, in view of the very difficult nature of the work involved in the handling of cases of discharged men, or men about to be discharged, it might not be unreasonable to appoint specially suitable persons to visit hospitals, and, when a man is about to be discharged, inform him what his rights are under the Warrants, and how best he can secure the means of providing for himself according to the State Regulations in the life on which he is about to enter. There is a good deal of ignorance in many ways in regard to the liberal scales of allowances now secured by the State to our sailors and soldiers, and as the Minister has done so much to get those scales enlarged, and as he is still engaged in many rounds of single combat with that awful monster, the Treasury, it sterns only reasonable that where he has secured victory he should take steps to see that our men and their dependants are made fully aware of the advantages open to them, and that by means of the Press, the hospitals, or lecturers, full information is disseminated throughout the country with regard to the Royal Warrants and the terms they embody.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I agree with what has been said by the hon. Member who spoke last that the Minister is best helped by the cumulative evidence of support he gets from the House of Commons, and as I understand the Debate we have had this evening, its object has been not so much to criticise as to help the right hon. Gentleman's Department I wish to tell my right hon. Friend that the feeling of the country on this question is absolutely unanimous. The country is agreed in the desire that the nation, to the very full, should fulfil its obligations to those who have died or suffered in the national interest. The conscience of the nation has been aroused on this more than on any other subject, and those who have taken part in this Debate have desired to show the Ministers in charge of the Department that they have the country and the House of Commons absolutely behind them. We know that so far as they are concerned we are only pressing an open door. But we want them to help us to press the still closed door of the Treasury, so that further provision may be made to meet such cases as have been referred to in the course of this discussion.
There are three points which have been brought with which I wish to specially 755 treat. The first is that of administrative delay. I need not dwell upon that. We all know of the misery which may be, and is, brought into many homes by this delay, and we trust that the Minister will do his utmost to get rid of it. The next is the question of deductions while in hospital. I have had that brought to my attention again and again, and I sincerely hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us satisfactory assurances on that point. The third is the matter typified by what is known as the apprenticeship question. It is a question which has a wider range 'than the word "apprenticeship "implies. It applies to youths who are being trained for the scholastic profession, and there is no profession we want to help more than that to which those who are engaged in education belong. It applies also to those who are being trained for the ministry and in other paths of that description. It. falls cruelly hard on parents who would have done far better for themselves if they had put their boys direct into industry instead of considering their future. I think the Minister in charge should not be guided so much by the actual position as by the potentialities of these cases, and, while realising what parents under ordinary conditions would have been assured of had their sons been trained for an ordinary life, the Minister will, I hope, give us some assurance that he will take the wider view in these cases. This Debate will have given evidence of the feeling of this House and of the country, and I am sure nothing but satisfaction will accrue if the right hon. Gentleman can tell us that he intends to deal with the three points I have mentioned on the lines generally advocated.
§ Sir G. TOULMIN
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary, who is to reply, will understand that we entirely recognise the sympathetic attitude of both himself and the right hon. Gentleman the Pensions Minister in regard to this question. I wish to ask him particularly about one or two points, the first being the supervision of orphans and motherless children. Among the many important matters embodied in the Royal Warrant, the proposals for dealing with these children are the most notable. Those of us who have had to deal with children in this unfortunate position must recognise that there is a very great advance in the provision now made for them in comparison with what was made for children who were in a 756 like position in former days. But there is some danger in dealing with children who are deprived of their guardians at the present time, either by the death of the mother or by the death or absence of the father. I do not think we want them to be shovelled into orphanages, although I am connected with one or two such institutions and consider that the children are pretty well treated there. But it is better we should try to aim, if possible. at giving them some kind of home training under proper conditions. There is, of course, the danger that such children, may be taken in not for love, but for the sake of the money, and the more generous we are in the provision we make for them the greater is the danger in that respect, especially as, under the wise provisions which are now being laid down, these allowances may be continued till the child reaches the age of sixteen. Very great hardships may arise in individual instances where there is a solitary child in unfavourable surroundings who has not dared to complain of the treatment to which it has been subjected, and it appears to me there is room for a wise provision of guardianship for soldiers' orphans, and motherless children whose fathers are still serving. With regard to the pension of the soldier or the widow the recipient may well say, "It is my own money, let me do with it as I wish. "But the case is different with these children, who I consider are wards of the State; it is. therefore, our duty to see that the money we provide for them is duly expended upon them and that their future is properly developed. I do not like the idea on the other hand of any sort of official committee undertaking the supervision of the children. There might, however, be some sort of composite committee, largely composed of women and of representatives of the soldiers and sailors operating in a given area, which could regularly report as to the welfare of the children. I should like to know if such an idea has been considered by the Department and whether the inspectors appointed by the right hon. Gentleman to advise local committees have looked at the matter from that point of view.
I should also like to speak in support of several of the points which have been raised in the course of this Debate and particularly with regard to the apprenticeship question. My attention has been called to the case of a widow who lost her sole support, a boy appren- 757 tice, and who is suffering severely in comparison with neighbours who are receiving considerable sums. Other cases have also been brought forward, and I wish to press the cumulative effect of these cases on the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. There is also the problem of the half-disabled man, who cannot get half-employment. I think we should endeavour, as far as we can, to support him until he does get that half-employment, when we pay him for the other half. With regard to tuberculous cases, three-fourths of the cure is dependent on the treatment being immediate and special. The treatment should be given as early and as long as possible, and I am sure that that cannot be too strongly impressed on the Ministry. On the question of delay, I recognise in regard to Chelsea that there they are having thousands of new cases poured upon them and that their administration is scattered over a number of buildings. These facts may relieve the right hon. Gentleman of a certain amount of personal responsibility, but from Ministers generally we cannot accept excuses of that kind. We claim that, if the problem had been attacked earlier, these delays might have been avoided, and if a Minister, in enforcing his demand for additional accommodation, wants further support from the House it is his duty to ask for it, and I am sure he will get it. May I conclude with this general remark? The greatest economy that the Pensions Minister can exercise is expenditure on training until a man can get to work and reinforce the industrial life of the country. This expenditure is terminable and in the best sense it is reproductive, and none will be more freely sanctioned by the nation. Then, too, the better education of children will do a great deal for the next generation. These are two branches of the right hon. Gentleman's work which are entirely satisfactory, and will ensure for him the hearty support of this House.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I agree with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Thorne) that there are three or four matters of outstanding importance which have been raised by practically every speaker this afternoon, and it is impossible we should allow this occasion to pass without letting the Pensions Minister know that there is widespread dissatisfaction in regard to them. In the matter of delay I quite admit there has been 758 some improvement in the last few months. but there is still considerable delay, and I have frequently had brought to my notice cases where Chelsea have acknowledged their receipt, and yet, four or five months later, nothing further has been done. I have in my mind a case I myself submitted to the Pensions Minister last year as one of the gravest urgency It was the-case of a woman, the widow of a soldier, who is herself dying. She is the mother of eight children. Seven or eight months have passed since I submitted her case to the Ministry, and it is still unsettled. All that dying woman has with which to support her eight children, all of whom are under working age, is a grant of 10s. per week given by a local charitable organisation. Cases like that ought not to occur. I was amazed to hear the Pensions Minister say that he had now a staff of nearly 7,000 officials. In that case-there is no excuse whatever for these unreasonable delays. He told us that members of his staff were being taken away by other Departments. Surely it ought to be possible for the Ministry of Pensions to afford to keep an efficient staff, seing that its work is fully as important as that of other-Departments. I want to say a word or two on the question of appeals. I am afraid that this branch is not working satisfactorily, and that the establishment of local referees has not effected the purpose which was aimed at.. These referees are, in a sense, Government officials. I believe they are paid by the Government. They are paid out of public funds for each case with, which they deal, and I would like to suggest to the Government whether it is not possible for some change to be made and whether the opinion of an independent doctor—say, the private medical man of the disabled soldier, could not be called in for consultation, and some importance be attached to the opinion that that man may have upon the case. That, I think, would be valuable from many points of view. The opinion of the man's own private doctor who knew him before he joined the Army would be much more valuable than that of a referee who makes a casual examination of a man and knows nothing at all about his previous medical history. There is just one further point with regard to these medical examinations. I have had a good many complaints about the lack of comfortable 759 accommodation, in the examination rooms. These men are called up for examination and have to wait very often in a cold and uncomfortable room. They may be suffering from some chest complaints or other diseases, and they often experience serious inconvenience and serious consequences on account of the want of sufficient accommodation when under this examination. