Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £5,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Supreme Court of Judicature and Court of Criminal Appeal as are not charged on the Consolidated Fund, including Bonus on certain Statutory Salaries, and the Salaries and Expenses of Pensions Appeals Tribunals.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Ernest Pollock)
I have been asked to explain this Vote. It is accounted for by the Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor. The Committee will remember that under the Act of 1919 this House set up a Pensions Appeals Tribunal for the purpose of giving an independent tribunal to which either officer or man could appeal if dissatisfied after his case had been decided by the Ministry of Pensions. It was felt wise by the House that there should be this independent Tribunal after the case had been dealt with—if I may express it so—departmentally. The duty of appointing this Tribunal was laid upon the Lord Chancellor, and there was chosen one legal representative as Chairman, a man who had to be a barrister or solicitor of not less than seven years' standing; secondly, a disabled officer or man; and, thirdly, a duly-qualified medical practitioner. In 1921, when the War Pensions Act was passed, power was given to the Minister to make what was called final awards, but equally in that case an appeal was given to the applicant to the Appeal Tribunal.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is proceeding to explain the Acts of 1919 and 1921. If I allow that now other hon. Members will be entitled to continue the discussion on those lines. It would not be in order on a Supplementary Estimate to go into the statutory obligations under the two Acts named. The policy of establishing the Pensions Appeal Tribunal was settled under the Acts of 1919 and 1921, and by the original Vote. The only question now before us is whether additional tribunals and the expenses of such tribunals should be approved.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I am much obliged to you, Sir Edwin. I only meant to refer to these matters for the advantage, if it be an advantage, of the Committee, but I gladly accept your ruling, and state that the original Estimate provided for the setting up of nine of these tribunals. The Estimate was based upon the average number of appeals presented week by week during the period up till December, 1920. They were about 401. After the Estimates had been prepared, in 1921, there arose a very much larger number of appeals, and many arrears accumulated. It then became a question of how we should deal with these arrears. Hon. Members will, I am sure, quite appreciate the fact that nothing could be worse than to hold up appeals and so leave a number of persons in a position of uncertainty as to whether or not the appeal would be allowed. It was essential to deal swiftly with the cases, and under the circumstances the Lord Chancellor appointed more tribunals, to the number of 24, in various districts. These were kept hard at work during 1921, but by the end of the year they had succeeded in clearing off the arrears of appeals. The result was that it was possible to demobilise four tribunals. The remaining 20 are dealing principally with current cases, and not arrears. It was quite impossible to forsee the increasing number of appeals, and it was imperative to deal with them speedily, hence the original Estimate, which had provided for only nine tribunals, has been exceeded. The probability is that if the work further decreases, it will be possible to decrease the number of tribunals sitting. I hope the decrease in the number of tribunals will continue and the expenditure will gradually decrease.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by£100.
This is one of the very few opportunities hon. Members have of discussing to some extent the results of the administration of the appeals tribunals. You, Sir Edwin, by your own decision, have rather narrowed the possibilities of the discussion. This is a matter which is becoming more and more serious. The peculiar position in which the country is placed is seen in this fact, that while we are asking for a Supplementary Estimate for appeals tribunals, the Minister of Pensions in another Department is actually over estimating to the extent of 322 over 10½ million pounds. In one department of the same machine they are coming here for a Supplementary Estimate, and, on the other hand, they are over-estimating by 10½ millions. As a matter of fact, the arrears that, have to be dealt with by these appeals tribunals are connected with the over-estimate of the Pensions Minister himself. The appeals tribunals are doing the work which they were never intended to do originally. Arrears of cases are due to the fact that the Pensions Ministry itself is deliberately using the appeals tribunals for settling cases which they ought to settle themselves. Let me give the right hon. Gentleman some facts. We have had complaint after complaint upon this subject, and my attention was drawn to it towards the end of last year. I know of some individual cases which were dealt with by the Newcastle Appeals Tribunal which were gross cases. As a result of those investigations I asked the Pensions Minister if he would get from the appeals tribunals the number of cases which had been dealt with by a particular tribunal during the last six months. I was prepared for a good deal as a result of what I had seen and heard, but I discovered that, according to the figures of the Pensions Minister, out of 1,391 cases which came before the Newcastle Appeals Tribunal, 1,162 were un successful and only 229 were successful. This might seem that people were making dishonest claims, but I am wondering what is the position in the districts where the appeals tribunals are operating. It seems to me from the correspondence I have had that a very serious state of things is operating, and I think the result complained of is due to two things. This House, at the request of ex-service men, forfeited the right of bringing their influence to bear upon those tribunals, and we have had no other opportunity of dealing with the results. I think the ex-service men, in the light of the experience they have had, will be ready to reverse their decision to-morrow. That is my experience in the part of the country with which I am most familiar.