Motion made, and Question proposed,
3. That a sum, not exceeding £45,856,000, 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, 1920, 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.— £27,000,000 has been voted on account,]
§ The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
This is the first occasion upon which the Pensions Estimates have been presented in detail. During the War the expenditure on pensions was made out of the Vote of Credit, but now the Committee has the opportunity of considering Estimates in the usual way. As I desire to put before the Committee a review of the administration and policy of the Ministry, which must necessarily take some time, I shall not deal with the various items of expenditure unless questions are raised in the course of the Debate. I must, however, warn the Committee that the Estimate, which amounts to nearly £73,000,000, is already out of date. Since that Estimate was presented, additional expenditure has been authorised, as I have from time to time announced. For example, there has been added a 20 per cent. bonus to officers' retired pay and to alternative pensions for officers and men and their widows, and certain pre-war disability pensions have been raised to the present rates. These and other alterations will cost this year over £2,000,000. I shall presently inform the Committee of the decisions of the Government upon the recommendations made in the interim Report of the Select Committee on Pensions.
These decisions will call for an extra expenditure for the remainder of this year of about £11,000,000, so that the Estimates we are considering should be treated as £86,000,000, and not, as presented, at just under £73,000,000. The increased expenditure, however, covers only a portion of this year, and the Committee may like 2329 to know that for a full year—at least, as long as the number of pensioners remains at or about the maximum—the rate will be about £96,000,000. This is more than double the estimated expenditure for the previous year ending April, 1919, which was £47,500,000, and more than four times the actual expenditure of the year before—the year ending April, 1918—which was just aver £23,000,000. Perhaps before I proceed with my review I should also give the Committee information as to the numbers of pensions, gratuities, and final allowances in actual payment at the 30th June. I think I had better give round figures. Officers and nurses drawing retired pay numbered just under 20,000; officers' widows numbered just under 9,500; officers dependants, just under 5,000; officers children, just over 9,000—a total of 43,500.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
That is quite right. It does not follow that there are only 9,200 children belonging to officers. It is only in certain circumstances that the children's allowances are payable.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The corresponding figures for other ranks at the 30th June were: Men, 875,000; widows, 216,000; dependants, 279,000; children, 968,000; total, allowing for the odd numbers, of 2,340,000. It is never easy to recognise what figures mean. Perhaps the number of pensioners will be realised when I say that they are almost exactly three times as great as the population of Liverpool.
If the Committee will allow me, I will first deal with administration, indicating the steps I am taking to bring about improvement. Soon after I took office in January last, I entered into a detailed examination of the organisation of the Ministry. My attention was forcibly called to the almost universal complaints of delay which poured in upon me from every quarter. Members of Parliament wrote forwarding letters from constituents, and, worse still, the constituents wrote also. The local war pensions committees complained that their letters to the Department were not answered, and often that when their letters were answered they got contradictory instructions. I set to 2330 work to put my house in order, and I can, truthfully say that the last six months has not been an easy time for me, nor. I think, for the staff of my Department.
I found that the headquarters staff was organised in ten divisions each reporting to the Secretary, and through him, to myself as Minister. There was an accumulation of detail at the top which could and should have been dealt with lower down in the machine, but the intermediate staff did not exist. I rearranged the work into five divisions each under a responsible head, and I strengthened the intermediate staff, bringing in many experienced administrative officers. I found that there were no proper statistics and no sufficient progress reports, so as to enable the output to be properly measured and checked. I appointed a statistical officer, and an officer in charge of office organisation. Delays can now be traced to their causes, and steps have been taken to remove the causes by simplifying the procedure. In order to cope with the additional work due to demobilisation of the Army, the staff had to be largely increased, and the difficulties were accentuated by lack of suitable accommodation. The staff at the 30th June numbered 14,829, of whom 11,549 are women, and 3,280 are men. Of the 3,280 men 81 per cent., or 2,670, are discharged officers or men. The staff is housed in thirty-three separate buildings or groups of buildings, and this separation makes control extremely difficult, and leads to great extravagance in staff.
At the same that the work at headquarters was being co-ordinated, Regulations had to be issued under the War Pensions Act, passed last year, governing, the procedure of local war pensions committees and defining the duties of the secretary, treasurer and chief officer of the local war pensions committees. The Committee is aware of the very valuable local work done by the local war pensions committees which act as the Ministry's local agents in direct touch with the claimants for pensions and allowances. The change, however, from war to peace affected these committees—many voluntary workers with great experience felt that the work they had done during the War should now be taken over by full-time paid workers. The appointment of principal officers of these local war pensions committees and the necessary rearrangements of areas so as to secure economic units for administration had to 2331 be referred to headquarters. There are 3,200 of these local committees and sub-committees, and the constitution of each of them has had to be reviewed. Congestion and delays at the centre were, therefore, not surprising.
I felt that no re-organisation of head-quarters would be sufficient, so I appointed a Committee under the Parliamentary Secretary consisting of Members of this House and representatives of local war pensions committees to consider how far it would be advisable to decentralise the organisation. The question was very care-fully considered by that Committee, to which I am most grateful. They reported unanimously in favour of decentralisation, and they drew up a scheme which I have adopted. The scheme provides for setting up a number of regions, either thirteen or eleven, each as a complete self-contained administrative unit under a Regional Director advised by a Regional Advisory Committee. While I shall retain the direction of policy all matters of administration arising within the region will be finally settled at the regional office. The local war pensions committees within the region will communicate direct with the region and all medical boards, and arrangements for medical treatment will be dealt with by the regional medical officer. Awards will also be made by the regional awarding officer, at first the renewals only, but afterwards all the cases which arise locally will be settled locally. I am satisfied that only by a wide delegation of powers to the Regional Director is it possible to remove delays and ensure speedy decisions on the many local questions which arise, in the awarding of pensions and in the administration through the local committees.
The Scottish, Irish and Welsh regions have already been established in Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, and Cardiff, respectively, and the South-East of England region has started in London. It is still for consideration whether two other regions shall not be joined with this region or whether the original proposal of thirteen regions shall be carried out. I hope the North-West region will be inaugurated next week at Manchester, and I shall proceed with the other regions as rapidly as possible. As I have said, the reorganisation of the headquarters and the recasting of the local organisation had 2332 to be carried out at a time of great pressure due to demobilisation of the Army, and if the Committee will allow me I will give them some idea of what this pressure was and of the steps taken to meet it.
Let me first deal with the awards of pensions to men. Before demobilisation commenced, men were discharged from military hospitals, and their discharge documents were sent direct to Chelsea and were awarded upon the fairly complete records then furnished. At Chelsea there was in existence a very laborious system, costly in staff, slow but fairly sure in action. During the last six months about 150,000 first awards have been made in cases of men discharged from hospital, in addition to 274,000 renewals of previous pensions This was the normal work of the division. But with demobilisation two other classes of claimants appeared, namely the Z men and the Article 9 cases.
As the Committee is aware, nearly 3,000,000 men were demobilised in the first six months of this year. Before being demobilised, all men other than those in hospital passed through dispersal stations and were given an opportunity of making a claim. Those who made a claim were examined either by the medical officer of their unit or by some other Army doctor. About 385,000 men made claims. The claim was made on a Z.22, and this, with the man's papers from the Record Offices were sent to the Ministry, so that pension might be granted. These are the men we call Z claimants, but in addition there were others who for some reason or another, some because they feared that claiming would delay their demobilisation and others because they were then well, did not make claims. They are not debarred from claiming; they can still claim under Article 9. These we call Article 9 cases. In January last I found that sufficient provision had not been made to deal with the claims of the Z men, so I established the Z branch as an emergency branch to deal with these cases only.
It was organised and directed by Mr. Demetriadi, a business man of great ability, and but for his untiring efforts and for the excellent work of the staff under his direction, there would have been very serious delay in dealing with the 385,000 claims received. All through February and March the arrears increased, but by April the branch was dealing with more claims than it received, and arrears were reduced; by the middle 2333 of June arrears had disappeared. The greatest number of awards made in any one week was 35,800, a really remarkable performance, when it is remembered that each claim requires separate and detailed investigation and a decision on the merits.
Of the 385,000, 303,000 claims were admitted and awards made of pensions, allowances, and gratuities, and 81,403 were rejected. With regard to the Article 9 cases, I am not satisfied with the position, and the local war pensions committees have been authorised, upon the report of the local medical referee, to make full advances pending the decision whether the claim is admitted to pension or not. There is still considerable delay in these Article 9 cases, and a special inquiry is now being conducted to simplify and hasten the procedure. I may add that the experience gained in dealing with the Z cases has convinced me that much greater simplicity can be introduced into the Chelsea procedure, and I am having the matter thoroughly examined, so that an improved system may be introduced when the awarding is done in the region.
I ought to say a few words about the widows' and dependants' pensions and allowances, about which I have had most complaints. In November last the flat rate pension of 5s. for parents of unmarried sons who enlisted before the age of twenty-six, necessitated a review of all then existing parents' pensions of under that amount. In December last public notices were issued broadcast calling attention to the three classes of pensions to any one of which parents might be entitled. The result was a great flood of applications and a mountain of correspondence. The arrangements to deal with the inflow were hopelessly inadequate. Large arrears soon piled up and there were, very naturally, many complaints. The matter has been taken in hand vigorously; there are capable men now in charge and within a few months I hope that the causes of delay will be removed.
I do not wish to offer excuses, but I think the Committee should realise that in addition to a continuous process of reorganisation the Ministry has had to deal with the very heavy work thrown upon it by demobilisation and that the task has been one of some magnitude. I can summarise the work of the awards branches for the last six months by saying that during that 2334 period 920,000 awards have been made and 94,000 claims for pensions have been rejected or have run out by effluxion of time. The Committee should remember that each case has to be investigated separately and decided on its merits. Men's cases alone amount to about 6,500 awards each working day
I shall have more to say presently about the policy of appeals against refusals of pension, but I had better perhaps tell the Committee something about the present Appeal Tribunals. In the early part of the year, I found that the complaints of delay in settling appeals against refusals to grant pension were in fact justified. There were cases pending since 1917, and many more which had been unsettled for a year. The two officials in charge of the section dealing with these appeals have both left the Ministry, and the section has been completely reorganised—its output has increased and will, I hope, still further improve, but until decentralisation is completed, the ideal will not be reached.
In January last there were two Appeal Tribunals hearing appeals. Now fifteen have been constituted and arrears are being overtaken, but even yet I am not satisfied that many more tribunals will not be required.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
One at least was temporary, but I am not sure about the other. I would like to answer the hon. Member's question candidly, but I do not know. One of them was engaged temporarily and his engagement terminated. Before I went to the Ministry I had heard many complaints that officers were not getting their pensions, so as soon as I became Minister I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to take the chair of a small Interdepartmental Committee with representatives of the War Office and the Pensions Ministry to consider the position. This is only one of the many instances of the great assistance I have had from the Parliamentary Secretary.
