Motion made, and Question proposed:
That a sum, not exceeding £23,120,000 be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Pensions, payments in respect of war pensions, gratuities and allowances, sundry contributions in respect thereof and other services."—[Note: £14,500,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)
I am glad to have this opportunity of presenting the Estimates of my Department, because it enables me to give the Committee an account of the Ministry's work and of its wide and extending responsibilities. Eleven years have elapsed since we had a Debate on the Estimates of the Ministry of Pensions, and I think it is high time that the Minister of Pensions should have the opportunity of giving not only a full statement of the work done by the Department but an account of his own stewardship. Up to September last, the expenditure of the Department had been gradually decreasing, year by year. Possibly that is the reason why there have not been any Debates upon the Estimates. But immediately after the outbreak of war, we had to extend our activities to a much wider field. We had to take under our wing the question of pensions, not only for the Army, Navy and Air Force, but also for the Mercantile Marine, the fishing fleets, A.R.P. volunteers, auxiliary firemen and the gainfully occupied civil population. Hon. Members will, therefore, realise how much the work of the Department has expanded.
It is very often the case that a Minister when introducing Estimates has to quote 318 a large number of figures, but as I have many interesting things to relate to the Committee, I am sure I shall be excused from giving a long list of statistics. Hon. Members will, no doubt, prefer to hear about what we are actually doing. It is necessary, however, that I should give a few figures. I propose to deal, first, with the pensions arising out of what is known as the Great War, of 1914–18. Almost 26 years have elapsed since the outbreak of that war, and during that time, since the Ministry of Pensions came into being, a sum of £350,000,000 has been paid out in pensions and allowances. At this stage, 21 years after the conclusion of the last war, we are still spending about £38,000,000 a year in pensions and allowances—a figure higher in proportion to the population than that of any other country which was engaged in the last war. I would also point out that the cost of administration is little more than 4d. for every £1 spent on benefits, which I claim is a lower figure than that shown by any other country. Although it is 21 years since the end of the last war, we are still receiving claims for death or disablement pensions in respect of service in that war and during the past financial year, I am glad to be able to say, we were able to make new awards of all kinds in some 649 cases. I think that is an answer to any complaints which may be made that we are not giving due consideration to these belated cases. That is what some hon. Members allege from time to time. I wish to state that we give consideration to all and not merely to some. It is true that we cannot accede to every request made by an hon. Member on behalf of a constituent, but I can assure hon. Members that every case which is sent forward either by a Member of Parliament or through the usual channels of our regional offices is given the closest consideration and I can assure the Committee that it is a pleasure to me when it is possible to award a pension.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
The hon. Gentleman said that 649 new awards have been made. How many applications were there?
§ Sir W. Womersley
If I can possibly get it, I will let the hon. Member have it. I would point out, however, that there are cases in which we have received as many as 28 applications relating to one claim. I do not know whether the hon. Member wants the total number of applications or the total number of individuals who have applied. On 31st March the approximate number of pensioners and dependants of the Great War still on our books was 846,000, which was a reduction of 3.5 per cent. on the figure of the preceding year. It is not possible to give the final figure of expenditure for the year ended 31st March, 1940, but it is estimated that the Ministry spent £38,174,240, and of this amount £36,407,600 was spent on pensions and allowances to officers nurses and other ranks and their dependants, while the provision of medical services cost slightly more than £1,000,000.
I would like to say a few words about medical services. This is a very important part of our work. I would say, generally, in the first place, that our expenditure under this heading has increased to a certain extent. That is because in these services certain new war cases are being dealt with. The other question of the provision of pensions and allowances will come up at a later time, when the figures are available. We are expending now, however, on new war services an increased amount. At the outbreak of the present war there were nine Ministry hospitals, with a bed strength of 1,833. To meet the circumstances of the present war the bed strength has been increased and is at present 2,366. Moreover, we are making structural additions to all our hospitals, and the potential bed strength, with the completion of extensions and the establishment of three new hospitals, will be 5,517. That figure is likely to be increased by the acquisition of further accommodation. In addition, certain new hospitals now being erected by the Ministry of Health will be administered by my Department, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, as part of the emergency hospital scheme.
With regard to hospital staffs, the total number of medical staff at present is 209, consisting of 152 doctors employed whole time and 57 employed part time, while 426 nurses are employed. Let me say how glad I am that our appeal for medi- 320 cal men to come into our service met with such a very good response. I am satisfied that we have now medical men who, with a period of training in our particular form of work, will be able to cope with the amount of work which it is anticipated will come our way, and will be able to deal with it effectively. During the year under review, in-patient treatment was given to 6,030 cases, while 2,801 cases received treatment as out-patients. Home treatment was provided in 1,867 cases; and, in addition, 5,600 nurses, officers and men received treatment in mental hospitals. It is very sad to think that there are so many nurses, officers and men, injured in the last war, having to be treated in mental hospitals; but, against that, one must take into account the enormous number engaged in the last war, and the number of those who have passed through our hands and have been cured and discharged. It will be agreed then that the figure is not so alarming as it appears to be at first sight.
During the last two years before this war came upon us, my Department was deeply concerned to do all it could for the welfare of those ex-Service men who came within its ambit. I will mention one matter, which may appear very small but is very important. That is a scheme for assisting our pensioners who have the misfortune to be unemployed or unable, because of sickness, to follow any employment, to keep themselves in full benefit under National Health Insurance and other social service schemes. We could not do that out of our own Votes, without coming to Parliament specially; but there is what is known as the King's Fund, which was raised during the last war and has been subscribed to since. I hope that generous people will continue to subscribe to this fund, of which I, as Minister of Pensions, am trustee. It gives me an opportunity of dealing with many cases where distress is apparent, and which cannot be dealt with under Royal Warrant. We devote some of this fund to enabling these men to keep up their subscriptions and to keep their benefits intact. We have had splendid helpers in both the British Legion and the British Red Cross Society. They have devoted their own funds to this purpose, and it has proved a boon to the men concerned. If a man falls into arrears, and then dies, not as a result of anything 321 which occurred in the last war, there would otherwise be neither pension nor benefit for those whom he left behind.
We have started another little scheme which is worth recording. This is the Pensioners Savings Scheme. It was thought that some men, fortunate enough to get employment, would like to go in for a systematic savings scheme. We did not expect a great response to the idea, but we certainly have got quite a good response. The idea was that if a man liked to give a 1s. or 2s. a week out of his pensions, we would put it into either the Post Office Savings Bank or a trustee savings bank or National Savings Certificates. That scheme started in August, 1936; and up to 31st May last 13,185 pensioners had taken advantage of this scheme, including 820 who have joined since the outbreak of the present war. The gross amount of savings up to 31st May last was roughly £400,000.
§ Sir W. Womersley
The object is that pensioners may draw the money at any time if their circumstances change. While this is a Department which does not help anyone with a keen sense of humour, such as I have been charged with, I will give the Committee one instance which it may appreciate. I have had a letter from a pensioner, who wrote:Dear Sir, Your savings scheme is marvellous. The man who thought of it ought to be given some high distinction.[Interruption.] It was not I who thought of it.I have just received a statement of accounts, and I now find that I have just enough to get a divorce, what I have wanted a long time.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Does the Department pay interest on this money? If not, would it not be better to tell the pensioners to put it into the Post Office?
§ Sir W. Womersley
I have just explained that we put this into the Post Office Savings Bank or a trustee savings hank, on behalf of the pensioner. He draws the interest on it, and if he wants the money, he can have it at any time.
§ Sir W. Womersley
I do not know what the hon. Member means by that. We have done this in order to enable the men to save; and it is evident that they appreciate it, by the extent to which the scheme is being used. I now come to the Estimate itself. The total amount is £37,627,000. This shows a decrease of £757,000 on the Estimate of the preceding year. The normal level of annual decline is between £800,000 and £900,000, and, as far as can be foreseen in connection with these Great War pensions, it is likely to remain at about that level for the next few years. The normal annual decline is, however, disturbed when, as in 1940–41, we happen to have 53 pay days. That makes a little difference to the Estimates. Pensions and allowances for the year, totalling £35,889,100, absorb approximately 95 per cent. of the total Estimates for pensions. The cash benefits for disabled officers and men account for £20,897,100 of this sum, while £14,992,000 is allocated to widows and other dependants of deceased officers and men. The overseas expenditure—that is, money paid out to our pensioners who have gone from this country overseas—amounts to approximately £1,200,000. Of this sum, £580,000 is in respect of pensioners resident in Canada and the United States. I might remind the Committee that we have pensioners in almost every part of the known Globe. Indeed, I receive a surprising number of letters from places which I have myself to look up on the map, in order to find out where they are. We have pensioners from the Arctic to the Antipodes.
A question of rather serious import is that of our pensioners in enemy countries and in countries occupied by the enemy. I am glad to say that arrangements have been made with the United States for the part payment of pensions to some of these pensioners, and it is hoped that in time the arrangements will embrace all the countries concerned. With the rapid change in affairs in Europe, it will be realised what difficulty we have in dealing with these men. I can assure the Committee that we are dealing with the problem as rapidly as we can; and we hope to save these men, at any rate, from destitution and starvation. The Committee will be anxious to know about the number of pensioners who have written to me offering to relinquish their pensions for the duration of the war.
§ Sir W. Womersley
He does not come under my Department. The hon. Member had better ask my right hon. Friend about him.
§ Sir W. Womersley
He may have two, for all I know. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing publicly the Government's appreciation of the action of these pensioners, many of them widowed mothers and dependants of men who died during the last war, who have relinquished or loaned their pensions to the State, as their contribution to the national cause. I receive quite a number of letters making such offers day by day. Up to date, 168 pensioners have relinquished pensions of an annual value of £6,340, while 57 pensioners have loaned their pensions, or part of their pensions, free of interest for the duration of the present war. I should like to read a letter which I have received from one of these mothers. I have many other letters, including one from a pensioner living on an island in the Pacific, who said that after hearing a broadcast from the Prime Minister he felt that the only thing he could do was to give up his pension of £48 a year. But this lady comes into a different category. She deserves as much publicity as I can give to her splendid patriotic action. She comes from Yorkshire. She writes:Since the last war a generous Government has paid, as a token of gratitude to me for the loss of my son, killed in action, the above pension—9s. a week. Now that age prevents me from doing work of national importance, I have made up my mind to offer this pension to my country as my contribution.…I am sincerely anxious to do this, and it will give me joy in the knowledge of your acceptance. I remain, Yours sincerely, a loyal citizen of the best country in the world.It is signed by the lady. She gives her age as 74. That dear old lady has set an example to some of our wealthier people that I hope they will follow to the full. I hope that we shall get for that dear old lady's sacrifice some publicity in the Press, although she asked me not to mention her name.
That is my story of what the Pensions Department has tried to do, and what it has done, for those who suffered in the last war and for the 324 dependants of those who gave their lives. I assure the Committee that when I took over this office some six or eight weeks before the present war broke out I realised that it was my duty to do all that I possibly could on behalf of those who served in the last war and suffered. I had had considerable experience as a member of a local war pensions committee over a long number of years, and as a member of the British Legion almost since its formation. I had some knowledge of the problem, but I felt desirous when I took office to do something really tangible on behalf of these men. There were many schemes that I had intended bringing forward—and I would have liked to have had the pleasure of bringing them before this House—which have had to stand on one side because of the grave new responsibilities which I now have to pursue. I assure hon. Members that my whole sympathy is with the man who is a genuine claimant, but, as one who knows a little about soldiering myself, I am very much inclined not to be quite so helpful to those who are definitely trying to defraud the Revenue, and I am sure that hon. Members will agree that that is an attitude that one must take up in dealing with this very difficult problem.
As regards the present war, hon. Members will remember that I had to bring before the House a new Warrant. It had to be done in a hurry because we could not leave for one moment those who have been disabled in the war, or the relatives of those who have died in the war without some pension or allowance. It was necessary to get that Warrant through at once. We had several discussions about that pensions Warrant, and there is no doubt that it was severely criticised. I am not going to deny that for a moment, because hon. and right hon. Members were present and heard the criticism, but it will be remembered that I then made a statement that I was prepared to reconstitute the Statutory Advisory Committee in order to go carefully into the whole of the Warrant, because it was no use trying to bring forward an amended Warrant until the other had been thoroughly searched through, and the House accepted that as a fair statement. I am glad to say that Members of this House agreed to serve on that Committee, and we appointed 325 representatives of all parties in the House, and there were representatives of the British Legion and of the war pensions committees. They were men who had had long experience in dealing with pensions matters and represented all phases of opinion on the question of whether the Royal Warrant was good, bad or indifferent. There were 15 meetings of that Committee, and I want here to pay a tribute to those who served upon it. They did their work thoroughly; they neither spared themselves nor the time at their disposal in advising me on matters included in the Royal Warrant. I want to record here that I appreciate to the full the valuable work that they did and the reasoned suggestions which they put before me. I think that really we went through that Royal Warrant with a fine tooth-comb. Time after time Members of this House wanted to know when we were going to report. I asked them to be patient and wait, because I realised that it was no use coming to this House with an amended Warrant that was likely to meet with anything like the criticism with which the original Warrant was met. In order to be sure of getting a Warrant that one could defend, it was very necessary that it should be gone through clause by clause and line by line, and so it was; and again I want to repeat that I am very grateful to those who assisted me in that matter.
I want also to pay a tribute to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When I brought forward the recommendations of the Committee I did not find that coldness of heart that some people ascribe to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In all cases, where I myself thought that the case was a good one, I obtained their consent to include the amendments in the new Warrant. Later, I am going to speak about the amount of pensions, which is a very important point, and I think the Committee will find that, even on that point, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer at any rate has been very reasonable. A little delay occurred in this way, and I noticed that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) put a question to the Leader of the House this afternoon as to why the Warrant was not presented to the House before this Debate took place. I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend will realise that, from my point of view, it woud be far 326 better to discuss this matter with the new Warrant itself in front of each hon. Member, than that I should be able to tell them about it and then say that they will get their copy later on. The position is, that we redrafted the Warrant, including the Amendments which I have mentioned, and then, on the change of Government, I felt it to be my duty to submit it to the new Government. All that I had done up to then had been under the direction, or with the sanction, of the old Government. Although I must pay my tribute to the speedy manner in which it was handled by those who are now responsible for this country, still it meant that they had to consider it, and that meant that there would be some delay.
This further point has to be borne in mind also. It is rather a voluminous document, and it has to be printed by the Stationery Office. Although I had hoped to have had it here to-day so that Members could have dealt with it in their speeches I am sorry to say that it will not be available for a few days yet. That is the explanation. Hon. Members know that if they want a Debate on the matter, it can be arranged through the usual channels either on the Adjournment or on some other occasion, but I have to do my best to explain what has been done without the Warrant actually in front of me or in front of hon. Members.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
The Minister says that it will not be available for a few days. Will it be this week or next week?
§ Sir W. Womersley
I would have liked to have said that it would be available on Thursday, but on inquiry this morning I was told that it was not absolutely certain that it would then be available. That is why I said that it would be available in a few days. I hope that it may be available on Friday—if not then on Monday.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
When it is printed, will it show the difference between the new Warrant and the old Warrant?
§ Sir W. Womersley
That could not be done in a Royal Warrant, but it is possible to show the difference. I am glad to say that the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) was a valuable member of my Committee. He has a copy of the agreed Amendments which shows the difference 327 between the old Warrant and the new Warrant. Perhaps they would be of value to Members.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Would it not be more informative if the figures for the last war were put down instead of the figures of the last Warrant, with which we are all familiar?
§ Sir W. Womersley
I am afraid that my hon. Friend does not know what he is talking about when he speaks of the last war. He really means the 1919 Warrant.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
May I raise a point of Order, Sir Dennis, not in a factious spirit, but with a view to facilitating the consideration of this matter? Those of us who are desirous of considering the question are handicapped because we have not before us the information which the Minister is to present, and would it not therefore be better to postpone consideration of the Royal Warrant until Members have had it before them, when they will be able to deal with it in the same manner as the Minister is doing. The second point is whether it is in keeping with the business of this House that a Minister should deal with a document which has not yet been published and which hon. and right hon. Members have not had an opportunity of considering? Is it good parliamentary taste for that to be done?
The hon. Member has put his question in two parts, but I think the answer to both is the same. We are not discussing any document at the present moment. We shall no doubt be discussing proposals which the hon. Member will make in the course of his speech, and those hon. Members who may wish to debate the Royal Warrant when it is available will no doubt reserve their remarks for that occasion.
§ Sir W. Womersley
I would say to the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) that I do not wish to burke any crisicism, nor do I fear a debate on the amended Warrant, but I think it is due to the Committee and to people outside and those who are interested in this matter to let them know what improvements I have 328 made. When the Warrant itself is in the hands of hon. Members, and if they still desire a debate to take place, there is no one who would be more pleased than I shall be. May I suggest to the hon. Member that if he looks at my speech to-day in the OFFICIAL REPORT he will probably find in it much more material for his speech than he will in looking through the Royal Warrant. That is the only suggestion that I have to make.
May I now mention one or two important amendments which have been made? Under the original Warrant, in the provision relating to parents' pensions, the whole question of the grant of a pension was based entirely, without any qualification, on two conditions—need and incapacity—and there was the term "incapacity for self-support." When my attention was called to that term, I am bound to say that I did not like it. We propose in the amended Warrant to do away altogether with the term "incapacity for self-support" and to introduce instead a condition where need, broadly interpreted, still comes in, but consideration is to be given to what the son allowed either before or during his service, or what he might have contributed to his parents' support if they were subsequently in need. I gave a statement on this in answer to a Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Deritend (Sir Smedley Crooke) on 13th March.
We put this into operation. I know that this House will never disapprove putting a thing into operation that means a benefit to those who are claiming pensions, and although I have to include it in the amended Warrant, I obtained the consent of the Treasury to put it into operation at once. Therefore, I am in the position of being able to tell the Committee what has been the actual result of putting this amended regulation into force. We had two conspicuous cases with which to deal. Two of our great warships were lost on which there were a large number of young, single men. They had in many cases widowed mothers, and in many other cases both father and mother, and I was in the unfortunate position that, under the terms of the Warrant of September, I had to refuse a large number of applications for dependants' pensions. As a result of this amendment I have had all these cases reviewed. I 329 have not waited for renewed applications—with the result that I have been able to award pensions in 470 cases that otherwise would not have been accepted under the terms of the Warrant that is now being amended. Moreover, there are over 700 cases where the parent or parents have been informed that they have established their case. It is not a question afterwards of having to say, "I claim a pension." They have established their title, and they can at any time make a further application to the Ministry if there should be any adverse change in their circumstances. If they can show they come within the term of need, as broadly interpreted, I, as Minister of Pensions, will make an allowance in accordance with what the man would have been likely to contribute. If they do fall on evil times because of old age, or ill-health, or need assistance, that assistance will be forth-coming—
§ Sir W. Womersley
I will explain the point. I issued instructions that there should be added the words:They can make further application to the Minister if there should be any adverse change in their circumstances.They can make further application towards pension on title already established as and when adverse changes take place. Then, I was able to get agreement on a further Amendment, which I am sure will meet with the approval of the Committee, to enable me to pay a pension to parents of a married soldier if it can be shown that they were actually dependent upon him to a substantial extent for a reasonable period immediately before his death. If a married man had an aged father and mother, and out of his own resources allowed them a sum of money, I am in a position to consider a claim because that son has contributed to their maintenance—
§ Sir W. Womersley
It is rather difficult to give a complete explanation of that, but it is a matter which I am carefully considering, and I can assure the hon. Member that I shall make it work reasonably.
