HC Deb 25 March 1926 vol 193 cc1347-9
3. Mr. HAYES

asked the Minister of Pensions whether his attention has been drawn to the decision of the Special Grants Committee not to vary the practice of causing police inquiries to be made into charges of immorality, etc., against female pensioners; whether he has received representations on this matter from the Liverpool, Bootle, Waterloo and District War Pensions Committee; and what action he proposes to take in the matter?


The practice referred to, which has been frequently considered both my myself and by my predecessor, is of long standing. Procedure by which evidence for or against cases of this type is obtained in the first instance by independent inquiry has in long experience been found to be the most satisfactory course by the Special Grants Committee in the discharge of the quasi-judicial functions imposed on them by Statute in connection with the forfeiture of pension. I am informed that the Liverpool and District War Pensions Committee propose to seek an interview with me on certain difficulties of their own in connection with this practice, and, if so, I shall be quite prepared to discuss the matter with them.


Will the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the difficulty of the work of the reclamation of these women by local war pensions committees when inquiries have been made by the police, either in plain clothes or in uniform, seeing that the people in the locality know it is a police officer?


I quite appreciate the point, and I am glad to say that there are cases in which, after an interval, the pensions have been restored.

6. Mr. HAYES

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that it is the practice for the police to make inquiries, at the request of the Special Grants Committee of the Ministry of Pensions, into charges of misconduct of female war pensioners; whether such inquiries are made by officers of the uniform or detective departments; whether such reports are privileged; and whether the personal attendance of the officers making the inquiries can be demanded by the pensioners at any subsequent inquiry?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

I am aware inquiries are made by the police in certain cases, generally by officers not below the rank of sergeant, in plain clothes. Any such reports are confidential, and it is not anticipated that any question will arise of the attendance of the officer concerned at any subsequent inquiry.


Would it not in these eases act unfairly to the war widow, who never gets a real opportunity of submitting her views and examining the individual who has reported against her?


I must demur to that. I do not think it is unfair at all. Somebody must make inquiries, and the police are men of discretion. We de not send officers below the rank of a sergeant, and I think that any statements that are made to them might fairly he relied upon. If there is any suggestion that they are not, I will cause the closest inquiry to be made into it


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at least in one case that has been brought to the notice of his colleague a statement was made which has since been proved to he false, and yet the woman has been deprived of her pension for a period of four years?


The hon. Member should give notice of any particular case