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The decision that the appeals tribunals shall be independent and under the Lord Chancellor, instead of being subject to the Pensions Minister.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am loth to interrupt hon. Members who want to have a general discussion, but I have already given a decision with regard to this matter. The general principle is settled by the Act of 1919 and the Act of 1921 and by the original Estimate, and the only question now before us seems to me to be as to whether these additional tribunals to deal with arrears should be set up. The hon. Member has tried to bring in a good many points which he wished to raise and he has done so, confining himself at the same time to what is germane to this Vote. If I allow a discussion on the general principle, I am afraid we should come to what would practically be a Second Reading Debate on the Act of 1919 and 1921.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The point I am trying to make is that these extra Appeals Tribunals are necessary because they are doing the work of the Pensions Minister and his ordinary medical boards. The medical boards are turning men wholesale before the Appeals Tribunals, and I could cite case after case of the most disgraceful character where there ought to be no question whatever about them, and which have been sent before the Appeals Tribunal and the arrears are caused by the large number of cases sent to those tribunals which ought to have been settled before they got there. This is due to the fact that they have not the advantage of local knowledge which before those tribunals counts for nothing. On the other hand this House has nothing to do with the position. Take the case of a man who has served five years in the War. I know of such a case. He was a strong man and he served all through the War. It was quite clear when he came back that he was nothing like the same man, and one could see him shrinking almost weekly. Eventually this man dies and the Pensions Appeals Tribunal immediately dismisses the widow's claim, although every person in the immediately locality knows that this man died as a result of his services in the War. I could cite cases of that kind by the dozen. I want to take this opportunity of making a protest against the administration of the Appeals Tribunals, and I think this House will have to take the administration of this business under its own jurisdiction, and decide what course it is going to follow. Here we have 1,100 cases out of 1,300 refused in 324 six months. For these reasons I think I am justified in proposing this reduction, and I shall press my Amendment to a Division because this is the only opportunity we shall have of registering our protest.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has waxed very indignant over the decisions of the Appeals Tribunal, but there is another side to the question. I could give an instance where in a certain place a certain man received a pension for a wound which he received in the War. There was another man who had received a wound in the War, and it got better, and he went to work, but hearing that the first man had received a pension he decided to see if he could not get one as well. He got a letter from the local clergy, and it was decided that he was entitled to a pension and he got one. I do not suppose that that is an isolated case. There are many of those who have been wounded who are now perfectly well and capable and earning their own livelihood, who, hearing that some friend or relation of theirs has got a pension, have immediately said, "I will see if I cannot get a pension." I am inclined to think that under these circumstances it is very-necessary that these Appeals Tribunals should be set up. The only objection I have to it, and even that has been answered by the learned Solicitor-General, is that the original Estimate was rather bad. An increase of £58,000 in one item is rather striking. I understand it was quite unforeseen and arose from the very considerable number of these appeals. I do not think the salaries of the chairmen and medical members, in view of the important duties they perform, are excessive. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend this question: Is there any bonus included in these pensions? The heading of the Estimate says "Bonus," but that might apply only to the original Estimate. Is any bonus included in these salaries, and, if so, what is it, and under what Clause has it been included?
§ Mr. CAIRNS
I want to second the motion for the reduction of this Vote, and I am going to cite some cases in respect of the decisions of the Appeal Courts. I hold in my hand a copy of a letter from a medical man, declaring a certain ex-soldier's case to be genuine and severe, he being incapable of labour 325 during the cold weather. This man served during the whole of the War. He was a strong, healthy man, and is now 41 years of age. He has a wife and five children. His only income is 5s. 6d. from an approved society. He is dependent on the Poor Law, and his eldest boy, in order to help support the family, has gone to sea, sending all his wages home. I want to put it to the marital-minded Members of this House that here is the case of a man 41 years of age, quite prepared to fight for his country, who is now practically starving. I have sat on Appeal Courts and I have been a- recruiting member. I always promised that when the soldiers came back we would do all we could for them. Yet here is a family actually starving. The man has been to my house several times. He cannot sleep at nights. He cannot work. He has been done in by the War.
