HC Deb 25 November 1920 vol 135 cc610-2
12. Mr. J. DAVISON

asked the Minister of Pensions whether the proceedings of the Departmental Committee of inquiry into the method and system of administration of the Pensions Ministry are to be open to the Press and public; and whether public notification of sittings will be made to enable organisations of ex-service men and other persons engaged in work on behalf of the disabled to be represented, and to allow any ex-service man, or widow, or dependant to attends to give evidence of the hardship they have suffered in consequence of the delays of pensions administration?


The proceedings of the Departmental Committee will, following the usual practice in such cases, be private. I am glad, however, to be able to inform my hon. Friend that the ex-service men's organisations have already been invited to agree as to the witnesses through whom they would desire to submit views as to the administration of pensions and other matters affecting the several branches of the inquiry which the Departmental Committee will have to undertake. The nature of the evidence to be taken will be a matter to be determined by the Committee itself, but I fear that the suggestion made by my hon. Friend in the last part of his question would not be conducive to the rapid progress of the Committee's work.


Will any opportunity be provided for evidence to be given by the trade union women employed by the Ministry of Pensions?


I will consult the Chairman of the Committee, and communicate with my hon. Friend.

13. Mr. SITCH

asked the Minister of Pensions whether it is proposed to add representatives of the ex-service men's associations to inquire into the system and method of administration of the Ministry of Pensions?


Five members of the Departmental Committee referred to, belonged to the fighting forces engaged in the late War. One of these, my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Sowerby, is, I believe, a member of the Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers; another, Captain H. C. Baird, a disabled officer, is editor of one of the best-known publications dealing with questions affecting ex-service men, and is intimately in touch with their complaints. In these circumstances, I do not think it advisable to add snore members from these associations. Every facility will, of course, be given to them to state their views.


Will representation on the Committee be sanctioned for organ- isations representing women pensioners and employés?

Major NALL

Is it not a fact that a Committee of this sort must be chosen with regard to its ability to consider the case and not with reference to the delegation of particular interests?


Will the right hon. Gentleman take cognisance of the fact that ex-service men prefer to send their own nominees?


It is a Departmental Committee, and must of necessity be chosen by the Department concerned. I hope I have been very fair in my selection of members. I think the selection will command the respect of the House.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question?


I do not know what my hon. Friend means by "representation." The Committee has already been selected, and I am convinced that any desire on the part of any special branch of pensioners will be considered by the Parliamentary Secretary, and that the views of any particular branch will be carefully considered.

Captain LOSEBY

Is it not a fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Sowerby (Major Barker) is the direct representative of the ex-service men and that invitations have been sent to all hon. Members of this House who have consistently fought the ex-service men's case in this House?


I am grateful for the opportunity of answering these questions. It is true that I have invited many hon. Members who have taken a deep interest in the subject and have often attacked the Ministry, to take part in this Committee.


Is it not a fact that on the National Pensions Tribunal there is a representative of the non-commissioned officers and men, and will the right hon. Gentleman not see his way to put a non-commissioned officer on this Committee?


I do not think so. I have selected the Members most carefully, and I am going to give the ex-service men's associations every facility for stating their case. It is for them to bring a charge, and not to be the judges.