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Pensions will do something to improve the co-operation between the local pension committees and the central Department. He admitted this afternoon that the local pensions committees appear to be unaware of the extent of their powers. Realising, as he does, the situation, it is hardly necessary for me to express the hope that he will press forward a reform of this description. He has, as I understand, appointed inspectors, and, if I am correctly informed, it is his intention to send round these inspectors to the local pensions committees and to make them more acquainted with their powers. Just one word about these inspectors. I think the right hon. Gentleman has appointed about seven. A number of them, I believe, are discharged soldiers, but if my information is correct —I may not have been accurately informed —they are all discharged officers.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
A large proportion of them, at all events. I hope my right hon. Friend will look round and see if it is not possible to find among discharged privates men who may be suitable for work of that kind. I do not know that there remains much more for me to say, except to associate myself with what has been said by so many speakers this afternoon with regard to apprentices, and in this matter I know I have the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman. We have brought this very important matter to his attention on previous occasions, and I know he agrees with our point of view at any rate. The difficulty, I understand, is the Treasury, and I take it from what the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech this afternoon that he is inviting the House of Commons to express its views on this question. He will be able, after this Debate, to go to the Treasury and tell them what so many Members have said in expressing the feeling of disaffection that exists in the country, and in his most forcible, sledge-hammer manner to tell 760 them that there is going to be a row unless the Treasury concedes his demands in regard to this matter. There is, perhaps, no other matter connected with pensions about which I get so many complaints as that, and I always feel that those who make the complaints to me have real, substantial ground for their grievance. If the right hon. Gentleman is setting to work to secure a reform in this direction he will remove a genuine grievance, and will do an act of justice to a very large number of people in this country. I have only this other word to say—I repeat it because the Minister of Pensions was absent from the House when one or two other speakers referred to it—and that is that I hope he will not regard our criticism as in any sense captious. He recognises that it is the constitution and privilege of this House of Commons to take advantage of the Vote for the airing of grievances and to make an attempt to get them remedied. We do appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has done, and we hope that the criticism we have offered this afternoon—indeed, I am sure we may take it that it will—will be taken in the spirit in which it is offered, and that, instead of dispiriting him, it will be an encouragement to him to press forward, if possible, with still greater vigour and energy to make his pensions administration work a real model.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
At this late hour I do not propose to cover any ground which has already been covered by previous speakers. I may say that when I first rose I had quite a list of subjects to which I intended to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, but most of these have been more or less dealt with, and I now propose to touch on only two points. Before doing that I would like to associate myself with those who have acknowledged what has been done by the Ministry of Pensions. We have, a good many of us, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, been for a long time working and pushing for many reforms in connection with pensions. We have not got all we want, not by a long way, and we are not going to stop pushing until we do get what we want, but in the meantime I think it is only fair to acknowledge that we have had a payment of so much in the pound on account. I had the advantage of visiting last week that wonderful exhibition at the Central Hall organised by the Ministry of Pensions, and on the screen at the cinematograph exhibition which was held there, 761 showing all kinds of cures and assistance that may be given to disabled men, was flashed a message from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions, which, as far as I remember the words, was this:My inspiration for my pensions work arises from my sense of personal indebtedness to these men.May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that our criticism of his work arises also from our personal sense of indebtedness to these men, and that therefore he in his work and we in our criticism are really joining hands and keeping together for the good of the discharged soldier and sailor and their dependants, widows, and orphans.
I want to bring forward one very serious matter, and I should not be surprised if it astonished the right hon. Gentleman; it certainly astonished me. I received a letter a day or two ago from a local war pensions committee in which they conveyed to me information in regard to four cases where men are discharged under the heading of "Surplus to military requirements, "and other men are being discharged with an endorsement on their certificate to the effect that they are discharged in order to take up civil employment.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should have said that, but, as it happens, the local war pensions committee—I do not wish to contradict, but merely to explain—acting on the assumption that these men, like other discharged men, would be entitled to the 27s. 6d. per week for four weeks at least advanced to one of these men the sum of £l on account. The receipt for that was returned from the Pensions Issue Office, with a statement that the local committee was not entitled to make that payment because these men who are so discharged are not entitled to temporary allowance or pension. Yes, but surely that is a matter within the purview of the Pensions Ministry. At all events, it is a matter in which I feel entitled to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this is one of the occasions on which he ought to get up and kick against whatever Department it is that is discharging men under a totally new form of discharge, endorsing their certificates to the effect that these men are surplus to military requirements, and by that means 762 preventing the right hon. Gentleman and the Pensions. Ministry from giving them the assistance to which other men are entitled.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
I do not say they are invalided, but they are discharged. The man who is discharged as being of low physical category is entitled to 27s. 6d. a week for four weeks, I will not press the point. If the right hon. Gentleman tells me if that is not a point which concerns his Department but is a point which we ought to take up with another Department, all I can tell him is that I have already put down two questions for Thursday to other Departments on this subject, and that there are Members of this House who will not rest until this injustice is remedied.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
May I point out to my hon. Friend that we only deal with men who are invalided out of the Army; that is to say, discharged for some disablement? If they are discharged as surplus to military requirements, or even as time-expired, that has nothing to do with the Pensions Ministry; it is a matter for the War Office, pure and simple.
§ Mr. PENNEFATHER
We will take it up with the War Office then. One of these men was discharged suffering from a weak heart, and that, I think, it will be admitted is a disability. My other question is that of the lunatic soldier. I know it is a difficult and delicate subject, and I do not want to take advantage of the fact that some men, not lunatics, are being treated with what is considered in. some quarters to be great liberality in order that they may be induced to enter institutions and be cured of their ailments and become useful citizens. That is not my point. My point is that when the lunatic soldier becomes what is called a Service patient in a lunatic asylum it is assumed for all purposes that the man is incurable, and his wife is for all practical purposes treated as if he were dead, I cannot see, and many of those who have gone into this question with me are in agreement with me, why it should be assumed that because a man who is admitted as a Service patient in a lunatic asylum he should be regarded as having no possibility of recovering. The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary 763 to the Pensions Ministry was asked a question by myself not long ago about these lunatic soldiers. Another hon. Member asked whether a lunatic is not sometimes discharged from an asylum cured, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman replied that that is the case. But if it is the case, as of course it is, that many of these men are discharged as cured, why in the meantime should their wives be treated as widows and not receive the same generosity as the wives of other soldiers who are in institutions? What I submit, and it is my final word, is that when the soldier is entered in an institution as a Service lunatic, he should be regarded as being only temporarily insane for at least twelve months, that he should not be judged to be incurable until at least that period has expired, and that during that twelve months, when he is suspect or on probation, and when there is doubt as to whether or not he may be discharged sufficiently cured to return home, his wife should have the same privileges in every respect as the wife of a soldier temporarily in any other institution.