Here is another case which has been before the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. The Secretary of the Tribunal sends a letter to a man regretting that it is not possible to arrange for his case to be heard that week as the Courts had risen for the Vacation Cases of this kind tempt one to indulge in strong language. The Courts have adjourned for the Vacation while the man, his wife and children have nothing to live on. We ought to have some sympathy for a soldier who cannot get his case heard under such circumstances. The Secretary further wrote to this man "an appointment has been made for you to attend the R.I.V. at New-castle-on-Tyne." But the man has no money to go there. He cannot pay his fare. Where does the milk of human kindness come in. There ought to be something of that commodity left. Here again is an urgent case, and when the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) talks about 1,100 cases out of 1,400 being turned down, here I have one which a doctor has declared to be urgent, and yet it, too, is turned down. The medical officer admitted that the man's illness was due to his war service. The Appeal Court declared that it was not due to that, neither was it accelerated by it. Hear what the soldiers in my division say in regard to this matter.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member may give illustrations either to support or oppose the proposed expenditure for setting up these additional 326 tribunals, but he cannot use his illustrations in this discussion on the Supplementary Estimate to discuss the policy settled by the original Estimate. We are asked here to consent to the appointment of additional tribunals, if the hon. Member can give cases either to support or oppose the setting up of these additional tribunals. But it is not in Order to indulge in a general discussion on a policy already agreed to.
§ Mr. CAIRNS
My only intention was to draw the attention of the Committee to decisions given by the tribunals which were contrary to the medical evidence and the history of the man.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It depends upon how the hon. Member wishes to use his illustration. If he wishes to condemn the whole method, the Acts under which it is administered, and the policy which was settled on the original Estimate, that would be out of order. If, on the other hand, he wishes to put forward a case for the non-appointment of these tribunals, or a case for additional tribunals, he would be in order in giving his illustration. It depends upon what he wishes to illustrate.
§ Captain LOSEBY
My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) expressed surprise that two Estimates should be necessary in regard to this matter, seeing that the Ministry of Pensions had a surplus while another Department has this deficit. That is not surprising to me, because it was, rightly or wrongly, at the request, urgently pressed by ex-service men throughout the country, that these appeal tribunals were set up, quite apart from and independently of the Ministry of Pensions. Previously to the setting up of these tribunals, in which I had some share, the right of the pensioner was no right at all. It was pro gratiâ, and the soldier could not claim it as a right. Those of us who put the case of these soldiers strongly urged upon the Government, through the Select Committee, firstly to make the pension as of right, and, secondly, at the request of the soldier, to give him an appeal, right away from the Ministry of Pensions which made the award, to this independent 327 court under the Lord Chancellor. At the same time I would venture to express the opinion that I have expressed every time I have spoken on these appeal courts. Not one member, as I believe, of that Select Committee which made this original recommendation, believed that the setting up of this appeal tribunal, which we believed to be necessary and vital, should deprive the soldier of the Minister's prerogative in those cases where the appeal court or court of first instance had made a terrible mistake; and I would venture an opinion that the Minister of Pensions would vastly strengthen and increase the value of these appeal courts if he could at any early date introduce some legislation which would enable him, only in those cases where an appeal court has made a quite obvious mistake, as does occur—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not in order. It has already been ruled that we can only now deal with the appointment of additional tribunals for dealing with urgent appeals, or assessment tribunals. To review the question of the tribunals generally, or different methods of administering the Act, would certainly not be in order.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I will not follow that any longer; I was only answering a point that had been made. With regard to the arrears, which I understand account for this particular Supplementary Estimate, I should like to say that I well remember the time when these Appeal Courts were so much in arrear that it was one of the greatest grievances throughout the country. I think that the way in which the authorities have not only overtaken the great amount of arrears, but have taken the initiative and established other Courts, and increased them in order to tackle these arrears, has been entirely admirable. In dealing with these questions, expedition is almost the first thing, and I should like respectfully to congratulate the Minister on that point, in regard to which his action has, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street will agree, given the greatest possible satisfaction to the pensioners throughout the country.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
In supporting this Amendment, I shall try to keep within the purview of the Debate. I see that under item N the Chairman is paid £800 a year. I wish the Minister of Pensions 328 were present, so that we might express to him the opinion which I believe to be held by every hon. Member on this side of the Committee, that, so far as the decisions of these chairmen and tribunals are concerned, the Ministry of Pensions is simply sheltering behind the tribunals, and doing a great injustice to the ex-service men. We may as well be perfectly frank about it, because there are numerous complaints from all over the country, not only as regards one tribunal but as regards all the tribunals that are in existence to-day. I do not know whether I shall be in order in quoting the decision of one of these tribunals, which I should like the learned Solicitor-General to keep in mind when he is reporting to the Minister of Pensions. A certain soldier, who had served during the whole period of the War, was suffering from malaria. He received a pension while he was getting treatment, but, after the soldier died, his widow—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Is the hon. Member arguing that the administration is so bad that there ought to be no more of these additional tribunals? Does he wish that there should be no more of them?
