HC Deb 14 March 1935 vol 299 cc569-71

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will inquire into the cases of William George Stratford, son of Private William George Stratford, No. 32,097, of the 10th Hussars, who died of wounds in October, 1918, and of Annie May Gubbins, daughter of Company Quartermaster-Sergeant Gubbins, No. 9,699, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, who was killed in action October, 1918, both of whom are war orphans, being mentally deficient and totally unable to contribute to their own support, with a view to the continuation of their allowances?

The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Major Tryon)

I have no authority to reissue allowances in favour of the young persons referred to. It is a long established principle that pensions liability for children should not extend at the utmost beyond the attainment of their majority, and, although an exception has been made as regards the special and limited class of young persons who became total orphans before reaching the age of 21, I cannot hold out any hope of a departure from the decision of the late Labour Government that the concession must be limited to this class.


Are we to understand that the Minister of Pensions always intends to do what the Labour Government did? Has he no mind of his own?


In cases where the Labour Government were right, we are acting properly in maintaining their decision.


asked the Minister of Pensions why, in cases of pulmonary tuberculosis which are in part the result of war service, and in which the degree of disablement is admitted by the Ministry to be higher than it was when the final awards were granted, he refuses further medical examinations?


I may remind the hon. Member that a final award constitutes, in virtue of the War Pensions Act, 1921, a statutory settlement of compensation, and it is only in exceptional cases in which it is conclusively shown that the final award must be regarded as seriously and permanently erroneous as an assessment of the disablement resulting from war service that I can take any special action. The question whether in any particular instance medical examination will serve a useful purpose is one to be determined on the advice of my medical staff with regard to the history of the case and the evidence already available.


May I ask why, if there is an element of doubt as to whether the degree of disablement has been caused by war service or is due to prewar inherent tendency, the benefit of the doubt should be taken by the Ministry of Pensions rather than given to the man?


In cases where I consider that there is an element of doubt, we refer them to an independent specialist. In one of the cases to which the hon. Member has referred there is not the smallest doubt that the man was suffering from this affection before the war.


How did my right hon. Gentleman make up his mind without a medical examination, that the further deterioration in the case was caused by pre-war tendency rather than war service?


I am replying on the case of an individual in regard to whom the hon. Member has put down a question.


Was this man accepted as A1 when he joined the Army?


I cannot say that without notice, but there is not the least doubt that the man was suffering from tuberculosis before the war.


In view of the fact that the man was suffering from tuberculosis before the war, would it not be a fact that war service would necessarily worsen and aggravate his condition, and, in that case, cannot the Minister accept responsibility?


We did accept responsibility, but a final decision on that matter was given a long time ago. We should certainly accept full responsibility where it is clear that the war was responsible for the present condition of the disablement.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

Does the Minister realise that between the ages of 45 and 50 there are large numbers of men who are liable to develop tuberculosis as the result of being gassed in the war?