HC Deb 19 April 1923 vol 162 cc2227-8
35. Mr. A. J. BENNETT

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the proposals put forward in various quarters that any disease or incapacity should be considered as attributable to war service unless the contrary is proved, he can make a statement showing what would be the effect of the acceptance of such a proposal on both the work of the Ministry of Pensions and the finances of the country?


These proposals would alter the fundamental principle of the Royal Pensions Warrants laid down with the co-operation of all parties in this House. Under these Warrants the question whether a disability is attributable to or aggravated by war service is an issue of fact for the decision of the Ministry, subject, however, to appeal to an independent tribunal. The proposals referred to would in effect compel the Ministry to pay a pension to any man who has served, for however short a term at home or overseas, and who falls ill ham almost any complaint at any time in his subsequent life, unless the incapacity is shown not to be connected with his military service, although no evidence of any sort might be available in support of the claim. The State would, in short, be required to proceed on a presumption unsupported by any evidence. The result could only be the admission of very many claims for ailments for which the State could not fairly be held responsible, as except in a decreasing minority of the cases, it would become obviously impossible for the Ministry to obtain sufficient evidence from the circumstances of the man's civil life to rebut the presumption. It is not easy to calculate the obviously far-reaching financial consequences of such a measure.


May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to state to the House roughly what the cost of the proposal would be?


I am afraid I could not make an exact estimate, but if a man be entitled to a pension, he should get it, whatever the cost. The proposal is that a large number of people in distant years should get pensions to which they were not in any way entitled.