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
No, Sir, although I think that the ex-service men will be able to get better justice, anyhow, even if they were not in existence. It is, however, the £800 received by the chairmen of the tribunals that I am raising.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Following the previous ruling of the Deputy-Chairman, it would not be in order to discuss the tribunals unless the hon. Member is putting forward the argument that they are bad, and that he opposes the additional tribunals entirely. If he is doing that, he might quote the case to which he was referring as an illustration.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
Now I shall go on citing my case. The widow's pension was stopped immediately the man died. The decision of the tribunal was that the death did not arise from and was not aggravated by war service, but the certificate from the local doctor was that he had died from malaria. Is there a single soul who has ever contracted malaria in this country? They contract it in foreign 329 countries. This soldier contracted malaria abroad, was treated in hospital and was certified to have died from malaria, and then the tribunal turned the case down and said he did not die as the result of war service. That is only one case. Hon. Members can cite several other cases. I put it to the Minister of Pensions that he has power under the Royal Warrant to review hard cases of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman is the sole authority under the Royal Warrant
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is quite clearly out of order. The ordinary administration of the Ministry of Pensions is not the subject of discussion. The question is whether there should be certain additional tribunals or not.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
The cases that I and other hon. Members get prove conclusively that these tribunals are nothing but a scandal. There is no getting out of that. Hon. Members may laugh, but the widows and children of these ex-service men are starved and they must go to the local authorities to get some relief, and you are throwing a national responsibility upon bankrupt local authorities.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
It is absolutely true. I could cite 20 cases but I do not want to take up time. Out of 1,300 appeals before the tribunal 1,100 were turned down. Do you think there are 1,100 dishonest men who did service for the country for four or five years who would appeal for a pension if they thought they were not entitled to it? This is the case of only one tribunal. You have it in 20 tribunals all over the country. These cases are coming forward every day. I think the Minister of Pensions is really in sympathy with these people. I read a speech of his last week in which he said that justice should be done to them. A great injustice is done to them to-day through these tribunals, and the sooner they are abolished the better.
§ Sir H. HARRIS
I feel bound to support the Vote, because I was a member of the Select Committee which recommended that these tribunals should be set up, and we made that recommendation because we were very strongly urged to do so by the representatives of the ex-service men. I also feel bound to sup- 330 port it because I was one of those who pressed very strongly that the tribunals should be increased, because there were a very large number of arrears of appeals and it was a scandal that they should not be promptly dealt with. I think hon. Members opposite are labouring under considerable delusions. I had, as Chairman of a War Pensions Committee, to examine a very large number of these cases, and when the hon. Member says a man must be dishonest because he makes an appeal, I say quite the contrary. I have advised a good many men, whose cases were probably on the border line, to have a try, and the fact that this large number of cases has been turned down is due to the fact that a good many men have thought it would be worth while to have a try and they have gone before a perfectly independent and impartial tribunal.
§ Sir H. HARRIS
I devoted five years of my life to getting the best treatment I could for these men. It is not likely that I should turn against them now, and that is not a fair thing to say. These tribunals have done their work fairly. I do not say they have never made mistakes, but does not the highest tribunal in the land make mistakes? On the whole, justice has been done. I feel bound to speak up for the tribunals, and I shall certainly support the Vote, because it is absolutely necessary that these tribunals should be set up.