§ Sir W. Womersley
No, it is an addition. I went into this very carefully. Although this is a matter I did not mention to the Committee, it was something they strongly recommended, and I have had it inserted. I think it has been worth while persuading the Treasury to do it. I took the liberty of putting another matter into operation before the amended Warrant was brought before the House, namely, the question of children. Under the Warrant of September last payment of allowances to a disabled man was confined to three children in one family. What the poor fellow was to do if he had eight or 10 children or more I do not know, but at any rate I took that matter up at once and now there is no limit whatsoever. When I give the figures of the amended pension scale to the Committee, hon. Members will see that a married man with a large family will have a substantial amount of money due to him, which he will receive. A further condition was laid down in the Warrant that where the wife of a disabled man was under 40 years of age, and had no children, her husband would not receive any allowance on her behalf. I suppose the idea behind that was that if a woman was of that age, without children, she might possibly be following some occupation. But I took the view that if a man was disabled he wanted some extra attention and who is the best person to give it to him but his wife. I followed the advice of my Committee and put the matter forward to the Treasury—that the husband should not be debarred from claiming on behalf of his wife whatever her age—and I am glad to say it was accepted.
There is another matter—the acute controversy known as the seven years' limit. The time limit of seven years has been modified to enable belated claims to be dealt with by agreed lines of working. I am not in a position to announce that there will be no seven years limit under the amended Warrant, the reasons being as follow: Under the present system I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that no case which medical evidence has shown it was right and proper to reopen has ever been denied. It has not been since I took over this job and will not be so long as I am the Minister.
§ Sir W. Womersley
That is a pledge, although I cannot pledge my successor. What the hon. Member should do is to see that I stay in office. Although I cannot see my way, for many good reasons, to withdraw this seven years limit at the moment, I am here giving the pledge that it is my intention—and I must put in the proviso, if I am still responsible as Minister—to deal with any cases arising from this war on lines not less favourable than the present practice. I am prepared to carry on the present practice and hon. Members with any experience of pension matters know that they cannot go far wrong with that sort of pledge.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The hon. Gentleman has said something in regard to where medical evidence reveals the necessity. To whom is the medical evidence to reveal the necessity and which medical evidence? The Minister has already told us that he has signed up a new batch of doctors and is training them in his own way. Whose medical evidence is to be decisive?
§ Sir W. Womersley
The hon. Member misunderstands. What I meant was the administration. A man is left to himself so far as his medical skill is concerned, but in the question of administration there are certain things in every Department. [An HON. MEMBER: "A wangle."] I protest against that. I do not believe for a moment that there is any wangling at all, but a doctor has to know how to deal with cases. Any doctor will tell you that it is very necessary. He must know procedure. I shall take into account the medical evidence that is furnished by the claimant.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The Minister said a moment or two ago that special training was needed by a medical man if he is acting as a referee. If the medical evidence about which the hon. Member previously spoke was that a man could have a medical referee to decide I am quite willing to accept it but, with all respect, I doubt the Minister's capacity to judge medical evidence.
§ Sir W. Womersley
The hon. Member is anticipating. On this question I take the evidence that is brought forward by the man or woman who is claiming. Of course, I ask the opinion of my own medical staff on the matter, but in deciding whether a case shall be re-opened there is no case, where the evidence shows that a man is suffering disability, which is not re-opened. Even if a case is rejected afterwards it can be reconsidered.
Now we come to the question of appeals, a matter which has aroused a good deal of interest in this House and which has formed the subject of many speeches. I wish here and now to repeat that in my own view some right of appeal to an independent body will be essential after the war. I have made this statement before, and I repeat it, that when the time is ripe for bringing these appeal tribunals into being that shall be done, because it is in the interests of those who are claiming. But to establish these tribunals, as hon. Members know, means a tremendous amount of work. You have to set them up in every centre throughout the country, because you cannot have people travelling to London to have their cases heard. You have to have paid Members of that staff, and medical men detached from work of great importance, and it also means an enormous amount of work in the Department itself. It is not a practice I have introduced, and I am not saying this as a little "puff" for myself. It has long been the practice that where an appeal is made and a full statement of the case is given, all favourable points must be made to the person who is claiming, so that he knows the grounds on which he can press his case and the grounds on which the Ministry is opposing. That means an enormous amount of work, and one of the complaints is about the delay, even now, in settling cases. I do not want to take a large number of my staff off their essential work to deal with this particular work. I am satisfied that it is better from the claimant's point of view that a Minister should deal with a case quickly, but I have made this provision because I realise that during the war it would be absolutely impossible to set up these committees and have people travelling up and down the country. There is, however, a safeguard against likelihood of any real error. In something over 90 per cent. of the cases in dispute, 333 where there is a difference of opinion, appeals are on medical grounds. A man's doctor sends in a statement of what he thinks is the matter with the claimant, the Ministry's doctors go into it and give their opinion, which is sometimes contrary to that of the man's doctor. It is not for a layman to decide between two doctors, I should fear to tread that path.
It has been the practice in cases of grave doubt to refer them to an independent medical specialist, that is a man high in the medical profession. These specialists have not been selected by me, but have been nominated by the President of the Royal College of Physicians, when it is a case of disease, and by the Royal College of Surgeons, when it is a surgical case. I have a panel of such specialists who will decide between the two medical authorities. I felt it was my duty to make this part and parcel of the Warrant itself always provided that the Ministry has the right to say that the review shall take place. I believe that this system of review by an independent medical specialist has the full approval of most people who have had to deal with war pensions and I am certain that it has the approval of the British Legion.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Minister has mentioned a panel of specialists drawn up by the appropriate organisations. Is it proposed that these cases should be submitted to a single medical referee or to a board of referees?
§ Sir W. Womersley
It is to a single medical referee. I believe in the principle, which is not very often carried out, that the best committee is a committee of one in dealing with matters of opinion between two people.
Now I come to an important part of my proposals, the rates of pensions. It was quite clear to me from the Debates in this House and by the large correspondence I have had, that the rates in the 1939 Warrant are regarded as too low in comparison with the rates in the Warrant of 1919. It is true that the 1919 rates were based on a very high cost of living, 215 points, and it was provided that they could be reduced when the cost of living fell. The cost of living fell in the course of time, but in 1928 this House in its wisdom decided that there should be no reduction in the 1919 rates, with the proviso that they were not to be regarded as standard rates for all time for 334 sufferers in a major war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said some weeks ago that the Government were keeping down the cost of living by subsidies. Whether the cost of living is ever going to reach 215 points one cannot say, but the present Government feel that to leave the rates as they are inscribed in the Royal Warrant of September last is not defensible in view of the already increased cost of living. Although it has not gone up to the extent which many people thought it would, at any rate it has gone up, and the Government have decided, I am glad to say, that the rates should be increased accordingly.
The Government have authorised me to announce to the Committee their decision to increase these rates on this basis. The new Warrant will give to a totally disabled private soldier 34s. 2d. instead of 32s. 6d.—the 2d. comes in because it is for the convenience of the Department, although it is a little beyond the percentage increase. But that is not the most important concession. Hon. Members who are members of my Advisory Committee will remember that in the case of the allowances to a disabled man's wife and children it has not been a question of following these percentage rates at all. We have departed from them and have included in the Royal Warrant figures for peace-time allowances from the Army, Navy and Air Force. All these rates have been brought right up to the percentage figures, and in the case of the wife of a disabled man instead of 5s. you get 8s. 4d., and instead of 5s. for the first child and 3s. 4d. for the second and all other children you now get 6s. 3d. for the first child and 5s. for the second and all other children. I think that is a very substantial increase.
§ Major Milner (Leeds, South-East)
Will the Minister explain a little further what is the basis? Is it the cost of living or is some other factor involved?
§ Sir W. Womersley
It is 181, as compared with 215 in 1919. All the other rates will, where necessary, be correspondingly increased.
§ Captain Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
Is it now stabilised at these new rates? Does it follow that as the cost of living rises this new figure will rise?
§ Sir W. Womersley
It is not intended to stabilise the figure. These rates will be liable to adjustment in accordance with the provisions made for this purpose in the 1919 Warrant, where provision was made that if there was an average increase or decrease for a year pensions would be adjusted. It is intended that these rates should follow the 1919 Warrant in that regard. I must point out that for administrative as well as financial reasons any adjustment can only be undertaken after sufficient evidence has been gained to make it clear that it is called for by a rise in the cost of living of a prolonged character. Hon. Members will know that pension books are issued for a certain period for a year or two years. What I should like to do is to make it possible that any increase in pension should coincide with the issue of the new book. In dealing with the present cases I am not going to do that because, fortunately, we have not so many cases to deal with as we anticipated after nine or 10 months of war. We are going to call the pension books in and to issue new ones without any delay. In the ordinary way breaking into the middle of a pension book would create difficulty, but I can assure hon. Members that that difficulty will be dealt with and reviewed from time to time if the cost of living increases to any substantial extent.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
Does that mean that if the pension book of a man starts at a different time from others he will be getting a different pension?
§ Sir W. Womersley
No, we are calling in all the books and re-issuing them, and all will be treated alike.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
I should like to submit that in calling the books in many of the pensioners will lose a week's money.
§ Sir W. Womersley
We shall have the new books ready, and there will be no question of anyone losing a week's money. I know how the average housewife wants to have her money on the Friday in order to do her shopping. I 336 am going to see that she shall not be kept waiting. I give the Committee that assurance. Let me add that the disabled pension allowances in respect of services in the Navy and Air Forces will follow this Warrant. I am dealing now with the Army, and what applies to the new rates will apply to the other Services and to other services which come under my jurisdiction. Now as to the date. The new rates of pensions and all the other concessions will date from the nearest pay day to 1st June. They will be adjusted as soon as they can, but hon. Members will understand what a terrible amount of administrative detail is involved in calling in the books and re-issuing the new ones. Everything that is humanly possible will be done to see that no one is left for one week without his pension.
Then as to the Mercantile Marine. A great deal of interest has been taken in the Mercantile Marine scheme and I have received many deputations about it. We have entered into agreement with the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Shipping to pay pensions to members of the Mercantile Marine and the fishing fleet injured by enemy action, and to dependants of those killed by such action, on the lines arranged for the fighting Services. The conditions of the new Warrant for the Armed Forces will be applied to these cases. It is a little difficult to deal with these cases. I have made arrangements that the three Services will continue the family allowances for 13 weeks after the death or the assumed death of anyone, and that enables me to get the pension cases dealt with and completed long before the widow ceases to draw her allowance. That has prevented a good deal of hardship.
I was hoping to get something of the same thing in regard to the Mercantile Marine, as the shipowners had offered to continue payments for four weeks in the case of survivors of ships lost through enemy action, 50 per cent. being paid by the Exchequer. In the case of a ship being lost in the ordinary way, payment to the dependants ceases at once and the case automatically comes under Workmen's Compensation. We have to get something done for these people quickly so that they have not to wait for their pensions. I have made arrangements with the port and hospital authorities to inform my Department with- 337 out delay when injured men are landed, and my local officers visit them or their dependants and get into contact with them. So far I am glad to say this is working remarkably well. I have received a letter from a shipowner complimenting my Department on the expeditious manner in which the staff of the Ministry has dealt with the dependants of those who have lost their lives in fishing vessels. He says:We have never had cases handled so well before and on behalf of the dependants we beg to tender theirs and our best thanks for your kind attention to these cases.That is a tribute to the staff of the Ministry, and after all those who have done this work so loyally and so well should have the praise which is due. The only difficulty that confronts me is that, while I have this agreement in respect of the Mercantile Marine, I am sorry to say that up to now I have not been able to get a similar arrangement working with the fishing vessel owners. The vast majority of them have promised to come into a similar scheme, but one or two are standing out, and holding back the scheme. In the meantime, we are making special efforts to see that no one who suffers injury on a fishing vessel, or the dependant of a person lost on a fishing vessel, is kept waiting for his or her money. It would be very much better if all of them came under one scheme.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
In cases where a vessel has been lost at sea without any evidence as to how it was lost—cases of presumed loss—have the Department come to any conclusion as to what is a reasonable time after which a widow is entitled to claim her pension?
§ Sir W. Womersley
In those cases, we have to depend entirely on the Board of Trade reporting to us, and immediately we receive from the Board of Trade a report that a vessel is presumed lost, we take up the matter at once; but in the meantime, we have an arrangement with the Unemployment Assistance Board that they pay an allowance to the woman, so that she is not left without money.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
Has the hon. Gentleman's explanation now any relation to his former reference to a period of 13 weeks?
§ Sir W. Womersley
The period of 13 weeks applies to the Services only. As 338 regards the Mercantile Marine, if some award cannot be made promptly for any reason, the woman has a right to go to the Unemployment Assistance Board and to receive an allowance which will at any rate give her some money to go on with until the matter is settled.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Is it always assumed that when a vessel is lost, it is lost as a result of enemy action?
§ Sir W. Womersley
We have to take the position as it is reported to us by the Board of Trade. If they say that a vessel is lost as a result of enemy action, we have to deal with the cases. If the vessel was not lost through enemy action, the dependants of those lost have a right to compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act. They are not left without compensation from one source or the other.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The position I have in mind is this. In a case where a vessel is lost as a result of an accident resulting from the black-out, no responsibility for any enemy action is accepted. It is regarded as an accident and left to workmen's compensation. Does the same principle apply to losses of ships where no proof of enemy action can be brought?
§ Sir W. Womersley
If it is presumed lost by enemy action, we take the cases over. If the loss is not due to enemy action—for example, if the vessel is lost in a storm—the cases come under workmen's compensation. Of course, if a vessel strikes a mine, we know that the loss is due to enemy action; it is a matter for us, and we take it over. Perhaps it will interest the Committee to know that up to date we have awarded 600 pensions or allowances for disablement in the Mercantile Marine and the fishing fleet and over 600 pensions to widows and dependants. I should like here to pay a very great tribute to the men of the Mercantile Marine and the fishing fleet for the splendid way in which they have responded to the call for service. Until some two months ago, according to the records of my Department those men bore the brunt of the war.
I should like to refer briefly to Civil Defence volunteers and the scheme for civilian injuries, in which certain hon. Members are very much interested. There are two further classes of the population to deal with—Civil Defence 339 volunteers and what are known as gainfully occupied persons. Any members of the general public following an occupation—in other words, gainfully employed—are insured under this scheme against enemy action. When I introduced the scheme in the House, I said that it was something unique in the history of the world, and to my mind it is something of which we can be proud. The scheme is working very well. There has been a little misunderstanding at times about this compensation, and therefore, I should like to give a brief explanation of the position. There are two different forms of compensation. There is what is known as the injury allowance for incapacity of a temporary character, such as when a man is off for two, three, or four weeks as the result of injury caused by enemy action. There is then the question of continuing illness or continuing disablement and death, and there the matter of a pension comes up. The pension is paid on the same terms as a pension is paid for war disability. The injury allowances are framed with due regard to the payments under schemes of social service, such as health insurance benefits and workmen's compensation; and I can tell the Committee that the rates, which were based on a sort of combination of the two, are now under further review. I am not altogether satisfied with those rates. I am sure hon. Members will realise what a very heavy task I and the Parliamentary Secretary have at the present time, and we are getting on with this task as rapidly as possible.
The pension rates are based broadly on the provision made for private soldiers under the Royal Warrant, and I think that is the best the country can afford to do. We cannot have any rank or distinction in regard to these pensions, but must pay to all who are injured, and where it is a case of death, to those who are dependent on the person killed, the same rates as we pay to private soldiers. Of course, the new Warrant rates will, generally speaking but not in every instance, as nearly as possible be incorporated in the amended scheme in connection with civilians which I shall bring forward before very long. We shall try to improve the scheme as far as we can.
I think the Committee will be interested to hear some figures in this connection. 340 We have made payments in 5,300 cases for injury, mostly in respect of Air-Raid Precautions workers and auxiliary firemen who have sustained accidents in the course of practice duties and while on patrol duties. I should like to pay a tribute to the local officers of the Assistance Board, to whom we are greatly indebted for having placed their organisation at our disposal so that these matters could be dealt with quickly. I am glad to say that in the great majority of cases the incapacity has disappeared after a short period. The number of disablement pensions granted represents only a small fraction of the total injured, amounting to just over 30 at the present time. The number of claims in respect of deaths resulting from injury is about go. Most of the deaths occurred while the men were on duty in the black-out. In regard to this part of our activities, I should like to say that the staff we have used in preparing the machinery have done their work remarkably well, and I am confident that the system we have adopted will prove satisfactory, and will deal with all cases promptly. I have been asked to say something about the Local Defence Volunteers. The Secretary of State for War has announced in the House, in answer to a Question, what will be the compensation rights of members of the Local Defence Volunteers. I expect my Department will be asked to take over the administration of this, and although we are pretty full up with work we shall not refuse to do another job in the best interests of the country.
With regard to the War Service Grants Advisory Committee—
§ Mrs. Adamson (Dartford)
Before the hon. Gentleman proceeds, will he say something regarding the position of housewives under the scheme? In a former Debate, he said that he would look into certain points which I raised in this respect.
§ Sir W. Womersley
I did so, and I also received a large deputation consisting of representatives of women's societies. After giving the matter very careful consideration and going into every detail, I came to the conclusion that it was far better to leave the position as it was under the first scheme, namely, that the disability allowance in the case of a wife should be paid in cases where help is 341 brought into the house to relieve the woman of work at any rate during the time she is recovering from her illness or injury. I think that is the soundest way of dealing with the matter. We know that in many working-class households the mother will strive to carry on in spite of whatever disability she has, and thus retard her recovery. Provision is made that where help is engaged to do work which the woman would ordinarily do in the household, we make a payment. That is the form of compensation provided for a married woman who is not gainfully employed.
With regard to the War Service Grants Advisory Committee, since last December my Department have been responsible for dealing with this, and up to 31st March last, we paid out £438,900. We have dealt with a large number of cases, and we have dealt with them fairly and squarely. Up to date we have had claims amounting to 150,000. Fresh claims are coming in now at a reduced rate. They come in at the rate of something like 600 a day, but there was a time when the figure was 1,000 a day. I am glad to say that at long last the weekly output greatly exceeds the intake. We have every reason to believe that we shall be able to get over that period of waiting which has caused great annoyance to many people. It was not the fault of my Department; in many cases it was due to the fact that we were not able to get the records from the pay offices, and in many other cases the people concerned did not fill in the forms in the proper way, or sent the forms to the wrong place. I am glad that I am now in a position to assure the Committee that it will not be very long before we shall have no arrears. I should like here to say that when the Parliamentary Secretary was appointed, I welcomed her offer to take responsibility for this Committee's work. She will make a statement on this matter when she speaks later in the Debate, and consequently, I shall not say anything more about this. What I will say that, although my hon. Friend has been at the Department for only a week or two, she is certainly making an appreciable difference in the work of that section, and I am very grateful to her for all that she has done already, and in anticipation of favours to come, I will say that I hope it will lead to better work in future.
§ Mr. F. Anderson (Whitehaven)
Will the hon. Lady's statement deal with the general principle of war service grants? Will it deal with the question of low wages, apprentices, and so on?
§ Sir W. Womersley
I can assure the hon. Member that the statement will deal with those points. He will find that many of the things he has raised have been dealt with already.
§ Mr. E. Smith
Am I correct in understanding that the Minister and the Government have approved the Royal Warrant? If not, before it is put into its final form, will the Minister take into consideration the points that are raised in this Debate, so that the Royal Warrant may be further improved, if possible?
§ Sir W. Womersley
The amended Royal Warrant has been approved by the Government and by me, so that I cannot make any promise to alter it now. It is in print, and I hope that it will soon be in the hands of hon. Members. I do not think there will be many subjects raised in the course of the Debate which have not been dealt with by my Advisory Committee.