§ Mr. SUTTON
I would like to associate myself with the remarks by many hon. Gentlemen in this House as to the good work the Pensions Minister has been doing during his term of office. We all recognise that the Department has for many months past accomplished its work very well, but in other respects I regret to have to say, as other Members have said, it has not done so well. The Pensions Minister and his Secretary have been doing all they could in this matter, but there are one or two observations I should like to make regarding other questions, though I do not intend to deal in detail with as many as I had originally intended to, as some of the matters have been mentioned by other Members. First, I want to refer to a question which has been already mentioned—the apprentice question. I have in my hand a letter from a widow at Ashton, whose son has been killed. He voluntarily enlisted, and he was an apprentice. His mother is getting the magnificent pension of 3s. 11d. a week. I wrote to the pensions authority many months ago with regard to this lady—she does not live in my Division, and I do not know why she communicated with me. I never received an acknowledgment of the letter, and I thought it had been settled until a week or two ago, when I received another letter 764 from the lady indicating that nothing had been done in her case. She states that she has been to the local pensions committee, which I presume is at Ashton, that they have made inquiries from the boy's late employer, and that he has certified that had the boy been working now his wages would amount to 58s. a week. I suggest that in a case like that of a widowed mother, something more than 3s. 11d. a week should be given when the son has sacrificed his life in the interests of his country. This applies to a. great many cases already mentioned by hon. Members.
I have a number of other questions in my own district. In fact, in the same road in which I live myself in Manchester there is a case where men who have lost their only sons, who had made great sacrifices to keep their boys in school as long as possible, and had perhaps put them to some profession, so that when the War broke out these boys were not earning a very large amount in wages, with the result that in cases where these boys have been killed, the parents are unable to get anything from the pensions authority because they are not in impecunious circumstances, or infirm, or suffering from old age. These are great grievances all over the country. In the right hon. Gentleman's own Division of Gorton, a man I know very well, whose only son has been killed, came to me. He is an ordinary working man, a blacksmith, earning a reasonable wage at the present time owing to working long hours and to the war bonus and war wages, and because he is not in impecunious circumstances there is nothing for him. Something ought to be done in this case, and it ought not to be a question of a man being in impecunious circumstances when he has given his son to the country. Sometime ago I took up an important case which I mentioned in the House a few weeks ago, of a woman who had lost her only two sons, twins. In that case, because the two boys were not earning a large salary at the time, they voluntarily enlisted, she is only receiving one 4s. per week and nothing with regard to the other boy. I felt very aggrieved about this matter, and I wrote on one or two occasions to the Pensions authority. The right hon. Gentleman replied to me fully:I understand from my private secretary that you are somewhat troubled by the decision which I communicated to you on the 11th ins[...] 765 respecting the sad case of Mr. and Mrs. McBride, who have so unhappily lost both of their sons, William and James.He goes on to say:A mistaken conception of the nature of pensions accounts for the dissatisfaction which is apt to arise when, in cases where financial distress does not exist, small pensions based on pre-war dependence are awarded.Here we have 4s. in one case and nothing in the other, and I may mention that the father of these two boys is of military age. His wages to-day, after the Pensions authorities have made inquiries, are £3 5s. per week. The mother is paralysed, having to be wheeled about in a bath chair. I sent the right hon. Gentleman a doctor's note, which shows that the doctor has attended this woman since she was first paralysed, and pointed out that the death of these two boys was the cause of the paralysis. The woman has to pay for some one to attend her, and the doctor's bill is very large. Yet, because the husband is earning £3 5s. at the present time there is only 4s. allowed in the case of one of the boys and nothing in the other. The right hon. Gentleman says in his letter that obviously no monetary grant can compensate Mr. and Mrs. McBride for the terrible loss they have sustained. Everyone knows that quite well. At the same time, I am of the opinion that if 5s. each in these cases had been granted for the loss of these two boys, it would have set the minds of these people at rest. Those are cases which apply all over the country, and which are causing disaffection all over the country. I have no need to tell the right hon. Gentleman of the disaffection which exists on account of the way these people are being treated. They believe they are being treated very shabbily, and we are constantly getting complaints.
Then, again, I have a copy of a letter to the Minister of Pensions from the manager of a large controlled establishment in my Division with regard to the employment of discharged soldiers. I know of many cases similar to this, because I have been met in Manchester by employers of labour telling me they had taken back, or had started men, who have been wounded, at a reasonable wage, and then perhaps after six months those men have been re-examined. It has been stated in the past—I do not know what takes place to-day—that they have been asked the amount of money they have been earning, and their pension, perhaps of 12s. a week, has been reduced to about 6s. 766 or 8s. a week. I have been told by many managers of this same thing happening. This is a letter from the manager of a large controlled establishment in Manchester. He says:We have endeavoured from time to time to utilise the services of discharged soldiers, but up to the present our experience has been somewhat disappointing. In many cases the men are not always in the best condition physically for performing the laborious work wh.ch is the rule in our works(this is a large iron works). They are then pestered by the local pension officials, and as soon as there is the slightest suspicion that these men earn their full week's wage, their pension is at once docked.
§ Mr. SUTTON (continuing)
There is, therefore, no incentive to put themselves about and to qualify for permanent work. We are strongly of the opinion that the policy which follows the men more closely than if they were ticket-of-leave men to ascertain what their earnings are, as a pretext for reducing their pension, is entirely wrong, and that all discharged soldiers should have a definite minimum period in which, in matter what their earnings are, their pension at the time of discharge should be secured to them. Then, after that, when they have proved their capacity, their pension might be reviewed. The present policy is satisfactory neither to the men nor to their would-be employers.I do not know whether pensions have been docked or not, but I have had scores of cases that I have taken up with the pensions authority of men who have had their pensions reduced from 12s. to 8s. and 6s. 6d. per week. Then I want to say a word about people who do succeed occasionally with their pensions, perhaps after a big amount of correspondence, and who do not always get their back money. I have a letter here from a woman whose case I took up. The matter was in hand for many months in my district. The pension authorities declined to do anything. Ultimately they decided to give her a pension, but she was left without any money for eighteen months after her husband had died from wounds. Another case I have here is that of a man suffering from neurasthenia after discharge from the Army. They wanted to give him a gratuity of £7 10s. He appealed against it, and, after a time, his pension was increased to 8s. 33. per week, and I believe he has 27s. 6d. a week for a certain time.