Sir F. HALL
I also was a member of the Select Committee that sat on this pensions question, and it was particularly at the request of the ex-service men that these appeal tribunals were set up. I take the greatest exception to the remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Griffiths), and it is a disgraceful shame that it should go out that any Members of this House are desirous of being a party to throwing a responsibility which justly remains on the Government on to municipalities, bankrupt or otherwise.
Sir F. HALL
I have protested against that, and I cannot protest in too strong language. I have pressed my right hon. 331 Friend and his predecessor to increase the number of tribunals for London particularly, because we are in this position. We had an enormous number of cases waiting, and these men had a very just grievance that their cases were not being heard, and they were waiting for their appeals to take place. I brought that to the notice of my right hon. Friend over and over again, with the result that we have three additional appeal tribunals for London. It is quite within the bounds of possibility—it does not signify how careful a tribunal may be there are bound to be mistakes sometimes. The hon. Member himself perhaps has sometimes made mistakes. But I think the greatest possible care is taken by these tribunals, and I do not want there to be any feeling outside that hon. Members, and Members of the Government, are desirous of taking away from ex-service men any pension rights which may be applicable to them. If I thought the Government were going to do that I should vote for the Amendment, but I am convinced that though there may be mistakes, nevertheless the Pensions Minister is desirous of doing what he can for the ex-service men. I have had to bring very many cases before the Pensions Minister.
Sir F. HALL
I am not desirous of doing that, but there are cases which will have to be brought before the appeal tribunal, and I hope, instead of reducing the number, we shall increase them to such an extent that it will do away with the waste of time in these men getting their appeals heard. I shall certainly vote against the Amendment.
Mr. T. THOMSON
I am quite sure that the experience cited by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Cairns), and the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Griffiths) is the experience of a great many of us, and without suggesting, on the one side, attempts at fraud, or, on the other side, any lack of sympathy, we cannot get away from the fact that throughout the country there is a very general consensus of dissatisfaction with the working of these appeal tribunals. It is only right that when we 332 are asked to vote this additional sum of £5,000 we should have an opportunity of giving expression to the feeling which is undoubtedly widespread, especially when the Minister of Pensions says that he has nothing to do with this matter. If the Solicitor-General could do anything to mitigate that feeling he would be doing good service to the appeal tribunals, and also to those who have to go before them. I do not want to go into instances, but I have many in my mind, and other hon. Members have had the same experience of the most extreme hardships that have apparently been inflicted upon those who have served. I hope that it may be possible to provide some means whereby, on new evidence being brought forward, there might be some review from the final Appeal Board of cases such as are known to all of us.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I understand that that would require legislation; that there is no power to review cases dealt with by the appeal tribunal.
I simply wished to use that as an illustration why we should object to pay this extra money, because the service was not altogether satisfactory. I will leave that, after having made my protest. I am sure that the most extreme financial purist would not object to this extra money, because the congestion that had arisen was very considerable and gave rise to very great hardships. I hope the Solicitor-General, in cutting down these boards, will see that they are not cut down to the extent that congestion will arise again and further hardships ensue.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
The hon. Member who has just spoken and other hon. Members have expressed the opinion that there is very widespread dissatisfaction with the working of these tribunals. That is probably true, but I do not think it at all follows that the tribunals are working badly. We must all recognise that we are dealing here with a very technical matter, and it does not follow at all in regard to people who are working upon scientific lines, medical men, that their decision is wrong because it means dissatisfaction. I am not impressed by what I have heard as to the number of appeals that are unsuccessful. It only proves what one hon. Member has 333 said, that very large numbers of men appealed without having any good grounds. Hon. Members have given cases within their experience, and I would like to give a case within my experience. There are certain delusions in regard to this matter, and I was subject to the same delusion. I have had cases sent to me, which, to my lay mind, appeared to be very outrageous. I remember one case very well in which it seemed to me that the decision that die illness from which the man was suffering was not due to military service, was an outrageous denial of justice, and, if I recollect rightly, I sent the case, with a very strong protest, to the Minister of Pensions.