§ Mr. E. Smith
Do we understand from that that the Minister has accepted most of the proposals which the Advisory Committee have made?
§ Sir W. Womersley
There are many members of that Committee in the Committee to-day, and I hope they will take part in the Debate. I will leave it for them to deal with their work.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith (Middlesbrough, West)
As one of the members of that Committee, may I ask the Minister to say a word in regard to Article 5 (2), because when the September Warrant was issued there was no subject which caused so much alarm and despondency among Members of this House, and members of the British Legion, as the working of this provision.
§ Sir W. Womersley
It was Article 5, I think, which was very severely criticised during the course of that Debate. It was regarded as being too tightly drawn, especially in comparison with the cases which arose from the last war. We discussed this matter very fully with the result that it was agreed there should be a modification. My hon. Friend the 343 Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) will remember how we discussed it for a considerable time. Within my recollection the provision was that the Minister was fully justified in warning both claimants and members of the interested public that the determination of title to pension must depend mainly on evidence as to the circumstances of disablement and the origin of it. At the same time it required that other good and sufficient evidence must leave no doubt in the mind of the certifying medical authorities that the disability was due to Service. That was regarded as far too severe. It was agreed that the words "leave no doubt" in the minds of the certifying authority should be omitted, and the Warrant is being amended accordingly.
When war broke out I had a staff of 3,118, of whom 824 were employed in hospitals. Additional staff, numbering about 3,000, has since been engaged, of which 1,074 are employed in the War Service Grants Branch. It has meant a big increase in staff, but I am sure that hon. Members will agree it was necessary to deal with 150,000 cases. In view of the Minister's responsibility for compensation in respect of Defence Volunteers and for civil injury as a result of enemy action, there has been the necessity for co-operation between the Civil Regional Commissions and the Ministry's regional officers. The Ministry's regions have therefore been adjusted to coincide with those of the Civil Commissions. I mention this because some hon. Members have been accustomed to go to their regional officers on matters connected with pensions, and they may have been told that their district has been altered. We have a scheme now in operation for close liaison between Civil Commission organisations and our regional organisations. This arrangement, I am glad to say, is in effective operation, and we have at present 14 full-time regional officers, two major sub-officers and 11 part-time sub-officers. As far as possible we are dealing with every district in a thorough and businesslike manner so that there is no difficulty for those wishing to make claims or obtain information. My Department is keeping in close touch with the work being done throughout the country.
344 I wish to pay a tribute to the members of my staff, from the chief at headquarters down to the messengers away out in some part of England where they have been evacuated. All of my staff have given me loyal support. It has been my pleasure to visit their quarters and address a representative meeting, and when I have asked them to do that little bit of extra work which meant saving someone from waiting for a pension or allowance I am happy to say that they have always responded. I fear that I shall have to ask them to do even more in the future, and the great appeal which has been made to every citizen of this country for greater effort must apply equally to the Civil Service. I wish this to apply in my Department, and I know they will not fail, because we must deal with cases expeditiously. It is said that he who gives quickly gives twice, but, at any rate, in the case of my Department, speed saves a great deal of trouble and difficulty for those entitled to pensions.
I wish also to pay a tribute to the 159 war pensions committees, scattered throughout the country, who give their services on a purely voluntary basis. They are doing a splendid job of work on behalf of those who apply for disability pensions and for those who apply for pensions as dependants of men who have been killed. I also pay my tribute to my old organisation—the British Legion. They fight the battles of the ex-Service men strenuously, but they fight them fairly. As a Minister I am bound to say that when a case comes before the British Legion for investigation they deal with it thoroughly before they bring it forward to my Department. The large number of what are called "wins," or the cases they have successfully managed to steer through my Department, surely proves that they have exercised great care before bringing them forward. When I was not a Minister I had a visit from a man who thought he ought to have a pension. I suggested that his wisest course would be to put his case before the British Legion rather than that I should take it up with the Ministry of Pensions. "Oh, I have done that, and the Legion have turned me down," was his reply. I am afraid that Members of Parliament are very often victims of similar episodes. After trying all other sources claimants then come to the Minister But it is my duty as Minister to take note of every case 345 that is brought forward, either by a Member, or from an outside source. Certainly I have particular regard to those cases brought forward by a Member, and I am only too delighted when I can send him a letter reporting that his case has been successfully dealt with.
In conclusion, I would repeat what I have already said. I was invited to become Minister of Pensions by the ex-Prime Minister. I did not undertake the job with a very light heart, because I realised the heavy task facing a Minister of Pensions. At the time the war clouds were looming over us, and I realised that even if there was no war the question of dealing with men disabled in the last war and their dependants was not a job to be treated lightly. But I did feel it was my duty, having been so interested in this matter before for so many years, to accept the office I felt it a great privilege to have the chance to act as Minister of Pensions, and I have tried to carry out my job faithfully and well. But it must be remembered that it is not the most cheerful of Departments, although I used to belong to a Department where I could exercise that little bit of native humour of which I am proud, because humour helps one to carry on in these days. Above everything else, I am convinced that whoever is Minister of this Department must administer it with humanity. We must remember that while it is my job to deal sympathetically with claims, there is also my responsibility to the taxpayer. It is my duty to see that justice is done and all have a square deal. That is what I have tried to do, and if I have succeeded then I think, it has been well worth doing. If I have not succeeded, it is open to Members to tell me so. I do not resent fair and constructive criticism; I welcome it, because it is only by searching criticism and examination that one can find out defects in any scheme which is brought forward.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I am sure that every Member of the Committee would desire me, first, to thank the Minister for the very full and comprehensive statement which he has given us to-day of the work of his very important Department. I do not think he need apologise to those Members who have been interested to listen to the Debate for having taken up the time of the Committee. We cannot give too much 346 time or attention to the very human problem with which his Department is concerned. I, therefore, would express my personal thanks and the thanks of other hon. Members, to the Minister for his very full and comprehensive statement. We look forward with great pleasure to the statement which is to be made later by the Parliamentary Secretary. May I offer her our heartiest congratulations upon her appointment, and express the hope that she will—as I am sure she will—give the great qualities she possesses to dealing with this very great problem? If there is one thing above all others that this country desires it is that the House of Commons should give the most generous treatment possible to those disabled in war, and to the dependants of those who have made the supreme sacrifice.
I am sure the Minister's statement will be welcomed by the country and by this Committee, although, no doubt, some hon. Members will wish to point out certain defects and make some criticisms of the scheme he has put forward. I was very gratified—and, I think, it is a great compliment to the Ministry, to the Minister, and his staff—to learn that the administration of this work is being carried out at such a low cost. It is a tribute to all those concerned that the administrative cost is only 4d. to every of benefit. That is a record I should like to commend to other Departments. That the great human work of this Department is administered at such a low cost, reflects great credit on those concerned, and is an indication of what a State service can do. We were all very interested to hear of the voluntary efforts connected with the Department, such as the fund for the protection of social insurance rights of disabled men. I will not argue about whether the protection of social insurance rights should depend on charity. If at any time, however, this fund proves inadequate to protect fully the rights of these men to their social insurance schemes and of their wives to pensions, I hope the Minister will not hesitate to come to the House and have the position remedied. It will be a great shame if, because of any inadequacy of any private charity, the rights to social insurance of disabled men were lost.
We were also very interested in the Minister's statement about the pensioners of the last war, of whom he mentioned 347 168 who had written to the Department indicating their willingness and desire to relinquish their pensions during the emergency as their contribution to the national effort. This is a gesture which makes us all feel very humble. The action of men who have borne the burden of the great war, who carry its marks and who have paid a price in human suffering, and of the mothers of men who lost their lives, in offering to relinquish their pensions, is an example to all of us and to other State pensioners who have much more to give to the State. It is an example to the whole country and one which, I hope, will be followed by other people. We have heard from the Minister that there are others who have written offering to lend their pensions to the country. These are facts that will be very much welcomed in the country, and we would like to join the Minister in paying our tribute to these people for the noble example they have set in making such generous offers.
The main part of the Minister's statement, which, I am sure, will be the theme of this Debate, concerns the provisions of the new Royal Warrant. It is a pity that we have to discuss the matter without the Warrant before us, but we are the victims of circumstances. This is not the Debate that was arranged for to-night. Another Debate had been arranged but it had to be postponed because it involved the attendance of Cabinet Ministers who could ill spare the time.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Will my hon. Friend say why this particular service should be so much regarded as the Cinderella of the discussions in this House that, whenever we have nothing else to do, a Debate on it is arranged irrespective of whether we have the material on which to conduct the Debate or not?
§ Mr. Griffiths
This Debate had been scheduled for one of the Supply days next week, and as we are working against time in regard to Supply days, it was necessary to have it to-day. There can surely be created an opportunity of discussing the new Royal Warrant on a later occasion, such as on the Adjournment Motion, which is becoming one of the recognised methods of discussing all matters in the House of Commons. The Debate on the old Royal Warrant in October took place on the Adjournment 348 Motion, and I am sure I shall be expressing the desire of the Committee, if I say that a further opportunity should be created for discussing the new Warrant. This Warrant has been made possible by the action of the House of Commons. It is due to the Debate last October in which the Warrant of September, 1939, was subjected to keen and merciless analysis from members of all parties, who revealed its defects and criticised its shortcomings. The new Royal Warrant is, I think, a tribute to the effective work of the House of Commons and one more example of the necessity of maintaining Parliament in full session even during a period of this kind.
I would like to deal with some of the defects which the Minister has sought to remedy. First, in regard to parents' pensions, the Minister has announced what he has described as fairly substantial improvements in the conditions under which pensions will be awarded to dependants. I do not think he made any statement, however, on whether the amounts of the pensions to be awarded to parents were to be increased.
§ Sir W. Womersley
We have obtained the approval of the Treasury to increase the amount in exceptional cases to one parent up to 15s. and for two parents up to 17s. 6d., which is a 5s. increase in the rates; and there will be a 5s. minimum instead of 2s.
§ Mr. Griffiths
That is an improvement which we shall welcome. The Minister said that the amount would depend upon what the son had contributed to the family—
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am glad the Minister has made that qualification because hundreds and thousands of young men are being called to the Services at 21 years of age who, since they left school, have been serving their apprenticeships or have been attending training schools and colleges. Cases have been brought to my attention. An example is the case of a widow who was anxious that her son should be trained as a teacher. She borrowed money to send him to college. In July last he completed his two years' training and was able to secure two offers of appointments as a teacher. Then the war came and he was called up. An 349 application was made for a dependant's allowance and it was turned down because the boy had not been contributing to the home. An application was made to the Special War Grants Advisory Committee and an allowance was obtained. In that case there was no dependence but there was prospective dependence. A case was made, and, I think, rightly made, for a grant, and I am glad to hear that in future, when discussing whether parents shall get pensions or not, the question of prospective dependence will be borne in mind.
I am sorry, since the Minister has moved so much forward in this matter, that any kind of means test is to be applied. I do not know when the House of Commons will realise the great feeling in the country about the means test—about the inquiries, assessments of income and so on—and I wish the Minister had taken his courage in his hands and wiped out the test for the purpose of the pension. There is already a great deal of muddle because of the many means tests which may be applied in one house. There is a means test if people are unemployed; another if people are old age pensioners, and another if people are entitled to war pensions. We shall get into a terrible muddle unless steps are taken to bring order into these things. The only way to do that, is to do away with the means test altogether. The Minister has not indicated the standard of resources or means which he will apply. I gather it will be left largely to his discretion and that he will decide upon the facts of each case. He gave no indication whether there are to be any scales by which dependence is to be determined. I hope that this provision in the Royal Warrant will be given the most generous interpretation.
We welcome, too, the Minister's announcement about children. The old provision was clearly indefensible. I should like to know who suggested that the allowance should end with the third child; I should like to see him and have hire psycho-analysed. The suggestion that the allowance should be paid for the first, second and third child and then cease, should never have been embodied in the Royal Warrant. The Minister excused it by saying that the Royal Warrant was drawn up in a busy time and that it slipped through. It was a bad thing to have slipped through and we are 350 pleased that it has now been slipped out. I am glad of the modifications mentioned by the Minister in regard to the wife under 40. Where there is a disabled husband at home the physical and mental burden of attending to him has no direct relationship to the age of the wife. Under the old Warrant a wife under 40 might be deprived of any pension although she was engaged in the task of looking after a disabled husband.
The Minister has announced that he proposes to keep the seven years' rule. He has said that he is taking power, and will use it with discretion and generosity, to reopen any case, notwithstanding the seven years' rule. The fact that he is taking power, and will exercise it generously, to reopen cases in spite of this rule is the best criticism of the rule which I have heard. I would urge upon the Minister a consideration arising out of my experience and that of other hon. Members in connection with workmen's compensation. War follows the technique of industry. This is modern mechanised war and, therefore, the mechine plays its part. The experience of those of us who take an interest in compensation cases is that whereas there may be a reduction in the number of purely physical injuries, the number of industrial diseases of various kinds is increasing enormously. Nervous diseases in particular are increasing because of the strain of modern machine production. Young men, while they are strong and healthy, can carry on in spite of all the monotony and noise and speed of the machine; the effects do not show until middle age or early old age. I think that after this war, which is being waged with so much mechanisation, the young men who survive will in 15, 20 or 25 years begin to reveal the effects of the strain to which they are now subjected. That really does constitute a strong reason why the seven years' rule should be re-considered The Minister has given us a pledge that he will administer it generously, and we shall keep him to that pledge. He has given several other pledges for himself to-day. We will take it that just as the Royal Warrant is approved by the Government the pledge is approved by them too, and though the hon. Gentleman may not be Minister of Pensions throughout the lifetime of this Government that the pledge will stand. We accept it in that way.
351 I come now to the problem of appeals. The old procedure left many hundreds, indeed thousands of men with a sense of injustice. After all, a man's desire to appeal, to have his case heard and argued, to fight for justice, shows a spirit to be proud of in the British working class. They want the right of appeal. They regard the present procedure as in a sense placing the Minister in the position of being judge and jury. The Minister was frank about it, and said that he himself was in favour of setting up appeal tribunals, and if I got him correctly I believe he proposes to set up appeal tribunals as soon as it is practicable.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Let us get this clear. Does that mean that the Minister is announcing the decision of the Government to set up appeal tribunals as soon as practicable or expressing his own personal view?
§ Sir W. Womersley
I am expressing my own personal view, but because it is not included in the amending Warrant I did not put the matter forward.
§ Mr. Griffiths
This is very important. I understood, and I assume that other hon. Members did, that the Minister was announcing that appeal tribunals would be established, but that for the moment it was not practicable because of the difficulties of travel during the national emergency. Now I take it that that is his personal view and not a Government view.
§ Sir W. Womersley
The Government have not expressed any view about it, but I take it that, as it was included in the 1919 War Pension Act, it will be included again. I cannot imagine any Government refusing to do it. I have given my personal view, and I promise the hon. Member that I will put that view before the Government at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If one thing was brought out more clearly than another in the Debate in October, it was that it was the desire of Members in all parts of this Committee that appeal tribunals should be set up and that a man should have the right to have his case heard. The Minister said he had adopted a method—I thought it was for the interim period, 352 but I gather it will be in the Royal Warrant—by which, when there is a dispute between a man's doctor and the Ministry's doctor, the point will be referred to a medical referee, to a specialist drawn from a panel, whose decision will, presumably, be final. I presume that is in the Royal Warrant and that it has been approved by the Government and cannot be changed until another amendment is made in the Royal Warrant. But we have had experience of medical referees in workmen's compensation cases, and I would point out to the Minister, so that he may be aware of the position, that it is the universal desire that in medical matters the single medical referee shall be replaced by a medical board. That view has been put very strongly before the Commission which has been sitting on workmen's compensation, and I think it is certain that when we come to amend the Workmen's Compensation Act one of the changes made will be to substitute a medical board for the medical referee. In the same way I hope the Minister will reconsider establishing a medical board rather than a single medical referee. The fact that his case is decided by one doctor often rankles with a man and does not give satisfaction.
With regard to the scales of pension, it is difficult for us to discuss them fully without the Royal Warrant before us, but I think it is due to the Minister to say that there have been improvements in the scales, though they are still below the 1919 level and for that reason will not, I think, completely satisfy the Members of this Committee. Members on all sides have urged that the scales should be put at the 1919 figure. In the case of a man and wife and family a good deal of the improvement is due to the fact not only that the scales are raised but that the absurd rule about no allowance for children after the third child is wiped out. A single man or widower is to have his pension for 100 per cent. disability raised from 32s. 8d. to 34s. 2d. For a wife there is an increase, and for the children there are increases. We shall look at these family allowances again, but I want to put in a word at once for what is often the most pathetic figure of all, the old single man or widower. He is to be given 34s. 2d. a week. With the cost of living what it is at the moment, apart from any further 353 increases, such a man cannot get suitable board and lodging for under 25s. per week, and that leaves him with less than 10s. to meet all his other needs. Very often such men have no home and no relations, and I urge that this allowance of 34s. 2d. for a single man ought to be reconsidered.
The Minister has announced that there are to be changes in paragraph (5), and I certainly hope there will be. It is an important paragraph, because it contains the terms of reference upon which the grant or refusal of pension is decided, and in the 1939 warrant the words in paragraph (5) were really but a series of loopholes through which it was possible for the Ministry to escape payment of pensions. There were the words:Directly attributable to his war service.I have had some experience of doctors in connection with injuries. What doctor will tie himself down to a decision that an injury or illness is directly attributable to war service—nothing is said about "indirectly"—or that a man's case has been "aggravated to a material extent"? If there has been aggravation, surely that is enough, without adding words about material extent.
Then the Minister did not make it clear that he intended to make a change in a provision which came very much under the hammer in the last Debate. I refer to the record of evidence of injury which is required. Recently the record was that in the contemporary official records, or, where such records were not available, other defined collateral evidence was required. We gather from the Minister that that provision is to be modified and I hope it is. I hope, too, that the last sentence in Sub-section (2) of paragraph (5) of the 1939 warrant, which was subject to much criticism, will be changed. It stated there that the evidence must begood and sufficient, and evidence that leaves no doubt in the mind of the certifying medical authority that the disability was in fact attributable to war service.That is loading the dice against the man. That is giving the benefit of the doubt not to the man but against the man, and I hope it will be modified. The Minister has made some interesting statements about the other schemes which now come under his Department. I think it is a wise procedure to bring all these varying pensions and compensation schemes under one Ministry and I am very glad to hear 354 that, in connection with Local Defence Volunteers, the question of compensation or pension if disability or death is caused, is also to be brought under the provision of the Minister's Department. I understand that under the civil injuries scheme, which provides compensation and in certain circumstances pensions for civilians injured in air raids, for example, the injury provided for is physical injury. Interpreted literally, the scheme makes no provision for compensation for injuries other than physical.
It seems to me certain that we shall get a crop of cases of illness, in which there is no physical injury, arising out of this modern war, and I want the Minister to give serious consideration to that point. Representations have already been made to him, but I gather that, so far, he has refused to reconsider the present plan. Therefore, we have to assume that those who suffer from shock, or whose nervous system is affected, as well as all people who cannot show definite physical injury, are not to be considered as injured by the new form of warfare, and are therefore not entitled to compensation. I hope the Minister will give serious consideration to this point. In the scheme for compensation respecting injuries to civilians because of enemy action, that is one of the major defects which needs to be stressed. Once more I thank the Minister. I hope that it will certainly be much less than 12 years before we again consider the work of his Department. I hope that we shall give more time, attention and care to the problems of these men who, at our command and call, are giving their all to the nation. The nation would expect us to be generous in the treatment of the men, who deserve the best from the nation.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith (Middlesbrough, West)
As a member of the War Service Grants Committee, I would like also to pay my tribute to the Minister. That applies not only to his actual statement to-night, but to his chairmanship of that Committee. I am afraid that we were always asking for more, but we did not feel at any time that we are up against a brick wall; at least, if there was a brick wall it was not the Minister. It was rather—I do not want to be unfair and say the Treasury—the finances of the country, which the Treasury necessarily 355 represent. Nevertheless we did feel all the time that the claims we made, even if they could not be substantiated fully by the Royal Warrant, were receiving at least the most warm and friendly consideration from the Minister. Now that he is reinforced by the hon. Lady, once my colleague in the representation of Middlesbrough, now evacuated to an area further North, I think we have much to hope for from the administration of that Department.