I do hope the Pensions Minister will do what has been suggested by other hon. Members and get at the Treasury a little, and see whether something cannot be done 767 for these people who have given their sons, and who are not, as the Pensions Department say they should be, in impecuniary circumstances. One wonders what that means, and whether they should practically be on the doorstep of a workhouse before they are in such circumstances, or whether they are to be infirm or suffering from old age. I may say that even at our miners' conferences many of our miners have complained from time to time that nothing is being done in this matter. Therefore, while I appreciate what has been done, I trust that the Pensions Minister will do all he possibly can for the apprentices or dependants of apprentices, and for others who are complaining. I have said many times during this War that if we are to win this War we must keep the people with us, but if people are treated like they have been in the past by the pension authorities and by other Departments in the State, it is bound to cause disaffection, and we shall not be able to keep them with us as we should like to do. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister of Pensions to do all he possibly can in this matter, because he well knows that nearly all members of this House have the same questions to deal with in their constituencies, and it is not right, because a certain individual is prepared to make sacrifices, while another is not, that the individual who makes those sacrifices should suffer in the end by being debarred from a proper pension.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions will be thoroughly satisfied from the expressions of opinion which have been given on the floor of the House to-day that he can go to the Treasury with the full assurance that on the apprentice question he has the House of Commons solidly behind him. I hope he will be in a position to indicate that we are all united upon the question, that we have all had very urgent representations from our own districts on the subject, and that the nation is undoubtedly prepared to shoulder additional burdens to meet this important point. I should like also to say that, while all of us here are undoubtedly in a position to mention a number of cases—a large number it may be—that have come to our notice where there has been unfortunate delay—painful cases, I admit—I do not think it is fair to the Minister of Pensions that we should dwell upon that on this 768 occasion, but that we should keep in view the tremendous number of cases with which he has had to deal, and that we should give him and his Parliamentary Secretary the utmost credit for the real sympathy which they have shown in dealing with these cases. I should like to take this opportunity of paying my tribute to him and his Parliamentary Secretary for the great consideration they have shown in dealing with cases I have submitted, and I am sure that has been a common, experience of other Members in the House, who feel that since those two Gentlemen came into office everything has been done as far as possible to meet the difficult cases that have been submitted to them. I rise only to deal with one point, which is really a Scottish point, and which affects the discharged sailors and soldiers who are being specially trained for certain callings for which they are suited. I refer particularly to the training of discharged disabled sailors and soldiers in connection with afforestation in Scotland. That is a very important Department of work in connection particularly with the reconstruction proposals. In Scotland we are looking forward to the afforestation of very large areas at a very early date, and a large number of proprietors in Scotland have already signified their desire to place their land at the disposal of the country in order that afforestation schemes can be carried out. There have been a number of instances recently in which individual proprietors have come forward. The point I should like specially to make to the right hon. Gentleman is that everything should be done at the present moment to encourage discharged sailors and soldiers to take up the work of training at the earliest possible moment. We have to go through a considerable period of preparation before these men are fit to undertake skilled work. It takes some time before they can be passed through the schools of forestry or through the practical training which is necessary before they become fully equipped for the work. I understand that there is some difficulty at the present time in getting men to come forward to undertake this work. I believe that the Board of Agriculture in Scotland have already got a scheme for training discharged Service men, that the local pension committees select individuals, and that the selected men are placed on one of the estates made available for the scheme by the proprietor, and that there 769 is a school of practical forestry being set up in Perthshire at Dunkeld, the Duke of Athol and Colonel Stewart Fotheringham having agreed to co-operate in giving the necessary facilities for practical training in their woodlands and nurseries. Is it possible for the right hon Gentleman to give us some indication of the number of men who can be obtained or who at the present time are volunteering for this particular work, and whether any special inducement can be offered to them to undertake this work for which they are specially fitted? Many of them would benefit in health by outdoor work and training. It would be a permanent occupation so far as Scotland is concerned and it has considerable attractions if they were brought home to the men.
In regard to the soldiers and sailors suffering from tubercular complaints, we have in Scotland, at Hairmyres, a sanatorium which has been specially equipped for that particular purpose, and I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary, who have visited the place, whether the Ministry can see its way to assist us in regard to a difficulty which has arisen there in connection with the completion of the buildings, a number of tradesmen having been called up by the Ministry of National Service. There we have perhaps the overlapping of Departments; but I am quite sure that a word from the right hon. Gentleman that these buildings must be completed at the earliest possible moment in order that the soldiers may be treated for tubercular complaints would have the desired effect, and I appeal to him to intervene in the matter. At that particular centre provision is made for training soldiers in the different classes of forestry work, and it is very essential that at the earliest possible moment facilities should be provided so that the training may proceed. I have referred specially to forestry training. Of course there are other aspects of training, horticulture and so on, which are very important. I think that forestry presents one of the most attractive and one of the most useful occupations for the future of many discharged and disabled soldiers, and I hope we may receive some assurance that every effort is being made to interest the men in that work and that every opportunity is being afforded to them to take it up at the earliest possible moment.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH - BOSCAWEN
I will reply to the best of my ability to some of the points that have been raised. I should like to say that my right hon. Friend and myself recognise the very fair and friendly spirit in which practically all the criticism has been made. We realise that constructive criticism is very useful and that, speaking generally, the House appreciates the fact that notwithstanding great difficulties and notwithstanding the fact that administration has not been altogether satisfactory in the past, my right hon. Friend has made great efforts to improve the administration and has infused a vigour into pensions administration which is generally appreciated both by the House and the country. One criticism was made early in the afternoon which was rather interesting. That was a criticism not of my right hon. Friend but of the House. It was to the effect that the House was empty while the Pensions Vote was being considered. I cannot say it is particularly full at the present time. I take that to be a great compliment to the Pensions Ministry. If we had made such awful mistakes as we are sometimes credited or discredited with, I think the House would have been full of Members prepared to urge their complaints. Inasmuch as the House is so empty it shows that the amount of real grievance—and I admit there was a great deal of real grievance a year and a-half or two years ago—has largely disappeared, and I think my right hon. Friend may accept that as being largely due to the success of his administration.
I cannot deal with all the points brought forward, but I will deal with one or two of the more important ones. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Sutton) quoted a letter which seemed to indicate that when a man has got a well-paid job his pension is reduced. Let me assure my hon. Friend and the Committee that such a thing is absolutely impossible at the present time. It is quite true that under an old, and I think very unwise, Warrant which was promulgated, I think in 1915, when pensions were reviewed, account had to be taken by the reviewing officer of the earnings of the man. That was swept away by what I call the Barnes Warrant, and now a man's pension on review, just as his original pension, is fixed simply and solely on the degree of his physical 771 disablement. Medical boards are not allowed to ask the question what a man is earning.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
If they do they are breaking our Regulations, and if they are reported to us we will take good care that they do not do it again. If my hon. Friend (Mr. Sutton) will permit me to see a copy of the letter he has quoted I will take care that the matter is inquired into, because I can assure him, and the country generally, that in fixing pensions or reviewing them no account whatever is taken of earnings, or is allowed to be taken, by a medical board, by an awarding officer, by the Pensions Minister, or anybody else. In regard to the question raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Duncan Millar), that we should do what we can to support forestry, let me say at once that we realise the value and importance of that training, especially for men for whom it is best that they should have an outdoor life. Schemes of training are left to our local committees, and if they are put before us we shall certainly consider them in the most reasonable light. I cannot give any figures as to the number of men likely to undertake this work. We have not found it easy to get men to enter outdoor pursuits, and industrial training seems to attract them much more; but if any reasonable scheme can be put up in regard to forestry we shall try to carry it out, whether it is at Hairmyres or anywhere else.
