HC Deb 22 January 1924 vol 169 cc707-10

I wish to say a few words on a subject. which I had intended to raise at an earlier stage in our proceedings. I am sure the House would not wish to separate without the subject being mentioned. I refer to the question of war pensioners. The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) —[Interruption]—.is about to form a Government, but he will take three weeks before he is in a position to meet the House. I know that from that quarter of the House the greatest sympathy has always been expressed and felt for the war pensioners—[Interruption]—but I do want to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that when his Pensions Minister has been appointed he should draw that gentleman's attention to the very complicated nature of the Royal Warrant and of the Ministry of Pensions instructions issued under the Royal Warrant. [Interruption.] The Warrant and the instructions are operating in a very detrimental way on the interests of war pensioners. [Interruption.] It is perfectly well known that under instructions issued by the Ministry of Pensions a great number of people are being deprived of their pensions. They are entitled, it is true, to appear before the Appeal Tribunal, but as a rule they are not qualified to represent their eases. [interruption.] That is common ground. The matter has been ventilated in the Press and in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] I will not detain the House long. Everyone knows perfectly well that nine out of 10 of the pensioners are not capable of protecting their own interests before the Appeals Tribunals when they appear before the tribunals.


On a point of Order. Every pensioner who appears before the tribunal has the right of representation.


The pensioner may be entitled to representation, but it is another thing to obtain representation. Everyone knows that perfectly well. [Interruption.] Indeed. it has been publicly stated and not contradicted—I believe the statement was made by the Minister of Pensions himself—that in 90 per cent. of the eases where men go before the Appeals Tribunal they lose their appeal. On the other hand, it has been claimed that where the British Legion has had an opportunity of representing the men they have won something like GO per cent. of their appeals. That has not been seriously controverted. [Interruption.] The suggestion I make is. and I hope the Government will adopt it, that just as poor persons are entitled to free legal advice before the Courts of this country —[Interruption]—war pensioners appealing before the Appeals Tribunal—[Interruption]—should also be entitled to free advice and assistance. I do not know whether it can best be done with the assistance of the British Legion, who I am sure would be only too willing to help and who are helping in my own con- stituency, or whether it should be done in some other manner, perhaps similar to the way in which legal assistance for poor persons is provided in the Courts of our country.[Interruption.]


I find very great difficulty in hearing what the hon. and gallant Member is saying. May I ask the House, for the benefit of other hon. Members like myself who take a great interest in this subject, to keep quiet?


That is my suggestion. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it is not possible to provide these pensioners, when they go before the Appeal Tribunals, with the necessary expert assistance to enable them to conduct their cases successfully. It makes all the difference in the world whether these men have got advice or have not, in determining whether they Tin their appeals. I have had some experience of this. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will put this matter right. I also hope that he will simplify the Royal Warrant and cancel all these hosts of instructions that have been issued by the Ministry.


Up to.12 months ago, the party with which the hon. and gallant Member for Central Nottingham (Captain Berkeley) was associated had a dominating influence in British polities, and they had it for many years. [Horn. MEMBERS: "No"] His governor was on the Front Bench with all his lieutenants, and I think that it is rather late in the day, after five years of experience of maladministration, according to my hon. and gallant Friend, for him to come forward now and say, "It is not I. it is the other fellow." It is nearly time to put an end to this kind of thing. We are going to do our best, and we do not care who is against us.


As I understood that this Motion provides the only opportunity of drawing attention to certain !natters, and getting something done, I desire to draw attention to a matter which, I hope, will receive the sympathetic consideration of our new administrators. I refer to the position of taxicab drivers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed'" and "Speak up!


I would suggest to hon. Members that the proceedings of the House are hardly dignified at, the moment.


I understand that. it is within the province of any Member to raise any question of administration, and, with great respect, I claim that privilege, to put a point which is of interest to certain constituents of many Members of this House. It is relatively a small point in some ways, but, as we can raise it on a Motion of this kind, I claim the privilege of saying a word or two, and I wish to put my point as precisely as I can. In the forthcoming Budget arrangements are made by which a man who is unable to put down the necessary sum of money to take out his annual licence must pay 20 per cent. increase if he take out four quarterly licences. It is a small but important point, and I draw attention to it, in the hope that the grievance will be remedied.

Question "That this House do now adjourn until Tuesday, 12th February" put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Five Minutes before Four o'Clock until Tuesday, 12th February, 1924, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of this day.