The hon. Member who has just sat down called attention to paragraph 5, relating to disability attributable to war service. After all, that paragraph is where the whole thing starts. Until you have a man accepted as suffering from a disability attributable to war service, you can do nothing. I have been fighting this paragraph ever since October, and I should like to get rid of it altogether. Why should you specify in paragraph 5 (2) particular kinds of evidence that have to take precedence over others? As the paragraph originally stood, if there were any contemporary records, nothing else whatever counted. It was only if the contemporary records had not been taken, had been blown up, or been lost in evacuation, that you could listen to the applicant's friends or, so far as I can make out, even to himself, he being a competent witness on his own behalf. Nothing counted except official records, so long as these were in existence. That was unfair, because such a procedure is not followed, so far as I know, by any other court, in judging a case. The Minister has not definitely said so, but I think the hon. Member will find, when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, that his point in this matter has been met.
The other point, about leaving no doubt in the mind of the certified medical authority, is a frightful handicap to put upon an applicant. He may actually have convinced the person considering his case, or the Minister, of the probability that the disability was the result of war service. The man may say that he hurt his knee when he was thrown up against a parapet during the war, but the Minister has to consider whether there is a reasonable doubt and may wonder whether the man had received a similar hurt previous to the war by falling off a bus but had not said anything about it. This kind of doubt will have to be taken 356 into account, because the paragraph says that the evidence must leave no doubt. That means that it will be sufficient for anybody to make a suggestion throwing doubt upon the man's claim to have an attributable disability, and, unless the suggestion is palpably absurd, the Minister, under the original terms of the Warrant, would have to refuse the application. That position was ridiculous, and I do not believe it was intended to apply. I believe it was just bad drafting. I have sufficient faith in the Ministry of Pensions to believe that, even if that wording stood, it would not have been interpreted in that way. There is no excuse for having a bad Warrant or a bad law, and leaving it to chance that you may get a Minister or an administration which would ignore the terms of those instructions and do something else. I was delighted to hear the Minister say, at any rate in part, to-night—and no doubt we shall hear something more of this matter in the future—that this position is to be altered.
A number of hon. Members, including myself, have devoted a good deal of time to the section of the Warrant relating to the qualifications of parents. The Minister himself has stated that he found the words intolerable as they originally stood. A good many of us felt that the words set up a destitution test for parents before they could qualify. That was intolerable. The position in the other extreme is taken by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last from the Front Bench; he wanted to have no test of need at all. I am not sure that that suggestion would work, because, when you are considering money which is paid in respect of a son to parents, the probability is that, if there had been no need, the son would not have paid any money. That is a matter of common sense. I am mainly considering the soldier sons of working-class parents. In the officer class, the position would much more likely be the other way round, the parents making an allowance to their sons. Broadly speaking, I do not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the test of need is wrong, but I would have it applied automatically by the fact that, if the boy concerned had been paying to his parents, the reasonable probability was that there was an element of need. That would be the only test needed. If there were cases of sons who had paid a large sum—and I suggest these would be few and far 357 between—a principle would have to be worked out, but one does not contemplate the State taking on the liabilities of such men. Some kind of limit would perhaps have to be put upon the maximum amount of such payments.
It is frightfully difficult to discuss this paragraph of the Warrant. Although we have the old Warrant before us and can see how bad that is, we have not the new Warrant before us. It is a very complicated document, which requires to be considered word by word. The Minister has given the general sense of it, which is that need is to be broadly interpreted. Within that broad interpretation, the amount that has actually been paid by the soldier, or might reasonably be expected to have been paid, is to be taken into consideration. That is not quite all that I wanted. It still leaves two successive hurdles for the applicant-parent to get over. The first hurdle is that he has to prove need, and the next is to prove prospective or actual payment.
I feel that, on the whole, the section will work out well in practice, if it is properly administered. I think it will be found that, guided by this section, need will not be interpreted as a destitution test, and that we shall get a scale in which, whether the soldier really was paying or was likely to be paying, a sum to his parents, the parents will benefit from the circumstances, and the State will take over the liability of the son. That is the essential principle lying behind all these pensions matters, where the son has become incapacitated for performing services to his family and to his dependants, which services he would have performed if he had not been hurt. The State does not take over any more or any less. It is a kind of compromise which I sincerely hope will work out well in practice. In regard to the seven years' limit, the only real danger is whether we can keep the Minister for seven years. Then we shall be reasonably safe; but what occupation or office in these days can be guaranteed for as long a time as seven years?
I do not profess to be able to follow the exact provisions of the Warrant or the actual rates which the Minister indicated to-night, because they require following carefully on paper, and working out in detail. You cannot guess at this matter, but I observe that there is a sort of key rate, which used to be 32s. 6d. and is 358 now 34s. 2d. I should like to be certain about this matter. If I understand it aright, a rate was stabilised in 1928 at as high a figure as 40s. and could not be reduced. If that be so, let it be realised that there is a very big drop when it is compared with the 34s. 2d. I can imagine a situation in which a 100-per-cent. disabled father, injured in the last war, lives in the same house as, or next door to, his son, injured 100 per cent. in this war. He receives 40s. while his son receives 34s. 2d., yet the standard of living pressing upon those two people is exactly the same. Disparities of that kind create a good deal of public opinion and cause a great deal of discontent. It may be, if further adjustments are made in the 34s. 2d. as the standard of living goes up, that the gap will disappear and the difficulty no longer exist, but, at the present time, we are faced with a discrepancy which would be rather startling, if the comparison were made.
I want now to say a word about the tribunal. I entirely agree with what has been said about people feeling satisfied to be able to go before the tribunal and to feel that their case has been heard, even though it has been turned down. The appointment of a specialist as a sole referee to consider a case is not the same thing to them as an appeal tribunal. For one thing, a specialist is very much more identified in their minds with the Ministry. But I am bound to be impressed by what the Minister has said about the practical difficulties of creating appeal tribunals at the present time. They have to be composed of medical people, and there is so much work for these people. We do not want to put inefficient people on these tribunals. We want good men, and those good men might have to be taken away from more urgent work. Therefore, with the greatest reluctance, I am reconciled to these appeal tribunals being deferred for the present and to hoping for the time when the Minister may be able to restore them once again.
I do not think there is anything more to-night that, in the absence of the actual Warrant before us, I could discuss in this Committee with any advantage, because the points are so very much points of detail, and unless we have the Warrant in our hands it is practically impossible to follow it. However, I think it is possible to come to a general conclusion 359 with regard to the statements which the Minister has made to-night, and that is that an immense advance has been made since the month of September. The spirit in which this Royal Warrant is now drafted appears very much more favourable than that which, coming from I know not where, presided over the birth of this unhappy and unlamented child. I believe that all the changes which the Minister has announced are improvements, and although, obviously, all claims have not been satisfied, the total sum of it represents a great improvement upon which the Committee desire to congratulate the Minister.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Captain Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
I would like to offer my congratulations to the Minister on his statement. It is unnecessary that he should make any apology for dealing with the important matters which he has to administer in such detail. Indeed, I feel that it is of great importance that Members of all parties in this Committee should realise that the success of pensions administration is as much a matter of personal attention to human details as to the principles which are laid down by Parliament. I would like to observe, since we have not had a Ministry of Pensions Debate for so many years, that this country can well be proud of its record of pensions administration. There are matters of principle—I shall refer to one or two later—with regard to which I have never agreed with any Minister of Pensions, but in the matter of clean, clear, honest administration of human kindness I have always felt that our administration—and I use the words advisedly—is the best in the world.
I speak for a great section of ex-service men. I am, of course, interested in all sections, but in the nature of things I speak for a special section, and I have at heart most deeply the interest of those most seriously wounded. It is well for the Committee and the country to bear in mind that if you are to do what is right by the man who indubitably was wounded in the war, and was very seriously wounded, then you must have a clean and honest pensions system which does not lead to political jobbery for all who happen to have served in the war. This country is kept clear from that state of affairs, and when we are entering on a 360 period when all these problems and difficulties may recur, it is well that we should congratulate ourselves, without being complacent, upon the purity of the administration, and we should ensure that it will continue at that high level. I would like to express my appreciation of the fact that the Government have thought fit to appoint an Assistant Minister of Pensions as a token of the added importance which they attach to the Department, and I would like to say personally how glad I am that the hon. Lady has been asked to take up that post. Her understanding of and sympathy with working-class conditions will be of value, and the fact that the political personnel of that Ministry should be representative of the two larger parties in the House of Commons, now working so happily together, is also important. Of all the subjects of public administration which should be kept outside party argument, surely it is the way in which we treat wounded soldiers and pensioners.
As regards the question of rates, there is no question but that the pensions given to men wounded in the new war must be assimilated to the pensions given for similar disabilities incurred in the last war. I think it is clear that the Government recognise that fact. The process which they have adopted in raising the standard rate to the arbitrary and rather inexplicable figure of 34s. 2d. and the fact that so peculiar a figure should be chosen indicates that they have, in fact, decided the pensions proposed to be paid to the new men upon a mathematical scale which will assimilate them to those paid to the old veterans. If I understand the Minister rightly, the Government have accepted the principle that the pensions must be assimilated. It only now requires the passage of time and the rise in the cost of living, which I look upon as inevitable, to bring that assimilation about. It seems clear that in the absence of any other way of paying for this war it will be paid for partly by inflation. This is, no doubt, not the time to discuss the merits of that matter, but its consequences upon disabled soldiers may be examined. They are among the most vulnerable in the country. Inflation is profitable to many professional men, to most artisans and workmen, but not to widows and those who live on fixed incomes or to pensioners. If inflation is 361 to be one of the primary ways of making all the taxes produce enough to pay for the war—and it seems to me that that is the way we are going—then it is certain that the time will come when the burden of sacrifices which will be called for from the pensioner will be more than is reasonable, having regard to the sacrifice being made by others.
I hope and believe that pensioners as a whole are willing to make their measure of sacrifice for the nation's need. They have, indeed, already made a very considerable sacrifice, for the cost of living has risen by about 15 per cent.—not 15 points—and it has been aggravated, of course, by the sumptuary taxes. No doubt, the intention is to reduce consumption by these taxes, and we shall have to reduce consumption—disabled soldiers as well—partly because we cannot afford to continue consumption at the old rate, and partly, perhaps, because we realise we may be helping the country by doing so. But if inflation is to be the method of financing the war, and if other classes are to receive their due increases, then the time will come when the Government will have to face not merely the assimilation of the new soldier's pension to the veteran's pension, but also the gradual rise in the pension of the veteran himself. May I remind the Committee of the figures? When this veteran's pension rate was fixed it was fixed at £2 in 1919, and the cost of living stood at 215. It fell in the great slump to 134. By the time this war broke out it had risen to 155, and, in passing, it may be observed that at the time of the great slump, when hundreds of thousands of working men and women were out of work, the pensioner did not lose, but, on the contrary, gained materially. He was both actually better off than millions of his fellow citizens and relatively better off than most, because in the slump cuts took place in almost every sphere of life, but not in his sphere. Then the tables began to turn. By the time this war broke out the cost of living had risen to 155, and now it is 181.
More than a hint has been given prior to this Debate that when it reaches 215 there will be reconsideration. I notice the Minister's careful qualification that should a substantial rise above 215 take place, the Great War pension will be liable for reconsideration. I hope, from what 362 he said to-day—though I would not say that it bound him very particularly—that his obvious goodness of heart in this matter will give us some certainty that when this figure is reached there will not then be a great delay to see whether it is materially exceeded and that there will not be undue and prolonged consideration. By that time the pensioner will have made a very great sacrifice when other people, artisans and skilled and semi-skilled workmen particularly, have been receiving very great increases beyond anything they could have expected in their wages. I hope when that time arrives that the Government will not be ungenerous in raising both pensions by then; it will have to be both pensions, because I assume that by that time the new disabled soldier's pension will have reached the figure of 40s. I realise from what the Minister said that there is no sliding scale now established, but I hope that as the cost of living rises this 34s. 2d. will gradually go up to the full 44s., and that when both pensions are on that level they will both rise together should the cost of living get out of hand.
I have an observation to make about the fundamental basis on which pensions are paid. It disappointed me very much that the Ministry, either in September or at the present time, in the face of a new war, has not had the imagination to bring forward any alteration in the fundamental basis of paying pensions. There is one particular aspect of the pensions principle which has always disturbed and distressed me. Much can be said for the Government's point of view. I do not mean this Government; all Governments have taken the same point of view. They have said, "We can only pay in respect of the person injured in war service having regard to his liabilities at the time when he was injured. If he was married, we will have some liability towards the wife. If he had children, we will have some liability towards the children, but we will not pay anything for a wife he marries afterwards or for children born afterwards." I have always felt that that was unjust and unwise, and I had hoped that there might have been in that Department imagination which would have brought us some good news as to reconsideration of that question now, when this whole problem has to be reviewed again.
363 Think of these disabled men—I know thousands of them—wounded severely when they were 18, 19 or 20 years of age; given a pension, be it 34s. 2d. or 40s. a week; and that is all. It is hardly reasonable to suppose that they will not get married. Indeed, it is desirable, for the community and for them, that they should. They are fine citizens; they have done their service, made their sacrifice. They are the very people to be the fathers of the new race that must take the place of the casualties that follow the war. No consideration is given to the wife or children if they come after the man's disability occurred. That is unfair on the individual and bad national policy; and I regret that the Government has not the sense and the imagination to see that. There is bound to be further talk about pensions as the war proceeds—and another Warrant, I expect. I hope that, before that comes, the best and wisest minds that know about pensioners and their difficulties will be taken into consultation, to see whether the principle shall not be changed. I must register my satisfaction that one fundamental principle of pensions administration has been retained, and that the pensions are paid irrespective of means and irrespective of earnings. It is very important that that principle should remain. You want to encourage a man, even if he appears to be absolutely down and out and totally disabled in the technical sense, to be a useful citizen. No premium must be put on idleness.
I am not wholly satisfied with what has been said about tribunals. The Government at the time of the last war were clearly convinced that substantial justice could not be done without an impartial tribunal. The demand of the whole country brought it about, and all parties agreed that it was necessary. The Minister himself says that he thinks it is an essential part of a full pensions scheme, and, in his mind, he postpones bringing it forward now only on the ground of expediency, of the expense of travelling and so on. He suggests as an alternative the medical referee. I would like to thank him for taking a step in that direction. It was suggested in a question which I put the other day that he should, as an interim step, make the medical referee system more effective than it has been hitherto. But he has not 364 gone far enough. The Minister may think this a petty point, but I ask the Committee to consider it carefully. The essence of the tribunal was that it was not appointed, and was not paid, by the Minister. I am not going to say that professional men of the standing of specialists are influenced by the question of the few guineas that they receive on a pensions case, but it is possible for the Administration to pass the employment to the man on the panel whom they find easiest to deal with.
The Minister says, "I create an independent panel of specialists. I ask the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians to nominate a panel. Out of that panel I choose X, Y or Z, to whom I send the case." The Minister chooses X, Y or Z; he pays X, Y or Z, even though X, Y or Z have been nominated by outside bodies. There is a feeling, I will not say of suspicion, but that it is possible to put the work in the way of the specialist whose opinion is, I will not say most favourable, but most agreeable, from the point of view of the Minister, and not in the way of one who, from the Minister's point of view, is a confounded nuisance. As long as there is a possibility of that, there will be a feeling that these men are, perhaps, not getting justice. If there was a case for the tribunals being independent, and being paid by someone other than the Minister, so there is a case for these medical men being independent and paid by someone else. The Minister said the other day, "Someone has to pay them." I agree. Will he let the British Legion pay them? Will he let St. Dunstan's pay them? I will offer, on behalf of St. Dunstan's, to pay them. If the Minister feels himself bound to reject that, will he not ask the Lord Chancellor to pay them, so that they may be independent of him? I will not say that I shall be satisfied with the medical referee system then; but it will be, in fact, independent, and it will give greater satisfaction to the pensioners and to those people who are interested in them.
I have never regarded the seven years' limit as a matter of much importance. The British Legion has always campaigned about it, and a great many hon. Members have followed the Legion—perhaps they will claim to have led it—up that path. But it is not very important. The present procedure gives an 365 opportunity for a case to be reopened after the seven years. I think it would be a pity for the Committee to worry very much about the matter. I just want to place on record that the seven years' limit is not really a very important matter, although it appears to be. What is important is that there should be an independent tribunal, to give satisfaction and an assurance of fairness to all; and that there should be sympathetic and humane administration inside the Ministry
I complained just now that the Ministry had not thought of introducing an allowance for wives who married pensioners after disability had occurred. I should have observed that children's allowances should be paid too, in such circumstances. They are paid in Canada and in one or two other Empire countries; and in this country one organisation at any rate—St. Dunstan's—has paid children's allowances to all blinded soldiers—and there are 2,000 in this country—in cases where the children were born after disability was incurred. These men have needed that allowance, and I am proud that a voluntary agency should have been able to do what the State ought to have done. Now that we are entering on a new war, that is a liability that the State ought to take up. We have moved forward a great deal since the last war and its aftermath. Recognition of the needs of families, recognition of the idea of family allowances, although repugnant to some trade unionists, has come very much into being. This is a time when that principle might be reconsidered.
I conclude, as I began, by thanking the Minister for an interesting statement and for the evidence he has given of the very great care that he has shown for individuals. In my own experience, over many years, of the Ministry I have found not only all Ministers, but, more particularly, the civil servants in the Ministry, many of whom have been with it since its early days, keenly anxious to help the disabled man to make his case, keenly anxious to do their duty by the ex-service man and the taxpayer. We are fortunate in this country to have kept this Ministry free of politics all this time. I think this Debate to-day is a good augury for the future, and evidence that during this war we shall continue to deal with pensions in a friendly manner, and not let them become matters of public policy.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
Since I entered this House, in 1922, I have taken a keen interest in the administration of pensions. I agree with many of the things said by the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), but I am not convinced that the question of pensions should be kept out of politics; I think that the political outlook has a great bearing on pensions. I cannot say whether the hon. and gallant Member is right in thinking that the pensions system of this country is better than that of any other country, but I do not think that it is better than the pensions system of Canada or of Australia or of New Zealand. I think that in those countries pensions have been more generous, and probably there has not been the same disposition to give the benefit of any doubt to the Ministry rather than to the man by whom a claim is made. However, after a lot of conflict with the Ministry of Pensions over all those years, I have admitted in a previous Debate here that I was wrong in one respect. That was in ascribing so much of the cause of failure to get satisfaction to the Minister, or possibly to his immediately-associated civil servants.
I believe that the pensions system has been very badly worked in this country. I said once that you could hold a meeting in practically any street in any of our great industrial centres and refer to the question of pensions, and in very little time cases would be provided from that street of injustice in the withholding of pensions. I recognise that it was possibly an extreme statement, but from my experience in going through the country there have been hundreds of thousands of cases of injustice and hardship. An hon. Member shakes his head. That has been my experience. I have taken many cases to the Ministry, and I have only met with failure, and practically every Member with whom I have discussed this matter in this House has told me of cases in his own experience where he was convinced that a pension should have been given, and yet, in spite of all his efforts, he had been unable to obtain a pension. That should not be the case.
