HC Deb 30 November 1922 vol 159 cc860-3

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will reconsider the position of the 700 mental cases who were turned out of the Government mental hospitals and sent to the common asylums at the charge of the local ratepayers, their pensions being stopped at the time of discharge; and, if he cannot reconsider this, will he give the House an opportunity of discussing the matter?

The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Major Tryon)

The hon. Member is under a serious misapprehension. None of the cases in question were, as he suggests, turned out of Government hospitals. All certified cases of insanity are, by the law of the land, required to be in public asylums. Nor were any of the men in question in receipt of pensions. With regard to the suggestion in the last part of the question, perhaps I may refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave in the course of discussion on the Adjournment last night.

12. Mr. F. ROBERTS

asked the Minister of Pensions how many of the 600 insane ex-service men whose maintenance has been thrown upon Poor Law authorities have appealed against the stoppage of pension allowances and treatment by his Department; what number of these appeals have been determined, and with what results; what steps have been taken to ensure that every one of these men are given facilities to appeal; and whether local pensions committees have been asked to assist these unfortunate men to prepare their cases for appeal?


The right of appeal to the independent Pensions Appeal Tribunal has been open to these, as to all other cases, during the past four years, and many of them have already appealed, but in response to the notice specially sent out six months ago, I find that in about 275 cases further appeals, have been made. I regret that I have not complete figures as to the number of appeals which have at present been heard by the tribunals, but I am taking steps to obtain the information, and if the hon. Member will put a question down next week I shall be happy to give him the figures then available. Most careful steps were taken by my Department to ensure that every case was fully considered. In addition to the notifications to local authorities and others as to the approaching termination of the Ministry's liability in these cases, which made specific reference to the right of appeal, a special notification to this effect was sent to the nearest known relative of every man. In addition, my right hon. Friend the late Minister of Pensions caused special and independent review to be made by the Department itself into the merits of every case in order to satisfy himself again that the decision was right, and this review is being continued under my personal supervision. Intimation was sent at the same time to local committees, and it is their practice to assist appellants in a large number of cases.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say what length of notice is given to the nearest relatives and what machinery is available to assist distressed relatives in making their appeals?


I cannot give the dates of the different notices. It is the duty of our Committee to help these men to formulate their appeals and to put them forward. We do not take up the position of opposing their appeals, and all the information we have, not merely against but in favour of a man, is supplied by us.


I asked particularly so far as the near relatives are concerned. It is not quite right to suggest that you help the patient who is a lunatic. What help do you give the nearest relative in properly formulating an appeal?


Perhaps the hon. Member will put down a question on that specific point.

13. Mr. F. ROBERTS

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the public hostility to the policy of his Department, by which insane ex-service men have been made paupers, he will reconsider the decision to withdraw allowances until the cases have been heard on appeal to tribunals or the House has had an opportunity to discuss the question?


A large number of appeals have been made to the tribunal in these cases, and I have obtained special authority to continue to bear the cost of treatment for the men until the tribunal have given their decision.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider obtaining the sanction of this House for an alteration to the Royal Warrant, to enable him to accept as due to service any mental case of an ex-service man who served in the firing line, if only for one day, or who served overseas for not less than three months continuously?


The question whether a man's disability is due to or is worsened by service, which is the sole condition under which pension can be granted, is determined on the facts of each individual case, with full regard to the medical condition, conditions of service and other circumstances in the case. Active service overseas is, I can assure my hon. Friend, given the fullest weight in determining the question. I could not recommend the introduction into the Warrant of a purely arbitrary distinction between various kinds of service as a basis for the award of pension, and I do not think that such a distinction as that suggested by my hon. Friend would be in the best interests of ex-service men themselves.