The whole position was reviewed and much useful work was done. The Committee recommended that the officer should 2335 be kept by the War Office on pay until his papers were transferred to the Ministry of Pensions to enable his pension claim to be awarded. I observe that the Select Committee have made the same recommendation. The War Office, however, were not able to accept this suggestion, so I adopted the next best plan. I obtained authority from the Treasury to make advances to officers in necessitous cases pending adjudication of pension, and some 7,400 advances have been made to cover the time necessary to obtain the officers' papers or to have a medical board. The Committee reported, also, that, in view of the large number of officers to be demobilised, the staff of the Officers' Branch was inadequate. It then consisted of eighty-five; it has been increased, and now numbers 430, and is capable of dealing with the present inflow of cases; indeed, pension is now awarded within twenty-one days of the receipt of the officer's papers. In the last six months nearly 42,000 cases have been dealt with, including the advances I have mentioned.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
Does the right hon. Gentleman get the papers from the War Office? It is not his fault, but does the War Office send him the papers?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I have said that I have instituted a system of advances in cases where it is necessary, pending the receipt of papers, and advances have been made in 7,400 cases. I appointed also a distinguished soldier to act as "officers' friend." He and his staff of twelve officers have had interviews and correspondence with over 10,000 officers and their relatives, and he calls attention every week to any cases of delay which come to his knowledge. He is applied to, not merely in pension cases, but on every conceivable question, and he knows the rules and regulations of other Government Departments, and he gives information accordingly. In addition, I have published a small booklet, giving clearly what officers are entitled to, and there really is no excuse for an officer not getting his full due. In the early part of the year I also set up a small Committee under my Parliamentary Private Secretary, the Member for Altrincham (Major Hamilton), to whom I am much indebted for his strenuous work during the last six months. This Committee considered the "Officers' Warrant." as the officers had been omitted from many of the concessions 2336 made to men. For example, no bonus was payable on officers' pensions, and there was no provision for a separation allowance for his wife when the officer was in hospital. These and many other anomalies have now been removed. A bonus of 20 per cent, is payable on that part of the retired pay which is granted for service disability. Thus the minimum retired pay is now £210, instead of £175. A separation allowance is also payable of £50 to a wife, or £40 to a dependant if the officer is in hospital. Children's allowances were formerly only granted if the officer's disablement amounted to 50 per cent, or more. This limit has been removed. Medical treatment can now be given to an officer pending settlement of his claim to pension. Artificial limbs and repairs are now supplied by the State. Pre-war disability retired pay is brought up to the-current rate. Widows' pensions granted in respect of previous wars have been increased to the rates of this war. These are very substantial advantages, and together they remove many grievances. They do not seem to be known, and although, I have already announced these alterations, I think it right to again give them publicity. There is, however, a new concession, and a very valuable one, to which I wish to refer briefly. As the-Committee knows, there is a temporary bonus of 20 per cent. added to officers' retired pay and to the pensions of officers' widows. This bonus will now be added to the retired pay and pensions and cease to be a temporary bonus. The retired pay and pensions will thus be increased, and after three years, if the cost of living falls, it will be subject to automatic reductions in the same way as men's pensions, which I will presently explain. But for the next three years the increased retired pay and pensions will be payable.
There is one other administrative division to which I must refer. It is the division dealing with the medical services of the Ministry. I have been fortunate in securing as Chief Medical Officer Colonel Webb. During the War he held an important position in the Medical Service of the War Office, and he brings a very special knowledge of the requirements of the serving man who is now a pensioner to the service of the pensioners. The work of this division is probably the most important of any of the divisions of the Ministry. It deals with that primary necessity of the disabled man, namely, the provision of medical treatment both in hos- 2337 pitals and climes and convalescent centres. When the bulk of the men were in the Army, the Army did the work, but demobilisation has transferred the necessity for providing hospitals and clinics from the War Office to the Ministry of Pensions. We have already taken over from the War Office two hospitals, and arrangements are practically complete for the transfer of others. The British Bed Cross are assisting the Pensions Ministry as they assisted the War Office, and I have to acknowledge their kindness in offering us the use of some of their hospitals and providing for the conveyance of cot cases by means of their ambulances. As we take over hospitals, we are bound to provide a nursing service, and I am glad to say that Queen Alexandra has graciously consented to be President of the Pensions Nursing Service. I have been fortunate in securing as Matron-in-Chief Miss M. E. Davies, R.R.C., and she will act with an Advisory Committee.
I am also hoping to have ready very shortly certain convalescent centres at Blackpool, Epsom, and elsewhere, in which men, while suffering from disabilities which require more or less prolonged outpatient-treatment, will be able to employ their time to their own advantage by receiving preliminary training to fit them for their after life. I have been impressed by the large number of outpatients attending hospitals for perhaps half an hour a day, upon whose hands time hangs heavily. I believe that if such men as these are admitted to convalescent centres, they will, while receiving treatment, be capable of much useful training during their convalescent stage, and more rapidly benefit by the industrial training thereafter given them under the Ministry of Labour. Moreover, experience shows that many slightly disabled men, attracted no doubt by the high wages prevalent in the later stages of the War, went back into industrial life probably too soon, and they are likely to break down and they are now in many cases breaking down. They require more or less prolonged convalescent treatment, and I believe that for these men also the convalescent centres are likely to prove of great use.
I have also to deal with the question of medical boards, which comes under the medical branch of the Ministry. Until recently, the boarding of the men applying for pensions and the re-boarding of men on renewal of pensions was per- 2338 formed by the Ministry of National Service, but on the 1st of April last the central and regional staff of the Ministry of National Service was transferred to the Ministry of Pensions, and we became directly responsible for the boarding of all men. On the 4th August we are also taking over from the War Office the re-survey boarding of officers. To give the Committee some idea of the extent of the increase of the work of medical boards, I may inform them that 230,000 men were examined by medical boards in the first six months of this year. There has been a steady and rapid increase right through the year in the number of men boarded owing to demobilisation, and in Juno last 45,000 men wore examined. The Committee may be aware that under the system hitherto prevailing the medical officers at the headquarters of the Ministry, commonly known as the Chelsea doctors, have reviewed the decisions of these boards. They were authorised to alter the amount of a man's assessment, even though they had not themselves examined the man. Many complaints of this system have been brought to my notice, and the Select Committee has recently called special attention to it and has recommended that any case of doubt should be sent for rehearing, either by the same or by a new board, for examination before any alteration is made in the assessment. I entirely agree with that recommendation; indeed, I informed the Select Committee, when I gave evidence before it, that I intended to alter the system as soon as the decentralisation had been completed.
While is was probably impossible to arrange for Appeal Boards before the Ministry of Pensions had its own medical personnel available to sit on boards and specialists, both surgical and medical, at its hospitals and clinics to constitute the boards, it will be possible to set up the Appeal Boards as soon as the medical personnel in the regions has been completed. Thereafter a definite procedure will be laid down, which will be followed in all oases, namely, that if the medical assessor, on scrutinising the report of the board, is not satisfied that substantial justice has been done either to the pensioner or to the taxpayer, he is not to alter the assessment, but he is to refer the case either back to the same board or to an Appeal Medical Board before any alteration takes place. Similarly, if the pensioner himself is not content with 2339 his assessment, if he thinks that he has been assessed too low and wishes to appeal against his pension, he will be entitled to appeal to a Medical Appeal Board, whose decision in the case will then be treated as final, subject to the proviso, which is in the man's interest, that if he falls ill during the final period he will still have the opportunity of going to a medical referee, who may give him temporarily a higher allowance pending the reconsideration of his ease by the board.
This arrangement of Appeal Boards while, I believe absolutely necessary in the interests of justice, and to give the pensioner a reasonable assurance that his case is properly considered, will entail a large increase in the medical personnel, which can only be supplied if not only the permanent medical staff of the region is available for boards, but also the specialists attached to the hospitals and clinics, and probably in some cases the medical referees are available. There are some other aspects of the medical service which I must briefly touch upon. The first is the provision of artificial limbs. Soon after I became Minister I wanted to be satisfied that the provision of artificial limbs for both officers and men was sufficient, and that the best limbs were being supplied. I accordingly set up a very strong Committee, upon which several Members of the House kindly served, and they have recently reported. On the whole their report shows that the position is satisfactory. They have made several recommendations which are in the course of being carried out. Perhaps the most important is that an expert Committee should be set up to review all the various forms of artificial limbs at present made with a view to standardisation, by selecting the best from each limb. In future there will be constant requirements for the repair of limbs, and repair will be greatly facilitated if every maker can repair every limb. I might say in this connection that it is proposed that fitting centres shall be established in connection with orthopædic hospitals spread throughout the country, and that in addition repair depots shall be opened in populous centres so that minor repairs can be made in a short time.
I have also referred to the Committee the extent to which fibre pylons should be supplied and used by men with artificial limbs. I fancy that fibre pylons will take 2340 their place alongside artificial limbs much as a slipper does to a boot, and that a man with an artificial limb coming home from his daily occupation will be glad to change it for a light fibre pylon. However, that is primarily a surgical question, and I have therefore referred it to the Expert Committee.
I was also not satisfied that the provision made for the pensioner suffering from tuberculosis was sufficient, and, in agreement with the Minister of Health, we appointed a Joint Committee for the purpose of thoroughly investigating this question. The Joint Committee has now reported—yesterday, I believe—and immediate consideration will be given to the Report. I cannot close without thanking Sir Arthur Pearson for his continued service for the blind; nor can I omit to mention the splendid work being done in many parts of the country by those who are providing and managing hospitals and homes for the paralysed and the disabled requiring long-continued treatment. I feel very conscious that I have given but the briefest sketch of the work done by the Medical Division of the Ministry of Pensions; it is a subject which alone would provide material for a speech much longer than I can ask the Committee to listen to.
[At this point for blind male, occupants of the Public Galleries interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, and were immediately removed by the attendants.]
I propose now to deal with some matters of policy. I will first deal with the question of the discharged disabled man who was resident in one of the British Dominions or in the United States at the outbreak of war. Many thousands of these men rushed forward and joined the Imperial Forces. Many desire to return to the country of their adoption. As at present arranged, a man may return to Canada with, a pension granted on the British scale, which is lower than the Canadian scale, and thus he will appear to have suffered because he joined the Imperial Forces. The widows of men who were killed are even at a greater disadvantage. The British pension rates are much below the rates payable to Canadian widows, and are insufficient to enable the widow to live in Canada. I think it would be a reproach to this country if this disparity were allowed to continue. The case may well happen that one sister married to a Canadian who joined the Canadian Forces 2341 may be receiving a widow's pension of 38a. 4d. a week, while her sister married to a man who joined the Imperial Forces will have a much lower pension. I am glad to say the British Government is now in negotiation with the Canadian Government, and if, as I hope, these negotiations can be carried through successfully, pre-war British residents in Canada and the United States who enlisted in the Imperial Forces, or Reservists who joined from these countries, will be given the option of taking pensions and allowances, medical treatment and training, and all other privileges, at the rates and upon the same terms as are provided by the Canadian Orders in Council, instead of the rates of pensions accorded under the Royal Warrants. On the same principle I shall endeavour to negotiate with other self-governing Dominions that pre-war British residents in those Dominions shall be given the option of taking their pensions from the Dominions instead of from Great Britain. This will, of course, add to the expense, as Great Britain will have to refund to the Dominions the cost of the pensions, but it seems to me that this will remove what otherwise might be a great scandal harmful to the best interests of the Empire
I now propose to deal with the Report of the Select Committee, and to inform the House of the decision of the Government upon the recommendations made. The Report was only published the day before yesterday, but the Cabinet recognised the urgency of the matter, and have given it consideration at two meetings, so wherever else delay may be complained of, it cannot be said that the Government have delayed in coming to a decision upon this important matter. I think it will be better to take the Report paragraph by paragraph, and deal with each of the recommendations.
In paragraph 4 I am grateful to the Committee for their handsome recognition, of my endeavours. This paragraph contains the three main suggestions. Firstly, that there should be a special inspection and inquiry department. Secondly, that the services of discharged and disabled men should be utilised and special arrangements should be made with a view to training them; and, thirdly, that there should be better co-operation between the various Government Departments dealing with discharged officers and men, and that officers and men should remain on full pay until the necessary papers have been 2342 passed to the Ministry of Pensions. First, let me deal with the proposed special inspection or inquiry department. Already a part of this suggestion has been, in operation for several months past. Owing to the large number of complaints, received, both from Members of Parliament and from elsewhere, 1 set up a complaints section, and each one of the complaints received is investigated and a record kept of how long each takes before a proper solution is arrived at. But the Committee's recommendation goes further. It suggests that any case not dealt with within a prescribed time should be automatically reported to the Department and inquired into. This is a very good suggestion, but in order to carry it out it is essential that there should be proper progress reports from each branch of the Ministry. I have already said that I have recently appointed a statistical officer, whose duty it is to see that such progress reports and statistics are forthcoming, and as soon as this is complete it will be possible to work along the lines recommended by the Committee. I will see that it is done.