How is it that there have been those injustices? There have been kindly, humane Ministers, and civil servants administering the Ministry who have been very courteous and painstaking in going into cases that have been referred to 367 them, and indeed some of the ordinary clerical work of the Ministry in the way that they deal with complaints is a model compared with that in many other Government Departments. But my experience has been that the people who have failed in connection with pensions are the medical authorities at the Ministry. I am convinced that the medical authorities have never had a right conception of their job but have gone on the basis that they have to be very careful in order to save public money, and in consequence I believe they have tried always to rule out a pension when there was any doubt whatever in the case.
I remember that round about 1922, when many hon. Members on this side of the Committee first came into this House, there was a great deal of criticism of the pensions administration, and a disposition on the opposite side of the House, owing to the influence of the Legion, to try to meet the difficulties that had arisen. The idea was that the benefit of the doubt should always be given to the applicant. I do not think that that has ever been honoured in the spirit. I once raised it in a case, and I was told by the Ministry that they could not find when such a pledge was given, and I had not the exact reference to the statement. I believe that the statement was made by the then Major Tryon, who has now gone to the other end of the corridor. It was a principle that Members on all sides of this House were agreed should be applied, namely, that when there was a doubt the benefit of that doubt should go to the applicant. I believe that medical authorities at the Ministry have failed lamentably in these cases. The very fact that there has been the necessity for setting up appeal tribunals, and that after the appeal tribunals were set up they had to bring in a specialist as another court of appeal, shows that there was a great deal of feeling that there were many cases in which people were not getting pensions when they ought to be receiving them.
I believe that all the Ministers have been approachable and anxious to try to give an applicant every opportunity of stating his case. As a result of my experience, I have very little criticism to make of Ministers. I recognise that when their local advisers tell them that pension should not be granted in a particular case, it is very difficult for them to say 368 to the medical adviser, "I do not agree with you," because the medical adviser is evidently expected to have some special knowledge of disease that the Minister cannot possess. There is also the evidence of the man's own medical adviser, which has been set aside repeatedly by people here in London who have never seen the man. They go over the case and say, "I do not think that the disability really was the result of his service." The man's own medical adviser says on his soul and conscience that he thinks the disability is the direct outcome of the service, and then somebody down here with no greater medical qualifications says practically, "You do not know what you are talking about. The disability could not have occurred in that way." This is all wrong, and the medical people ought to be told and have it strongly impressed upon them that, if there is any doubt at all, they should give the pension. The country would rather that 50 or 60 people who were not really entitled to them should get pensions than that another half-dozen who ought to have them should be refused. I believe that that is the truth.
The hon. and gallant Member who preceded me made some helpful suggestions to the Minister. It should be part of the specialist's job to get into touch with the man's medical adviser. The case of the Ministry, together with the statement of the man's own medical adviser, is submitted to the specialist, but I want the specialist to get into touch with the applicant's own medical adviser and also with the medical advisers at the Ministry if he so desires. When a case is submitted to the specialist, the applicant does not feel that his own medical adviser has been consulted and that he has been given the consideration that he ought to receive in making a special appeal. I hope that the Minister will do something in that way. I know that to-day is not the one really for dealing with a special case, but I am glad that the Minister is here, because I want to refer to a case which I gave notice that I would raise on the Adjournment. It is the case of a man who died, a Mr. Cole, of Ferryden, Montrose. The Minister is well acquainted with the case. He went very carefully into it, I admit, but his advisers advised him to reject the claim. For five years the man had been a neurasthenia case and then was diagnosed 369 as feeble-minded. The Ministry decided that his feeble-mindedness could not be attributable to his war service but was aggravated by his war service. Fancy the state of mind of the doctors who advised on this case. They said he was neurasthenic yet five years afterwards decided that he was feeble-minded when he joined the Navy and that his condition was aggravated by his service in the Navy. In my opinion the doctors who dealt with this case themselves should have been in an institution for mental defectives. This man was for years in a mental institution at Montrose, the physician superintendent of which said:Give him a certificate. In my opinion, as there has been continuous history in this case from the time of his war service, we must consider that his death has been directly due to original disability. There is no question that his chronic depression and the long periods for which it was necessary to have him confined to bed were instrumental in causing cardiac valvular weakness which was the terminal reason in his case.The doctor who said this has qualifications as good as those of any doctor in Harley Street. It is not as though he were a general practitioner who had to think of his panel. This man is the physician superintendent of a local authority institution, and his opinion was definite. Then somebody here in London says that this medical superintendent in Scotland is wrong, and says this in spite of the fact that he saw and examined the man during those years. I think a case like that is a disgrace to the Ministry and to the Department's medical advisers, and I believe there are other Members in the House who can tell of similar examples where the Ministry was wrong.
There is another thing I want to say about the new Warrant, and it also bears on the question of doctors. I notice that in connection with the last war and disabilities there was great disposition on the part of the Ministry's medical advisers to hold the opinion that disability was not really attributable to service but was aggravated by it. In such cases as bronchitis, people who went to the Ministry were told that the aggravation caused by war had passed away. I have had bronchitis and know something about it, and for a doctor to say that aggravation caused by war had passed away shows he was a man without ordinary intelligence. How can he tell the amount of aggravation? It shows 370 he is an absolute quack. There have been thousands of cases of bronchitis and other chest troubles in which doctors carried on in this way. I do not want it to be taken that I am criticising the whole of the medical profession. I believe they are as intelligent a profession as there is in this country, and that there are men of great ability in the profession, but I also know, as a lawyer, that in court you can get a specialist to swear one thing and another specialist of equal eminence to suggest the exact opposite for the other side of the case. We must take account of that.
I believe it is of the utmost importance that there should not be, in every town and village of this country, people fretting out their hearts after they have given service in the national emergency because they have been refused what they consider to be justice arising out of the disability left with them after their service. I know the Minister is as anxious as anybody that there should be no sense of injustice, and I hope that in the new Warrant we shall have none of this nonsense about aggravation. I suggest to the Minister that if a man is passed A1 for the Navy, Army or Air Force, it is not good enough to say, "Our medical board made a mistake in passing you. The weakness must have been there, and we cannot give you a pension because the weakness we could not then find has now made itself apparent." If you pass a man, then you should take responsibility for any weakness that comes to him afterwards.
I want to support the point made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded me, namely, that of the treatment of men who marry after receiving their disability. I remember what a shock it was to me when I came into this House with my ordinary Presbyterian outlook on the world to find it was evidently the view of the British Government that a man who had been a soldier, and had received a fairly serious disability, should not marry. I wondered what sort of Members of Parliament had been in the House when the old Warrant, allowing this, had been accepted. I think it is all wrong. Here is a case which came to my notice. A man received a wound and then a second wound but was married between his receiving the first wound and the second. Then the medical advisers of the Ministry got into a great state of 371 excitement as to whether he had died from the first or the second wound. The question was whether it was attributable to the first gunshot wound or to the second, because if death was attributable to the first gunshot, they did not need to pay a pension to the widow and children
That is the kind of lunacy—I can describe it as nothing else—that has disgraced the administration of pensions in the past. I do not know the kind of people who allowed the law to go through in that form, but I hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, in view of the new situation in which we find ourselves, will correct these obvious faults. I have never met an hon. Member who individually would agree that what has been done in the case of a soldier who married and afterwards died and left a widow, was just when the widow claimed a pension. I have never met an hon. Member who did not agree that the widow should get the pension. I hope we shall get these things put right and a real improvement in the pensions position. I believe the Minister should lay it down to his medical advisers that if they can see any way at all of giving a pension to these persons, if they can see any way of thinking that these widows are entitled to a pension, they should advise him accordingly, and should not look to see how they can keep them from qualifying for a pension. That is the principle which should be laid down in this matter. I mentioned a case of a Mr. Cole, whose widow has been refused a pension. There is another case in my division, the Drysdale case, which is very similar. The widow submitted to me the evidence of a well-known medical man in the City of Glasgow, a Labour councillor, who also spoke to me personally about it and said he was sure that it was a case of injustice. Nothing that the Minister could do could overcome the theories of the medical advisers.
I hope that as a result of this Debate we shall get a new spirit in the medical advisers of the Ministry and that they will be as generous as the ordinary doctor in the cities and towns. I have found our medical people very helpful and generous, and I cannot understand how they become such frightful Scrooges when they get into the Ministry of Pensions. I hope the Minister will send the Cole case to one of the specialists, and that the 372 specialist will consult the medical superintendent. I shall be willing to take the decision of the specialist if he consults the medical superintendent who gave his verdict in favour of a pension for the widow.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Entwistle (Bolton)
I do not propose to keep the Committee for more than a few minutes, and therefore I shall not discuss the various matters which the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) has mentioned. He made one statement with which, I think, most hon. Members will disagree. He is entitled to make a wholesale condemnation of the Ministry of Pensions administration, but I do not think he is entitled to say that there was no hon. Member who had not innumerable cases in which he was not convinced that the decision of the Minister had not been unjust. That is not the experience of the average Member of Parliament. It may be that one's sympathies are aroused strongly in individual cases where one would like a pension to be given and where it has been turned down on the ground that the disability was not attributable to, or aggravated by, service. There are many cases in which we feel on the facts that the decision may be just but where our sympathies, nevertheless, are strongly aroused.
I have had a fair amount of experience of pensions administration. I have been in this House, I do not like to think how long. I came in 1918, and I was one of those ardent individuals who made a maiden Speech on the Address and on an Amendment dealing with pensions. I was a member of the Select Committee on Pensions which was set up after the Great War in 1919, a Select Committee which recommended a 40s. flat-rate pension, which, I think, is generally admitted as being the most generous pension scheme of any country. I have sat on many Departmental Committees which have been set up since 1919, and I want to say that out of all the Ministers of Pensions whom we have had since 1919 there has certainly been none better than the Minister we have to-day. I have served for some weeks on the Central Advisory Committee on Pensions, a body representative of the various organisations and interests, and those who are interested in pensions administration, particularly the British Legion. It was the general view that 373 there has never been a Minister more genuinely sympathetic to the case of the disabled pensioner than the present Minister. We have had some experience of it.
The Central Advisory Committee made a great many recommendations. I do not say that the recommendations were all that they would have liked to make, because they realised that it was no use asking for something which was impracticable or which would have had the complete opposition of the Treasury. It may be that they would have recommended more if they thought it was practicable to get it. But, still, a great many recommendations were made, and I think that, except in a few instances, and those of a minor character, the present Minister has been able to get the consent of the Treasury, which I think is a remarkable achievement, and has also accepted the various recommendations made by the Central Advisory Committee. This Committee should be grateful to the Minister, not only for the great trouble which he has taken, but for the influence which he has exercised over his colleagues in getting these recommendations put into operation. It is not every recommendation of the Advisory Committee that the Minister has been able to carry out.
A great deal has been said on the question of a parent's pension. There the Advisory Committee did not get quite all that they wanted. The Select Committee in 1919 recommended that the parent's pension should be on the basis of need, and they broadly defined "need" as the amount which could reasonably be expected the son would have contributed to the parent had he lived. That is not what is commonly understood by pecuniary need, and that definition was the one which the Advisory Committee would have liked to have been the guiding principle for the determination of parents' pensions. We have not quite got that, but it has been granted that in the determination of need, regard shall be had to the amount which the son could reasonably have been expected to contribute had he lived. I understand that will be administered in practice in this way. There is a scale of pecuniary need on which pensions, prior to this amendment of the Royal Warrant, have been administered. It is a scale such as we have in the scales of public assistance, unemployment assistance, and so on. I understand 374 that scale will be weighted up in cases where a son has made a pre-war contribution to his parents, or in cases where, although owing to various circumstances he has not in fact made a pre-war contribution, there are real grounds for believing he would have made a contribution to the parents if he had lived. The basis which the Committee desired was the likelihood of a contribution which the son would have made to the parents if he had lived, and I hope that in the administration that will be the guiding principle.
The Committee was not able to deal with the question of the amounts of pensions. The Minister has told us that he has got the Cabinet to agree to an increase in the scales in the Royal Warrant by the amount attributable to the increase in the cost of living since the Warrant was published. In the case of a single person, we are told that involves an increase from 32s. 6d. to 34s. 2d. I understand that if further increases in the cost of living take place, there will be additions to this basic pension until the single 100 per cent. disability pension will reach the figure of 40s. when the cost of living is at the height which it was when the 40s. pension was first recommended by the Select Committee. I think the cost of living figure was then 215 or 220. That is something which, although it is not as much as some of us would like, is a definite improvement, and it is a great satisfaction to know that if there are further increases in the cost of living, this minimum disability penson will be increased accordingly.
We realise that, as a result of this war, the number of pensioners may be greatly in excess of the number resulting from the Great War. So far casualties have not been excessive, but one must bear in mind that a great many categories now come within the scope of pensions who would not have got pensions in the last war; and if there is serious bombing of our cities, the pensions liability may become enormous before we have attained victory. Notwithstanding that, and however much it may be a strain on the finances of this country when the war is over, I think we all feel this should not be a consideration now in deciding what is a proper, just, adequate and decent pension for people who are disabled now. If after the war our finances are in such a deplorable condition that everyone 375 has to make sacrifices, well and good; but in determining our scales now, do let us do what is just now, and leave the financial position of the country after the war to be dealt with when we come to that period. In view of what the Minister has announced I think he has recognised that principle, and I believe it is because the Committee realise that the Minister takes that view and is really sympathetic to the claims of the pensioners, that all hon. Members join in congratulating him on his speech and his administration of his office.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Major Milner (Leeds, South-East)
We are carrying on this Debate under considerable difficulties. Three subjects arise from the Vote now before the Committee—the ordinary administration of the Ministry of Pensions, the War Service Grants Advisory Committee, and the administration of the Personal Injuries Act. With regard to the general administration of the Ministry of Pensions, although a new Royal Warrant has been approved by the present Government, this day has been fixed for a Debate on the Vote of the Ministry of Pensions notwithstanding the fact that we have not got the new Warrant before us, although we may have it in a few days' time. It seems to me that some other Vote might have been taken to-day, and that before discussing this Vote we might have been in possession of the document, which is apparently ready and approved, but has not yet been printed. It is most unfortunate that this course was not taken.
As to the War Service Grants Advisory Committee, we have not yet had the advantage of the explanation which the Parliamentary Secretary will give at a later stage in the Debate. The hon. Lady will be the first to appreciate that it is unsatisfactory when statements which, in the ordinary way, would be preliminary statements which the Committee could debate, are not made until the concluding hour of the Debate. In this respect, I hope it may be possible to arrange matters a little better in future, particularly as it may not be possible for all hon. Members to wait to hear the hon. Lady's statement. Certainly it would give hon. Members on these benches great pleasure to hear her first Ministerial statement on her Department. With regard 376 to the administration of the Personal Injuries Act, here again the Minister has told us that the rates, which have been the subject of much comment, are being reviewed and that in the course of a few days he hopes to be able to inform us of the new rates and conditions applicable to this Act. I am sure the Minister will agree that in regard to these three matters we are not in a satisfactory position, and I am sure all hon. Members hope that on any future occasion an effort will be made to put the Committee in full possession of the facts before a Debate takes place.
Having made these remarks, let me join in what has amounted almost to a chorus of approval of the Minister's administration of his Department. I had the privilege of sitting on the hon. Gentleman's Advisory Committee, and I can pay a very sincere tribute to him. I imagine that on some of these committees I am perhaps considered to be a rather awkward individual. There were times when I and others had to speak as plainly as we could to the Minister, but I give him full marks and every credit for accepting all the recommendations made to him in good part, giving them full consideration, and, in my judgment, and I think in the judgment of all Members of the Committee, bringing about very fair results, and at any rate a very great improvement on the Warrant as it was first presented. I am bound to say that I do not understand how the Minister allowed himself to be made responsible for that Warrant in the first instance, but however that may be, if those who served on the Committee assisted not only the Minister but the pensioners, we are glad of the opportunity that was given us. Of course, we have not the new Warrant before us, but I imagine that it contains, substantially, the improvements which the Minister told us had been accepted by the late Government. I hope, indeed I anticipate, that the influence of the new Government will also be marked upon the new Warrant, and that there will be some further improvement. At any rate, what the new Government have clearly done is to deal with the question of rates of pensions and allowances.
The Minister knows that those of us on the Advisory Committee did not have an opportunity of discussing rates and allowances, and he will also know that 377 it was the feeling of most of us that the pensions and allowances in the Warrant as it existed were, in our judgment, quite inadequate and that we were of the opinion they should be increased to the level of those in operation from 1914 to 1918—I hesitate to say during the Great War, because I am not at all sure that we are not engaged at the moment in an even greater war. The Minister and the Government have not, apparently, found it possible to do that, but, as I understand it, the Minister maintains that the result will be that when the cost of living rises we may expect the pensioner to receive the same amount as was the case in the last war. That does not seem to me to be an unreasonable compromise. We are all concerned about the immense costs and difficulties of the present situation, but I do not think we should start to economise here, at this stage of the proceedings, and therefore I welcome the increased rates of pensions and allowances.
Another point which the Minister accepts in principle, but is not going to bring about at once, is, I gather, the question of the independent tribunals. One would be very foolish to disregard the very proper factors which the Minister has put before the Committee—the difficulties of travelling and the hundred and one other things of that sort. Nevertheless, these difficulties have not really arisen yet, and I feel that a start could be made with independent appeal tribunals, even if they were only of a travelling character, and not set up here, there, and everywhere as the Minister suggested. If a start could be made in that direction, and circumstances then became difficult with bombing so heavy that it was impossible for the tribunals to sit, I should then say that the Minister was perfectly in order and right in suspending their operation. But it is unsatisfactory not to have these tribunals. I do not regard the independent medical specialists, about whom a great deal has been said, as in any way an equivalent of or substitute for an independent appeal tribunal. I therefore still press on the Government the desirability of setting up these tribunals, because it is unsatisfactory if a dissatisfied claimant has no opportunity of appeal.
I now turn to the question of disability aggravated by service. There it will be found that the new Warrant, like the old Warrant, will only permit a pension to be granted in cases of disablement 378 aggravated by service to a material extent. I feel very strongly that some pension should be made to men discharged with a disablement clearly aggravated by service. It seems an impossible proposition to expect medical men to say when there is aggravation, and when there is material aggravation. What is the dividing line? If there is aggravation, then, in my submission, a pension of some kind, not, of course, the full pension, should be granted. Another matter where I think it will be found that the new Warrant is still behind the Warrant of 1919 is on the question of the schedule of injuries. I should like to see a schedule of pensions provided for specific injuries. So far as I can judge from a few cases which come within my experience, and from such information as I can pick up, under the present Warrant not only are the rates of pensions lower than in 1919, but the payments which are made for specific injuries are also lower. That is a double disadvantage which the pensioner of to-day ought not to suffer.
For example, I have good reason to believe that the assessment for the loss of an eye is only 40 per cent., whereas it was 50 per cent. in the last war. There really cannot be any grounds for that discrimination, and I think I am right in saying that there are similar discriminations in other cases. This is not satisfactory, and the schedule of injuries ought to be published, thereby enabling us to compare it with that of the 1919 Warrant. I know the Minister does not approve of what I am now going to say, but I cannot help feeling that a very great service would be rendered if some provision was made for the payment of a pension to a widow whose husband died while serving in the Armed Forces of the Crown where it is impossible to certify that death was due to or hastened by his service. In these cases I would suggest that a sympathetic pension be provided, for example, a pension of 5s. a week, on a flat-rate basis, as in the last war. At any rate, the Government should ensure that widows are paid a contributory State pension, and that there is no question of their falling between two stools. I am not satisfied that in all cases that is prevented, and I hope the Minister will give it his consideration.
