HC Deb 04 November 1920 vol 134 cc537-9
4. Mr. RAPER

asked the Minister of Pensions why men who, on enlistment, were passed fit for service into the naval, military, or air services, have been discharged and are still suffering some disability, should not continue to receive a pension instead of having to apply for Poor Law assistance?


The function of the Pensions Warrant is to compensate for disability due to war service, and if a claim to pension is refused on the ground that that condition is not fulfilled, the claimant has a right of appeal to an independent tribunal, whose verdict is, by statute, final.

Captain LOSEBY

Has the Minister of Pensions no prerogative in the matter?


I am afraid not. I have looked into the question very carefully, and I am told I have not.


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the number of ex-service men who have been refused pension on the grounds that their disability is not attributable to service and yet who are incapacitated to such an extent that Poor Law relief has been necessary, it is proposed to make special provision for these cases?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)

Such provision already exists in a statutory right of appeal to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal, whose decisions are final, but which is a body quite independent of the Ministry of Pensions.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it takes from six to twelve months before the appeal is heard, and that in the meantime disabled men are compelled to apply to the Poor Relief Committees?


I am assured by the Ministry of Pensions that the average period is one month.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are cases, not infrequently, where very often twelve months are occupied before the hearing takes place and that in these cases the ex-service men are compelled to go to the Poor Law?


I do not say that there may not be exceptional cases No doubt there is a good deal of hardship inflicted in these cases, but I am told that they are very rare and are attributable to the difficulties which have arisen.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an opportunity of discussing the whole question as there is considerable dissatisfaction amongst ex-service men upon this question?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of Boards of Guardians are passing resolutions of protest against ex-service men being treated in this way?

Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)

Whether we give an opportunity for discussion must depend upon whether there is a general desire for discussion. The Ministry of Pensions would like to have a discussion, and if we can find time we shall give it.

Captain LOSEBY

Could you not solve this problem by definitely laying down the principle that where a man was definitely accepted for service as a fit man, and discharged from the Service as a disabled man, that disability was attributable to service?


It is very easy to lay down general principles of that kind. I have no doubt that you would get rid of the difficulty, but there is another danger which we have to keep in mind, and that is the danger of overburdening the Treasury. The pension list of this country is heavier than in any other country in Europe, and the scale is a more generous one. We have to take into account all these circumstances, and it is for that reason that we have to scrutinise much more narrowly than we like to do all these circumstances.