HC Deb 29 July 1935 vol 304 cc2278-81

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that many soldiers of the Great War are now beginning to suffer from ailments, or are experiencing recurrences or after effects of ailments or wounds sustained in the War, or are dying prematurely, and that in many cases it is not possible to establish an incontrovertible medical history to relate present ailments or premature death to war service; that there is a widespread sentiment throughout the country that the pledge given during the War that no soldier should fail to receive full compensation for any injury he sustained should be most generously interpreted; whether he will, therefore, consider appointing non-medical bodies of ordinary citizens, similarly constituted to common juries, to decide upon cases where there is conflict of medical testimony; and whether he will be prepared to accept the decision of such bodies as final?

The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Mr. R. S. Hudson)

I am glad to be able to assure the hon. Member that the late claims now being received, which are diminishing in number, are not deter- mined on evidence amounting to legal proof or the absence of it, as he would appear to imagine. On the contrary, each case is decided on its merits in the light of all the evidence available, and frequently after consultation with outside specialists of eminence. I am afraid I do not consider the suggestion in the last part of the question either necessary or practicable.


Is my hon. Friend aware that cases frequently come to the attention of almost every hon. Member in which, after considering the evidence, they are compelled to conclude that some compensation ought to be granted, and can he not suggest some means whereby this matter, which is one of great anxiety to all Members, may be overcome?


I am afraid the real trouble is that it is impossible for my Department to disclose to hon. Members all the evidence we have, and I am sure, from such experience as I have had, that if hon. Members could see all the evidence in these cases they would agree with the decisions come to by my Department.


May I ask what percentage of the claims is granted?


I think that six out of seven claims submitted have been granted. I suggest that that shows the ex-service men have, on the whole, been fairly, and even generously, treated.


Is due weight attached to independent medical testimony which may be in conflict with the official testimony; and is my hon. Friend aware that, in spite of his reply, very serious cases of grievance are arising all over the country on account of the lack of consideration extended to the cases referred to?


As the hon. Member knows, there is a procedure in operation by which, where there is any serious difficulty, the case is submitted for the advice of an eminent outside professional expert nominated by the President of the Royal College of Physicians or the President of the Royal College of Surgeons, as the case may be. I think I am correct in saying that in no case has the advice of that independent expert been disregarded. In every case his advice has been taken by my Department.


Will my hon. Friend make more extended use of independent medical experts, because in Scotland only two such cases were submitted last year?


Where a case has gone to appeal and the appeal has been turned down, and later there has been an emergence of shrapnel from a man's head, can the case be further considered?


The Department is always ready to consider any new evidence brought on behalf of a man.


Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a widespread belief that there is little hope of winning a case on appeal if it involves, as it must in many cases, a, reversal of the original medical decision, and is there any sound reason why we should not see the whole of the evidence?


In a great number of cases I am afraid that the man concerned would certainly object to anyone except the medical adviser seeing the evidence.


In view of the fact that it is difficult for ex-service men to prove that their disability was caused or aggravated by war service, could not my hon. Friend give the suggestion in this question further consideration?

10. Mr. CROOKE

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider the advisability of recommending such alterations in the King's Royal Warrant that will abolish the seven years' time limit in all cases where the disability of ex-service men who served in the Great War is proved to be due to war service, such as wounds, gas, etc.?


No, Sir. The course suggested would involve legislation and the Government are satisfied that existing arrangements for the award of compensation due in the comparatively few cases of fresh claims for disablement now arising are preferable both in the interests of ex-service men and of public administration.

11. Mr. GROVES

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will give consideration to the question of an appeal for a pension for Mrs. Hocking, 19, Great Eastern Road, Stratford, E., whose husband, Harry Hocking, joined the forces in 1914 and served from 1916 to 1918 in Italy, spending some part of his time in the European hospital at Faenza suffering from the effects of gas poisoning and malaria; whether he is aware that this man soon after the termination of the War showed symptoms of mental strain which so developed that he necessarily became an in-patient of Goodmayes Mental Institution; and whether, in these circumstances, he will treat the case as a disability consequent upon war service?


I am afraid that the facts are not as stated in the second part of the question. There is no record that Mr. Hocking ever suffered from gassing or malaria; indeed, the only recorded treatment during his service in Italy is for influenza of three days' duration. I am advised that the case as presented does not disclose any grounds on which it could be certified that Mr. Hocking's unfortunate condition is the result of his war service.


Surely a wife would know whether her husband was suffering from mental strain; and, if the wife in this case has given such testimony, could not the hon. Gentleman consider it in view of the generous reply that he has given to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane)?


The hon. Member suggested that the man suffered from gassing and malaria, but there is no record of that.


I have the papers, and may I submit them to the hon. Gentleman so that he can see the evidence?


I shall certainly be glad to see the papers. I venture to suggest that the hon. Member might have seen me first before putting this question on the Paper.

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