HC Deb 25 November 1920 vol 135 cc615-6
8. Captain TERRELL

asked the Minister of Pensions whether his attention has been called to the number of cases of ex-service men forced to frequent the casual wards of the country, where they complain of delay or difficulty in obtaining the pensions which they think are due to them; and whether he is investigating all such cases and will issue instructions to the workhouse masters to report them.


A circular was issued to all Boards of Guardians last year requesting them to refer all such cases to the Local War Pensions Committee, in order that immediate investigation might be made. I have no reason to doubt that Boards of Guardians are complying with this request.


Why have so many ex-service men to frequent workhouses in this country?


That is a very difficult question. I am always anxious to hear of individual cases of this kind.


Is it not a fact that ex-service men are forced to frequent workhouses because certain trade unions will not allow them to work? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]


I am not aware of any case of the kind. If my hon. and gallant Friend will produce any case of the kind, I shall be glad to investigate it. These instructions are issued to boards of guardians not by me, but by the Ministry of Health. I can assure the House that I am only too anxious to find out any case of the kind, and I shall be happy to investigate it.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the boot industry the trade unionists allowed 6,000 ex-service men to be trained, and that now the industry is overstocked and men are unemployed?


I must say that the trade unions as a whole have done very well indeed. My one difficulty is with the particular trade union which my hon. Friend has mentioned.


Would not the right hon. Gentleman send out a reminder to the workhouse masters reminding them of the circumstances?

Colonel C. LOWTHER

Would it not be possible to have special treatment meted out to those men?


The regulations are quite clear. The Ministry of Health has charge of these matters. I have made it perfectly clear to the committees that wherever there is a legitimate case, it should be investigated at once, and if a man is entitled to a pension or gratuity he should get it at once.


In cases where ex-service men apply for relief to workhouses, could not the master be instructed to deal with him specially, and not put him along with paupers who have not served their country?


I will certainly communicate the idea to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health. I have no control over workhouses, but I should be sorry to think that anything of this kind occurs.


Could not the workhouse master be instructed to bring these cases immediately before the right hon. Gentleman?


Even the Minister of Health cannot instruct a Board of Guardians; he can only request that certain things be done. I will communicate with the Minister of Health, and see what joint action can be taken.

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