HC Deb 28 November 1922 vol 159 cc482-5
53. Mr. HAYDAY

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that 700 mentally afflicted ex-service men have recently been transferred from the care of the Ministry of Pensions to the Poor Law guardians and are now pauper lunatics; whether he will take steps to re-transfer these men to the Ministry of Pensions; and, if not, will he arrange for their photographs to be published in the Press so that their relatives can have them under care and observation?

72. Lieut.-Colonel NALL

asked the Minister of Pensions what steps he is taking to end the system whereby a number of ex-service men in asylums are classified as paupers?


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can now give any further information with regard to the reclassification of ex-service men in lunatic asylums?

80. Colonel Sir A. HOLBROOK

asked the Minister of Pensions if any, and what, regulations have been made for the transfer to asylums as pauper lunatics of men who have lost their reason in consequence of injuries sustained in the late War; and whether, if any regulations for such transfers are in contemplation, he will give an undertaking that men so injured shall be treated as State pensioners and not as paupers, and that no burden for their maintenance shall be placed on local ratepayers?

The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Major Tryon)

I have been asked to reply. The main principle of the Royal Pensions Warrants, as approved by Parliament, is that compensation shall be granted to disabled ex-service men only if the disability claimed, mental or other, is found to be due to or worsened by service. Exceptional provision of a temporary and compassionate nature was made under which my Department gave medical treatment for the period of the War and one year after to men discharged with disabilities which were in no way due to or even worsened by service. A comparatively small number of insane ex-service men in public asylums were of this class. There has been no new decision and no new regulation in this matter. The Ministry-has simply carried out the Warrant and principles laid down by Parliament.

The Government do not see their way, in view of the grave question of general principle involved, to alter the Royal Warrants in the sense suggested.

In all these cases there has been a right of appeal to an independent tribunal against the decision that the disability was not connected with service, and this right has in many cases been exercised by the relatives, who, some months ago, were specially informed of the position and invited to make an appeal if this had not already been done. Moreover, I have had all the cases specially reviewed in order to make sure that no injustice should be done.

The position, as regards the ex-service officers and men, numbering more than 6,000, whose insanity has been recognised as due to or worsened by service is not in any way affected. They remain on the footing of private patients, and are under the special care of the Ministry.


The Minister says "a comparatively small number," and in my question I mention the figure of 700. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether that is correct or not, and does he not think it stands to the eternal discredit of the nation that men who served and are suffering such affliction should be termed "pauper lunatics"?

Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of what is going on with regard to these men in lunatic asylums? Is he aware that medical boards certified men as having an hereditary taint of insanity before they went to the War, and so sent them to lunatic asylums, when that insanity was brought on through "T.B." or grievous injuries received during service?


I am glad to be able to tell the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) that the figure 700 is not accurate. All these cases are being examined, and that figure cannot be accepted; it will be very much smaller. I have examined some of these cases, and have just seen a case of a man who had been for a very long period in an asylum before he was enlisted. The mistake was found out almost at once, and it is ridiculous to say that his lunacy is clue to the War.


Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many protests he has received from boards of guardians who know these casus, and whether these men under discussion were passed as fit for service, and if they were so passed, ought they not to be entitled to be fit for pension?


May I ask my right hon. Friend, although this question has been settled in the sense which he has described by two Governments, whether His Majesty's present advisers will not take into consideration the small number of people whose cases are concerned, and the consequent small expense to the public, and the very grave and widespread feeling of unrest that men who, rightly or wrongly, were accepted for service should now be in pauper lunatic asylum?


May I ask my right hon. Friend, in regard to the question by the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), whether any of these men remain unidentified?


I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend for that question. None of these men are unidentified, and therefore the publication of their photographs would serve no useful purpose? To publish them would only cause needless anxiety and pain to their relatives. With reference to the question by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain), it is not a large sum which is involved, but if this country is going to be involved in the principle that disablement of any kind, or illness of any kind, not due to the War, is to be brought within the power of the Pensions Ministry, mere is hardly any limit to the responsibility which will be shouldered.


Why not?


Fit for service!


Is it the fact that any of these cases have been treated as cases not attributable to or aggravated by service, merely on evidence as to the existence of a hereditary taint in a man's relatives, apart from any actual evidence that such taint manifested itself before the War in actual mental defect?


The very valuable point raised by the Noble Lord's question will, of course, be taken into account la the review which is going forward. I have myself examined some of these cases, and they have been clear cases of men who had been for a long period certified as insane and who, having been well at the moment, were enlisted by mistake, and then a few days—


You dirty dogs!


Order, order! Turn him out.


I cannot allow observations of that kind.


(to hon. Members): I don't care a damn for you.


I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw from the House.


I will withdraw. I am glad to do so. You are a dirty lot of dogs, slobbering over dead soldiers, and starving the living.

The hon. Member for Silvertown then withdrew.