HC Deb 22 February 1938 vol 332 cc194-6
66. Sir Smedley Crooke

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has considered the report which has been sent to him by the British Legion on the problem of prematurely aged ex-service men; and what action, if any, His Majesty's Government intend to take in dealing with the recommendations of the special committee of the Legion who considered the matter?

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Rams-botham)

The report to which the hon. Member refers was submitted to the Prime Minister, and I can only refer to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to a similar question on the 7th instant.

Sir Smedley Crooke

May I ask whether my hon. Friend realises that any further concessions made to benefit ex-service men by His Majesty's Government, or any revision of the Royal Charter in their favour, would have the solid backing of the British public, as is clearly shown by the wonderful financial response each Poppy Day?

Mr. Ramsbotham

Perhaps the hon. Member will look at the answer I have given.

67. Viscountess Astor

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that the Government of New Zealand have amended their War Pensions Act to provide entitlement to the wife and children of any soldier pensioner to claim for dependants' pension provided the marriage took place before 31st July, 1936; and whether he will consider taking action to have the War Pensions Act in this country similarly amended?

Mr. Ramsbotham

I am aware of the recent changes in the pension legislation of New Zealand. The Royal Warrants, however, have been drawn, with the approval of the House, on the basic principle that liability for pension to a man's dependants must be limited to the marriage which took place before he contracted his war disablement, and I am not prepared to recommend a departure from this principle. Domestic obligations arising out of marriage at a later date are ordinarily met in this country by the National Contributory Pension Scheme, which does not exist in New Zealand.

Mr. Lawson

Is the hon. Member aware that in many cases the widows of these men, who have admittedly died as a result of their service, have been married for 20 years, and that they are left derelict when the husband dies?

Mr. Ramsbotham

The principle accepted by successive Governments is that the State should bear responsibility for the conditions of affairs at the time of the occurrence of the disability, but does not accept responsibility for what may occur afterwards.

Mr. Lawson

Has there not been a great deal of experience since the Royal Warrant was drawn, and is not the hon. Member prepared to re-examine the position in the light of this experience?

Mr. Ramsbotham

I do not think conditions have changed.

Mr. Stephen

Is the hon. Member aware that hon. Members on all sides of the House wish for a revision of the Royal Warrant in view of the experience we have gained, and will he not do something to meet the desire of hon. Members in all quarters of the House?

Viscountess Astor

Will not the hon. Member give further attention to this matter?