With regard to utilising the services of discharged and disabled men and providing for their training, I have already told the Committee that 81 per cent, of our male staff at headquarters is drawn from discharged officers and men. I have laid it down that all of the new appointments of chief officers to the local war pensions committees are to be made from discharged officers and men, and for many months past I have refused to sanction any new appointments except of discharged officers and men. In order that a supply should be available in May last I set up in the Ministry a school for teaching disabled officers and men the work of local war pensions committees. I have had through this school thirty-five officers and men who have been trained or are in process of training, and twenty-eight of these are about to be appointed to posts by local war pensions committees. The Committee will realise that care must be taken to keep the numbers under training within the probable number of vacancies. It would be a very poor recompense if men were trained and there was no work available for them to do. The local committees have been urged by circular to keep us informed of any vacancies about to occur so that they may be filled from officers and men trained at the school. As the Committee is aware, I have no power to 2343 insist upon all the employés of the local war pensions committees being limited to this class. I have only power over the appointment of the principal officers, and, indeed, it would not be possible, so long as I have to rely on the local war pensions committees, for me to interfere with the appointments they make of their lower staff. After all they are responsible for local administration, and they must have a reasonable latitude in the appointments they make. I hope, however, the recommendation made by the Select Committee and the statement I am now making will call the attention of the local war pensions committees to the desirability of employing discharged officers and men to the fullest possible extent.
The next point is the better co-operation between Government Departments, and the keeping on full pay of officers and men until the complete papers are received. I made this latter suggestion to the War Office many months ago, but it was not found possible to adopt it. I will, however, strengthened by the Committee's Report, again bring the matter to the attention of the War Office, and perhaps the endorsement given by the Select Committee will strengthen my hands in that direction.
§ Sir MONTAGUE BARLOW
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the number of cases in which papers are now being held up?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON - EVANS
Obviously I have not the figures in my mind, but if my hon. Friend desires to put the question I will see if I can give him the information later in the Debate.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I did not mean that the Cabinet had specifically considered that point. What I meant was that it had come to a conclusion on the scale of pension recommended by the Select Committee, and I am proposing to announce their decision very shortly.
The next important recommendation of the Committee is in paragraph 6, namely, the statutory right to pension, and in paragraph 8 of the right to appeal on entitlement, and the recommendation that separate tribunals under the Home Office or some other Department of State should 2344 be set up independent of the Ministry of Pensions. I will deal with these two questions together as the one is intimately connected with the other. The Government is prepared to accept the recommendation of the Committee that the Appeal Tribunals shall be set up under an authority independent of the Ministry of Pensions, and I am authorised to say that a Bill will be introduced as soon as possible to empower the Lord Chancellor to set up Appeal Tribunals and to make the necessary regulations in respect, to the procedure. The tribunals will consist of one legal representative, either a barrister or solicitor, who will be chairman of the tribunal, and a disabled officer in officers' cases and a disabled man in men's cases, with a duly qualified medical practitioner. Any refusal on the part of the Ministry to a claim for pension on the ground that the disability is not attributable to or aggravated by military service, or is due to serious negligence or misconduct of the claimant, will be subject to appeal by the claimant to this independent tribunal. Similarly a widow or a motherless child whose claim to pension is rejected on the ground that the death of the officer or man was not due to military service, will be subject to appeal. In this way there will be granted a statutory right to assert a claim to pension, and a statutory Court, independent entirely of the Ministry, will be the sole and final judge of whether the right exists in a particular case. I am aware that this does not entirely coincide with the Committee's recommendation. The Committee seems to suggest that there will be some magic if the words "legally entitled" were inserted in an Act of Parliament, but they take care to say that they do not wish the scales of pensions, and still less the administrative machinery of pensions, to be embodied in the legislation. They appear to have in mind that there should be inserted a Clause under which a man should be declared to be legally entitled to such pension as may from time be settled by a Warrant or an Order in Council. I do not believe that this would give any man any greater security than he will have under his statutory right to appeal to an independent tribunal if pension is refused by the Ministry of Pensions, and though I shall be perfectly willing to consider any form of words which would strengthen the statutory right to pension I do not think that the suggestion of the Committee would have that effect.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Is my right hon. Friend prepared to adopt the suggestion of the Committee that the right to a pension should arise out of the Statute instead of the Royal Warrant; in other words, that the naval precedent should be adopted as regards the Army?
Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVAN S
I think not. Unless you intend to put the scale of pensions into an Act of Parliament, which the Committee itself does not wish to do, there is no advantage gained by any man by saying he is entitled to something which is in another document—a Warrant or an Order in Council. He is given a statutory right to appeal against a refusal. That is in the Statute, and that is a statutory right to appeal to a statutory tribunal. It is no longer in the power of any Minister to say, "This man is not entitled to a pension. He can go as a statutory right to a Statutory Court to get a decision; and I believe that fairly meets the case for a statutory right.
Paraphaphs 7 and 8 of the Report deal with another aspect of appeals, and in effect it is proposed that a man should have a right to appeal against a decision by the medical board as to the amount of his pension, and they indicate the constitution which they recommend for an Appeal Tribunal on amounts. It is suggested that there should be a lay ex-Service element on the tribunal, but as the assessment questions arc mainly medical questions the medical element, should have a majority, and they advise that this medical element should comprise senior surgeons and specialists in the diseases or injuries causing the disabilities under consideration. I must say at once that this recommendation appears to me to be entirely impracticable. Let the Committee for a moment consider the work of the last six months. During this six months 920,439 awards have been made, or if I deduct from this total awards to widows, children, and dependants, nearly 700,000 awards have been made either for the first time or on renewal to men. These awards are made for varying periods for from six to twelve months. When the man comes up for a fresh board and a fresh assessment of pension what the Report suggests is that each one of these men should have the right to go before an independent Appeal Tribunal and should be able to appeal against the medical assessment. The Select Committee recognises that an appeal would be of no use unless the medical men upon the Appeal Tribunal were more authoritative than the 2346 medical men on the original board. I do not know what proportion of the men the Select Committee thinks would appeal, but if even one in ten appeal we should have something like 70,000 appeals in six months, and the delays would be so great that the appeals could not be heard before the pension had expired. Moreover it would be impossible to get the authoritative consultants and specialists in sufficient numbers to form the Appeal Tribunals. I do not believe that a reform is possible upon these lines. I do, however, agree that it is quite wrong for any medical assessor who has not seen a man to alter an assessment made by a board who has seen the man and I have already told the Committee that as soon as the regional organisation is complete medical appeal boards will be set up to which either the man or the Department can appeal in the event of the assessment being challenged. I ask the Committee to believe me that this is the practical way of curing the evil which the Select Committee 'has pointed out. Any outside tribunal dealing with these assessments would cause so much delay as to actually deprive the man of the benefits which the Select Committee desires him to obtain.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ASHLEY
Why an independent tribunal more than a tribunal connected with my right hen. Friend's Department?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
It is not a tribunal connected with my Department. It is the medical boards all over the country in the regions. In each region there will be appeal medical boards which will consist partly of the permanent staff, partly of the staffs of the hospitals and clinics, and, if necessary, a medical referee. But it is a totally different class of tribunal from that which the Select Committee suggested.
§ Sir M. BARLOW
I have been unable to grasp really the difference. To my mind the crucial thing is this: Does the man have a free right of choice? He has a free right of choice under the proposals of the Select Committee. As I understand it, under the Minister's proposal he is to have a free right to appeal when the regional area system is worked out. If that is so, I cannot see why under our suggestion there would be any more difficulty from the point of view of numbers of appeals in working out the system than under the Committee's system.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Our Appeal Boards will be constituted of doctors partly in full-time service and partly stationed and in charge of hospitals and clinics all over the country. They will be carrying on their work at the hospitals and clinics when they are not wanted for a board, but they are always available at any moment for a board. I cannot see how you are going to get consulting specialists, physicians and surgeons, to hold themselves at the beck and call of any independent tribunals to go and serve as the appeals come along. It is a very different thing from tribunals being constituted by specialists who are not otherwise interested except as members of the board. I am advised that it would be quite impossible to get the medical personnel available for the purpose.
If I may I will deal with the other paragraphs of the Committee's Report which deal with their recommendations for increases in the flat-rate pension scales and for alteration in the basis of alternative pensions. I agree with the Select Committee that we cannot usefully consider the amount of flat-rate pension without taking into account at the same time the alternative pension. The theory of both flat-rate pension and alternative pension is the same. The flat-rate pension is intended to compensate the majority, namely, those whose earnings were normal, and the alternative pension is intended for those whose earnings were exceptional and who, therefore, had been accustomed to a standard of living beyond the normal. I accept the general theory and the reasoning by which the Select Committee arrived at its results, and I agree that it is most desirable to place the scale of pensions and its adjustments from time to time upon a simple and easily understood basis. The Select Committee has based its recommendations for an increase as a consequence of and in connection with the rise in cost of the working-class budget as estimated by the Board of Trade. The Select Committee recommends that the Board of Trade figures should be adopted as a definite standard for assessing automatically the rise or fall of pension, and indicates the manner in which the rise or fall can be gauged. I have only one observation to make upon this part of the recommendations. The Select Committee proposes that any increase made should hold good until March, 1921, when the first readjustment should take place. I think this 2348 period is too short. Our object should be to give a sense of security to pensioners. I do not want them to have at the back of their minds that in a comparatively short period the amount of their pensions may be again readjusted. The Government is therefore prepared to go further than the Select Committee proposes in this connection, and to say that the increases shall be for a period of three years, and that the automatic readjustment shall take place, as to 20 per cent, of the pension after three years. The Committee will understand that, while I accept the proposal of the Select Committee for an automatic readjustment, I do not pledge myself to the exact words of the Report. The formula will have to be settled in the new Warrant.
Let me now come to amounts and let me take the man's pension first. The Government is prepared to accept the new scale proposed—that is to say, the new flat-rate pensions for a totally disabled man will be as follows: A single man 40s, which represents a rise of 7s.; a married man 50s., which represents a rise of 17s.; a married man with one child 57s. 6d., which represents a rise of 16s. 6d.; a married man with two children 63s. 6d., which represents a rise of 16s. 6d.; a married man with three children 69s. 6d., which represents a rise of 17s. 6d., with 6s for each subsequent child. The scale for the partially disabled will be a percentage of the full scale, according to the percentage of his disability. There are, however, certain reactions from this increase which will have to be considered and about which I am not in a position to make a final statement to-day. For example, a single man in lodgings away from home for treatment or training has frequently obtained, besides his present pension, an allowance of 7s, 6d. a week towards his board and lodging. He will now have £2 a week, out of which he will be able to maintain himself. Similarly, a married man under treatment and training at home in certain cases obtained an extra allowance up to 7s. 6d. a week. As he and his wife will now have 50s. instead of the previous 33s., this extra allowance should, I think, be discontinued.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
My hon. Friend has made a remark which I must repeat for the benefit of the Com- 2349 mittee. He has suggested that I am taking away with the left hand what I am giving with my right hand. That is a curious form of comment—it is almost ingratitude. Take the case in question. The man and his wife will have 50s. a week. Before that, the man and his wife were entitled to 33s. a week, and in some cases 7s. 6d. addition, but even with the 7s. 6d. addition they would only get 40s. 6d. a week. My right hand is giving 50s. a week instead of 40s. 6d. a week. There are also certain treatment allowances for men in institutions', and wives separation allowances and constant attendance allowances, which may have to be reconsidered. I do not wish to do more than indicate that as the substantive pension is being largely increased the allowances which were intended to make up for the previous inadequacy of the pension in certain cases will have to be reconsidered.
