HC Deb 03 October 1939 vol 351 cc1801-4
32. Mr. Glenvil Hall

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that application for dependants allowances in respect of serving soldiers are experiencing difficulty in getting their forms witnessed owing to the restricted number of persons qualified to do so; and whether he will consider the propriety of widening the area of choice by including members of local authorities, head teachers in schools, trade union officials and full-time political agents as qualified witnesses?

Sir V. Warrender

The applicant's signature may be witnessed by his or her doctor, a minister of religion, a civil servant, an officer of the Navy, Army or Air Force, a police officer not below the rank of Servant, or an official in charge of a post office. I have not heard of any case of difficulty in finding a person in one or other of these categories who is prepared to witness the signature, and I do not think it is necessary to extend the list.

Mr. Hall

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in some parts of the country difficulty is experienced, and that if he could extend the list to include head teachers, it would be a great advantage?

Sir V. Warrender

I think there can be very few cases in which a person in the categories that I have named cannot be found.

34. Mr. George Hall

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the many complaints made by the dependants of men called up under the Military Service Acts at the long delay and, in many cases, the great difficulty in obtaining their allowances; and will he take immediate measures to deal with' these difficulties?

Sir V. Warrender

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) on Thursday last.

Mr. Ammon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this week I brought to his attention instances of wives of men called up for service being threatened with eviction because they had not the rent, owing to non-receipt of allowances?

Sir V. Warrender

I have had several cases sent to me personally, and in nearly every case that I have investigated I have found it due either to some misunderstanding or to some mistake on the part of the man or his wife or the woman. I do not think any blame should be laid at the door of the Paymaster, who has been very punctilious in carrying out his work.

Mr. George Hall

Will the hon. Gentleman see that for the dependants other than wives—I mean widowed mothers and others—the position is made quite clear to the serving soldiers as to how they can get allowances for these dependants?

Sir V. Warrender

Yes, and instructions have been sent to every commanding officer ordering them to report every case within their units where these allowances are not being paid.

Mr. Hall

But will it be made clear to the serving soldiers, to the men?

Sir V. Warrender

I think it will be the commanding officers duty to do so.

37. Mr. Oliver

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the discontent and hardship caused by the meagreness of the allowances to widows whose sons have been called up for military service, due to the very narrow interpretations of the provisions of the White Paper, Cmd. 6043; and whether he will state the basis on which the figures mentioned in the White Paper are computed, and, further, state the qualifications and experience of the persons fixing the amount of allowances and whether the amount fixed is subject to appeal?

Sir V. Warrender

I have no evidence that the scale of allowances is generally inadequate. The scheme outlined in the White Paper referred to, which related to dependants of militiamen called up for training under the Military Training Act, 1939, has been superseded by a new war scheme, particulars of which were recently announced, but the maximum fates admissible, including the soldier's contribution, which has been increased to correspond with his rate of pay, remain unchanged. The standard rates of allowance were fixed by the Government after the most careful consideration and examination of available data. The actual rates depend on the man's pre-enlistment contribution to the dependant's support and the household income.

The allowance for a widowed mother with no other income is 20s. 6d. a week, provided the soldier was contributing not less than that amount to her support before he was called up. The amount fixed is not subject to appeal, except on a question of fact, but in exceptional cases, where owing to the calling-up of a soldier serious financial hardship exists which cannot be met by the issue of the normal allowances or in other ways, application can be made to the Military Service (Special Allowances) Advisory Committee, who are empowered to recommend a supplementary or special grant if after investigation they consider it warranted.

Mr. Oliver

Do I understand from that reply that no complaints have been received by the hon. Gentleman's Department arising out of the meagreness of the allowances under the White Paper?

Sir V. Warrender

Yes, Sir, that is the answer.

Mr. Thurtle

Is it proposed to publish this new basis of allowances in the form of a White Paper, and would such publication make clear the address of this tribunal to which appeals are to be sent?

Sir V. Warrender

I do not think it will be necessary to do that. These allowances and the machinery under which they are paid have been published in full in the Press, and they have been referred to in the Press subsequently. I am quite prepared to consider it, but I do not really think it is necessary.

Mr. T. Williams

Would it not be for the convenience of all those like dependants if a White Paper on the lines indicated could be published, so that all sections of the community, North, South, East and West, would appreciate that they are being dealt with fairly and equitably?

Sir V. Warrender

I am prepared to consider the suggestion that further publicity should be given. Whether it should be by means of a White Paper or not, I cannot say.