HC Deb 17 April 1923 vol 162 cc1866-8
46. Mr. SEXTON

asked the Prime Minister if he is a-ware of the increasing number of cases of ex-service men being disallowed by the pensions appeal tribunals, notwithstanding the fact that many of them were passed fit for active service by the Army medical officers at the time with the knowledge that the germs of a disease existed in the men, and was aggravated by Army service, which required treatment in the hospitals until pre-War normal physical conditions were restored; that on their return to civil life after demobilisation the aggrava- tion owing to reduced stamina and necessary physical exertion in their ordinary industrial occupation again developed, and in consequence of which their appeal for pensions or allowances have been disallowed, as in the cases of ex-Privates Pownall, Sam, and Hewitt, of St. Helens, Lancashire, and from which there is no appeal; whether he is aware that these appeal courts are held locally in most provincial cases and not by the central tribunal, House of Lords; and, if under these circumstances, he will consider the advisability of a complete revision of the constitution of such tribunals?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Baldwin)

I am not aware that there has been any material increase in the number of appeals disallowed by the pensions appeal tribunals for England and Wales. Aggravation of pre-War disabilities is not necessarily of a permanent character, and it does not follow that a recurrence after the War of a pre-War disability is due to aggravation during War service. It is the duty of the tribunals to hear the evidence on the question, and to decide upon it, and this has been done in the cases of ex-Privates Pownall and Hewitt. In the case of ex-Private Sams the Ministry of Pensions held that his rheumatism was attributable to service and a final award was made. He appealed against the amount of this award to the pensions appeal tribunals who upheld the assessment of the Ministry. The pensions appeal tribunals sit in such places as the Lord Chancellor, after consultation with the Minister of Pensions, determines, and the places of sitting are arranged so as to meet, so far as possible, the convenience of the majority of the appellants. The central office of all the tribunals for England and Wales is at the House of Lords. The constitution of the tribunals is laid down by Act of Parliament, and it is not proposed to revise it.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider cases which I submit to him, if I produce new evidence showing that the disease which the man had previous to joining up has developed since his demobilisation owing to service? Will he consider such cases, which have been turned down by the tribunal?


Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer, even if he does not take such steps as he has indicated, at least consider cases in which the appellant can produce fresh evidence—evidence which has not been heard by the appeal tribunal? Seeing that the appeal tribunal is a final tribunal, will the right hon. Gentleman, where such fresh evidence is produced, have the cases re-opened?


I will look into the point. Hon. Members will recognise that this is a subject with which I am not very familiar.