Something has been said in regard to parents' pensions. The hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle) 379 mentioned the factor, broadly interpreted, which the Minister has accepted as the criterion in regard to parents' pensions. I was under the impression, and I believe that the majority of the Committee were also, that if a contribution was made by a son, then the parents would, without question, receive a pension, and that where such a contribution was made that should be the primary factor, instead of which it is the question of need, or in other words the needs test which is the primary factor. I assure the Minister that that was not in the minds of the Committee. Although the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) is not quite so strong on this particular point, I gather he favours the Minister's present proposal.
§ Mr. K. Griffith
I entirely agree that we should proceed on the basis of the contribution, but the test of need should be what the contribution was. I accept the present as an improvement on the last Warrant.
§ Major Milner
It is an improvement, but it does not do what ought to be done. It does not ensure, in a case where the son thinks it necessary to make a contribution to the parent's support, that a pension will be granted.
§ Sir W. Womersley
It establishes the right of the parent to a pension and then the secondary consideration as to whether there is need comes in.
§ Major Milner
I agree that if a father falls out of work and his means are considerably affected, the fact that a contribution had been made by a son would lead, in the majority of cases, to the grant of a pension. The great majority of our workers are not sufficiently well paid, and if a son feels under an obligation to help his parents the State, in the event of the son's death, ought to share the responsibility which he would otherwise have continued to undertake. It is not easy to draw up a formula. I had something to do with the formula which, I think, is more satisfactory than the one the Minister has accepted. He did not find it possible to accept it, and I am not happy about the way in which parents' pensions have been dealt with. I still hope the Minister will find it possible to make an improvement.
380 On the question of the War Service Grants Advisory Committee, I urge the Minister to do something in a class of case which I have in mind. A grant can only be made where serious hardship has been caused by the calling up of the man concerned. Incidentally it is difficult to find out where the Minister's functions on that Committee are laid down, and I am not clear that he has any legal standing in the matter. The Committee seems to be purely advisory and the transfer of obligations to it has been done by an administrative act. I am not clear that the Minister has statutory authority for what he is doing. I do not want to raise any difficulties about it, but if there is any point in it perhaps the Minister will look into it. As a grant is only made where serious hardship is caused by the calling-up, provision should be made for the not infrequent case of the poor man, such as the agricultural labourer, who has not been earning a high wage. If it is not made, the Committee is not fulfilling the function which Parliament intended it should do. I press that point urgently upon the Minister.
Hardly a word was said by the Minister about the administration of the Personal Injuries Act, and I am very dissatisfied with the results of that Measure. It takes away from every individual serving in Civil Defence the rights which he would otherwise have, and substitutes for them the very small pension which the Minister has power to grant. I had a case a short time ago of a qualified nurse who was injured through the negligence of one of the employés of St. Pancras Borough Council. She was a full-time A.R.P. worker and suffered a fractured tibia. It is questionable whether she will be quite right again. In ordinary circumstances she would have had a right of action against the council or its employé for negligence and would probably have recovered a considerable sum. She is now deprived of that right and has to go to the Minister, who pays her a maximum of 22s. a week. How can that woman, who has been accustomed to a fairly decent wage, live for the rest of her life on 22s. per week? The position is intolerable. If nothing can be done to reinstate the right which has been taken away from these people, I hope the Minister will see that the rates in all cases that come under that Act are adequate. Subject to those observations, I 381 join with others who have spoken in paying a personal tribute to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary for their administration of this Department.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Sir Smedley Crooke (Birmingham, Deritend)
I should like to join my colleagues in offering congratulations to the Parliamentary Secretary on her appointment, which I feel sure is popular. I am certain that she will be of great assistance to the Minister of Pensions, especially in matters concerning women and children. We are all indebted to the Minister for his statement to-day, clear, valuable, and informative as it was. There was in his speech a ring of sincerity, which is not always present in the speeches and statements of Ministers of the Crown. It showed that his heart is in the work and that at long last we have a Minister of Pensions who has the cause of ex-service men, especially disabled ex-service men, at heart. I want to make a short personal statement. Ever since I was relieved from Service at the end of the Great War I have always endeavoured to do what I could to help ex-service men, particularly disabled men. When in 1922 I was asked to contest the seat which I have had the honour of holding for 16 years, I made only one condition. That was that whenever the cause of the ex-service man was under consideration I should be at liberty to vote against the Government if necessary and have a free hand in ex-service men's questions. Since 1923 I have served on the Pensions Committee of the British Legion as a member of the National Executive Council of the Legion. Recently I served on the Ministry of Pensions Central Advisory Committee when it was considering the new Royal Warrant.
I mention these things to show that I have always been against the policy and worked against the administration of the Ministry of Pensions. I feel that I must now pay a tribute to the Minister, not only for the admirable way in which he presided over the deliberations of the Advisory Committee, but also for the friendly attitude he took up in meeting the various suggestions and expressions of opinion that were made during the discussions on the new Royal Warrant. I am bound to say in all fairness that he has gone out of his way to meet the wishes 382 of his advisory committee, and has done his best to secure from the Government such concessions as at one time I felt it would be impossible to obtain. At the moment we are not in a position to criticise the new Royal Warrant, but from what we have gathered from the Minister's statement it is a great improvement upon the Warrant which he put before the House last September, and this change fully justifies the attitude of the British Legion in pressing for a reconsideration of the terms of that Warrant. It may well be that as time goes on it will be seen that the work of the Central Advisory Committee was very creditable to all concerned.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Dobbie (Rotherham)
I can associate myself with every Member who has paid tribute to the Minister for his long and exhaustive statement. He dealt with pensions granted, with hospital treatment, with costs, with the possibility of pension appeals, and with the new Royal Warrant, of which, like a good many more in this Committee, I know very little, not having had an opportunity to peruse it. But there, I will part company from my friends who have been paying tribute, and will endeavour, in a quiet but firm way, to try to shock the complacency of this Committee. Speaker after speaker has spoken as though everything was well. I know it was difficult for the Minister to cover everything, but I wish he had dealt a little more extensively with the War Service Grants. He did make a fleeting reference to them, and said that 150,000 cases had been dealt with. That is true, and probably hon. Members think it is very good, but we have not given satisfaction in 150,000 cases. Probably I should be right in saying that 60,000 of the applications have been refused.
I ask the Minister and hon. Members to believe me when I say there is tremendous dissatisfaction in the country with the way in which the War Service Grants are being administered. I do not know whether it is the Committee who are to blame. They get the blame, but I do not know whether it is their fault or not. I wonder, sometimes, whether Ministers are the prisoners of the permanent officials and whether the permanent officials are the prisoners of the Treasury, but there is something wrong with the way in which the War Service Grants are 383 dealt with. I have met scores and scores of men who have come back from France and have expressed to me their intense dissatisfaction. We have a tragic duty and responsibility to these men. We must make all those men who are in the fighting line—and we had a greater responsibility, probably, when they were overseas—believe and understand that every Member of the House of Commons is anxious to see that the women and children whom they have left behind are getting care and attention. Unfortunately we cannot say that that is so at the moment.
The Minister said, "Those who give quickly, give twice." That can never be said of the Ministry of Pensions in regard to the War Service Grants. The wildest, the most enthusiastic, supporter of the Ministry would never say that of them. I would say in making these criticisms, kindly but firmly, that I do not want any Fifth Columnist or any defeatist to get any satisfaction from them, because those of us who are criticising are determined to do everything humanly possible to see that we win through in the struggle for freedom against aggression, and those soldiers who have grumbled to me, as they have grumbled to others, will keep up the old tradition of the British Army—they will grumble but they will fight, they will do their duty and they will win. Knowing that, I think a greater responsibility devolves upon us.
I shall deal with two or three matters that are causing some grumbling. One complaint concerns the tremendous time that elapses between the receipt of an application from dependants and the notification that either it has been turned down or that they are to get an allowance. Sometimes they have waited weeks and weeks, and have been compelled, against their will, to go to the public assistance committee. Then they have had a notification to say that the application has been turned down. It is no use telling them that the staff have been evacuated to Blackpool, because they do not understand. They say, "I wish to goodness we could go there." I want the Ministry to speed up the decision on whether a grant is to be made or not. Another thing the people fail to understand: Not one in a zoo of these cases ever goes to the committee. They are dealt with by the 384 staff. I do not want to be misunderstood. I do not want to attack the staff, or appear to be attacking them, because it is always very unfair to attack those who cannot defend themselves. The attack, if attack it can be called, is on the Minister. The cases that go to the supervisors and from the supervisors to the committee are only those in which there seems to be some real doubt. In view of that there should be an intimation to every person whose case is rejected that he has a right of appeal against that rejection.
Then there is the difficulty of obtaining payments after decisions have been made. That is what made me say that I did not know whether the Minister was the prisoner of the permanent officials or whether the permanent officials were the prisoners of the Treasury. There is a classic example; the Minister knows about it. There are cases where the committee had made a decision to give a grant and the permanent officials have looked at it and said, "She will get no more." That is not good enough. It should not be allowed to continue. People come and say, "You are only a member of the Committee; you do not know anything about it." This is another matter which I should like thoroughly examined, in order to make it certain that, when the Committee come to a decision, it should be operated. We are told that the Committee are only advisory and have no power except that of recommendation, but a committee's recommendation or decision should not be vetoed by anybody but the Minister or the Treasury, and an explanation should be made to the Committee in order that they might have an opportunity to look into the matter. The Parliamentary Secretary may say that the case I have mentioned has been put right, but I must endeavour to justify the complaint which I have made, and I can assure her that this is not the case. I have had a telegram to-day to say that payment has not been made. I am sorry to prevent the Minister from getting in a parting shot.
Another matter which I have often raised in this House is in relation to Form 21. I have put questions, asking that the form should be made obtainable without much trouble, and we have been assured that every officer has been asked to make the forms available to soldiers. 385 I now ask the Minister to review the situation again. If a soldier is serving at home, he alone can get the form, and not his wife or mother. The responsibility for making application is on the soldier. It is only if he is overseas that his dependants are supposed to have an opportunity of making application. I beg the Minister to allow the dependants of the serving soldier to have an opportunity to make the application, which should be made at the post office. The forms ought to be at the post offices or the offices of the public assistance committees. Only this week I have had a case of an officer informing a soldier that he had no idea what the form was and that he did not know what the soldier was talking about.
Another question is that of the foster mother. This matter has been pushed about from the War Office to the Ministry of Pensions, but nobody will take the responsibility. I am anxious about the matter because of a case which I know of myself and because I know the effect that it is having upon other people. My criticism is made only because I want to do everything humanly possible to keep up the morale of the people. In cases of this kind, somebody appears to be acting like an inverted Micawber, and looking for something to turn down. That is what the people imagine who are concerned in these 60,000 cases that are turned down.
I give this case as a typical instance. It is in an area which I know very well, and it has caused a good deal of dissatisfaction among wives of soldiers, serving soldiers and soldiers' dependants generally. I have been dealing with the case for six months, and the old saying that those who give quickly give twice, is not applicable here. A soldier died from the effects of his wounds in the last war. His wife died, and there was left a family of two boys and a girl. A widow took upon herself the responsibility of acting as foster mother to the two lads and the little girl. The children grew up and the two young men joined the Territorials. In September, came the call of the nation, and off they went with the Territorials. One of these young men desires to keep his home going, so that there can at least be a roof over his head and his sister's head, when the war is over, or when his leave comes. He, therefore, makes an allotment of 14s. a week out of his 21s., and that is a demonstration that he is 386 giving of his best, to keep a roof over the heads of his people.
I ask the Minister to try to put the War Grants Committee on an equality with the unemployment committees. In the realm of unemployment, if this young man had been doing as much to keep the home going, the woman would have received an allowance equal to the allowance of a wife. We ask the Minister to look at the matter and consider whether it is possible to make an allotment to the woman equivalent to that made to the wife of a soldier. The service which is being rendered by that boy, not only to his family but to the nation, makes the woman eligible for such an allotment. I had the wretched experience of taking her to the public assistance committee a fortnight ago. I felt very unhappy about it and so did she, and the lads felt angry. I ask the Minister to have a look at cases like this and to see whether something can be done to meet them. I ask the Minister not to quote the committee's terms of reference to us, about having no power in any case to do more than restore the status quo. I hope something will be done not to restore, but to abolish the status quo. That does away at once with the story of taking into account the prospective earnings of the apprentice once he becomes a journeyman.
It is difficult to believe anything that anybody says on the other side of the Committee, and I hope something will be done to restore to this side of the Committee confidence in the veracity of Ministers. Last November, when we talked about increases to the Forces, the Minister for War made a statement to the effect that the War Service Grants Committee would be allowed to make allowances up to £2 over and above the ordinary military payments and allowances. A question was asked in regard to what the Minister has referred to as an allowance for rent:Does that also include the obligations of men who were buying their houses and are under financial obligations in consequence?The Minister said:Yes, Sir, most certainly. They will be entitled to make a claim, and their claim can be met in appropriate circumstances to the extent of £2, exclusive and apart from the allowances which I have announced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1939; col. 528, Vol. 353.]We all know young men who, inspired 387 by the idea of owning their own homes, have entered into obligations with building societies to make themselves secure, feeling that they were in steady and regular employment and who hoped to make themselves secure from being turned out by the landlord.
The men and women in the Services and men and women generally in the country accepted that statement from the Government as meaning that, provided these young men presented a proper case, they would be able to get an allowance which would meet the whole of their obligations in regard to their house-buying. But what did they find? The Committee look at the situation and arrive at a decision. They say, "We will not give you the whole of the money. We will find out how much of this is interest that the building society are charging you, and we will give you that amount." That makes us feel that rents and profits are being looked after to a larger extent than the families of the fighting men. That means that the soldier who has gone either voluntarily or at the demand of the nation is coming back at the end of the war to find that all his obligations are still intact, whereas if he had remained at home and had been in his employment, he would have been able to pay off a good deal of the original debt. He finds that the interests of the people who are drawing the interest, the building society, have been looked after during the time he has been away and that he will have to go on to the end paying this interest to them. We think that is unfair and that the Ministry should be prepared to meet the whole of the obligations. It means further that if that man is killed, his wife is left with the whole of the obligations. It means also that if he comes back an impaired man—impaired in the sense that he cannot meet the responsibilities of industrial life with a pension of the kind which the Minister has been describing to us, but which will not be very much use to him in the circumstances, because the building society will want most of it—his earning capacity becomes smaller, and, judging from the experience of the last war, he becomes a man who is not wanted by the captains of industry.
In the circumstances we say to the Ministry, Will you be good enough to 388 look at those matters from the standpoint which we are placing before you now, remembering all the time that our desire is as great as anybody's to see that the strength and force of the nation is organised in the present struggle and that defeatists and Fifth Columnists shall get no satisfaction from the case of criticism which we put to the Government?
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mrs. Adamson (Dartford)
I listened with interest to the speech of the Minister of Pensions. It covered a large variety of human problems which ought to command the sympathy of every Member of this Committee. I was disappointed when he referred to the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act. I remember when the Debate on that subject took place some months ago, the women Members of this Committee—
§ Mrs. Adamson
—backed up by the men, protested against the invidious position in which the housewife of this country was placed. As we have not many housewives in the House of Commons, I feel it to be my duty to champion the cause of securing fair play for the women in the homes. How do the women in the homes fare under this scheme? In Part II the wives, unless gainfully employed or Civil Defence volunteers, are not entitled to allowances. But under Part IV allowances in certain cases can be granted to wives who have sustained injuries which lead to serious and prolonged disablement, if the person for whom they work—presumably the husband—can prove that he is in need. The principle of a needs test is introduced into this Act. He can then claim from the Minister an amount in the shape of wages which will be paid for a substitute to come in and run the home during the wife's prolonged illness. But the husband has to prove need. What standard of need we are not told, but, supposing the husband is not considered to be in need, then the wife, who may be ill and unable to carry on her household duties, must rely to a great extent either on the older children in the family or on friendly neighbours.
Now we have a position by which if the housewives in this country are injured when doing their housework or while out 389 shopping, they get no compensation under this Act unless need can be proved by their husbands. We are always being told that the wife and the mother performs one of the highest national services. Evidently, housewives can get plenty of compliments but no justice from the Ministry of Pensions or from the House of Commons in connection with the personal injuries scheme. I used my powers of peaceful persuasion on the Minister of Pensions during the Debate, and he gave an assurance that he would go into this question. This afternoon during his speech I asked whether any further consideration had been given to the principle of compensation for housewives, and I was told that things are as they were. I want to protest against this injustice to flu housewives of this country. We have had a large volume of support from women's organisations in Great Britain and I am sure the Minister has received dozens of resolutions from women's organisations. I am sorry that he has not seen fit to give further consideration to the question and to remove this injustice. I was pleased to learn that there has been a slight increase in the children's allowances under this Act, and that the Minister has swept away the vicious principle of penalising large families. Children ought to have recognition of their right to sustenance.
The Minister spoke about the Mercantile Marine. He told us of his efforts to remove some of the anomalies in respect of continued payments to wives and dependants after the loss of the husband or father, and that the shipowners have now agreed to continue payments to the wives for four weeks. He told us that he had hoped that they would agree to the normal allowance being paid for 13 weeks, as is done in the other Services, but that he had been able to get them to agree only to four weeks' payments. I have had this question brought to my notice, and have communicated with Ministers of Shipping about it. There is intense indignation among the seafaring community at the fact that as soon as a boat has been announced as missing the owners have stopped payments to wives, and that, almost within a day or two of the loss of a ship and the presumed death of the men, their wives have had to seek relief from the Unemployment Assistance Board. Articles have appeared in the newspapers of practically all the shipping 390 towns and cities in the country protesting against the humiliation of these women. We are glad to hear that there has been some modification, and that the shipowners have agreed to continue payments at any rate for four weeks, and that then the question of the payment of compensation or allowances is to be expedited in every way. I am sorry that the owners of the fishing fleet have not come into line with the shipowners on this question, and I hope the Minister will bring pressure upon them to do so.
I want to say a few words about medical services. Having been for many years a member of the London County Council and of mental hospital boards in Lincolnshire, I am familiar with the problems that occur in connection with the care of those who have been bruised and battered and who have suffered mentally and physically as a result of war service, and who are, to a very large extent, confined in the mental hospitals of this country. I should like to pay my tribute to the work of the doctors and staff in trying to improve the physical and mental condition of these men. But I am not satisfied that in other types of hospitals the wounded men have the advantages of the latest scientific methods. After the last war I took a great interest in osteopathy. I saw the work of a famous osteopath in restoring the hearing of ex-Service men who had been told that there was practically no hope of their benefiting from any treatment. That form of medical service was not available to those ex-Service men through the usual channels. I feel that in these days of progress we should ensure the very latest scientific advantages to the victims of the war. Because of my association with a large industrial constituency I have taken a great interest in what is called physical medicine. I have seen men from industry receive miraculous benefits from electrical treatment, massage and medicinal baths. The Minister ought to make use of these methods.
