HC Deb 31 October 1939 vol 352 cc1723-5
18. Sir Joseph Leech

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, having regard to the generally admitted inadequacy of the allowances for soldiers' dependants, he is prepared to introduce to this House a better scale, and so relieve the hardships now prevailing?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

As was stated by my hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions on 24th October last, the question of children's allowances is at present under review. As regards other dependants where there are special circumstances, there is access to the Military Service (Special Allowances) Advisory Committee.

Mr. T. Williams

When are the Departmental Committee likely to report upon children's allowances?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I do not know that that question should properly be addressed to me, because the work of the committee covers other Departments, but I hope it will be very shortly, perhaps this or next week.

Mr. Anstruther-Gray

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some of these children have now been suffering hardship for fully two months, and in view of the fact that it is his duty to look after the welfare not only of the soldiers but also of their families and dependants will he see that prompt action is taken?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

We are seeing that prompt action is taken. There was a time when the highest compliments were paid to the War Office for having raised the scale.

29. Mr. R. Gibson

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that a soldier's wife is refused by the military authorities allowances in respect of the soldier's step-children, whom he has continuously maintained as members of his family since his marriage, unless the soldier goes through the expensive formality of obtaining an adoption order in respect of these step-children, and as allowance is paid in respect of an unmarried woman with whom the soldier has been co-habitating for a period of six months or more, will he issue instructions that allowances will be paid in respect of such step-children?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The statement in the first part of the question is not correct. The allowances are payable if the step-children are the legitimate children of the wife. If they are her illegitimate children, children's allowance is not issuable under the regulations, unless the soldier makes them his own by statutory adoption. It would, however, be open to the soldier to make an application for special assistance, which would be dealt with on the recommendation of the Military Service (Special Allowances) Advisory Committee, if the children were genuinely dependent on him before his calling up for service in the present war, and he is unable to maintain them without such assistance.

Mr. Gibson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Scotland applications of this sort to the Scottish courts must be in the names of both the husband and the wife, and that it is a matter of very great surprise in Scotland that a mother should have to make an application in court in order to be recognised by the War Office as the mother of her own children; and will the right hon. Gentleman look into this matter and put his Department on to it?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I thought that it was generally recognised that my Department was behaving most generously in these matters, because we make an allowance to the reputed wife of a soldier if he has been living with her before he was called up. This is a case of children who are not the soldier's children at all. There may be no obligation upon the soldier to maintain those children. If they are not his children and are the legitimate children of the wife, the allowance is payable.

Mr. Gibson

If I provide the right hon. Gentleman with—

Mr. Speaker