3. Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
asked the Minister of Pensions if, by arrangesment with the Lord Chancellor, he will issue regulations to permit local pension committees to authorise the payment of the railway fare of anyone who is prepared to assist an appellant in stating his case,-when, in the opinion of the local pensions committee the appellant, through his disability, is incapable of adequately presenting his case before Appeal Tribunals?
My right hon. Friend would have no power to authorise payment of the expenses suggested, the matter being entirely one for the Lord Chancellor. My right hon. Friend desires, however, to add that the suggestion made by the hon. Member has previously been most carefully considered, both by himself and other Ministers of Pensions, with the Lord Chancellor, but it was their considered opinion that the introduction of a system of State-paid advocacy would not be in the best interests of appellants. It may further be pointed out that it is 2441 already an instruction, under the Regulations issued by the Lord Chancellor regarding the procedure of appeals, that the tribunal shall assist any appellant who, for any cause, is unable to make the best of his case, and my right hon. Friend has every reason to believe that this instruction is fully and sympathetically complied with.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that my question relates, not to the payment of advocates, but to the payment of the travelling expenses of a witness to support the appellant when he is unable to state his own case, and could not the hon. and gallant Gentleman differentiate and make representations to the Lord Chancellor that travelling expenses should be paid in this limited number of cases?
I have already informed the hon. Member that that is entirely a question for the Lord Chancellor. In addition to that, under the rules laid down by the Lord Chancellor for these tribunals, expert witnesses or other witnesses that may be necessary can be called by the tribunal, and their expenses are paid.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that cases have been known in which discharged soldiers have had their tongues taken out, and no opportunity has been provided for their bringing someone to assist them in staring their case?
That is precisely the kind of case in which the tribunal has power to call witnesses to help the man if it is necessary, and one of the intimations laid clown to them is that they are to do their utmost to help the man in presenting his case.
§ 5. Mr. GROVES
asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the fact that many ex-service men and their dependants are unable to pay the necessary expenses of securing assistance when making their appeals before the House of Lords Tribunal, and are not able themselves to do justice to their own cases in a Court of that character, he will place at the disposal of appellants an official from his Department in order to ensure that no claim shall suffer from inadequate presentation?
As in these cases the issue before the Tribunal on appeal is a decision of the Ministry itself, my right hon. Friend fears that the hon. Member's suggestion would be impracticable. My right hon. Friend desires, however, to point out that the case for the appellant is fairly and fully set out in the précis before the Court, a copy of which is supplied to the appellant, and he has no evidence that the procedure of the Tribunal, the members of which assist the appellant to make the best of his case, would be improved in the interests of appellants by the institution of paid advocacy.
§ Major COHEN
Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that it is a very costly matter for the British Legion?
§ Major CRAWFURD
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that many Members of this House receive evidence almost daily of the total failure of this system?