§ Mr. MILLAR
In regard to those suffering from tubercular complaints, could not some effort be made to associate them with forestry under the scheme of treatment?
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Certainly. We have paid a great deal of attention to farm colonies for men suffering from tuberculosis. In cases where men have undergone treatment in a sanatorium and who by remaining another year there could be improved in health we have encouraged them to go on for another year and learn a trade. We have established two such farm colonies already, one in Scotland, near Edinburgh, and we have others under consideration, because we believe that although sanatorium treatment does not always lead to a complete cure, another year under healthy surroundings may cure a person, and we are 772 only too willing to consider any schemes of that sort. May I say that where those schemes are undertaken the whole cost of the additional treatment is borne not by the Insurance Commissioners, but by the Pensions Ministry?
I now come to one or two points raised by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). I do not think my hon. Friend was altogether fair to the Pensions Minister, for he belittled what he called the Hodge Warrant, under which he stated there were only three changes. As a matter of fact there are more like fifteen or sixteen changes, some of them of great importance, which were not mentioned by my hon. Friend. There is the rate for motherless children. Is that nothing? It used to be 7s. for the first child and 6s. for the second. Now it is 10s. for the first, 9s. for the second and the remainder. Is it nothing to look after these motherless children? I think it is a matter of great importance. The rates previously allowed were quite insufficient, and my right hon. Friend has done a very great thing by allowing payments which will secure the proper treatment of these motherless children.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
It is quite different to the ordinary children's allowance. The hon. Member did not refer to the fact that parents' pensions can be given to each parent, in some cases up to the amount of 15.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Yes, but that was not the case before the Warrant of my right hon. Friend, and that is a substantial improvement which the hon. Member for East Edinburgh did not mention. There is another important change. The Committee probably knows that for some time past we have been providing treatment not only for attributable but for non-attributable cases, but allowances have not been paid to the families during the treatment in non-attributable cases. When these men wanted treatment badly, they would have been willing to take it if there had been any means of supporting their families while they were in these institutions. Under the new Warrant of my right hon. Friend family allowances can be paid to 773 the wife and children while the non-attributable man is receiving treatment. I do not think it is fair to belittle what my right hon. Friend has been doing, and to make out that his Warrant only makes three changes when there are a large number of improvements which the hon. Gentleman omitted to mention in his speech.
I come now to the question of delays. We have heard a good deal about delays, especially at poor old Chelsea. I was rather struck by the fact that some of the cases mentioned were rather ancient, and the hon. Member for East Edinburgh gave the instance of a man discharged in March, 1916. Surely my right hon. Friend cannot be responsible for that, because that was the year before the Pensions Ministry took over the work, and what we are trying to do is to improve things as they existed when we took the work over, and I venture to say that we are doing that. The hon. Member should be perfectly fair to the Ministry. It is a very difficult thing to make improvements, because the work has to go on the whole time, and while we are trying to reorganise, we have to deal with 5,000 or 6,000 new cases every week. If we could stop this work for a month and start afresh we could get on much more quickly, but we have to consider what would happen to the 5,000 or 6,000 new cases every week. We have to carry on our daily work while we are trying to improve the administrative machine. I was glad to hear one hon. Member who criticised Chelsea remark that Baker Street had been vastly improved. I remember when we heard very hard things said about Baker Street. The answer I have to give in regard to Chelsea is that we are employing the same eminent gentleman to reform Chelsea who previously reformed Baker Street, and if as I believe he was so successful at Baker Street I think he will be equally successful at Chelsea,
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
The hon. Member must not expect too much at once. The matter is complicated by delay in getting fresh accommodation, and it will not be complete until we have our new building at Burton Court.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I think it is one of those temporary things 774 which is likely to be permanent. When that building is finished I hope the reorganisation will be very effective. May I point out one or two reasons in regard to delay. The great cause of delay which brought hardship was that which took place while a man was waiting for his pension. There used to be a wretched temporary allowance of 14s. a week. I always said, and I know my right hon. Friend will agree with me, that the real hardship came in where there was delay in fixing the pension of a poor man who was only getting 14s. a week and no children allowance. But that has been removed by the new system under which when a man is discharged he will receive 27s. 6d. for four weeks, the last two weeks carrying children's allowance.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I will come to that point. Instead of getting 14s. the man will get with children allowance what is equal to a pension at the highest rate. Many of these men may get 20 or 30 or 40 per cent., or in some instances they may be non-attributable cases where there are no pensions at all, but gratuities or temporary allowances. Where there is delay, they will get a temporary allowance equal to a pension at the highest rate. It seems to me that we shall not have complaints of delay on this score. Delays will be rather popular than otherwise. At the same time, although it may be expensive, I think it is perfectly right and proper, because if there is delay in fixing a pension, delay which is either our fault or the fault of some other Government Department, it is absolutely wrong that a man or his family should suffer. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh says, "Why do you give separation allowance for two weeks? Why should a man get 27s. 6d. per week, plus his wife's allowance and plus his children's allowance, for two weeks and only 27s. 6d., plus his children's allowance, after two weeks? Why is the wife's allowance not continued? I can tell my hon. Friend why. The man during the first two weeks really gets more than he is entitled to, but it is impossible, from the administrative point of view, to stop a separation allowance except upon a fortnight's notice; and therefore, in order that a man should not suffer, we allow him to draw the whole thing. We allow him the extra allowance during the first two weeks rather than 775 make any deduction. It would be rather unreasonable to ask us to extend that, because, after all, the man is in exactly the same position as any man who gets an ordinary disablement pension at the highest rate.
It is said that there is hardship where a man appeals to Judge Parry's Court and where there is long delay in hearing the appeal. We hope by a new Regulation to meet that point. As the Committee knows, before any case goes before Judge Parry's Court it is investigated by the local committee. The local committee send the case to their medical referee, and they come to a conclusion as to whether the case is attributable or not. We are going to allow a local committee, where they and their medical referee agree that the case is attributable, to give a temporary grant in the interval between their finding and the final judgment on appeal. Gratuities are going to be paid as temporary allowances, according to the degree of disability, children being taken into account. If these gratuities terminate during this interval they will be continued until the case is settled. That will meet any hardship that arises where there is delay in the case going before the Appeal Court.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
No, we have altered the system whereby gratuities are paid. Supposing the gratuity was fixed, say, at £30, £10 was paid down and the remaining £20 was paid by weekly installments of £l. That has been altered. In future gratuities above a certain amount will be paid as temporary pensions or allowances, according to the degree of disability, with children's allowances. If such terminable pension or allowance comes to an end in the interval between the investigation by the local committee and the final settlement of the case by the Appeal Court the local committee will be able to continue the temporary pension or allowance until the case is settled. There is a third case where delay may make for hardship. It very often arises, and it is, I agree, a very hard case. It is the case where a man's disablement has been improperly assessed or where, as very often happens, he has got worse since his last medical board. He 776 can now go to the local committee who can send him before their referee, and he may certify, "This man has a 30 per cent. pension. He ought to have 60 per cent." In that case, under our present system the report of the referee is sent to Chelsea, and a new board takes place. The new board takes into account the opinion of the medical referee, and in all probability raises the pension. Delay occurs there, but we have given power to the local committees by means of temporary allowances to make up the difference between the pension that the man has got and the pension that the medical referee says that he ought to have. There again, I think the hardship which follows from delay is removed. I want to be perfectly fair to the Committee. We know there are delays, and when you consider the magnitude of the work it is impossible to prevent them altogether, but the delays are not always our fault. It is very easy to shuffle off responsibility on to other Government Departments, and there is nothing Ministers on this bench like better than to be able to say, "It is the fault of the War Office or the Local Government Board, or some other Department, "but as a matter of fact the delays that occur are not always our fault. Papers may come from the Record Office late or they may come incomplete, and we have to send back for them. Very often the papers we get indicate that the man ought not to have a pension, but we have a doubt, and we want to give the man the benefit of the doubt. We therefore ask for further information in the man's own interest. That causes delay. It may mean referring to a commanding officer in Egypt or Mesopotamia. Anyhow, it may mean long references. Delay, therefore, often occurs in the man's own interest in order to give him the chance of getting a pension for which otherwise he would be ruled out altogether. I can assure the Committee that my right hon. Friend and myself are very well aware of the imperfections of our system, but we are doing our very best to improve it, and if the Committee will give us a little more time I think by next year many of the defects will be found to have disappeared.
