HC Deb 12 April 1923 vol 162 cc1275-7

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that the principle of accepting liability for subsequent disabilities of men who passed A 1 on enlistment has been admitted by the United States Government; and whether he is prepared to consider the application of the same principle to disabled men in this country?


I am not aware that any such principle has been admitted by the United States Government. If the hon. Member has in mind the recent Amendments to the United States War Risks Insurance Act, I am advised that under that Act, as amended, liability for subsequent disabilities in the case of men passed fit on enlistment is confined to cases of disabilities occurring prior to or within one year of discharge from the United States Forces, or to disabilities which are up to a specified date certified as being traceable to injury existing at the time of discharge. The liability referred to is, therefore, strictly limited. In my Department it is the practice, in the absence of any record of impairment at the time of enlistment, to regard acceptance for Military Service as primâ facie evidence of fitness at that date. This principle holds good in all cases where a claim is made for any disability within seven years of the man's discharge. I consider, therefore, that the practice of my Department in this respect is fully as favourable to the man as that adopted by the United States of America, if, indeed, it is not more favourable, and I am not prepared to make any alteration in it.


Will the right hon. Gentleman go carefully into this question and see whether he cannot accept the principle accepted by the United States Government within the limits mentioned?


That matter has already been debated. It has been shown that certain cases which are obviously ineligible would be included.

23. Mr. LAWSON

asked the Minister of Pensions whether his attention has been drawn to Article 5 of the French War Pensions Act of 31st March, 1919; whether he is aware that the Article provides that all diseases from which a soldier or sailor is ascertained to be suffering during the period of his service or during the six months following his discharge shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be presumed to have been contracted or aggravated as the result of the fatigues, dangers, or accidents of service; and whether, in any amending legislation he may introduce, he will include a Clause presuming origin of disability and placing the onus of proving the contrary on the Ministry of Pensions?


I am aware of the Article of the French Pensions Law to which the hon. Member refers, but a reference to the concluding paragraph of that Article shows that its provisions are a good deal more restricted than is suggested by the hon. Member, since, in the case of discharged men, it was limited to those who applied within six months of the publication of the law, that is, before the 30th September, 1919, for a certificate of their disease or disability. My Department has always acted on the view, in the case of men invalided from the service, that a disability incurred while in military service affords a primâ facie suggestion that it was connected with his service, and unless it is clear that the balance of probability is against the man's claim, the benefit of the doubt is given to him. I am not prepared to adopt the hon. Member's suggestion.