The answer is in the negative. The Report of the Government Actuary dealt with the financial proposals of the Bill, but, as these did not include the provision of pensions for all widows, no estimate of the aggregate number of widows was necessary.
§ 21. Mr. T. WILLIAMS
asked the Minister of Health why the appeal for a widow's pension by Mrs. M. J. Roberts, of St. Just, Cornwall, has not yet been settled although the application was made over two years ago?
I find that a notice of the rejection of her claim to a widow's pension was sent to Mrs. Roberts on 23rd December, 1927. Notice of appeal against that decision was lodged by her on 10th February, 1928. The appeal raised very difficult questions, and the Referees found it necessary to suspend their action until a decision could be given under Section 89 of the National Health Insurance Act on the question whether an employment in which the deceased husband was engaged was insurable. Following that decision, it was necessary to have an oral hearing of the appeal, as certain facts with regard to the stamping of a contribution card were in dispute. The oral hearing took place on the 12th February last, and I am informed that the Referees should be in a position to issue their decision on the appeal within the next week.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Could not the right hon. Gentleman expedite the settlement of cases such as this, in view of the fact that this particular case has been more or less in process of settlement for the last two years?
I admit that it has been a very long time, but that, as the hon. Member will appreciate, is because the pressure of work on the Department is very great, and this case presented peculiar difficulties, which I think account for the exceptional delay. On the whole, I must say, I think it is surprising that there are not more complaints of delay, considering the enormous amount of work that has to be done.
Work of this kind has to be done by specially trained and experienced people, and it is not the slightest use taking on fresh hands to make these investigations. In cases of this kind, we must have people who know the work.
§ Mr. GARDNER
There are people who have been employed there for nine years. I have a similar case in my pocket now.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 12 months' cases are not uncommon, and will he not consider whether the postponed increase in the Ministry's staff should now take place?
That only applies to cases in which Section 89 is in question. Those cases take a very long time—six or 12 months—because they require a great deal of correspondence and information from other authorities, which, of course, cannot be hurried by the Department.