Now let me deal with the proposals as regards widows. The existing rate of widows' pension is 13s. 9d. under the Barnes Warrant or, with the 20 per cent, bonus, 16s. 6d. for widows under forty-live, with an additional Is. 6d. for widows over forty-five. The Government is prepared to accept the Committee's recommendations. The new scale will, therefore, be in the case of a widow under the age of forty without children 20s. a week, and in the case of a widow of any age with children or over forty without children the pension will be 26s. 8d. a week. There will be paid, in addition, in respect of the first child 10s., in respect of the second child 7s. 6d., and subsequent children 6s.
With regard to the alternative pensions, there is no doubt that alternative pensions for men under the existing methods of assessment have completely broken down. As I told the Select Committee in the evidence I gave before it in May last, the reason is that the pension is assessed by taking into account the earning capacity of the pensioner at the present rate of wages and comparing it with his actual earnings at the old rate of wages prevailing before the War. The effect of this comparison is to prevent almost everyone except the totaly incapacitated man, without any earning capacity at all, from obtaining an alternative pension. Those who are capable of earning receive wages at the present rates, which are higher, notwithstanding their disability, than the 2350 wages they earned before the War, and yet the wages which they now receive do not enable them to maintain the same relative standard of living that they had before the War. In my evidence before the Select Committee I put to them two proposals for meeting this position, and one of these proposals has been adopted by the Select Committee, namely, to load up the pre-war wages by 60 per cent, in order to get at figures which could be fairly compared with present figures. The Government is prepared to adopt the recommendations of the Select Committee, and in assessing claims for alternative pensions in future, pre-war wages will be loaded up by 60 per cent., so that a man who was, in fact, earning 50s. a week will be deemed to have been earning 80s. a week, and his present earning capacity will thus be compared with the 80s. and not with the 50s. The Government is also prepared to vary the basis of assessment by loading the full pre-war earnings increased by 60 per cent, up to 100s. a week, so that the maximum alternative pension will in future be £5 instead of £4 10s. This will undoubtedly mean a great increase in the number of alternative pensions, and will entail very heavy work upon the local war pensions committees and upon the Department. I think it necessary, however, to carry out the original intentions which lead to the system of alternative pensions. With regard to widows' alternative pensions, the same principles will apply. The prewar earnings of the husband will be loaded up by 60 per cent., and the maximum of the widows' alternative pension will be £3 6s. 8d. a week instead of the present maximum of £3.
The Select Committee have also made two minor recommendations in paragraph 17 of their Report. The Government is prepared to accept the first of these recommendations—namely, that a widow with children who at first goes on the flat rate should have the option to take an alternative pension as her children cease to be entitled to children's allowances, but in order to obtain this right she will have to make an application and prove her right to alternative pension within a year. The second recommendation is of less importance, it requires some further consideration, and I will not deal with it to-day. It will be understood that the automatic sliding scale will apply to alternative pensions as well as to the fiat-rate 2351 pensions. The Select Committee also call attention to anomalies in the Schedule to the Warrant, and this matter shall receive early consideration. There is only one other recommendation in the Select Committee's Report which 1 have not dealt with, and that is the recommendation that the principle of increasing the pension to the maximum for men undergoing treatment and training should be adhered to. This has been a good plan in the past, and we propose to continue it.
The Committee will realise that these alterations will throw considerable additional work upon the Department. Many preparations have to be made before so large a change can be brought into operation. It is not an easy thing to change the amounts of pensions and allowances payable to 1,000,000 people. The new rates will, therefore, be brought into operation in respect of the first week ending after the 1st September next. I think it is the 3rd September. This gives about a month to make the necessary preparations, and so it is not probable that the increased payment will actually be made on that date, but any arrears which may accrue will be paid as from that date. I do not wish to invite a deluge of correspondence, so that I give notice to all concerned that it is quite unnecessary to write to the Ministry or to the local war pensions committees claiming the increases. The increases will be made automatically. With regard to alternative pensions, however, claims will have to be made by the claimants to the local war pensions committees, and they will be adjudicated as rapidly as possible. It must, however, be many months before the large number of persons newly entitled can receive settlement of their claims. Meanwhile, they will draw their pensions at the flat rate, and all arrears which may be due to them will be settled as from a date in September.
I should like to thank the Select Committee, on behalf of the Government, for the great care they have given to the matters referred to them, and for the painstaking way in which they have conducted a most difficult inquiry. I am sure that every Member of the House will feel indebted to them for their able Report.
I am sure the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Sir Montague Barlow), has had a specially strenuous time. He has not 2352 only been Chairman of this Select Committee, but he has been Chairman of the Select Committee on Tuberculosis which has brought in a Report equally able. I regret that I have detained the Committee so long. My excuse must be the importance of the subject, and the desirability of letting everyone, including the pensioners themselves, know that every effort is being made not merely to do justice to-the disabled by adequate pensions, but also by improvement in and quicker working of the administrative machinery.
§ Major COHEN
I have listened with very great interest to the speech of the Minister of Pensions, and I do not intend to criticise anything that he has said as regards pensions. I should like to say a few words in regard to the question of artificial limbs. This question affects some 30,000 of us. Though I know that 40,000 is not three times the size of Liverpool, it is, notwithstanding, the population of a fairly large town, and when one considers that every one of these men has lost a limb the figure seems larger still. As a member of two of the Committees referred to, I am quite satisfied that the limbless man is getting his first leg quickly. There art; very few men who have not already obtained one and if they have not got their limb it is probably because their stumps are not ready to have a limb fitted. In regard to the question of the second limb I know that it is under consideration, but as regards the renewal and repair of the artificial limb I think the Committee will agree with me, when they have heard what I have to say, that the position is not as it should be. At the present time the procedure which a pensioner has to follow if he wants anything done to his artificial limb is unsatisfactory. I would ask the Committee to bear in mind that if a limb requires adjustment it cannot be worn, and, therefore, the journeys made by the pensioner have to be made on crutches, with the limb, if it is a leg, slung over his shoulder.
First of all, he has to go to the local war pensions committee, and with certain exceptions they send him to a medical referee. In the majority of cases the medical referee lives some distance away, and in some cases so far away that a train journey is necessary. The medical referee examines the man and fills in a form, probably recommending him to go to a special fitting hospital. Theoretically this is sent back to the war pensions committee, but 2353 I believe that in actual practice it is generally given to the pensioner himself, who takes it back to the secretary, arid arrangements are then made that he is to be sent to a fitting hospital. The Ministry in London is notified, and after some time writes back stating when there is a vacancy, and which hospital the man is to go to. If the committee or secretary is satisfied that it is the case of a defect in an artificial limb it is not necessary then to send the pensioner to a medical referee. In that case the secretary has to sign the form himself, stating that it is necessary to send the pensioner to a fitting hospital. In the case of what is called a minor repair the local war pensions committee gets an estimate locally if possible, and if the amount is under £3 it may put the work in hand at once. If it is over £3 the Ministry in London has to be notified, and as it is frequently impossible to get even minor repairs done in the district, as there is no one in the vicinity to do them. I believe that 75 per cent, of the cases have to be sent to a special fitting hospital. Is it right that the secretary of the local war pensions committee, who in a great many cases is a woman, and practically in all eases is someone with less knowledge of artificial limbs than, the pensioner himself, should have the responsibility of certifying that it is a case for a special fitting hospital? Then there is the question of delay; a man has to wait months sometimes before he can get into a fitting hospital, and the result is extreme discomfort and annoyance. In many cases there is serious hardship, as the pensioner is unable to fill any employment while waiting for the necessary repairs.
The consequence is that unless it is a very serious case the pensioner makes shift to do with the leg as it is or does without it, if he can, rather than go to all this trouble. This accounts very largely for the many cases which one sees of men going about without artificial limbs. Would it not be possible to adopt some principle like that which is used in France? I believe that 75 per cent, of the cases there are agricultural labourers and therefore live over a widely distributed area. That country is divided into various centres, each with its own fitting hospital. All that a pensioner who requires anything done to a limb has to do is to go to the local police, purely for identification, and they send hint immediately to the nearest fitting hospital, where the limb is repaired and he is sent back to work in a couple 2354 of days. This not only saves the man a great deal of inconvenience and trouble, but it also saves a great deal of expense to the State. There is one other matter to which I would like to allude. In answer to a question last week, the Minister of Pensions said that it was decided to extend to officers the generosity hitherto shown to men with regard to repairs to artificial limbs. One exception was that it did not apply to officers still serving. Surely this is unfair. Comparatively few officers who have lost limbs are serving in the Army. The cost of repairs is as a rule small. I cannot believe that it is because of the expense that these men are excluded, and yet I can think of no other reason. If it is thought right, and it is right, that a pensioner's artificial limbs should be repaired, why should a pensioner who happens to stay on in the Army be debarred from that relief? It is only a small matter, but because it is so small I feel that it ought to be brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Anything which my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Cohen) contributes on this subject, when he addresses, the Committee, is a matter which everyone will agree is worthy of the attention of the Minister of Pensions. One did not anticipate making the customary speech on pensions in view of the announcement that the Pensions Estimate would be on to-day, because at that moment one was not certain that the Report of the Select Committee would be published. The publication of that admirable Report—and incidentally may I congratulate the lion. Member for South Salford (Sir M. Barlow) and his colleagues on that Committee on having persuaded in bulk the Government to do what he and myself and many others have tried to do individually for many years past, and having achieved a very notable triumph—practically knocks the bottom from a great many of the speeches which many of us might have been prepared to make to-day, because it proves that the complaints which we did make were genuine and required to be attended to, and if that required any reinforcement, that reinforcement conies from the speech delivered to-day by the right hon. Gentleman detailing what he had to do in the six months after he took office in bringing order out of the chaos to which he succeeded. I do not know if the Committee realised as he went along the extraordinary number of things which he had to do administratively to get anything done at 2355 all, and because of that I should like to remind the ex-Pensions Ministers, who were here at the beginning of the Debate but have gone now, of the value and force of the criticism that used to be delivered in this House about the lack of good administrative qualities in the pensions authorities.
I suppose that I have been responsible as much as most people for criticising the Pensions Ministry. I have dealt with successive Pensions Ministers, and I am glad to admit that since the present Minister of Pensions took office, if I take my own post-bag as an average indication of the way in which complaints have moved, the complaints reaching me have altered from 75 per cent, on pensions and 25 per cent, on military service matters to 75 per cent, on military service matters and only 25 per cent, on pensions matters, and if my right hon. Friend wishes to take that as a testimony to his administrative ability he can do so. I do consider that the Pensions Ministry has gained enormously by the administrative ability of my right hon. Friend. Of all the Ministers who have touched the Ministry he alone has stayed in the Ministry of Pensions dealing with its administration. In previous cases there was far too much gallivanting about the country, far too many speeches from platforms, far too many conferences that did not matter, and far too little solid work in addressing themselves to the difficulties of the problems with which they were confronted. My right hon. Friend has done that, and what can one say but that one is extremely grateful to the Government for at last seeing the common sense of the situation. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend did the final persuasion or not, but I was amazed that the Government did not long ago do what they are prepared to do now. My right hon. Friend talked of the difficulty which there is going to be in putting those things into operation because of the large numbers that had to be dealt with. The same point was made about the demobilisation of men. I have always said that this is the one kind of case that ought always to be attended to at once. It was always the cause of the greatest dissatisfaction among the men in the country and, knowing that, the Government ought to have been prepared, and from that point of view I do not think there is any excuse. But on the basis of what has been given, I am prepared to say now that the Government seem to have 2356 realised the force of the criticisms which have been advanced, and they are doing something like the right thing now.