So indignant was I, and so much was this case on my mind, that I told the whole case to a distinguished medical man, a friend of mine, without mentioning any names, as an example of the way in which I thought the Appeal Tribunals were not doing justice. My friend listened to my story, and when I had finished, he said, with a smile: "Well, if you have told the facts correctly, all I can say is that the particular illness you have described could not, by any possibility, have been the result of military service." That was an example of the ignorance which I, as a layman, and which, I am certain, most laymen have upon these matters. Although I do not deny, no one could deny, that from time to time a number of decisions are given the wrong way, and I agree it would be better if there could be some means of reviewing them, I do not think that upon the evidence that has been given to-day there is any true indictment made against the working of the tribunals. On the whole, although I have had cases which seemed to me unjust, I am inclined to think that the tribunals work well and justly in the interests of the men whose cases they are called upon to hear.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
There are two grounds on which one ought to oppose this additional Vote, and one is that these additional tribunals would not be necessary if there were not such a large number of cases which the Ministry of Pensions oppose when they ought not to oppose them. I do not blame the appeal tribunal. The tribunal must hear the cases that come to them, and they must judge those cases on the evidence, but I do blame the Ministry of Pensions. I 334 think they take a very hard line in arguing that a man's illness is not attributable to or even aggravated by war service, when it is perfectly certain that the man was sound before the War, that he worked regularly before, the War, that he had been a wreck since the War and that, whatever the technical attributability may be, he never would have been a wreck if it had not been for the War.
Large numbers of these cases come before me, but the Ministry of Pensions say they are not attributable to war service and produce evidence and, I suppose, show some scientific cause that induces the tribunal to give judgment against the man. It certainly is not common justice. It certainly leaves men, whose lives have been ruined because of the War, without a pension. It leaves their families destitute, and is causing bad feeling up and down the country. You will not get the ordinary public to believe that these men have been properly treated, and you will not get the boards of guardians to believe that. I have had complaints from boards of guardians that they are obliged to maintain ex-soldiers or the widows, wives, or children of ex-soldiers, who come into their hands as a result of the War. These men are wrecks, due to what happened in the War, but the Ministry of Pensions argue that they are not responsible, and they induce the appeal tribunal to take that view. If the Ministry of Pensions did not take that hard view, there would not be necessity for the large number of tribunals that have been set up, and for which we have to vote additional money now.
There is another argument which I feel strongly, and that is that these tribunals ought to have some machinery for rehearing cases, and we ought not to be asked to vote additional money without some assurance that they will, in proper cases, give a re-hearing. I might illustrate that point by a case that came before me recently. A man was asked to send in his documents, and the authorities at the Ministry of Pensions said that they would prepare his case to lay before the tribunal. The case was to be heard at 10.30 in the morning, but when the time came his documents had not been sent back to him, and he had to attend the tribunal without the documents, which were delivered at his house two hours too late. They arrived at 12.30 instead of 10.30. When I wrote to the Appeal 335 Tribunal, I was told that their, decision was final and they could not re-open it. I did not ask for an appeal, because I knew that was out of the question, but I did ask for a re-hearing of the case. I have not the legal knowledge to say whether it is in their power to give a re-hearing as distinct from an appeal, but we ought not to be asked to vote additional money for these tribunals without some assurance that they will in future give a re-hearing in cases where new facts have come to light, or where old facts have not been properly prepared by those who undertook to provide them. For these reasons we ought to object strongly to grant this extra money.
I hope the Government will very strongly resist any attempt to cut down the money expended on these tribunals. I am not one' of those generally found supporting the Government on questions of Supplementary Estimates. But as far as I can see from the position at present and from the little experience I have had from time to time, I think that, particularly in the more widely scattered country districts, the need is rather for more tribunals and more chances for the men to get the cases gone into close to their homes rather than for reducing the number of tribunals or abolishing them. I would like to see these tribunals reinforced very strongly as time goes on, so that you would get upon them people who were in close contact with the men during the War, always remembering that if there was any question of doubt the benefit should be given to the man rather than to the taxpayer.
§ Mr. J. GUEST
Whatever the result of the Division, I hope that this discussion will have the effect of directing the attention of the Minister of Pensions to the work of these tribunals throughout the country. All Members of the House are anxious for the welfare of the ex-service men. I wish to draw attention to the constitution of the tribunals, so far as ex-service men are concerned. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it is desirable that the ex-service men's organisation should be recognised in the appointment of the ex-service men's representative on the tribunal. At present it seems to me that the appeal to the tribunal is an appeal 336 which is forced by one Government Department and is heard by officials appointed by another Government Department. In that sense I do not think the tribunal commands the confidence of the ex-service man in the same way that it would if the ex-service man who sits on the tribunal were appointed from a panel nominated by the various organisations. I think that that would create confidence.