I would like to say one or two things about a point on which the hon. Member for East Edinburgh disagreed with and disapproved of my right hon. Friend. I refer to the question of charitable funds. What has my right hon. Friend done? 777 While getting much greater grants out of the Treasury for absolute boná-fide pensions, he has started a large fund outside the Warrant altogether to enable men who have been trained, and others also, to be set up again in their old trade or in a new trade where there is a reasonable chance of their being successful. What better object could there be than that? My right hon. Friend, going outside his duty as Minister of Pensions, is doing it because he thought it was work which would, so to speak, complete the work he was doing as Minister of Pensions. If he is willing to do it, and is doing it successfully, he ought to get nothing less than the gratitude of the whole Committee.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
That is a very big question, into which I cannot go. In all countries of which I know, and always in this country, charity and voluntary funds have been combined with public expenditure. Let me give two examples to show that there is nothing unprecedented in what my right hon. Friend has done. Take what we have done in this country with regard to hospitals. The War Office has started very great military hospitals at the public expense, but they have also availed themselves of the very large number of auxiliary hospitals—Voluntary Aid Detachment, Red Cross, and all the rest of them—the money for which was found privately. In that way they were able to cover the country with hospitals very much more quickly than they could otherwise have done, and they have diverted a vast amount of charitable money to a very good object. Let me take another case, drawn not from this country but France. I was reading the other day the most useful and interesting paper read at the Inter-Allied Conference by Dr. Bourrellon, the most prominent leader of education in France. He was speaking of the schools for training which had been set up in various parts of France, and he gave figures showing their cost and how their expenses had been met. I found that the total cost has been altogether, both for capital expenditure and for maintenance, about 50,000,000 francs, of which 30,000,000 francs came from charity and 20,000,000 francs from the State in various ways. That is not a matter of doing something outside what is laid down by the Act, That is a matter 778 of carrying out training which is regarded everywhere as a part of the duties of State. If France and other countries have availed themselves of the generosity of private individuals and voluntary funds, my right hon. Friend has tapped this generosity here and devoted it to a very good cause. I cannot agree for one moment with the criticisms made on him for it. I come now to the very difficult question of apprentices. It has been rather difficult in this Debate to ascertain whether hon. Members have been looking at the question from the point of view of the separation allowance or from the point of view of pensions or both.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I agree, but some hon. Members have spoken of one and some of the other. The point is that the separation allowance depends upon the pre-war dependence and the pension depends on the separation allowance. I need hardly say that I sympathise very much with the position taken up that it is very hard lines on a man who joined up voluntarily in the early days of the War that his parents should be treated worse than those of the man who was conscripted later on. Yet, if pre-war dependence is taken as the sole test, that is bound to follow. The question really comes back to the consideration of the separation allowance, because the pension depends on this. We can do this under our Regulations: Where a man was either apprenticed or a student—I would rather widen it and say that where he was earning a progressive wage—and it could be assumed that if he had remained longer in civilian life he would have been earning money and supporting his parents, in those cases we can, if it is impossible to maintain the home in its pre-war condition, make a grant.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Oh, yes, they are! I could give examples where they have been made. I saw the other day a long list of such grants which have been made in the city of Glasgow. We are told that there ought to be grants in every case where a man earning a progressive wage would have made contributions as soon as he was able to do so. If that is so, that is an argument not for a special grant from us, but for a separation 779 allowance for parents at a flat rate, which should be introduced by the War Office or the Admiralty.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Certainly it would be a flat rate for parents' separation allowance dating from the time the apprenticeship or whatever it was would have ended and from which time the man might be expected to contribute.
§ Mr. HOGGE
What is to hinder the Minister of Pensions issuing an Instruction to the local war pensions committees that they will, apart from any other consideration, in all cases give the separation allowance to the dependants of apprentices on the basis of the progressive wage which my hon. and gallant Friend mentions? What is the objection; what stands in the way?
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
No, we do not. We only supplement them. This really is fundamental. It is a new basis for separation allowances. I submit that it is a, matter which should be put to the War Office and the Admiralty, and, if the House so thinks, they should be pressed to make apprenticeship a ground for a general parents' separation allowance. If that happens, a pension will follow, because a pension will follow the separation allowance. I do not know that I can say very much more about that. Of course, when you come to pensions based on apprenticeship or a progressive wage, there is another matter to be considered It is quite true that these young men would have contributed to the family so long as they did not marry. What is to be the limit? The chances are that the majority of them would marry. Is there to be a parents' pension remaining for the whole life? I merely put that forward as showing that it is a very difficult question, that has to be thought out very carefully, because when these men marry the chances are that the support of the family ceases. My hon. Friend the Member for West Stafford (Captain Lloyd) spoke a good deal about delays. I have dealt with that already, but I must defend my Department from one charge which 780 seemed to be a rather remarkable one. The hon. and gallant Member was complaining of the number of correction slips, and so on, we sent out to local committees. Of course, as this work goes on, it is constantly growing; new ideas come along, and we are always trying to improve the machinery. But when we are told that 200 correction slips to the Instructions for training and treatment have been sent out, my answer is that my hon. and gallant Friend is not quite accurate, because the actual number of correction slips is only ten. Two hundred is an inaccuracy of which even the Ministry of Pensions themselves could not be guilty
The hon. Member (Sir H. Harris), who has always been a very good supporter and a splendid worker as the chairman of the London "War Pensions Committee, asked me what was going to happen to the neurasthenic cases at Golders Green. Undoubtedly a great many men suffering from shell-shock have received great benefit from the treatment there, but it is not ideal to have shell-shock cases in an air raid area, and now that we have a large number of other places for shell-shock cases all over the country there is no necessity to keep it open. But we are not going to shut it down altogether. We have another place at Maidenhead, where the cases now treated at Golders Green and in London and the Home Counties will, I hope, be treated away from the air raids altogether. In addition to that, we have a large number of other homes in all parts of the country, at Manchester, Leicester, Dublin, Belfast, and Edinburgh, and others preparing at Liverpool and Leeds, and I think we may claim that we have really made very considerable provision for these poor soldiers, who deserve all our sympathy and the kindest possible treatment. The hon. Member also spoke about the delay in giving treatment in sanatoria for tubercular cases. That is really a matter for the Insurance Commissioners, but we have done all we can to ensure prompt treatment of tubercular cases, because we make a grant of £10 to every single discharged soldier or sailor treated by the Insurance Commissioners in order that he may get priority of treatment. I do not think the provision of sanatoria in the country is sufficient, but it is not our particular job. In fact, we have no right to interfere in it, but we are doing all we can to accelerate the treatment of tubercular cases.
