HC Deb 13 April 1937 vol 322 cc789-90
67. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister of Pensions the amounts spent on pensions during 1925, 1930 and 1935, respectively?

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Ramsbotham)

The expenditure of the Ministry in the years 1925, 1930 and 1935 was respectively £66,916,000, £51,765,000 and £42,460,000.

Mr. Smith

In view of this enormous decrease in expenditure, will the Minister consider adopting a more generous and sympathetic attitude to applicants for pensions, and to widows of ex-service men who apply for pensions?

Mr. Ramsbotham

It is natural that in the lapse of years the pension charge should decrease. It was never contemplated by this or any Government that the pension charge should be a fixed sum, and that the balances freed by the passing away of pensioners should be distributed among survivors or others.

68 and 69. Mr. Smith

asked the Minister of Pensions (1) how many deputations he has received since his appointment complaining of the administration of the Ministry; whom did the deputations represent; and what action does he propose to take;

(2) whether he is now in a position to give an answer to the case presented to him by the deputation of hon. Members of this House on 3rd February, 1937?

Mr. Ramsbotham

Two groups of hon. Members, acting, I believe, on the representations of a small ex-service men's organisation, have put before me suggestions for fundamental changes in the established principles of disability pensions for ex-service men as laid down in the Royal Warrants, and have asked for a commission of inquiry into the matter. I informed them that I had no power to adopt their suggestions, nor had I any evidence which would justify them; but that the British Legion had, I understood, instituted inquiries, the result of which would, in due course, be communicated to the Minister or Ministers concerned. I am not, therefore, in a position to take, in the meantime, any further action.

Mr. Smith

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one deputation that waited upon him was impressed by the sympathetic consideration that he gave? Is he aware of the deep feeling throughout the country that his sympathy is not being reflected in the administration of the Ministry, and will he consider the need for changing its policy in line with his own individual policy?

Mr. Ramsbotham

My sympathetic attitude remains, but I must have some evidence before I can consider any action.

Mr. N. Maclean

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the circular sent out by the British Legion will be seen by only a very small section of pensioners, and will not the Minister send out asking for information from those who have been in receipt of pensions?

Mr. Ramsbotham

I have not seen the circular but I am confident that the British Legion is competent to carry out such an inquiry as it thinks fit.

Mr. E. Smith

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his attitude, because a very serious situation may arise in certain parts of the country unless a more sympathetic policy is adopted?