Many of the ex-service men who have to appear before these tribunals are in a weak or nervous state. No provision is made for any representation on their behalf. In my own district the men often have to go 20 miles to attend the tribunal. If it were possible, and I believe it should be possible, for the local doctor, who frequently knows the case from its inception, to attend along with the man and put his case, I believe that very often the decision would be different from what it is at present. I know that you will tell me that the doctor may go, but what I am appealing for is some financial provision to enable him to go, and that some reasonable fee should be paid, because the ex-service man has not the means to pay him. I believe that if you appoint two medical men on these tribunals, along with the ex-service man, and if the man is represented not only by himself, as at present, when very often he is in such a weak state as not to be able to defend himself, but if he had a medical man with him to put his case the tribunal would enjoy larger confidence than it does at the present time.
I want to say a word as to statements made to me regarding what I should term the brusque methods of the tribunals. Ex-service men complain that after they have travelled a long distance to the tribunal the proceedings are both cursory and very brusque. So far as my own district is concerned, I can say truthfully that on questions of entitlement, where the Case has been forced to the appeal tribunal by the decision of an authority sitting in London, the results are perfectly appalling. Men have been turned down practically wholesale, and as far as our own locality is concerned men have lost all confidence in the tribunals; the knowledge that their case has to go there being looked upon as a decision that their case 337 is at an end. It is regrettable that that opinion should prevail, and we ought to do everything we can to remove it.
With reference to what has been said as to the rates being called upon to supplement pensions, the board of guardians in my own area have 156 disabled soldiers, or soldiers who suffer from disability, or their dependents, upon their funds, and the cost to the guardians is something like £50 a week. It is no use relieving the national Exchequer in order to place the burden upon the local rates, and that is the effect of a great many of the decisions. I think, as this House has voted the money for these appeal tribunals, it ought to have a larger control over the work. The Committee ought to have available to it detailed records of the decisions arrived at. I have on occasions put down questions asking for a record of decisions on cases such as neurasthenia and tuberculosis, and such return has been refused, the statement being made that no tabulated record was kept. I would ask that a tabulated record should be kept, and I believe that if information was available, not as a general statement, but in the way of details, the House would be astounded at the results as shown therein.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
There are two points to which I wish to call attention. One arises out of the speech of the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. A. Williams). He suggested that in certain cases the Minister of Pensions induced the appeal tribunal to decide against a soldier. I hope I am wrong.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I did not mean "induced" in any improper sense. What I meant to say was that he produced evidence, no doubt of a scientific character, which induced the Court to come to that decision.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I am glad we have had that disclaimer. As I caught his words it appears to me to be a very serious charge against the Minister. Now my hon. Friend has disclaimed it, and I am very glad, because it would have been most dangerous if a statement like that went out of the House and was read by ex-service men. Another point has been raised as to the granting, in proper cases, of a re-hearing by the appeal tribunal. At present its decisions are final, but I think it would be reasonable 338 that where the soldier has not been able to place evidence before the appeal tribunal, and where that evidence is material to his case, there should be a re-hearing. Reference has been made to a case in which, owing to the default of some official, a soldier did not get necessary evidence placed before the appeal tribunal. It was not the fault of the man himself and in such cases, if evidence is not forthcoming owing to the fault of someone else, especially an official, there should be an opportunity of hearing the case again. I speak in the presence of the Solicitor-General, who I am sure agrees that that would be a legal and proper course. I do not understand the procedure of the tribunals, but probably they are under the Lord Chancellor, and I suggest that the Lord Chancellor's attention should be called to cases of that sort, and that he might instruct the tribunals to grant re-hearings in such cases.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I do not intend to detain the Committee very long, although they have been good enough to treat me in this matter much as the public outside sometimes treat me—as a general solicitor rather than a Solicitor-General. I do not propose at present to answer all those questions which, no doubt, can be dealt with by the proper authorities and at the proper time, but a few questions have been put which I do not wish to leave without answer, lest I should seem discourteous. First, the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) asked me whether or not bonus was paid to the judges. If he will look at the item concerning Chairmen, he will see that £800 is the inclusive sum paid to them, and the war bonus which appears in the heading of the Vote is not relevant to the pensions appeal tribunal. Next I was asked as to the class of the chairmen. In the case of the pensions appeal tribunal, the chairman is a solicitor or barrister of seven years standing. In the case of the tribunals which sit in the matter of the final awards, this legal representative or chairman is displaced by a second medical representative who takes the chair. In either case they are responsible persons. Thirdly, I was asked whether or not there are any expenses paid. Hon. Members will see that the Vote includes and deals with the question of appellants' expenses and the railway 339 warrants necessary to attend before the tribunal. There are two other questions with which I must deal. It has been suggested that in some way the Ministry of Pensions tried, either themselves or behind these tribunals, to misuse the opportunity of these appeals. I was sorry to hear that phrase. I think it was quite unfortunate. What does happen is that the Ministry of Pensions facilitates the appeal in every way, if it is desirable there should be an appeal, and it gives every item of information which is relevant to the case. Further, may I remind the Committee that the appeal is an appeal which can be taken only by the ex-service man; it is not a case in which there is a right of appeal for both sides, but only for the ex-service man to nave his case decided by a wholly independent tribunal.