781 We have been criticised generally because when a man goes into an institution a deduction of 1s. a day is made from his treatment allowance for his keep, and we have been specially criticised because we do it in the case of the sanatoria. Let us look at it first from a general point of view. We raise a man's pension, whatever it may have been, to the highest rate, and that is the rate, with children's allowance, on which a totally disabled man is supposed to live, paying for his own food. Then we make a deduction of1s. a day for his food. There is not a single man who could live at home for a 1s. a day.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
No; I am speaking generally. I have not come to tubercular cases. I am speaking of institutions generally. In ordinary cases we provide the institution, we pay for the treatment, we give the man 27s. 6d., we give the wife 13s. 9d., and we pay the children's allowance, and we only make a deduction of 1s. a day for his food. It is a very liberal provision. But there is the point that in the case of tuberculosis the man is an insured person, and, so to speak, pays for his sanatorium treatment, and therefore it is argued no deduction should be made. There are two answers to that. First of all, we make a special grant of £10 from public funds in his case, which is not done in the case of any other person in a sanatorium. In the next place we raise the pension. Who else when he goes into a sanatorium has. an extra grant made to him by the Government? No one. Therefore I think we are entitled, although I admit that the case is not so strong as it is in the ordinary institution, to make this deduction for the man's food, which is a great deal less than the £10 extra which we pay for his treatment.
My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Ashley) raised one or two very interesting points. He asked why it was that training in hospitals was not compulsory. I only wish it was. It is a great pity that in hospitals, where there are workshops and so on, men are not compelled to go into them. It would occupy their minds and lay the foundation of a useful vocational training which might stand them in good stead afterwards, and it would really be an exceedingly good thing. But, after all, that is not a matter for us. These are men who are undischarged. 782 They are still soldiers, and it is a matter exclusively for the War Office. Then my hon. and gallant Friend asked, under Article 9, when a pension would begin. If a man is discharged, time expired, or invalided out, and afterwards suffers from some illness which he can trace to service, we can pay him a pension under Article 9. It will date from the time at which he establishes that he was disabled. It will not date really from the award. Of course, we have to be very careful in these cases, because a man may come up at any time and say, "I am suffering now from something which is the result of service three or four years ago. "We have to be perfectly sure in every case that the man can trace his disability to the service ho has undergone. Then my hon. and gallant Friend, and one or two others, have asked if I can give any figures as to the cost of the pensions administration. It is quite true we have a Token Vote and no figures have been quoted, and it is only right that the Committee should have them. The Estimate last year was £23,000,000. This year it is estimated at £46,000,000. The original Estimate was £41,500,000. The changes made by my right hon. Friend's Warrant come to £3,800,000. That makes a total of £45,300,000. Then you must add a certain amount for the extra provision made for old campaigners, and the total Estimate we bring out, therefore, is £46,000,000. Of course, that is based upon the assumption that the casualties this year will be very similar to those last year, but it must be obvious that all such estimates are very doubtful in character, and everything depends on the length of the War and the intensity of the fighting, and no absolutely definite estimate can be formed.
Sir A. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
No; I cannot give the figures without notice. My hon. Friend also asked why it was that whereas in the case of the men we pay for the renewal of artificial limbs, we do not in the case of the officers. I think the answer is fairly complete. It is this, Because the officer gets a wound pension and the man does not. The officer who has lost a leg is very much better off than his fellow officer who has not lost a limb, but has the same degree of disability. The wound pension, therefore, is intended to pay for the repairs to limbs, and so on, and 783 having regard to the very much more liberal treatment that the officer gets in the matter of his wound pension, I do not think that we ought to put the officer on the footing suggested.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
There is one very important point, if I may interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, to which I should like him to allude. That is the case of the partially-disabled men in former wars. He does not get any increase in his pension. There is also the other point as to why the widow of a non-commissioned officer, or a warrant officer has not been given the increase that has been given in the case of the private soldier.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
In regard to the latter point, I confess it is news to me; possibly the matter has been overlooked. Our work is so large that very often a point of that sort is overlooked.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I will look into the matter In regard to the old campaigner's Warrant, generally the principle upon which we have acted is that we say that every widow should have her pension brought up to the figure that has been indicated, and that, I think, is the most important thing of all. Then we say that where a man is totally disabled, and unable to do any work, or earn anything—where that is the result of the campaign—we will bring the pension up to the present total disablement pension. But we do not see the same necessity in the case of the partially-disabled man, where they were originally given pensions appropriate to their disablement, and, perhaps, later have been doing well. At any rate, we have not received complaints. We do think that in the case of the man totally disabled proper provision should be made for him. There is one other point in connection with the old Warrants. We shall have to consider to what extent we shall apply the thing to officers. Their position is very different. I can make no kind of promise as to what we may do, but the matter, I may say, is under consideration. The hon. Gentleman opposite referred to one or two matters of importance about unemployment. We quite realise that the finding of employment for disabled men is the matter of the greatest importance. The after-care of the discharged and disabled soldier and sailor 784 consists of three things: treatment where it is needed; training, where the man should have it; and, finally, employment. We have taken every possible step in the matter. In the first place, the Labour Exchange and the local war pensions committee are both notified that the man is about to be discharged. In the next place it is recognised that the Ministry of Labour has a duty to perform in relation to employment, and, not wishing to have overlapping, we have started joint committees wherever there is a Labour Exchange between the local committees and the advisory committee of the Labour Exchange. We hope and believe, generally speaking, those committees are working well, that the men are being looked after, and that suitable employment is being got for them. My hon. Friend, I think, put the question: Was it the duty of the local committees to look after every disabled man? My answer is emphatically, "Yes!" The local committee that does not look after the disabled men discharged from the Army, does not know what they are doing, and does not know whether they require treatment or training or how they are employed, is not doing its work properly.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I know that. I was also asked about the Appeal Court. Up to date the Appeal Court consisted of Judge Parry, an eminent soldier, an eminent sailor, two doctors, and a representative of the Labour party. Judge Parry has been recalled to his legal work in June. My right hon. Friend succeeded in obtaining the services of a very eminent lawyer, Mr. Adshead Elliott, who is conversant with the law of workmen's compensation, as chairman of the new Court. Mr. Bellamy will be vice-chairman. There will be four other members, who will be, I understand, discharged soldiers or sailors. The Court, therefore, will consist of six persons. The present Court has got considerably into arrears with its work. It is necessary, really, to have two Courts, and the intention is that these six persons shall divide themselves into two Courts, being interchangeable to a certain extent, so that there shall be uniformity of practice and sympathy between one and the other. There will be no doctors on the panel, but there will be doctors to advise 785 the Court. We hope in this way that the new Courts, sympathetic in their attitude and prompt in the action in the matter of appeals, which are growing at the present time, will before long work off the arrears and bring the thing up to date.
