HC Deb 15 March 1928 vol 214 cc2070-1
7. Captain FRASER

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has in contemplation any changes in the method of paying war pensions; what those changes are and when they will be introduced; what classes of pensioners will be affected; what objects he hopes to achieve by the changes; and whether the ex-service men's associations have been consulted?


An important change in the method of payment of war pensions will come into operation next week. The pensioners affected will be all those whose pensions are paid weekly through the Post Office, namely, those of disabled men, their widows and dependants. The central feature of the new system of payment will be the discontinuance of identity certificates, or ring papers. These documents will be surrendered to the Postmaster for cancellation and withdrawal, and the pensioner will receive instead a book of orders on presentation of which payment will thenceforth be made each week at the appropriate post office. The new system will be essentially the same as that already in use for old age pensions and for widows' contributory pensions. It is estimated that a substantial reduction in administrative costs will be secured by the extension of this system to war pensions, but, while the object in view has been uniformity and economy in administration, I am satisfied that pensioners will find the new arrangements simple and convenient. The ex-service representatives on the standing joint committee, and a representative of St. Dunstan's have been consulted on this aspect of the matter and have expressed their approval of the change. No change is at present contemplated in the arrangements for paying the pensions of officers or nurses or of officers' widows or dependants.

Captain FRASER

How many men and widows are affected?


All the beneficiaries of the Ministry—who number about 1,250,000—are affected, except officers and nurses, so that the number would be one approaching 1,250,000.


In what way would it be uneconomical to decentralise the issue?


It would be uneconomical to decentralise the issue, because it would mean having 47 offices doing the work which is at present done by one office, because it would mean a serious increase in overhead charges, and, because it would mean a triangular correspondence between a central office, 46 local offices, and 21,000 post-offices. Therefore, from every point of view, including that of the pensioner, the suggestion which has been made from the other side of the House is undesirable.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say how many of the ex-service men's associations have been consulted?


Members of the British Legion are on the standing joint committee and were consulted in this matter, and they are entirely in favour of the change.


Would not the decentralisation of the issue mean the dispersal of the staff at Acton, which would involve great hardship to those concerned?


It would undoubtedly mean hardship to the staff at Acton.


Apart from the publicity which the Minister's present announcement will have, are steps being taken to make known this change?


I am much obliged to the hon. Member for his question, which gives me the opportunity of stating that we are sending full particulars of the change to the Press; and I have also arranged with the British Broadcasting Company for an announcement to be made on Friday and Saturday nights of this week. The new method comes into force next Monday.