On one point my right hon. Friend thought that I was ungrateful in the midst of his great generosity. I am not sure that 1 was, because so frequently the Government spoil what they are doing by refusing to go a little further. My right hon. Friend, in submitting the flat-rate scale of pensions and the rate which had been raised, admitted that that was necessary on account of the increased cost of living. The other allowances to which I referred had nothing to do with the cost of living. They were incidental to extra treatment. The man is only going to be in the place temporarily, and compared with the sum which he is given it is an extra allowance for a particular purpose which is going to make him a better man. I do not see why, having given a man this allowance, you are going to take it from him, just because you have raised the flat rate. There is one point which I think has not yet been covered adequately on which there still exists a great deal of dissatisfaction—that is this question of appeal. The Government say that they admit a statutory right to a pension. I should have thought that that means that a man has a legal right. My right hon. Friend is providing a new Court of Appeal which may be a legal Court of Appeal. I want to get this point quite clear at an early stage in the discussion. He said that those Courts were going to be set up by the Lord Chancellor, that they will be presided over by one legal gentleman, preferably a barrister, and that the other members of the Court will be officers in the case of officers and men in the case of men, with a medical assessor. I have never known a legal Court constituted in that way.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
This is a Court which is to be set up by an Act of Parliament and is therefore a legal Court. There are differences between one Court and another. In the Admiralty Court there are a judge and two naval assessors. The Police Court does not have-that at all, but they are all legal Courts, all established under Acts of Parliament. This will also be a legal Court based on an Act of Parliament.
§ 6.0 p.m
§ Mr. HOGGE
My difficulty is that I do not see how a man who is deprived of all right is going to establish his right before this Court, and I shall be glad to have it 2357 pointed out to me how that can be done. This does not constitute a statutory right, because the man cannot go to the Court unless he is refused. My right hon. Friend forgets that in many eases which will arise in years to come a man may want to establish a perfectly legal claim to a pension, but he could not do so.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I do not want to interrupt. It is very important that the Committee should understand the point. My hon. Friend is contemplating the case of a man two or three years afterwards making a claim. One of two things will happen—either that claim is to be accepted and a pension awarded or else it is to be refused. If it is refused, he has a statutory right to go to a legal Court and to appeal against the refusal, and the Court's decision is final. So he has either a pension or a statutory right to appeal, and in either case he is covered.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I leave that, because it is a difficulty as far as I am concerned, and I do not pretend to have the legal knowledge that is necessary. Let me turn to the question of amounts. I am doubtful whether you have there reached a satisfactory position. The average man is assessed and reassessed at intervals of six months. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has in his possession any figures or not, but one's experience proves this, that the average man's assessment goes down very materially, and if you carry that process on sufficiently long you can assess a man off the Pension Warrant altogether. I can understand why the Treasury and the Government should desire that to take place. The figure of £96,000,000 given as the expenditure for a full year probably is an underestimate. I should not be surprised if, eventually, we get over the £100,000,000. When, some time back, we were told that there was to be a Vote of £40,000,000, some of us said that £75,000,000 would be the lowest sum. I notice that a proposal has been made to allow an appeal on the question of amount when the pension becomes permanent. It was reported in the newspapers the other day that the Ministry were prepared to accept that. Is that an alternative suggestion?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I have not closed my mind on that matter. I want to get a system which is satisfactory to the men, even if it removes only a senti- 2358 mental grievance. At present it is absolutely impossible to have this Appeal Tribunal on amount, as suggested by the Select Committee. If it applied only to permanent pensions, you would immediately reduce the problem by nine-tenths, because permanent pensions are, roughly, only 10 per cent of the whole, I do not want to pledge myself on that at all.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I quite agree. Everyone who has touched this subject knows the difficulty of putting these things into operation. The right hon. Gentleman said he does not want to close his mind. There is one point in the process of a man's award of pension which creates more dissatisfaction than any other. The average man feels, and feels very acutely, that it is a descending process, and that when he reaches a certain figure it will shortly be going down a little bit, and again down a little bit. If my right hon. Friend would address his ingenuity to that point, he would be removing one of the greatest troubles. I frankly confess that I had quite another speech in my mind until I heard the position of the Government. I think many of us had other speeches in our minds; but, putting that on one side, as we are all able to do, I am willing, on behalf of those sitting on this side, to associate myself with the thanks and gratitude expressed to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government for the very generous way in which they have responded to this Select Committee's Report.
§ Sir MONTAGUE BARLOW
I hope the House will pardon me if I say a word or two in connection with a subject in which I am personally interested, namely, the Report of the Select Committee of which I had the honour to be chairman. May I say at once that as chairman I claim no special credit or privilege in connection with that Report. If ever a Report was the Report of a Committee as a whole, that Report was. Whatever measure of praise it wins from the House the Committee as a whole is entitled to it. May I say a few words, also, about the spirit in which we as a Committee set about our task. About a year ago in this House there was a Debate on a subject which some of us had very much at heart. We feared an unholy alliance of politics and pensions. I am glad to say we carried a Motion saying that that was an unholy alliance. But if there is a proper form of co-operation between political parties in these big 2359 pension problems, I think it was well illustrated in the work of this Committee. We had differences, of course. What Committee does not? But those differences never had a political complexion, and we were all animated by one desire—to do the best we could with the very difficult problem entrusted to us. May I say, also, this, that we desired in that Committee not to hinder but to help, to criticise, if you will, and to correct where we saw necessity, but not to do anything of a sensational character or anything that could be considered matter for "cheap copy." The Pensions Minister has been good enough to say something about my work in connection with that Committee. May I say this: It is referred to in our Report, and I wish to emphasise it again—how much the pension administration does owe to his ability and energy. We saw traces of it in all branches of pension administration. If a day comes, as I suppose in due course it must, when inevitable promotion removes him from the Pensions Ministry, I am afraid there is a possibility of the ex-Service man suffering in consequence.
There are two or three points of view to be borne in mind in dealing with this pension problem. First of all, there is the problem of the man himself; that is the first thing to be considered. No one who contemplates this problem can feel anything but sympathy with the disabled heroes who fought in the War. That is obvious. Nor can any monetary compensation be really adequate to make good the disability from which they are suffering. But if a good pension is a good thing—no one denies it, and I hope the country and the men also think the new scales generous—permanent employment is even a better thing. We have to see to it that apart from the monetary scales training and employment are really satisfactory. This we hope to be able to deal with later on. Then there is the question of administration—the official point of view, if you will. The whole machinery is official machinery; it must be so. I am impressed for instance with the objection on official grounds to the statutory right to pensions. Obviously, it is no good putting such a load on your machine that it breaks down. No one will benefit by that, least of all the ex-Service man. Then there is the last question, the point of view of the public itself. It may be said, "Well, you are kind to everybody except the public." In 2360 my opinion, if the public are prepared to foot any bill they are prepared to foot this bill, for it is the kind of bill that no one would for a moment refuse to pay.
Generally, with regard to most of the recommendations of the Committee, we are delighted and grateful that they are accepted by the Government and without any reservations. But there are one or two things which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with and about which I was not quite so satisfied. First, take the question of statutory right. It seems very difficult in any discussion on this matter to keep two elements of it distinct, namely, (a) the right of access to the Law Courts: this we thought undesirable; and (b) the question us to whether pensions should be paid, or rather, be expressed to be paid, as an act of Royal Bounty, and not under Act of Parliament as a matter of ordinary routine payment by Vote of this House. You may say that in the result it makes uncommonly little difference, but we have had a great deal of evidence that, in fact, though the grievance is a sentimental one, it is a real one, and if you can remove a grievance which is really felt to be so, without either upsetting the whole machinery of Government or imposing an enormous burden on the taxpayer, and this would do neither, then I cannot see why it should not be done. It was suggested by the Minister that one of the difficulties would be that if you put into an Act of Parliament that a man was legally entitled to a pension, you would be bound to put into that Act the scales themselves. For the life of me I cannot see why, and for this simple reason. In the Naval Act of 1865, Section 3, it is expressly provided that a sailor has a right to his pension, and it goes on to say that the scale shall be fixed by Order in Council. On that precedent we suggested that to remove the grievance felt by soldiers and airmen you should, as in the case of sailors, give a legal right. No doubt if the scales were in the Act they could only be amended by another Act, which would mean delay during which the men might suffer. We suggested further adding the words "legally entitled," which were in an old Act passed during the Napoleonic Wars. There certainly does not seem to be any legal impossibility in putting the phrase "legally entitled" into an Act of Parliament and leaving the scales to be settled afterward. Assuming that that difficulty is not made good, I would strongly urge the Govern- 2361 ment to make this small change, and in so doing they will be removing a great difficulty felt by the men. That is the effect of the evidence put before us, and a Select Committee can only report in accordance with the evidence it receives.
There is a point which was not dealt with by the Minister, and the only one, I think, and that is the question as to whether the men are to be informed at once by the board of what their award is. It is a comparatively small point, but a point to which witnesses attached a good deal of importance. At present what happens is this. A board makes an award, and the award goes to Chelsea to be revised by the Chelsea officials, and, in cases where the officials do not agree with the report of the board, the cases go before doctors for reconsideration. That is now to terminate, and if the award is modified and the man is not satisfied, his case is to have reconsideration by another Board. When you have got as far as to say that the man is entitled to another Board and his case to reconsideration, I do not see why you should not tell the man what the first award is at once, so that he may know what it is until it is reconsidered. In that way you would secure an amount of confidence which at the present time you have not got.
We are glad that the Government have met us about other points. The regional area is an administrative improvement from which we hope great things. It is the first important step along the line of bringing the administration of pensions closer to the man. I want to utter a word of caution on this subject. In my view, with regard to these regional areas, everything will depend on the type of man secured as regional director, and his selection will be one of the great tests of pensions administration. The man you get for these positions has got to be the Pensions Minister of his area. He must be a strong, capable man. He must be a man able to resist pressure; I hope, not political pressure, but pressure from all quarters, of whatever kind. He must be a man of experience in Government administration or he will not be able to work well with Government Departments; but at the same time he must not be hide-bound with red tape. He must, above all, be sympathetic and must be able to work with other people; and at the same time possess his own soul. Those qualities are not easy to find in one man. 2362 There are men who can fill these positions, but they can only be secured by taking immense pains in their selection and by offering adequate salaries to make it worth their while to take the posts.
We have had encomiums lavished, and quite rightly, on the work of most, if not the majority of local war pensions committees. Certainly in the great towns those committees have done admirable service under great stress and very often without very much recognition. We have been materially assisted on the Select Committee by the evidence given before us by the secretaries from great towns like London and Birmingham and Manchester, and it is interesting to mention that two out of the three were ladies. The work of the great local war pensions committees have been self-sacrificing and admirable. But there are many local war pensions committees throughout the country which are not very efficiently worked, and some of them, I am afraid, are really bad. Some of them are run by volunteers who have not up to the present realised that the mere fact that the work is voluntary does not make up for it being inefficient. The sooner the Minister takes steps to deal with those local bodies the better those who have the interests of the discharged men at heart will be pleased. He has powers under the Act of 1018,and I hope he will put them into force.
With regard to the allowance to married women, as that principle has been accepted I will only say that an allowance to married women exists in most other countries. We had it in our original Warrant. When we began the War, the allowances to unmarried men was 14s. and to married 16s. 6d., so that it is no new principle. In its present shape, I am sure—or, at least, I hope so—that the scale will meet a difficulty which is a real difficulty. As one of the witnesses put it,According to the scale of the Warrant, the wife of a discharged soldier is expected to live on air, because she gets no consideration of a money character.That has now been altered, and we are grateful to the Government for doing so.