The last matter is the question of the re-hearing. That is a matter that we cannot deal with to-day, as I think it would be necessary to consider the matter very carefully, because it would probably be necessary to alter the Statute, but after the expressions of opinion that have been given to-day, no doubt that can be taken into account in the proper quarter. Finally, I think it would be very unfortunate indeed if the view was accepted by the Committee that was presented by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Griffiths), who wants to sweep away all these tribunals. There may be a number of appeals in which larger hopes are entertained than are realised, but it must not be forgotten that it was because of the demand for
§ the tribunals on behalf of the ex-service men that they were set up, and let us not forget that this right of appeal for the ex-service men is enshrined in an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. J. GUEST
May I ask the learned Solicitor-General whether he is quite sure of his fact as to the sole right of appeal being vested in the ex-service man? Is it not a fact that where men have been certified as under disability due to war service first of all locally, and then have had their disability assessed by the local pensions board, another authority sitting in London known as the Entitlement Committee forces them to the Appeal Court?
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
If the hon. Member will speak to me afterwards, I will try and make my meaning clear to him, and perhaps he will be good enough to explain to me the point he has in mind, as it is not quite clear to me to what he is referring.
§ Mr. J. GUEST
I will be obliged to do that, but it would be desirable to have the point cleared up now if we could. I assert that many of these appeals are taken to the Appeal Court, altogether against the will of the men, by the Entitlement Committee's decision.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £4,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 59; Noes. 160.341
|Division No. 21.]||AYES.||[6.50 p.m.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Grundy, T. W.||Randall, Athelstan|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Robertson, John|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hallas, Eldred||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hancock, John George||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hayday, Arthur||Sutton, John Edward|
|Cairns, John||Henderson, fit. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Swan, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hirst, G. H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Thomson, T. (Middlesborough, West)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Irving, Dan||Thome, W. (West Him, Plaistow)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, lnce)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wignall, James|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kennedy, Thomas||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Kenyon, Barnet||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Lunn, William||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Finney, Samuel||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Gillis, William||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D.(Midlothian)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Mills, John Edmund|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Myers, Thomas||Mr. Lawson and Mr. W. Smith.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Naylor, Thomas Ellis|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Atkey, A. R.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Poison, Sir Thomas A.|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gretton, Colonel John||Purchase, H. G.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Rae, H. Norman|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Barrand, A. R,||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Renwick, Sir Georgo|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hills, Major John Waller||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Brassey, H. L. C||Hinds, John||Rodger, A. K.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hopkins, John W. W.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marytebone)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Hudson, R. M.||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Sharman-Crawford, -Robert G.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hurd, Percy A.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Simm, M. T.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Johnstone, Joseph||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Casey, T. W.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Lloyd, George Butler||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Taylor, J.|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford Henley)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Loseby, Captain C. E,||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Cope, Major William||Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Vickers, Douglas|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Waddington, R.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Wallace, J.|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Dean, Commander P. T.||Maddocks, Henry||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Manville, Edward||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Ednam, Viscount||Marthews, David||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claue|
|Evans, Ernest||Morrison, Hugh||Windsor, Viscount|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wise, Frederick|
|Forrest, Walter||Murray, William (Dumfries)||Wolmer, viscount|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Neal, Arthur||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Parker, James||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||McCurdy.|
|Green, Albert (Derby)||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
Second and Third Resolutions agreed to.
§ Whereupon the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ REPORT [22nd February].
§ Resolutions reported,