HC Deb 15 March 1923 vol 161 cc1737-9

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the fact that many ex-service men and their dependants are unable to afford to pay the expenses of securing assistance when making their appeals before the House of Lords tribunal and are unable themselves to do justice to their own cases in a court of that character, he will further consider the desirability of placing an official of his Ministry at their disposal, so that their claims shall not suffer from inadequate presentation?


Appeals to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal are made, in accordance with the Lord Chancellor's regulations, through the local offices of the Ministry, and it is the duty of the local official to advise an appellant how to prepare his case, and to inform him that, if he so desires, he may secure the assistance of a member of the War Pensions Committee or other person in connection with his appeal. I understand, moreover, that the chairmen of the tribunals give appellants every assistance in presenting their cases to the best advantage. I do not think that I should be justified in adopting the suggestion in the last part of the question.


Are not these appellants, in actual practice, seriously handicapped, because they are unable to provide means to pay travelling expenses, let alone expenses of legal assistance? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter, as, from personal experience of two courts, I realise how the appellants are handicapped?


I am very anxious that everything should be done which will bring out the case fully, but I am not personally in favour of an arrangement which would be something in the nature of the employment of counsel on both sides—one for the Ministry and the other against. I prefer that the whole of the case should be put up and decided by the tribunal.


Do I understand that in practice the area officer affords every possible assistance to the man to present his case to the tribunal and gives him all the requisite information?


Yes, it is clearly the duty of the Ministry officials to do everything to bring out the whole facts.


Is it not the fact that in numberless cases people who wish. to appeal go to county councillors and borough councillors and Members of Parliament., imploring them to find someone to present the appeals? I do not know what the area officers are doing.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give the matter further consideration? Is he not aware that we are continually finding people who cannot really present their cases properly?


I have been personally going into the question of the way in which the evidence goes up to these tribunals and taking definite examples. Anything we can do to bring the evidence out more clearly, we shall be delighted to do. I cannot accept the suggestion that the State should pay advocates on both sides, when, as a matter of fact, it should be the duty of the State to put the whole case fairly.


But it does not.


asked the Minister of Pensions whether there are any cases on record where appeals have been allowed by the Lords Tribunal and yet no award whatever made by the medical boards to appellants not in receipt of a pension?


Decisions of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal in favour of the appellant are invariably accepted by my Department. Where the appeal is on entitlement a finding by the tribunal in favour of a man riot in receipt of compensation is always followed by an award from my Department; but, as I explained to my hon. Friend last Thursday, decisions of assessment tribunals setting aside final awards do not necessarily imply that the man is, at the time, entitled to further compensation.

17. Mr. CLARRY

asked the Minister of Pensions if he is prepared to set up or recommend machinery whereby cases which have been dismissed by the House of Lords Appeal Tribunal, and which are supported by weighty independent medical evidence, can be reviewed?


This matter has been very carefully considered by the Government but they are advised that the course suggested is not practicable in view of the provisions of the War Pensions Acts. In this connection I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the answer I gave on the 22nd February to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough West (Mr. T. Thomson), of which I am sending him a copy.