There is only one other point of importance that I have not dealt with—that is a question of the inadequacy of the training allowance. I am quite aware of the fact that a certain number of men who have been put into training have ceased to continue their training on account of what is really an inadequate training allowance, and we are most anxious that men who cannot go back to their own trades should undertake this training. We are at present in communication with the Treasury for the adoption of a plan which, I think, will meet the difficulty. The difficulty arises from the fact that the cost of living is now so high that a man, after having paid for his lodgings and so forth, has nothing left over. We have asked the Treasury—and I hope they will agree—to allow us to pay the cost of board and lodgings over 17s. 6d. per week, either in a hostel or in lodgings. This would mean that the man would have a clear 10s. per week left; and in the case of men who are living away from home, their wives would get the usual allowance, and the children, in any case, would get the full children's allowance. It must in this connection be remembered that, in addition to this provision, there is the 5s. bonus on the completion of training— that is to say, 5s. is paid for every complete week of training. It has been suggested that we might pay that during a period of training. I should be very sorry to do so. This 5s. bonus, paid at the end of training, is a very useful nest egg for the man when he goes back to work. It also steadies him and keeps him in training. I hope if we are able to get what we ask from the Treasury, whereby the excess over 17s. 6d. is paid, that we shall get over the difficulty that is now felt by many of the men.
There are two other things—in the great many points which have been put to me— which are matters of general principle which, perhaps, I may mention. Some hon. Members have said that there must be no party politics in this matter of pensions. May I say that I am in absolute agreement with that? Nothing could be more immoral than to try and exploit these gallant men for party purposes. We have nothing to do 786 whatever with any party organisation, or anything of the kind. I am sure the Minister and myself realise the difficulties of the work we have undertaken. It is not merely a question of pensions but a question of restoration. I sometimes think, when we hear complaints, and I know that there is justification for many of them, that we are crying too much about shillings and sixpences, and we are not paying enough attention to the great problem of the rehabilitation of these men. That, after all, is the great work. It is a matter of reconstruction, not waiting for the termination of the War, but going on daily. That is the side of the work that appeals most keenly to my right hon. Friend and myself, and if we can do anything not merely in the way of seeing that pensions are paid promptly and are proportionate to the disablement, but also towards building up these men once again and enabling them very often not only to do as well as they did before, but, notwithstanding their disability, to do better than they did before the War. If we can do that, and if we have the support of the House and of the country, as I believe we have, we shall not labour in vain.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
think that my hon. Friend was not in the House when reference was made to the increase in the rates under the new Warrant. We realise the great importance of this question. It is really a matter for the local committees to make the best arrangements they can. Very often the best place to send the children would be to the home of a near relation. In other cases they have to be sent to institutions. Some local committees make admirable arrangements with the very best institutions, but we are watching the matter very carefully, and I hope, now we have got a reasonable scale, that proper arrangements may be made in all cases.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
I should not rise at this late stage of the Debate except to call attention to what I regard as two rather important omissions from the speech of the Minister of Pensions. Before doing so I would like to say how much we appreciate the speech to which we have just listened from my hon. and gallant Friend, which I think fully sustains the reputation which he has in this House and in the country for being the right 787 man in the right place, because he has brought to the difficult task which he has undertaken a knowledge, sympathy, and experience, and a desire to approach these problems in a human spirit, which fit him admirably for the carrying out the work of this most difficult Department. With regard to the speech of the Minister of Pensions, I noticed in the first place that he said that he would welcome criticisms if they were helpful. I think he will be grateful to me for the first criticism which I have to make, which is this. He told us a great deal about what he had done, but he failed to say a word of recognition, thanks, or gratitude, to that vast army of voluntary workers, without whose able assistance his Department certainly could not have been carried on in the first instance, and without which it could not be where it is to-day. Before this Debate closes I hope that he will take the opportunity of saying something in recognition of their work.
I do not think he will be so grateful for my second criticism. Not a word was said about the recent Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. I happen to be a member of the Sub-Committee which went into the question of the Pensions Ministry, and, under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. H. Samuel), who is the Chairman of the Committee on National Expenditure, we went very thoroughly into the work of the Pensions Ministry. I think that neither the Pensions Minister nor the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, will complain of the manner in which those investigations were conducted. Still, I do think that, when a Committee is appointed by this House for the purpose of inquiring into all forms of national expenditure, and, if possible, of making recommendations for reform and saving money, and has reported, it is somewhat discourteous to the Committee itself, and neglectful of the wishes of this House, when a Debate of this character takes place, when a Department comes to this House and gives an account of its stewardship, not even to refer to the Report of the Committee and its recommendations. Therefore, even at this late hour I do wish to know what the Minister of Pensions has done with regard to the recommendations of that Committee? The recommendations to which I wish specially to refer are concerned very largely with 788 the work of these local committees. There have been several references to them this evening, and those who speak with greater expert knowledge than myself have drawn attention certainly to the disregard by the Minister of Pensions of the convenience of those committees, and I hope that the failure to refer expressly to that, work does not denote an attitude of indifference to a body of persons upon whom this Ministry of Pensions is dependent for eliciting some of the most important facts connected with its work, because the facts elicited by those local committees are facts upon which many important decisions are taken.
Possibly the reason that no allusion was made may have been that the right hon. Gentleman was afraid of what might be said by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who followed him. I noticed that when the hon. Member was addressing the right hon. Gentleman he wooed him in very dulcet tones, but, in the course of his speech, he did give us a specimen of his platform logic and methods which might have deterred the Pensions Minister from arousing the animosity of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh. The hon. Member referred to the work of the National Expenditure Committee in tones of considerable disapprobation. As the only Member of the Committee who has addressed this Committee on the subject, I am entitled to ask the Pensions Minister what he is doing about the matter? I do not think that he ought to be frightened by the criticism of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh into allowing these recommendations to be put away into a pigeon hole, possibly for the reason for which we are told other recommendations have been put away, that they are rather difficult to deal with. I hope that the Minister of Pensions will tell us what he is doing with regard to the work of the local war pensions committees. They want greater help, sympathy and expert assistance from the Ministry of Pensions itself, and I do not think that the position was really met by the appointment of the inspectors to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The Report of the Committee advised that there should be always in connection with these inquiries some officer at hand specially appointed to watch the interests of the State, and see that the right facts were brought out. So far as I know, nothing has yet been done in that direction. I hope, at least, that it is under 789 consideration, but I should prefer to hear that action has been taken to give effect to the recommendation, which I regard as a very important one.
§ Mr. HODGE
I think that my hon. Friend is wrong in saying that I omitted to say a word in respect of the many voluntary workers in the country, for I have my notes. With respect to the Committee on National Expenditure, of which the right hon. Member for Cleveland is the chairman, I agree with some of the recommendations of that particular Committee, but others of them I should fight to the death. But at the moment it is not necessary to fight them. We are in communication with the Treasury respecting them, and, until the negotiations are 790 completed, I think it would be inadvisable that I should say anything upon them.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 13th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at ten minutes before Ten o'clock.