Then a word or two about the case of widows. Up to the present the position of the widow has been, undoubtedly, a very hard one, and widows have been treated in a very unsatisfactory fashion. Let me quote a sentence from evidence on this point, and which is printed in the Appendix to our Report. Under the old 2363 scale the maximum was 13s. 9d. and with bonus 16s. 6d. This is what the witness said:Up to the present time we have been given a grant from first one fund and then another; now they are all just finished and we are faced with the worry of finding some other means of providing boots and clothing for our families; and only on 16th May last we proved to the Ministry that our income in some cases was only 3s. 9d. per head after paying household expenses. It is this alone which is causing women to lead a bad life. No mother is going to see her children want for anything while she has a way to get it for them.That is the kind of evidence which any Select Committee, and which any Government would find very difficult to resist. I am glad that the Government have seen their way to raise the figure.
There is then the point of the Board of Trade figures and the sliding scale. I am very pleased that that principle has been accepted by the Government, and I venture to hope that it will be a real contribution to the problem of pensions administration in the future. But in order that the sliding scale may be an actuality it has got to satisfy one or two conditions. First of all, the figures relied on must secure general acceptance. We had to take the Board of Trade figures, because they were the only figures available. They were not very satisfactory for our purpose, because they are only given monthly, and we had not at our disposal the actuarial strength of a Government Department to co-relate the figures for ourselves. The figures in the "Gazette" are. I think, generally accepted by the industrial world as satisfactory figures, but it is rather curious that I received from the Pattern Card Makers' Society of Manchester a protest against the Board of Trade figures. I wrote and asked why, and I received the following reply this morning:We, along with four other warehouse trade unions, signed a sliding scale agreement last November, when the figure given in the 'Board of Trade Gazette' of the general increase in the price of all the items ordinarily entering into the working-class family budget was given at 122 per cent, over July, 1914. The May figure in the same Gazette gives 105 per cent. We are at a loss to find any one article which is reduced in price during that period by 17 per cent. As a result of these figures from six to seven thousand working people have been reduced in wages by 2s. 6d. per week for the males and 1s. 3d. females.What the true facts may be I am not in a position to say, because I have not had time to examine into them. What is quite 2364 clear is this, that if the sliding scale is to be a real asset in pensions administration, as we hope it is, the figures must be such as to secure general acceptance. Secondly, they must be prepared on some plan which is well advertised and easily understood, and then we hope that pension adjustments will become practically automatic.
I want to say one word about the only important point which is outstanding, as far as I can see, between the Select Committee and the Government, and that is the question of the appeal on amount. Until the right hon. Gentleman's statement, I must say I had a difficulty in appreciating the difference between his appeal on amount and the appeal on amount which we suggested. It comes to this, if I understand him rightly. We suggested independent appeal tribunals on amount, constituted very much like 1ds independent statutory appeal boards on entitlement. The precise constitution of the board does: not matter so much. We wanted a lay element, and we wanted doctors, if possible, of superior authority to the doctors of the ordinary boards. But the difference, as I understand it, between the Minister's proposals and ours is this: We suggested tribunals of an independent character which would sit for the tribunal work alone. He suggests appeal boards which are really the same as ordinary medical boards, but with different names: then they can sit whenever desired, because they will consist of the ordinary medical staffs of the Ministry. If that is the only possible alternative, we must put up with it, at any rate for a time, but what I would put to the Minister is this: that the evidence given us, which I must say entirely accords with my own personal experience, was to the effect that there is nothing to which the men attach greater importance than this question of a free right of appeal to some kind of independent, properly constituted authority. The difficulty I see about the Minister's proposal is this. A board makes a finding with regard to a man, and they assess him, say, at 50 per cent, disability. The man is not satisfied, and he says, "I want to go before another board. I do not think my case has been properly inquired into." Well and good. Under our proposals, assuming them to be carried out, he would go to an outside tribunal, who might find against him, but there would be a lay element, and he would feel he had had all possible consideration. Under the proposals of the Minister, he has to 2365 go to another board similarly constituted to the board before which he has already appeared, and not only that, but it is a board which is expressly under the control of the Minister, because it consists of the ordinary medical staffs in the employment of the Ministry, either whole-time men or part-time men. The difficulty about that, to my mind is this. The disabled men will have the satisfaction of a second hearing, but they will not feel the same kind of confidence in the award as the result of the second hearing as they would have felt in the decision if it could have been given by an independent tribunal. The Minister answers that at the moment it is practically impossible. Those of us who are interested in this subject would be foolish if we made suggestions which clearly at the moment would break the machine down if carried out. But let us see whether we cannot proceed along these lines. The regional system is now coming into operation. There is a Clause in our Report dealing with this matter, which says that although there are administrative difficulties about this appeal on amount, they will probably be reduced when the regional area system is set up, and I venture to hope that under the reconstitution of administration which is involved in the regional system a loophole will be kept open for the constitution of proper appeal tribunals on amount of the type which we venture to suggest in our Report.
The Minister in his speech was kind enough to refer to the work of the Committee on Tuberculosis. He perhaps was too kind. I was not the chairman of that Committee. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Major Astor) was, but I was his deputy, and I think lie has been kind enough to say I had to do most of the work. I am afraid no other opportunity will arise for saying very much about the Report of this Committee. It is a Committee dealing with work which falls under the Pensions Minister, and therefore it is of a character which comes upon the Vote. It is impossible to say anything at large about the Report of that Committee, as the Government are still considering it, but I have obtained leave to say one or two words about the general gist of that Report. As a matter of fact, it has already appeared in the Press, although, as sometimes happens, the account in the Press is probably not quite accurate. I may venture, therefore, to say one or two 2366 words about it, though on the understanding that at the moment it is in the nature of a Report which is being considered. Roughly speaking, we found that there were some thirty to forty thousand tuberculous discharged soldiers. There was difficulty in getting at the figures, because they were for a long time all lumped together as chest cases and it was therefore difficult to separate the tuberculous cases, but on the best evidence we could secure that was the result. The first point we desired to make clear was this, that the tuberculous soldier is only one part of the general national problem of tuberculosis. He fits into the ordinary administration of tuberculosis throughout the country. There is the dispensary, there are the various preliminary stages, there is domiciliary treatment, then we come on to the sanatorium and the training colony, but, particularly in the early stages, the tuberculous discharged soldier and sailor must fit into the ordinary machinery of tuberculosis treatment. Then the next conclusion to which we came was this, that the accommodation with regard to sanatoria and hospitals throughout the country was unsatisfactory and insufficient. It was insufficient in this way. Under the present arrangements the discharged soldier has priority of treatment, and generally speaking, within certain limits, the case of the tuberculous discharged man has been dealt with, but I am sorry to say he has only been dealt with at the expense of the civilian population in a great many cases, and the requirement of additional sanatoria is one that has got to be dealt with immediately, as it is very urgent.
The provision of sanatoria is a question largely for the local authorities, subject to State subventions, and local authorities, it must be remembered, have had a very difficult time in the last four or five years. There were large schemes for new sanatoria well on their way before the War. Money had been provided in many cases, plans had been secured, and buildings had even been begun. The War came, the military seized the hospitals, the Government stopped the buildings, and therefore, if the local authorities are four years in arrears with their sanatoria, I think we must not say it is entirely their fault. We were all of opinion that the sanatoria must be developed, that accommodation must be improved, and that training colonies must be made the natural. 2367 adjunct of the sanatoria. Lastly we were faced with this problem. Assuming a man had sanatorium treatment and passed through a training colony, assuming that he has been built up to a position of health and strength where under the best conditions he may look forward to a very fair average length of life in the future, he is then released from the sanatorium and the training colony, where he has been for six to twelve months under the best possible conditions. He takes up work under all the unsatisfactory rough and tumble conditions of the labour market, he goes to live in a house which is probably not very sanitary, the worries of life fasten upon him, and what is the result? Quite inevitably he drifts back, and the scale of his health descends and descends, and in a few years, or even it may be in a few months, he probably dies, and not only that, but before he dies he infects a large area around him.
The mere provision of sanatoria and training colonies is not enough. We must make some further provision, and we are going to begin by making that provision for the discharged soldier. In our view the only alternative to offer him is this, either the best possible housing conditions in specially prepared houses, or that the Government should provide something in the way of permanent village settlements alongside the sanatoria. There is an institution (on an experimental scale I agree) recently started at Papworth, near Cambridge. Incidentally it is not a very satisfactory state of things, although everybody speaks well of Papworth, to know that it is so restricted for money that it can hardly carry on. The institution consists of the sanatorium, the training colony, and the village settlement. A man passes through the sanatorium, goes to the training colony outside, learns an industry, and then they say to him: "There is a cottage there in the village ready for you. Won't you come with your family and live here? You will have medical help, you can work at an industry under proper conditions, you will be paid the standard rate of wages for the district. We offer you a healthy life. It is possible you may have to give up certain things, but you are secure of your pension as long as you are here. Won't you co-operate with us, not only in making your own life assured and your own health assured, but in securing for your children and for your neighbours this, that you shall not drift downwards and 2368 drag them down in your own unfortunate collapse, which may possibly end in death?" That is the kind of proposal which we sketch out as being really, in our view, the only possible one, and I hope it may receive the kindly consideration of the Government. I am much obliged to the Committee for having listened to me.
§ Captain HACKING
I am one of those who in the past have been quite content to hear my own views expressed in much more noble language by certain other Members in the House than ever 1 could hope to express them in myself, but I quite realise that that is a state of laziness which cannot continue for ever, so I rise with some reluctance, and with a much, larger amount of trepidation, to address the House for the first time. I know that I can ask for the indulgence of the House without any hesitation, knowing that the House is always indulgent on these occasions. The subject of pensions I always imagine may be approached from two points of view, from the point of view of the soldier, who is naturally, though somewhat unfortunately, a little biassed, and from the point of view of the civilian. I am not a soldier, I never have been a soldier, and I never want to be a soldier. I happen to have had the honour of holding a commission for the last four and a half years of the War, but that does not necessarily constitute, a soldier. Even if I could speak from the point of view of the soldier, I would much prefer to look at this question from the broader standpoint of the civilian, and I would like to consider it as a question of the benefit of the whole community. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) said this afternoon that a great number of his points had been already met by the Pensions Minister, and on that account he found it somewhat difficult to make a lengthy speech; but if he found this difficulty, the Committee will certainly agree that the difficulty is increased in my case.