I want to say something about the War Service Grants Advisory Committee. Public opinion, as reflected in this House by Members on this side, compelled the Government to increase allowances to the wives and dependants of the Service men and to set up the War Service Grants Advisory Committee. The announcement that grants up to £2 a week would be made gave general satisfaction; but the 391 applicant has to prove hardship due to the war. Although the Committee is purely advisory, I find that the members get the blame for all that goes wrong, and for any failure of the awards to come up to expectation. We have to remind the public that the Committee is only advisory. As a member of that Committee, I say candidly that we have to cope with the dead hand of the Treasury. That Committee has done a lot of work, but it is physically impossible for it to deal with every case that comes before it. The staff of the Ministry of Pensions have been trained in the work. They know the broad principles of policy upon which decisions are made, and I believe that they conscientiously carry out their duties in the spirit of the broad principles that have been laid down. I can say that quite sincerely as a member of the Committee. We have asked for cases to be taken out at random, and we have gone through them to see whether the staff were carrying out these principles. I am bound to confess that I have no cause to complain at all of the decisions that have been made. The decisions of the staff have been worked out in accordance with the generally accepted policy and principles, but I feel that we must have greater powers. I want to say to the hon. Lady who is now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions that I hope she will stand up to the Treasury, as I feel certain that Members in all parts of this House will stand by her in her resistance to the dead hand of the Treasury in respect of this humane work of the War Service Grants Advisory Committee.
We desire some changes to be made in respect to the administration. I attended a meeting to-day of the Committee, and once again I expressed dissatisfaction about what we would call low-standard units. It is the case where the applicant, perhaps because of circumstances over which he had no control before he entered the Service, either through low wages or unemployment, had a poor standard of life or was suffering acute poverty. Because this Committee has not the power to make the applicant better off while he is in the Service than he was in pre-service days, because he had been exploited in various ways, the assumption is that the State must continue to exploit him. We had hoped 392 that at long last we were to get a decision from the Treasury on raising the unit standard in cases of this kind. We have waited for months for a decision in respect of the almost unanimous opinion of the War Service Grants Advisory Committee that something ought to be done to raise the standard of life in the homes of that section of poorly paid and lowly placed people who are now in the Services.
I would urge that every facility ought to be given to the men who are now joining up or are in the Services to secure the necessary form of application. A meeting was recently held upstairs in this House attended by a large number of "Brass Hats," and we put the question to them as to whether they could help us to ensure that all the men in all the Services had a chance of getting this form in order to make an application for a grant to enable them to maintain their homes at the standard of life at which they were maintained before they joined the Service. I believe that it is easier to-day to get these forms, but there is still a great deal of dissatisfaction, because, if a man asks his commanding officer or paymaster for the form, he is often held up for weeks before he can get it. I was pleased when I heard a statement made some weeks ago that all men when they were medically examined were to have an opportunity of getting this form, but there is still too much difficulty in the matter.
I would like to back up the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) when he said there was too much delay in dealing with cases. Very frequently it means the creation of acute hardship in the home of the dependants of the Service man. I remember that it was decided that if there had been delay in dealing with a case, when the case came up for review or for consideration either by the staff or by the Committee, arrears would be paid and a grant made, but I do not know whether that is now being carried out. Applicants ought not to be penalised because of the delay in dealing with their case.
These are very largely the points I desire to make in respect of this Debate, but there is one further point that has been brought to my notice in regard to adopted children. I have had put to me by a Member in this House the case of a lady who adopted a child. She died, and her son took the responsibility for 393 the maintenance and support of that child. The man joined the Army, and although his wife can get an allowance for her own children, she cannot get an allowance for the adopted child. She has been referred to the War Service Grants Advisory Committee. The same principle that applies in respect of unemployment benefit in the case of an adopted child ought to be embodied in the laws of this country in relation to adopted children of men who are in the Services. I lope that the hon. Lady will take up that question, and I am sure that the Members of this Committee would be eternally grateful to her if she could do something on behalf of these children.
I will conclude by paying, as so many other hon. Members have done, my tribute to the Minister of Pensions. I can say truthfully that I have done very well out of the Minister of Pensions with cases that I have brought to his notice. Hon. Members want injustice to be removed, and we have to show courage and determination in trying to tackle this problem. While I have not been successful in all the cases that I have brought, I must pay my tribute to the Minister of Pensions for the consideration which he has given. Although I have been disappointed in many cases, at the same time I have received always courtesy and consideration in respect of the cases that I have brought to his notice.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
We have had a fairly long and interesting Debate, and I am wondering whether the hon. Lady who is to reply is tired. She has sat here the whole of the evening and no doubt expected that the Debate would not last so Long. The Minister, however, dealt with his work and with the Advisory Committee and their recommendations, and the length of his speech goes to show how long it has taken to explain the whole position to the Committee. We on this side thought the Debate might have been divided into two parts—that we should deal with the Minister's report today and discuss the Advisory Committee on another occasion. However, I can understand the Minister's position. These recommendations come into operation next month, and he wants the people of the country to know what they will get and consequently has taken the opportunity of putting forward the proposals to-day.
394 There are not many points with which I want to deal, but there are one or two that I wish to emphasise because I served on this Advisory Committee. The points I advocated did not meet with the approval of the Minister, and naturally one feels a bit aggrieved that the points put forward did not get as favourable consideration as did many other points. I am not complaining about what was done in other directions. Indeed, I want to pay tribute to what the Minister has done, but one of the matters which requires the attention of the Committee, and which was particularly mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), is with reference to the soldier who joins up and does not marry before going to war. He may be wounded and entitled to a pension, perhaps a full disability pension, but when he returns to this country, and in due course desires to marry, he is placed in a different position from another soldier who married before going overseas or gets married before he is wounded. The soldier in the latter category is entitled to an allowance for his wife and children, but the soldier who is not married before he is wounded is debarred from getting an allowance. We do not want young men to get married early in life simply for the purpose of getting their pension rights, yet that is what it means. Often a young man says, "I am not prepared to marry yet. I will wait until I return home and see what the future holds for me before I do so." Unfortunately, he is wounded while on active service, and, therefore, when he comes home to get married is debarred from the same rights as a married man receives. Can anybody justify that? The Minister did not state that such a case as that did not deserve recognition. His plea was that the Treasury would not like to be burdened with such a matter. At a time when the whole country has to face up to what may happen, is it fair to take advantage of a man who gives all he has for the service of his country?
Another argument was that children will come. This war will reduce the manpower of the nation. One of the big things we have to look forward to in future is the question of having children to carry on the work of the nation, yet we say to the wounded soldier, "You are not to have the opportunity of help- 395 ing forward the race by having children, because if you bring children into the world, there is nothing for you." Equal rights should be given all round. If two men come back unwounded, they start on an equal footing. I do not think it is any defence at all to talk about cost; the question of cost does not trouble me much if I see that justice is done to those who are fighting. When the war is over there will be such a tremendous sum of money to be found for all purposes that I have stopped trying to calculate where it will come from. However, that is a secondary consideration, and I do not want the Minister or Treasury to hide behind anything of that kind when we are fighting for justice for the people.
The second point that I want to bring forward is one which concerned me in the last war and which I want to try to prevent happening in this war. It is with regard to children entitled to benefit up to the age of 16 where the father is suffering from war wounds. Under the Warrant of the present time it says that children receiving allowances up to 16 years of age shall continue to receive allowances, if the father is still unable to work, up to the age of 21. The Minister has no right to give anything further for that child after that, with one exception, which, I believe, was secured by the late Mr. Roberts, namely, that if the child is an orphan the Minister can continue the allowance after the age of 21. I have a typical case, which I think ought to be quoted to the Committee, where, during the last war a child was born after its father had been killed. Its mother was six months pregnant at the time the child's father was killed in France. When the child was born it was a cripple. That child received an allowance up to 16 years of age, and the Minister continued the allowance up to the age of 21. But he cannot do anything more except by voluntary grant. He has no right to do anything more. I have tried to get the Pensions Advisory Committee to recognise the duty of the State to that child. I have failed. The Minister admitted that it was a good case, but he said, "Where is the money to come from?" and at the moment there has been no redress in cases of that kind. I put it to the Committee that where we can satisfy the Minister that the child's in- 396 capacity and physical disabilities, or its mental disabilities, can be traced to what happened to the mother during the war, there is no reason why we should not meet our responsibilities and see that that child is looked after by the State. I claim that once it is allowed that such a child is entitled to an allowance up to 16 years of age and is continued until 21, there is no justifiable reason why it should not be continued so long as it is incapacitated.
I want to pay my tribute to a kindhearted Minister of Pensions. I have met the hon. Gentleman on many occasions, and I believe that he has as kind a heart as anybody in the Committee. I wish his kind-heartedness had enabled him to go a little further when I brought forward my two points. I told him on the Advisory Committee that I should claim the right to deal with this matter when it came before the Committee, and that it would not be a breach of confidence. I am not committing any breach of confidence. If you have committees examining these questions, it is the House of Commons which has the final judgment. I am satisfied that, after the repeated pressure which has been brought to bear on the subject of the unmarried soldier who gets married and who has at present no allowance after he marries, it is a matter which will receive attention. I trust that the Minister will pay close attention to what has been said and that some redress will be made at the first opportunity available to the hon. Gentleman.
§ 9.3 P.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions (Miss Wilkinson)
I want to make it clear that I am not closing the Debate. There is no reason at all why the Debate should not go on, but it has been made clear that there are some hon. Members who would like to have some guidance with regard to the work of the War Service Grants Advisory Committee. As that is my special Department, it may be convenient if I deal with the points that have been raised and also give some description of the work of the committee. With regard to the points raised in connection with pensions, which do not come under my Department, the Minister of Pensions has promised to deal with them at the close of the Debate. I think it is important that hon. Members should understand 397 what the War Service Grants Advisory Committee has been set up to do and the work which is actually carried on. There are one or two hon. Members who are specialists in this work, but there are others who, like myself before I went to the Ministry, may have a vague idea—that there was some sort of committee that did dole out money sometimes if you wrote a sufficiently nice letter to the Minister. It is only when one is in the Department and sees the work that one realises what a very big social experiment is being made in war service grants, and how a whole body of experience is being built up.
After all, it is a very new department and a very new departure. It grew up in a rather casual way. Conscription was to be imposed, and, of course, the difficulty of imposing conscription in a country that had never had it was that the citizens were not used to making provision for it. In a country where conscription is an old-established practice and where the men go through their service at recognised early ages, provision is made in the normal course in the family budget. We were suddenly having to impose conscription without any previous preparation. The first idea, as hon. Members will remember, was that the conscription would be for six months' military or civil training. Therefore, when the idea of a Committee was mooted and when the Committee was set up in June, 1939, the idea was only that it should be advisory, not to the Ministry of Pensions, but to the three Services and to the Ministry of Labour. It had a very restricted function. It was only to consider the liability, say, of youngsters who were being called up for six months' training and a certain number of Territorials. That is why there was a limit of £2 a week which included the allowances that were being paid to the men in training. When the war came the whole situation was altered. We had to face not the calling-up of young men for six months' training, but possibly the progessive calling-up of all citizens of military age as their age groups came due, and this included family men with serious commitments. Clearly, something on a much bigger scale than the original Committee was needed.
I do not want to go into a mass of detail. It suffices to say that from 1st 398 December, 1939—we have been going only for about seven months—the whole matter was taken over by the Ministry of Pensions. The limit of £2 was retained, but it was to be excluding the allowances paid to the soldiers. As hon. Members have said, this Committee is an Advisory Committee, and it has been said that its terms of reference are very narrow. The Committee has to work within its terms of reference; therefore, let us consider, first of all, what are those terms of reference. They are, first, that serious hardship directly due to calling-up is to be the only thing to be considered by the Committee. The evidence of this hardship is to be the inability of the soldier to meet commitments as a result of his being called up; that is to say, they are not to be general debts that were contracted in any way, but commitments which he is unable to meet because of his being called up. It follows that the Committee is solely concerned with the difference in the financial position caused by the calling-up, and, therefore, it follows again that the Committee has no power strictly to do more than restore the status quo.
It is on these terms of reference that the Committee has had to work, and however one may quarrel with that Committee, one has to remember that these were the limitations imposed upon it. As I have said, the Committee was rather casual in the beginning. It is the British system, and the system of this House, to leave a lot to the discretion of a Minister or to a committee; but, of course, there is the Treasury watch-dog. There are certain advantages in this system. Ministers and committees learn a lot from the actual working of cases, and clearly they learn it in a way which could not possibly be understood by any official, however expert, who has to draw up rules and regulations before a committee starts working. Therefore, what is actually happening, and what has been happening in these seven months, has been that this Committee has been evolving from experience a whole body of working rules and regulations. It has been making its terms of reference work and has been making its own case laws a living thing. Inevitably when doing this, because it has to deal with the known facts of our social system, to put it tactfully, it reaches a position where it has to persuade the Treasury that these terms of reference, I will not say must be 399 altered, but interpreted, if we are to have a real working system of rules. Although it may seem that this is a clumsy method, and, of course, it would have been much nicer to have had a rigid set of rules—
§ Miss Wilkinson
The hon. Member says, "Hear, hear," but with his great knowledge of these subjects I think he would be the first to protest if he had given to him a set of rules by an official and had to sit down to make the system fit these rules. He knows that no one could do it, and he knows, therefore, the position we are in. I would say here to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) that for his work in connection with this Committee we are profoundly grateful. He has brought us great experience and a warm heart. I assure him that the decisions of the Committee are not vetoed by officials just for the fun of it, or because they do not like them. These decisions can only be vetoed by officials if, in fact, they go outside the terms of reference or any agreement we have come to with the Treasury.
I can give some examples of what I mean when I say that we are building up a set of working rules out of our actual experience. Take the case of the temporarily unemployed man. He may be an engineer, but, because of a long period of slump, he has been out of work. He joins up, or is called up, and his fellow unemployed at home are now working overtime. Is it fair only to restore the status quo of that man and make his family remain on unemployed standards for the rest of the war? Obviously that is what the terms of reference would mean. The Minister approached the Treasury and got them to agree—and this is a very substantial concession—to ignore the pre-service income and substitute instead what the man would normally have earned in his ordinary occupation. That is now the working rule of the committee. Then we came to deal with the case of the man who came from a distressed area, that is, the man who had been unemployed over a long period. It could not be said that such a man would have got such and such a wage because he might 10 years ago have been employed, say, in Jarrow shipyard. The Minister again approached the Treasury, and there was a large number of consultations. As a 400 result we have secured a formula allowing that man to be classified as a labourer in his previous industry if his wage was higher than his Unemployment Assistance Board allowance. In some cases where there was a large family it would pay the man to keep on the unemployment assistance allowance.
Then we came to the question, which has been raised by several hon. Members, of the dependants of apprentices, that is, the potential dependence on apprentices who were just out of their time. We had many pathetic cases of parents who had made sacrifices to give their boys a good education so that they could be trained as teachers, chemists and so on, and also of boys who had been working on low wages in order to acquire journeyman's status. If we were to keep to the pre-service status we could not give any dependant's allowance. The Treasury has now agreed to the potential earnings being taken into consideration. The Minister pointed that out in regard to pensions, and it is now being carried out in regard to war service grants.
We then came to the very difficult problem of the man whose wage on full employment was below the standard rate and in some cases even below what he would have got as unemployment assistance. I do not think all hon. Members realise to what a low standard many wage rates had fallen before the war. I am talking about industrial wages; agricultural wages were a special problem. Some industrial rates, even in the conditions of urban life, were found to be very low indeed. The Minister took a sample haphazard of just over 2,000 applicants. It showed that 25 per cent. of the applicants earned under 55s. a week and 41 per cent. under 60s. We were faced with the point which the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) mentioned. She has put a great deal of work and energy into this matter and has been one of the most valuable members of our Committee. She brought up a number of such cases which we are dealing with. Here was the difficulty, that where a man was in full employment we literally had no power to give an allowance for the dependants in excess of the amount he was earning previously.
Many tributes have been paid to the Minister of Pensions, and I want to pay mine after what I have seen of his work 401 in the Ministry, in that he has, so to speak, got his teeth into this question of what we may call the low-unit family income. It is not an easy matter to deal with. It is easy, of course, when one is just saying what is desirable and what ought to be done; but when it is looked at as a matter of administration which not only concerns this one section but affects every kind of grant in the way of family allowance given by the Government, you really are up against a tough proposition. We are now negotiating with the Treasury for a formula that will fit these cases, and Members of this Committee know how long that fight has gone on. I can assure the hon. Member for Rotherharn and the hon. Member for Dartford that it is not a question of delay in the sense of putting the matter in a pigeon-hole and then forgetting all about it. On the contrary, it is a matter of the most urgent and the most active consideration in the sense of our having consultations, conferences, letters and dealings with the Service Departments. We could have settled it at once if we had accepted the Treasury view, but it is the fact that we have not accepted it, and have kept on worrying them on these low income units, that has meant delay. On the whole I do not think that can be blamed on to the Ministry, and now we are coming to a stage in the struggle where we hope to get something, and in the meantime we have secured an agreement from the Treasury that we can give special consideration to families with several children where the Service allowance and any other income of the household is insufficient to prevent hardship even though the effect may be to improve the position of the household in service as compared with the position pre-service. That is getting somewhere along the road we all desire to go.
As to the complaints of delay in dealing with cases, I can honestly say that that is not the fault of the staff. Let hon. Members consider the situation. We have a rapidly expanded staff working under war conditions, and we have had to evacuate half of them to the North. We have half our staff in the North and half in London; and quite recently we have had to evacuate another big section of them. How on earth they have managed to keep this whole machine going and deal with the work as quickly 402 as they have done is a miracle, and all that I feel guilty about, as a trade unionist, is that we have had to ask them to work such long hours, work Saturdays and Sundays and they have done it uncomplainingly, in order to get through the work. It is not the fact that we are asking people to work overtime when we ought to have had extra staff, because we have taken on all the staff we could get for this job.
As regards what we call our straightforward cases, those dealt with by the machine, they can be settled by the staff, and most of them are settled within 48 hours after the receipt of the application at the Ministry. Of course, that is not to say that the forms reach the Ministry as soon as they are signed by the applicants, because there are delays for which we are not responsible; but most of the straightforward cases are settled within 48 hours, and all such cases could be settled if we just rejected them according to rule, because they did not fit. But any cases about which there are doubts are dealt with by experts, and are carefully considered, and if there is any chance of the applicant being given the benefit of the doubt, or even of getting rules modified if necessary, then the inspectors arrange that the case should be sent to headquarters for consideration. The delay could be avoided by automatic rejection, but we do not want to do that sort of thing, because we desire to build up a working set of rules, which may seem vague but yet fit in more or less with our terms of reference.
Of course, we have to deal with some extremely complicated cases. I thought I knew a good deal about this matter, but I never realised what a mess some people can make of their businesses and family affairs until we started to unravel some of the cases. I feel that men must sometimes go into the Army with a sense of relief, feeling that they have left other people to deal with their problems. We have the problem of the one-man business, in which the accounts are all mixed up with the family budget, and we have to sort it out. We find the most extraordinary collection of commitments, personal and otherwise, to put it tactfully, and all sorts of problems have to be resolved. A good deal has been said about having a committee to deal with these matters, but I would remind hon. 403 Members that, in the last war, we had the Civil Liabilities Committee, experts who often took weeks to decide complicated cases. Now we are following the practice, when a prima facie case is reasonably established, of making a provisional award which is subject to the final determination in the case. We sort it all out—and in some cases it does take some sorting out.
Very briefly I want to give hon. Members some points that may help them in dealing with these matters among their constituents. I would appeal to them to help us. This Parliament is becoming something different from what we have known; it is becoming very much a working committee, and I would appeal to hon. Members to give attention to these cases and, in that way, to help us very much. These are points which I believe hon. Members would like to know. We fix our allowances after certain commitments are disregarded, that is to say that, in a case where we award 15s., it is after certain commitments have been met. We disregard the first 5s. of sick pay from a friendly society, the first 7s. 6d. of any benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts, the first £1 of any superannuation or pension and half of any payment to an injured person in regard to workmen's compensation.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
The Minister has just made the statement that only half the workmen's compensation is taken into account, but I would point out that, in the case of a woman whose husband has been killed in the pit, the full compensation is taken into account.
