HC Deb 18 December 1919 vol 123 cc837-9

I desire shortly to call the attention of the House to the cases of sailors and soldiers who have been injured in peace time. I understand that a new Warrant will probably be in preparation dealing with injuries sustained in peace time, and I hope that the case of the men for whom I now plead will be considered. The War pensions of the present War have been made applicable to past wars, and the seriousness of the case of those who have been injured can be shown by a few illustrations. One man was injured and lost his leg by the explosion of a gun on a battleship, which is coming very near to war conditions so far as the injury is concerned. I have inquired also into the cases of three other men who were totally disabled by injuries sustained in naval or military training or exercise. There is also the case of a man who is a hopeless and helpless cripple owing to an accident while on duty. There is the case of another roan completely crippled during engineering training in peace time. These men, who are hopeless and permanent cripples, are at present only getting 17s. 6d. a week on which to live. I hope the Pensions Ministry, which has gone so fully into the cases I have brought forward, and answered letters about them so rapidly, will take up the general case, because it is a very urgent and very deserving one.

The Minister OF PENSIONS (Sir Laming' Worthington-Evans)

These cases of peace-time injuries are not really within the present purview of the office I hold, but I am quite sure the House will sympathise with the view that some of these accidents are not very distinguishable from those occurring during the War. For example, there is the accident to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred of a man who lost his leg by the bursting of a gun even in peace time. These cases are not covered by the present Warrant. They are covered by Army Warrants. I think it is the Army Warrant of 1914 which gives the compensation which is intended to deal with this class of case. That Warrant has not been reviewed under the circumstances of the present financial conditions and the present value of money. I have had before-me several of these cases, and I can only say now that they are having consideration, and at some time or another—shortly, I hope—it may be possible to make some-announcement that they will be dealt with: in a spirit which is more in consonance, with the present value of money.


I had the responsibility of being a member of the Select Committee which dealt with Old Age Pensions. In that capacity I had brought-to my attention some very hard cases of pensioners, and I hope that to-morrow we shall hear of some improvement in regard to the rate of the pensions. There has just been brought to my attention a special notice in a post office stating that Old age pensions due for payment on Boxing day cannot be paid before Monday 29th December, By Order. This causes cruel inconvenience just at. Christmas-time, when every possible assistance should be rendered, and the postponement until the following Monday of the payments which are due on Boxing-Day will simply destroy the Christmas for many of these people. I submit that the Treasury should take immediate steps not to delay the payments, but to anticipate them so that they should be paid earlier in the week rather than postponed until the following on day. I trust that my hon. Friend may find it possible to meet the appeal which I now make.


This is really a matter for the Post Office, and I have no authority to speak for them. I realise fully the point that has been raised, and I have every sympathy with it. The difficulty is this: The arrangements that had bees made have been upset by the unexpected granting of a Bank Holiday on Saturday. We therefore have three Bank Holidays running. One of two things must be done. The pension must either be anticipated or must be paid on the first working day. The first working day is Monday. I did point out to the Post-Office that if it was practicable to pay on Christmas Eve we would stretch a point and it should be done. But we have no authority to anticipate. That is our difficulty. And while we felt that to meet an emergency of this kind we might perhaps risk sanctioning the payment forty-eight hours before it was due, we did not think that we could take upon ourselves to go any further than I have mentioned at such short notice. The Post Office said—and I must say that I have great sympathy with them in this—that if the work of paying pensions were thrown upon them on Christmas Eve, one of the busiest days in the year for them, the result would be disastrous. They simply could not handle the business that would come. That being so, after mature consideration on their part, they decided to postpone payment until Monday. Had it not been for this extra Bank Holiday the question would not have arisen, because the money could have been paid on Saturday. Unfortunately, we get this string of Bank Holidays, and the payment has to be deferred. I am afraid that there is no power by which we can sanction the payment of such a large amount of public money as would be involved at a prior date. I will bring the speech of my hon. Friend to the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-morrow, and will look into the matter once more to see whether there is any means of stretching a point further. I do not wish to say anything further tonight to hold out any hope. As my hon. Friend said, we must find if we have power to do this.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.