I want to look at this subject for a few moments from the point of view of the civilian, knowing as I do that no industry will be the success that it should be, no individual effort will be as it should be, if just grievances with regard to pensions are allowed to continue. A great number of the grievances have been swept away this afternoon. There still remain one or two, and with one especially I would like to deal at a, little length. It concerns the disability pension in connection with Civil 2369 servants. In 1918 a booklet was issued by the Ministry of Pensions entitled ''The Disabled Soldier's Handbook, 1918" and a copy of this handbook is issued to every disabled soldier on discharge. A foreword to the soldier on discharge inside the book contains the following words:The cash allowance that the State gives you is simply compensation for the injury or impairment of your health you have sustained by your war service, and the amount of compensation, that is, your pension, will defend on the extent of your disablement as it appears to the medical board, who will examine you from time to time when your disability exists, and it depends on nothing else. It has nothing to do with any wages or salary you may earn after your discharge.I admit that that booklet was not issued by the present Minister of Pensions. It was issued by his predecessor (Mr. Hodge), who is sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, but as no booklet has boon issued since, I take it the present Minister of Pensions agrees with, this booklet. If this publication means anything—and, I take it, Government publications do occasionally mean something—it means that a man on discharge, if he is in receipt of civil pay, will not have his disability pension taken into consideration at all when he receives that civil pay. Now, in the case of Civil servants, when sick leave is granted to them within one month of discharge from the Army, the disability pay is deducted from their civil pay; but if, on the other hand, they are in receipt of sick pay at a later period subsequent to a month from discharge, they do not have disability pay deducted from their civil pay. If a, man is sick within a month of leaving the Army, we might naturally assume that his sickness is, at any rate, partly due to his service in the Army. If a man is in good health for a month after leaving the Army, but breaks down in health after that, the probabilities are that his sickness is due to his civil life—probably his own carelessness. But, according to the regulations of the Civil Service, these men who have been discharged less than a month, and whose illness is probably due to war service, are placed in a worse financial position than those people whose illness is probably due, as I have tried to prove, to carelessness in civil life. One would think that if any differentiation is to be made at all, it should be in favour of the man whose illness is probably due to war service. This, I know, is not directly in connection with the Minister of Pensions, but I do hope that, having acknowledged responsibility for this booklet, he 2370 will do all he can to influence the Civil Service in order to get them to abide by their general regulation which, I believe, is that on no account will disability pay enter into the calculation when civil pay has been granted. As the Minister of Pensions has accepted liability for this booklet, I hope he will help to press that matter home. I do not know what excuse the Civil Service makes, but I expect it is that if a man is recently discharged from the Army he has not get rid of the habit, which is certainly prevalent to a certain extent in the Army, of malingering. If he is back for a month, they probably think he will have got rid of the complaint of malingering. As a matter of fact, they have to undergo medical examination when they report sick, and they have to have a medical certificate. If that certificate is from a private practitioner, the Post Office doctor, or the doctor for whatever branch of the Civil Service the man is in, has to examine him, and with that safeguard I do not think the question of malingering enters into the case at all.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of PENSIONS (Colonel Sir J. Craig)
Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to point out that there is a Bill being introduced by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury which will cover the whole Civil Service, and that will be a very proper time for my hon. and gallant Friend to raise that point. The Secretary to the Treasury announced a few days ago that a Bill was in progress at the present time affecting the whole Civil Service in regard to deduction of 10 per cent, in the case of salaries over £400, and I presume when that Bill is introduced my hon. and gallant Friend will have a good opportunity of raising that point, over which the Pensions Minister has no control.
§ Captain HACKING
I quite appreciate that, but perhaps it will save another speech on the point if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will ask the authorities to read in the OFFICIAL REPORT what I have said. The second complaint, I think, does concern actually the Pensions Minister and nobody else—I hope so, at any rate. It concerns the flat-rate allowance of 6s. 6d., which, I take it is now to be increased, issued to childless wives of serving soldiers by the local war pensions committee under Circular 163. This allowance is payable as from 1st November, 1918, to a childless wife who cannot earn wages. 2371 The Committee will remember that, some time ago, a very complicated form was issued which had to be tilled, and, owing to pressure which was brought to bear on the Minister, a much more simple form was printed in which only two questions, I think, were asked. The first was as to whether the woman, was childless, and the second was whether she was capable of earning. Unfortunately, I am told, this old form is still in circulation, and, in any case, some of the committees who deal with this subject do not quite understand its application. Some committee spay from 1st November, which, I believe, is probably correct, and others pay from the date of the application being made. Another point in that connection is that the wife of a soldier with three children, who are beyond the age to draw separation allowance, is also entitled to that rate. A great many thousands of mothers do not know that. I do not think it has been very extensively advertised. Probably, from what the Pensions Minister told us this afternoon, he will be rather chary of advertising anything in future. At the same time, if these people have a right to anything they ought to be informed of that right, and I do hope that the Pensions Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will make a note of that, and see that this is advertised, because on this occasion, at any rate, I do not think it would increase the amount of correspondence. With regard to this flat-rate allowance of 6s. 6d., or the subsequent increase to be made on that amount, in any case I have said that this is only paid to the childless wife of a serving soldier. I would suggest, with all humility, that it would be better if this payment were made by the regimental paymaster in the form of separation allowance, rather than by the Pensions Minister, for this reason: The regimental paymaster has all particulars with regard to the children, and he has at his finger ends all particulars with regard to the man himself. No questions need be asked. It could quite easily be run in connection with the separation allowance.
A good deal has been said this afternoon with regard to the statutory right to a pension. I have always been in agreement with the statutory right being granted. It has been suggested that it is a question of sentiment. I am one of those who believe that sentiment counts for something. There is very little difference 2372 between keen sentiment and a real grievance, and for that reason I am convinced it would make no difference to the Minister or the Government, because it would cost exactly the same amount of money, and I would press strongly upon the Government that they should admit the statutory right to a pension. It would get rid of a great deal of discontent among the soldiers, and it would cost the Government nothing to get rid of that discontent. My next complaint has been met pretty well this afternoon, and it is with regard to the speeding-up of all cases of pension. A great deal of delay, we all know, has taken place in the past. We must not blame the Ministry altogether. The Ministry has had a tremendous task to undertake. We must all appreciate that fact, but I would ask them to do their utmost to try to get to that position when the first payment of pension is made actually on the cessation of separation allowance. Separation allowance is allowed for twenty-eight days after a man is discharged or demobilised, and twenty-eight days ought to be sufficient to allow all particulars to be taken, and cases to be fully investigated, so that the pension can start immediately after the separation allowance has ceased. There should be no gap between the payment of the moneys coming into any house or cottage.
My final point is more in the form of a request. A number of Members of this House—I may have ben guilty myself—have at times ridiculed the Ministry of Pensions. It is not necessary for the Members of this House to ridicule that Ministry. There are probably plenty of other people capable of doing that quite as well as we arc. I am certain that ridicule does not help the cause and does not help the Ministry. Grievances, errors, or omissions of an individual character would be far better dealt with by a personal letter to one of the Ministers or to their Parliamentary Private Secretaries than by a question across the floor of the House. I have communicated extensively with one of the Parliamentary Private Secretaries, the hon. Member for Altrincham (Major Hamilton), and 1 hope I am not out of order in mentioning the fact that I have received complete satisfaction. If everybody has had the satisfaction I have had in connection with the Ministry, there ought to be no cause of complaint. Personal grievances mentioned across the floor of the House create general distrust 2373 and dissatisfaction by advertisement. Only a few days ago a personal question was asked across the floor of the House by the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley). I am sorry he is not here to hear me criticise him. He asked a question with regard to a certain lieutenant, which i am convinced did not do that lieutenant any good or the Ministry any good. One would have thought it was a question of self-advertisement by the person who was asking the question, had it not been for the fact that I have always been so tremendously impressed by the simple modesty of the hon. Member for South Hackney. I should like to congratulate in my humble way the Select Committee on Pensions for trying to alleviate many complaints treat existed previously to their Report. The smallness of pensions in general was one of the greatest grievances. That I feel will be met in such a way that it will give perfect satisfaction to the majority of discharged soldiers and sailors. Everybody knows that these people who are receiving a, pension have richly earned it. We are told that we must economise. I imagined that when the Ministry asked the Government to adopt this Report they would be met by the Chancellor of the Exchequer telling them that this was not economy, and that he could not agree to the increases suggested. I am glad that the Government have agreed to increase these amounts, for although the Committee must be in agreement with the general policy of economy, it is certainly not right to practise it on these soldiers and sailors or on the dependants of these soldiers and sailors without whose gallantry the very nation itself might have ceased to exist. We ought to see to it that these men and their dependants are in no worse position to-day than they were before the War on account of the sacrifices they have made for their King and country. I thank the Committee for having listened to me so patiently.
§ Mr. HODGE
The Minister of Pensions is to be congratulated upon the success he has achieved with the Treasury. Sometimes these shadows show up in front of us. When before the last General Election I placed a miserable 20 per cent, advance on pensions before the Treasury, if it was not refused, there was at any rate many weeks' delay before it was accepted. We were in the throes of the General Election before the concession was made, 2374 and then it was only dated to the month of June last. Does this generous contribution to-day mean that we are going to be in the threes of a General Election? It looks very like it. Be that as it may, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the success he has achieved, which means a great advance in the scale. When one thinks of the cost of living to-day, even the value of the 50s. that has been promised to married men is only something like 21s. Generous as is the advance on the present scale, when one takes into account the present cost of living, it is not too generous. We have to realise that all we possess to-day is due to the sacrifices of the men to whom we are granting pensions, because without their success we should have had nothing to provide for. I was also glad to hear that, so far as the tuberculosis patients are concerned, that my right hon. Friend was on the eve of some success. There, again, the difficulty was caused because two Government Departments were concerned to get the money necessary to do justice by those men. I am glad that my right hon. Friend is getting that matter into his own hands, because with one Department there is a chance of very much greater success than when you have to deal by and through another Department. The remarks my right hon. Friend made with respect to artificial limbs and the setting up of an expert Committee, caused me to wonder what had become of the expert Committee that was dealing with that subject. I do not believe' that any better Committee could be set up than the one which was in existence when my right hon. Friend became Pensions Minister. We had the greatest engineering experts that the country could give us, the greatest surgical experts, and, in connection with the Ministry of Munitions, we had men who were experts in inventions. I hope that it may be simply a re-forming of that Committee instead of its being scrapped and a new one set up.
With respect to the new scheme of regional districts, I hope it may be successful in getting rid of many of the delays which have occurred in the past. It must always be borne in mind that this was a new Department created during a war period, with an absolutely untrained staff of women, because we could not get men. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for the Gorbals Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) had exactly the same difficulties. There seemed to be a lack of 2375 vision in the early clays as to the magnitude of the work which had to be accomplished. I was glad to hear what my right hon. Friend said about a smooth running of the machinery at Chelsea. Although it is a bit cumbrous; at the same time we have to give credit to the gentleman who reorganised it. Ho has done wonderful work in reorganisation so far as pensions are concerned. It was thought advisable that he should undertake the reorganisation of Chelsea, which had broken down. Where my right hon. Friend might have received tens of complaints, I received thousands. The reorganisation, slow and cumbrous as it might have been, achieved the purpose of getting rid of these delays and of all errors except those which are inevitable with a human machine. My chief object in rising was to express my great personal delight at the very generous advance that has been made in the amount of the pensions. From that point of view alone my right hon. Friend has every reason to be congratulated. The hon. Member for South Salford (Sir M. Barlow), after having got ninety-nine points out of the 100 recommended by his Committee, was supercritical, He might have taken a more generous line and expressed thanks for having achieved so much. The Report of the Committee must have strengthened the hands of the Minister of Pensions. A year ago, when a similar statement was made in this House, very few Members were present. The attendance is rather better this evening. The lack of Members does not show that interest in pensions which ought to animate this House. So far as we on these benches are concerned, we heartily congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the success he has achieved.
§ Captain LOSEBY
The action of the Government in holding two meetings since Tuesday last to consider the Report of this Select Committee and the fact that the Minister of Pensions was able to come down here to-day and say that the principle of the recommendations of that Select Committee, involving a sum of £20,000,000 a year, had been accepted, proves what many of us have known for some time, that in regard to soldiers' grievances none feel them more keenly and sire more anxious to right them than the present Government and the Minister of Pensions. I cannot imagine an act of the Government more creditable than the act of being able to make up its mind within 2376 two days upon a subject involving a huge sum of money as in the present case. I hope the widest publicity will be given to the act of the Government in this respect. It is so vitally important that the soldiers throughout the country should realise, though there may be grievances, yet the heart of the House of Commons and the Government is most certainly sympathetic. The recommendations of the Select Committee are of far-reaching importance. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions has accepted the bulk of them. Being so often repeated in Committee, it is not necessary to go into great detail, but I believe the right hon. Gentleman is searching for grievances the whole time; not waiting for them to be forced upon, him. These grievances, I am certain, will be rectified, cost what it may! It is vitally necessary at the present time, when unrest is about, that we should have the soldiers as a body in this country right behind us. Knowing full well, as I do, the intense sense of comradeship amongst soldiers, you will, I say, achieve that effectively and completely once they' fully realise that their broken men are being looked after. The right hon. Gentleman, a previous Pensions Minister, who spoke last (Mr. Hodge) said he could not understand why the chairman of the Select Committee, having received so much, had not proved himself to be more grateful. Why should there be quibbling over the last point? But I do, once again, urge the Pensions Minister again to consider this question of an appeal on amount. It is of such vital importance to the soldier himself. Evidence was given before the Select Committee that the findings of the medical boards vary at times as much as from 20 to 50 per cent. It is very largely a matter of opinion. We had one case where, I think I am right in saying, the first medical board assessed the disability of a wounded man at 70 per cent., and this was reduced by a competent doctor to 20 per cent. That was under a system which has gone. I am very glad it has gone. My point, however, remains, that the original medical board may have been utterly wrong in its first findings, which was very largely a matter of opinion. There is ground for dissatisfaction unless this appeal on amount is given.
