HC Deb 30 November 1920 vol 135 cc1110-2
60. Brigadier-General Sir OWEN THOMAS

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, as an act of grace, he will give orders that the pension of Richard Owen, of Pentraeth, Anglesey, aged 79, a man of blameless life and an excellent worker, shall be immediately restored to him in view of the fact that his whole fault lies in illiteracy and inability to understand the Regulations as set out to him by an officer addressing him in an unknown tongue?


I regret that I cannot accede to the hon. and gallant Member's request, as a sum of £14 13s. is still out- standing in respect of the Old Age Pension money improperly obtained by Owen by false declaration as to his means.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this old man of 80 years of age is a monoglot Welshman, and that the pensions officer was unable, and is unable, to understand a word of Welsh?


Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the importance of officials being appointed who understand the language of the people?


With regard to the second supplementary question, my right hon. Friend has been dealing with that matter. With regard to the first supplementary question, I would remind my hon. and learned Friend that the matter was looked into a year ago at his request, and the explanation which I provided him at that time satisfied him. If the hon. Member has any further information to give me I shall be pleased to receive it, but I have examined the files again this morning, and, while it is a fact that the old man is a monoglot Welshman, the Old Age Pensions officer is understood to have a sufficient knowledge of Welsh to understand questions and answers, and the old man was accompanied by his daughter, who is a fluent speaker of English. In my experience a blameless life has never prevented people making a wrong return in matters of assessment.

61. Sir O. THOMAS

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many Old Age Pension officers are employed in Anglesey and Carnarvonshire who are unable to speak Welsh?


Of the 12 Old Age Pension officers in the area in question, five speak the Welsh language fluently, and six others have a working knowledge of the language.


What about the deaf and dumb?


There are other languages besides Welsh.


What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by having a "working knowledge" of the Welsh language? Does it mean being able to say "Good morning" or "Good night," or does it mean having an intimate acquaintance with the literary works of Dafydd ap Gwilym or the forgeries of "Iolo Morganwgs"?


I should say that a "working knowledge" means such knowledge as enables a man to do his work in that language.

62. Sir O. THOMAS

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is prepared forthwith to direct that all Regulations relating to Old Age Pensions be issued in Welsh as well as in English and to provide that every monoglot pensioner shall have access to an official able to explain to him the conditions attaching to the receipt of Old Age Pension in his own language?


The relevant Old Age Pension forms, including the forms of declaration containing particulars of the statutory conditions and disqualifications, have always been provided in Welsh for use where necessary. All requisite facilities are provided for monoglot pensioners.


Will the same principle be applied in the Highlands where the oldest language in the world is spoken?


Owing to the unsatisfactory reply which has been given to this question, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House this evening.