The Select Committee—I urge this with all the sincerity with which I am capable upon the right hon. Gentleman, because I am as convinced as I am alive that grievances will remain until an appeal on 2377 amount is given—the Select Committee has made certain definite recommendations in regard to the constitution of the medical boards and the constitution of the Appeal Board. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to throw those recommendations right overboard. He can find a simpler method of putting up medical boards which will enable him to give this right of appeal, to which every man who has been tried for his life has a right. Perhaps he will consider the proposition I have put forward before—that a medical board might be equally competent as now if there was only one doctor upon it and two laymen. Ho would thus get over his difficulty of medical personnel. For my own part I believe he will have not only a satisfactory but a more satisfactory board. He would then on the Appeal Board be able to have two doctors—and he has his superior board! It is possible to show by economy an medical men how you can find these Appeal Boards without any further call upon your medical personnel. The great administrative ability of the right hon. Gentleman, which is a fortunate thing for the soldiers will, I think, allow him eventually to get over the difficulty in this manner. I earnestly appeal to him not to rest until he has achieved a recommendation of the Committee in regard to open court, telling the man then and there what toe is going to get, and letting it run, and then if he is not satisfied he may have a full appeal on amount. It should not surpass the wit of man to achieve this reform which is one of vital importance in regard to the machinery for adapting the pensions to meet the cost of living. I do not think that the words were actually inserted in the Warrant, but I presume that these bonuses will operate on every single figure in the Barnes Warrant: otherwise it is illogical. I am told, for example—and it is a most astonishing tiling—that soldiers wounded prior to 1916 do not receive the 30 per cent, bonus, yet living has risen, and it is quite as difficult for soldiers who volunteered to fight and were broken previous to 1916, to live.
This is the kind of point to which I referred when I said that we in this House trust the right hon. Gentleman to search out grievances and rectify them. In this particular instance the recommendations of the Select Committee are not accepted unless the bonus operates on every figure on the Barnes Warrant and subsequent figures. I would like again to refer to a point referred to by the right hon. Gentle- 2378 man, in regard to the War Office paying a man until their medical board has delivered its findings. Why, it is obvious simple justice! You have that broken man. You are going to throw him on his own resources. You acknowledge your liability in regard to him. Surely it must be, as indeed the right hon. Gentleman himself said, utterly wrong to take the man's livelihood until you have given him that pension which is to take its place. The right hon. Gentleman can have the most complete assurance that this House is right behind him if he will continue this fight with the War Office. These trifling grievances mount up until they may become a very serious danger in the country. Evidence has been given in the last two days of the desire of the Government to remedy grievances. The right hon. Gentleman has been voted £20,000,000 and the House of Commons will vote him another £20,000,000 if it is necessary without hesitation. Pledges have been made and, cost what it may, they are going to be redeemed towards the men but for whom we should not now perhaps be a nation at all.
My last point is: Tell the men. The right hon. Gentleman has not yet given us a complete assurance. The difficulty, I take it, is now completely gone. It. is this atmosphere of open court for the man who has been assessed by a medical board to which I personally attach so much importance. The Select Committee recommended that the Court or the medical board call it what you will£should tell the man then and there what is his pension translated into terms of money, and that pension should operate immediately. The objection to that has gone. Evidence was given before us that only eight out of 120 cases are ever reduced by Chelsea. The right hon. Gentleman himself has undertaken that the pensions shall not be reduced until the medical board has given its decision. I believe the right hon. Gentleman will give the widest satisfaction if he will accept this recommendation of the Select Committee. An hon. and gallant Gentleman who made his maiden speech suggested that we ought not to ridicule the Pensions Minister. Ridicule the Pensions Minister I Why, anyone who has a grievance, discharged soldiers and the like, are most profoundly grateful to him and to the Prime Minister for sparing for this important Department one of the most able of his Ministers. It is important that it 2379 should go to the country that in the right hon. Gentleman we have one with all qualifications— imagination, wide sympathy, determination, and energy. With the House of Commons behind him, and his determination that all the grievances of soldiers should be removed, we have little real cause of uneasiness for the future.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
Through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Gorton Division (Mr. Hodge) there ran a vein of rather envious admiration at the success which the Pensions Minister had achieved in gaining this increase which he, unfortunately, had not been able himself to achieve. Though the right hon. Gentleman is now leaving the Chamber I may say this for his satisfaction: Although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colchester may have reaped the harvest, yet the right hon. Member for Gorton may plume himself in having sown, and also in having reaped where other people have sown. I would like to join in congratulating the Minister of Pensions in regard to the praises that have come from all quarters of the House, but at the same time we must not forget that his predecessors had not the same favourable atmosphere that he has at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Hodge) had grave difficulties to face and so had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Barnes), and therefore I think the Minister of Pensions will be the very first to acknowledge that his predecessors did good work, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to put the top storey on the edifice which they erected.
May I say how profoundly grateful we are to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman for the generous way in which the demands of the ex-Service men have been met, and, above all, upon their promptness in coming to a decision? "Who gives quickly gives doubly," and this refreshing decision after forty-eight hours' consideration in the face of months of previous delay will give the discharged men confidence that the Government mean to remedy such grievances as exist, and it is a very important thing to have a large body of ex-Service opinion with you to enable you to reconstruct the country, as they have saved it during the War. I fully acknowledge the excellent 2380 work that has been done by the Minister of Pensions, but I desire to put forward a couple of criticisms and some half-dozen suggestions by which the Ministry might complete the edifice and remove one or two minor grievances. In his speech the right hon. Gentleman stated that he employed approximately 14,000 people at the Ministry of Pensions, 11.000 of whom were women. I would like the representative of the Government who is going to reply to explain to the House why in the Ministry of Pensions it is still necessary that out of every fourteen people employed eleven of them should be women? That proportion of women, surely, is not necessary, and some of them, I think, might be replaced by discharged men and, above all, by partially-disabled men. There are hundreds of thousands of discharged and disabled men in the North of England out of a job who want to do clerical work; and although I agree there are many posts in the Ministry of Pensions which disabled men would not wish to fill, and that there are other jobs that women can do better, I think, out of those 11,000 women, there must be some posts which could be occupied by discharged and disabled men. May I congratulate the Pensions Minister upon actually dismissing an official who did not come up to the mark, and if only the War Office had followed his example we might have got on wish the War much better? We have now an official who has actually dismissed two officials—one permanent—and I hope he will continue doing this until he reaches perfection, which he is fast attaining.
May I bring forward one or two complaints, which would be of importance in ordinary Debate, but which, I am afraid, are only minor points in view of the wide-reaching decisions which the right hon. Gentleman has announced. These complaints affect certain sections of ex-Service men and their dependants, and there is no reason why, because only a small number are affected, that the injustice should not be removed. If there is only one man suffering an injustice, it should be done away with by the House of Commons, which is elected specially for the redress of grievances. In regard to the widows of previous wars, whose pensions have been reassessed to scale for widows of the present War, I think they should receive a pension according to their husband's rank. At the present time I understand that the widow of a private gets 13s. 6d., but the widow of a non-commis- 2381 sioned officer or a warrant officer only gets the same amount. I think that must be an oversight in the Royal Warrant, for it cannot surely be the intention that the widow of a man of superior rank, like a warrant officer or a non-commissioned officer, should receive the same pension as a private, and although this affects only some 2,000 widows, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider this point.
Another matter which has constantly come under my notice is the difficulty which exists of obtaining a man's medical history sheet, and this leads to great delay, and if the right hon. Gentleman would do something to speed up this matter it would be very helpful. I know the case of a man in the Royal Army Medical Corps who was in the workhouse until an ex-soldiers' organisation got him out. Although he is quite unfit for any employment, the Pensions Committee have been unable for weeks to enter an appeal on his behalf, because the information as to his medical history sheets are not up to date. Perhaps I may send the right hon. Gentleman details of this case. In reference to the question of parents' pensions, I consider that where any pension is awarded based on dependence on the son, it should be paid from the date of death instead of from the date of application for the pension. Many parents do not know of the regulations, and when they wake up and find they are entitled to a certain allowance they are only given the money from the date of the application, and not from the date of death. I think it is only fair that these people, many of whom are illiterate, should get their award from the date of the death.
Another point is that when applications for alternative pensions have been entered I think the Pensions Committee should be empowered to pay the difference between the ordinary pension and the prospective alternative pension pending the decision of the Ministry. I could give a number of cases. I know the case of an Irish Guardsman who has been months waiting for his alternative pension. He is very hard up, and if the Pensions Committee had the power I indicate they would not run very much risk, and it would soften the condition of these men who are being held up by these delays. My next point is that the right hon. Gentleman stated that while awaiting assessment of pensions the men could get advances from the Ministry, and he said that he had asked the War Office to put 2382 these men on full pay, and that the War Office had refused. I ask him to press the War Office again on this point, if not for full rates, at least for half-pay. It is undignified for a man who has been in the Service to have to ask the Ministry of Pensions to advance him £10 or £15 in order to carry on, and if an officer knew that he was entitled either to half or full pay, he would know exactly where he was, but now he is dependent upon an advance from the right hon. Gentleman, and that is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
May I also ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the case of men who have received specific injuries in previous wars, but whose pensions awarded at the time have lapsed, and they are now debarred from the benefits of the Warrant of 1918, because they are no longer pensioners? No man who has been wounded in this War will come into the position of having a lapsed pension, and it is very hard that these old men, because they were wounded in a former war, should get no increase at all. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider the case of these men, who do not come under the Warrant of 1918. My next point is that of men who received injuries other than on active service, or the widows of men who were so killed, who, I think, should be brought under the Warrant of May, 1918, which brings the pre-war pensions up to scale. I will give the instance of a corporal in the Royal Garrison Artillery, who was blinded by the explosion of a gun. As far as he is concerned he was blinded in the service of his King and country, although the accident happened on parade. Nevertheless, he was under military orders, and if he cannot be brought under exactly the same scale as the others, at least he should have something, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider this point. Would he also consider the case of re-enlisted pensioners in receipt of modified pensions and have them re-assessed at the present time for total service and for higher rank attained during the War. Those are people whom we ought particularly to consider because they have done their service and they gallantly came forward at middle age to train Lord Kitchener's Army, and they arc going to get nothing out of the War. I think they ought to have some recognition by an advancing position for what they have done. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider the various points I have mentioned.
§ Major ENTWISTLE
I wish to express my thanks to the Minister of Pensions for having accepted most of the recommendations contained in the Pensions Committee Report. It has been stated that this is very generous treatment on the part of the Government, but I do not quite agree with that, for I do not consider it is generous, although I admit it is a very considerable improvement. For instance, a single man has a rise of 7s. in his pension and the married man has an increase of from 17s. to 18s. a week. Everyone realises that those are considerable improvements. In the aggregate the cost to the country is something like £20,000,000 per annum. The maximum disability pension of 40s. a week, however, represents a pre-war value of about 19s. per week, and no one can say that is an extravagant sum for a man who has been totally disabled fighting for us in this War. Allowing for the fact that it is a permanent pension and that he is not subject to the possibility of losing it as industrial workers are liable to lose their wages, the fact remains that 19s. per week pre-war value is not a pension—