§ Miss Wilkinson
My hon. Friend is not making a distinction between the War Office grant, the War Office pension, and our War Service Grants Advisory Committee. I am not talking about the pension grants which are only given when the person is alive. These are in addition to the Service allowance. When he is dead or discharged or pensionable, the man is no longer under the War Service Grants Committee, and none of those things apply.
§ Mr. Griffiths
This is the case of a widow whose son is fighting at the present time and allowing his mother 14s. The Ministry say that because he is allowing her 14s. they will not allow anything. 404 They are not taking half compensation; they are taking full compensation.
§ Miss Wilkinson
May I get this perfectly clear? I think we are talking about two separate matters. I think the hon. Member is referring to a War Office case, but I will certainly look into the matter. Half of any weekly payment in respect of workmen's compensation is the rule—
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am not concerned with the War Office; I am concerned only with my own job. With regard to the question of rents and rates, increases in the commitments in regard to rents and rates are not ordinarily taken into account. Where we have had cases of house purchasing, there has been a complaint that we do not make any allowance for repayment of capital. The Minister and I have been in consultation with representatives of the building societies on this matter, and they were as anxious as the hon. Member for Rotherham, but from an entirely different point of view, that we should repay their capital as well as their interest. After all, we have to consider the question of the State and the State's commitments in the circumstances. Building societies are not dealing, as in the case of hire-purchase firms, with a wasting asset, because house building has practically stopped. If these houses have to be foreclosed upon, the assets will be worth more because of the war situation. Therefore, we decided that we would pay only on the basis of the interest which kept the man's interest in the house alive, and that we would not repay capital to the society. We have admitted repairs to the extent of one quarter of the gross annual value or one third of the rates. We have met insurance policies taken out before the war, and we have met liabilities in respect of hire purchase, except that we have to make provisions with regard to certain hire-purchase claims which are regarded as extravagant.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Would the Committee also consider making some sort of allowance for mothers whose children have taken scholarships and who have to pay a certain amount?
§ Miss Wilkinson
All those matters are taken into account by the Committee, and 405 that is the value of a discretionary power. I was not dealing with special cases. I can mentioned 100 matters that are, in fact, taken into consideration by the Committee, but what I am concerned with here are those matters which might be regarded as average things that practically everybody has to take into consideration. In regard to those commitments, it is after death that we have to deal with the final amount, and, as I have said, we take what is left and divide it among the number of units in the family. It is after that that we compute the difference between in-Service and pre-Service disabilities. I have gone through a large number of these cases; I do not say that I am satisfied with the awards in every case, but I do say, since the Minister has been criticised, that I feel that at times the Advisory Committee might have taken a more generous view, within their terms of reference. I do not consider that the Committee have given grants to the extent to which they might have given, and on occasions I have sent back cases—as it is within my power to do, because the Minister of Pensions has handed me this section—for review, because I did not think that sufficient had been given to meet the necessities of the cases. But the Committee have given a great deal of time to this job, and it is from the Committee themselves that there has come this pressure on the Minister—and, therefore, at second remove, on the Treasury—to allow them to take a more generous view, particularly in the low-category cases.
§ Mrs. Adamson
I hope hon. Members will understand that the Advisory Committee do not meet as a whole to deal with these cases, but that we work in panels. In my judgment, some panels are not as generous in their treatment, and do not put the same interpretation on the necessity for an award, as others do.
§ Miss Wilkinson
My hon. Friend is right in saying that the Committee meet in panels. That was intended when a committee of 20 was appointed. The Committee is divided into three panels, and those panels make separate judgments. But the chairmen of the panels are themselves alive to the fact that it is necessary to get a working body of rules, on which all are agreed, before one can hope to get a generous standard of awards. That is what we are trying to get, and no one 406 is more anxious for that than the three gentlemen who are chairmen of the panels. In fact, they are pressing for it, and the Minister and I have had that matter under consideration. But we have had only seven months, and that is not a long period in which to build up this working body of rules. The problem is a vast one; yet we have gone a certain way along the road towards getting this working body of rules. I hope that we shall get some more settled in the near future. We are now in discussion with the Treasury on certain lines, which if we finally come to agreement will mean that a large block of cases will be settled automatically. That will sweep away delay, and will leave the Committee to deal with a small percentage of complicated cases where human feeling and specialised judgment are really needed. This is a thing which has grown under our hands. It is an intensely human thing, dealing all the time with human problems. Hon. Members will help us enormously if, instead of accepting without question these stories of delay, they will send cases to us, because every case that is dealt with by us helps to make a precedent. I am sure from the interest that has been displayed in Committee we shall have that hearty cooperation in the near future.
§ Mr. Dobbie
Will my hon. Friend be good enough to reply to the question whether or not the Department has considered the question of greater accessibility for applicants to get hold of Form 21, as there is still tremendous difficulty in the matter?
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am sorry that I missed that point. We have given a good deal of consideration to that matter. We have been in communication with the War Office, and they have sent out a circular to the paymasters. The difficulty is, I am afraid, that the paymasters sometimes feel that we are rather like the famous Bairnsfather cartoon, in that we send in the middle of a bombardment to ask how many pounds of raspberry jam have been issued. They get a little impatient, but we have adopted the system under which every man is given the pink form when he goes up for medical examination. That must be given to him, and if there is any doubt whatever as to how to fill in that form, he can go to his welfare officer. This has been in operation only for a very 407 short time, but we have already seen an improvement in the character of the forms which are sent in, and the speed with which they are coming in under that system. I am glad that my hon. Friend asked that question.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Dr. Summerskill (Fulham, West)
I wish to occupy the Committee only for a few minutes at this late hour, but I am very pleased to see both the Minister and the hon. Lady on the Front Bench—the Minister, because I hope that he will give further consideration to the point that I am about to raise, and the hon. Lady, because I know that she will understand fully this point, and will perhaps use her new influence at the Ministry of Pensions. The matter is one which has already been raised by deputation, and I hope that the Minister will bend his mind once more to the whole problem and not perhaps to-night treat it so lightly as he treated it when I first spoke about it many months ago. I refer to the question of compensation for the housewife. The Minister, if he casts his mind back, will remember that, when I pointed out to him that there was no rational reason why the only worker in the home, the housewife, should be excluded from compensation in the event of an air-raid, he treated it rather lightly and made a joke about it. Many male Members rose and supported my contention, and then the Minister said that he would reconsider the matter. Since then I have heard that a deputation of representatives of many influential women's organisations have visited the Ministry of Pensions. In spite of that, no action has been taken.
Who is it who advises the Ministry? I take it that in regard to all the points that the hon. Lady has just mentioned there are experts, and that there are doctors and others who deal with other questions, but who advises the Minister on what might be regarded as the new or twentieth-century conception of the status of the housewife. I suggest that in the Ministry there is nobody who has ever really given proper thought to the whole question. This is extremely important. The housewife to-day is doing a job of work which should not be regarded as having no economic value at all. She should be regarded as being engaged in gainful occupation. I would remind the Minister that throughout the country the 408 whole problem of evacuation depends upon the work of the housewife. She is in fact subsidising the Ministry of Health because she is giving her work without pay. I have put this point on a previous occasion. I said that if this woman had to go outside her home to get a job, she would be asked to do housework or cooking, and she would be paid as a housekeeper. I then said that if she was a paid housekeeper and was injured during an air raid, she would be compensated, but because she is a housekeeper in the home she is not. She has no compensation. I want the Minister to say why he has not given that favourable consideration. Is there anybody in the Ministry of Pensions who thinks in terms of his wife having a real economic value in the home, because that, after all, is a proper approach?
The other point about which I wish to remind him is that the other provision, in my opinion, added insult to injury. When we discussed this many months ago the war was static; we looked down the months and said, "I suppose we shall have air raids." There may be an air raid to-night, perhaps in a few hours. We shall hear that there have been so many killed and so many injured. Among the injured there will almost certainly be a number of housewives. What is their position? The amazing thing is that the Minister has supported this injustice. I cannot find words strong enough. To-night, if a housewife is totally incapacitated, the only form of compensation is this: her husband is allowed to choose any woman he likes to go into the house and do the work, and he is given the money with which to pay her. The Minister laughs. I cannot understand this fifteenth century attitude. His advisers must be of the fifteenth century. A housewife to-day has an entirely new conception of her status in society. Why cannot the Minister make this small concession and allow a housewife to be able to pay a woman who goes into her home to do the work? It is not inconceivable that a housewife may lose both her legs. I have seen many women in that condition. They sit in the corner, and other women do their jobs. It would not cost the Minister of Pensions one penny if they allowed these women the dignity of being given the money with which to pay the women who help them. This is not some fantastic notion of mine. The Minister 409 has had representatives of influential women's organisations asking and imploring him to grant this small concession. Yet he has dismissed the whole thing very lightly. I do ask him once more to try if possible to think in modern terms and realise that the modem housewife is not content simply to cook, scrub and slave and feel she has no economic power at all. If he will grant this little concession and put this money into her hands, I feel certain that many women throughout the country will be very grateful.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
I do not want to say much, but I feel that something must be said further in order to remind the Committee of the very great debt that is payable to the medical service of the Ministry of Pensions. We have heard little reference to their particular virtues to-day, but I was very glad of the particular reference paid to it by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson), who has rich experience of the work of the Ministry from her position on the London County Council. It is most difficult work. It is specialist's work which has been developed entirely by the Ministry of Pensions. The apportionment of attributable disability is one of the most difficult things to decide. Until it was taken up by the Ministry of Pensions it was almost impossible to get any clear line upon which to undertake a decision.
I remember a case in the last war of a young clerk who went from a provincial town and rose to commissioned rank. As a result of four years' service he came home with very bad bronchitis, which was found to be tubercular. He had severe hemorrhage. He lost his job, but as a result of very careful treatment in one of the hospitals of the Ministry he was able to live a happy life, and was restored to much better health than he had enjoyed before. He was unable to get any remunerative job and at the moment is digging his garden with a boy to help him. He was given a pension some years after the war. I heard his former history, which, as a matter of fact, showed that he had symptoms of this disease before the last war. They were concealed and not discovered on recruitment, but he had been awarded a full pension. It is most difficult to decide many of these cases. As Members of Parliament we know that our constituents have a genuine feeling and are convinced that their illness is due 410 to the war when as a matter of fact a careful examination will find that the weakness was there before the war, although it was increased by the war. It is a difficult job to decide to what extent you can blame the war for the illness. No one has had any experience of these cases equal to that of the medical men in the Ministry of Pensions. They may make mistakes, but I think they make few mistakes.
When I have looked into the details of these cases I have nearly always been convinced that the Ministry of Pensions have been right in their decision when it has differed from that of the private doctor. I am glad that the Minister has recognised the necessity for further confirmation, although it may be only in 1 per cent. of the cases that the opinion of these medical officers has been wrong. But even if it is only in 1 per cent. of the cases, it is a splendid arrangement to have an appeal tribunal, which has the advantage, as the Minister has said, of being the best kind of committee—namely, a committee of one, a man nominated by the President of the Royal College of Physicians or the Royal College of Surgeons. I should like to ask the Minister whether he can give us any idea of the number of appeals that have been heard in this way and what has been the result. It would be very useful to watch the results of this Appeal Tribunal, and to see whether the conception which I have of the good work of the Minister's staff is confirmed by these tribunals. There are 23 medical officers at headquarters and 32 regional officers. They have a tremendous amount of work to do, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. They are the only body of experts of that proficiency in the world. I do not know whether they have anything comparable in Germany, with their wonderful systematisation, but I should think that probably this body of experts would be able to beat them, as our country will be able to beat them in other spheres as well.
I want to raise the question of what is done on the prevention side for the purpose of preventing the need for pensions. Hon. Members know cases which, owing to, let us say, dilatory treatment or even wrong or defective treatment, become cases for pensions, or need pensions at a higher rate than might otherwise have been necessary. I should like to know what liaison has been established between the Ministry of Pensions on the one side, 411 and, on the other side, the Ministries for whom the Ministry of Pensions has to provide the pensions—the three Fighting Services and the civil medical services of the Ministry of Health. It is on the last of these that may be laid the greater burden of casualties if we are to have a large number of severe air raids in this country. The Ministry of Health, in their emergency medical service hospitals, will treat these cases which will eventually come to the Ministry of Pensions for payment. Reference has been made in previous Debates to the tremendous burden that is unnecessarily placed on the Treasury, through the Ministry of Pensions, by pensions cases that might have been cured or at least made partly able to work if there had been better treatment. Some of us have recently been in a deputation to the Ministry of Health on the subject of the need of physio-therapy, a subject in which the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has taken an active interest. That is one of the specialist services which one wants to see properly used. There has been considerable agitation by those who are keen on this modern line of treatment on the grounds that sufficient use is not being made of it in the civil medical services and civil medical hospitals. On the other hand, the British Hospitals Association have put forward a scheme for the general adoption of fracture clinics in civil hospitals—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I do not see what relevance this has to the Vote before the Committee.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I want to avoid part of the burden that falls upon the Ministry of Pensions, and for that reason, I am asking what liaison the Minister has established with these other Services in order to find out in what way this Vote can be reduced in another year. I think that is germane to the Debate. All these specialist treatments have their advocates, and I know that these methods of treatment are being used by the Ministry of Pensions in their own hospitals when they receive the cases; but the right thing to do is so to treat the cases from the beginning, and therefore, it is necessary to have the liaison to which I have referred. In the hospitals of the Ministry of Pensions a great deal is rightly being done 412 in the matter of massage, electricity, and so on. The hon. Member for Dartford put forward the claims not only of physio-therapy, but of osteopathy. These are specialities which ought to be included in the unified form of treatment under the general direction of the physician or surgeon. I do not know whether that is the case in the Ministry's hospitals. These specialists have separate, independent departments which is a very dangerous thing. I hope that in these hospitals it will be seen that these specialists have their proper place and their proper equipments, but only under the direction of the man who takes the larger view. More especially is that so in the case of those requiring physiotherapy. These are a considerable proportion of the cases which come under the Ministry of Pensions. A great deal can be done by proper treatment, and a great deal of harm by improper treatment, and therefore again I stress that we must work in with the other forces. It is the Minister's job to see that proper treatment is given at an early stage.
On various subjects in this House, the claim is made for liaison between Departments concerned. The natural tendency is for a Department to be independent and watertight, but we want them to work in together as much as they possibly can. Let us remember the experience of the last war. Roehampton and other hospitals did splendid work and were independent of the whole hospital system of the country, but can we not get over the very great difficulty of adjusting them to the general hospital services of the country while the expansion is going on? It seems to be a great pity to start to enlarge a system of hospitals, particularly for those cases which come under the Ministry of Pensions, and only have that part for the cases which come under them. I hope that the liaison with the Minister of Health in this matter may be useful and fruitful. I would end by paying a tribute both from the medical profession generally, and from this Committee, to the medical services of the Ministry of Pensions and to the Minister himself.
§ 10.4. p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
I do not apologise at this late hour for keeping the Committee for some time, because I believe this is one of the subjects in which all our people are interested. They are 413 particularly interested to see that justice is done, and from the paean of praise during the Debate from all quarters one would imagine that everything in the garden of the Ministry of Pensions was lovely. I wish to say that it is not. My view, after hearing the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) patting the medical profession on the back, is that they are not entitled to all the kudos given to them. I was amazed to hear the Minister say in justification of his Department that they have granted 649 cases since the last war. He put that forward as a testimony to the fact that the Ministry have been doing their work, but he did not say how many applications they had received. I happen to know something about one of those 649 cases, and I am wondering how many applications there have been. That is a case in which I have been interested for 17 years. During that time these wonderful doctors at the Ministry have been taking shrapnel out of this man at different stages. Whether they thought he had eaten it, I do not know, but it was never attributable to his war service until this year. These wonderful doctors and specialists, of whom we have heard so many eulogies to-day, have been responsible for this young man being denied anything in the nature of justice for 17 years. I am glad that justice has overtaken him before he is dead.
I wonder how many men have died since the last war when seeking to obtain a pension for war injury and have never obtained it because the doctors were never able to decide what they were suffering from until after they were dead. The Ministry of Pensions do not have postmortem examinations to see whether they have been wrong in their decisions. It was because of that that I was sorry to hear the Minister say that they had taken on a new batch of doctors and that when they had had training in the Ministry's work they would be splendid. The note I made of that statement was, "If only they could be left human." I am sure that the medical profession, if they were left to their own devices and could act as human beings, would be vastly different. I wonder how long it takes to get them into the frame of mind in which they can draw up the circulars which the Minister is so fond of sending, in which he expresses his sorrow that nothing can be done. One of these circulars says: 414The case has been carefully reviewed from this standpoint in consultation with the Ministry's medical advisers, and in the light of the available evidence, including reports of recent clinical and radiological examinations, but the condition as now found cannot be ascribed to the persisting effect of this man's war service, which terminated over 23 years ago.There are cases of men who have never been able to work in all the 23 years. The Ministry admit responsibility to the extent of allowing the 20 per cent. decided upon in 1923, but they have never been able to work as a consequence of their war injuries. Then hon. Members speak about the medical profession doing their job of work. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary intervened in the Debate and then had to leave, because I wanted to say something about her department. It seems to me that she attempted to do the impossible. She sought to justify something which was unjustifiable. She pointed out that the terms of reference under which these committees were working were far too narrowly drawn. A committee cannot do justice if its terms of reference do not enable it to do it, and in this case they do not. I could prove it from a dozen cases. I could not understand the Minister's reference to the King's Fund and the keeping in insurance of disabled ex-service men who were unfit for work. If these men are unfit for work, there is no necessity for them to be kept in insurance.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I grant that, but if it was suggested that these individuals should be subject to the charity of the King's Fund in order to keep them in insurance, I want to point out that it is unnecessary. The position of the disabled ex-Service man is that if he is out of work and capable of working, he can get a stamp at the Employment Exchange which will retain him in insurance. If he is not disabled to the extent of being unable to work and wishes to retain National Health Insurance, then that frank which he receives on account of his disablement, even though he is able to work, will keep him in health insurance, and I do not 415 see the point of the King's Fund being used to keep those men in insurance. If it is suggested that they are turned into voluntary contributors who pay 50 stamps out of the 52, whether they are working or not, in order that they may get 10s. benefit when they are sick, then I can understand it; but I want the Minister to inquire whether they are getting full value for the money by putting stamps on in that way. It seems to me that charity is not enough. We had the story of the widow's mite. The widow who sacrificed the pension granted to her on the last occasion in order to help her country at this time should not only be an example to other individuals to do likewise but some encouragement to the Ministry to meet their obligations in this time of need.
It was cases which have come to my notice which caused me to ask the Minister, when he was referring to the Mercantile Marine, whether when a ship went down it was assumed by the Ministry that it was always the result of enemy action. Ships sink by reason of accident as well as of enemy action. There was the case of a young man who was wireless operator on board a ship and who, in the black-out, walked off the deck and was never seen again. The captain came to the conclusion that he had taken a wrong turn and walked into the sea on a particularly stormy night. An effort was made to bring that lad's case under the scheme, and, in spite of the fact that the Ministry turned it down, and all the experts have said that the application could not be justified, I submit that had it not been for enemy action there would have been no black-out and the lad would never have walked into the sea. In my view, wherever there is a doubt the benefit of it ought to be given to the widowed mother. I have not had such a case yet, and have not heard of a case, in which there has been a doubt where the benefit of the doubt has been given to the applicant. These great medical professors who advise the Minister have never given the benefit of the doubt to the applicant in any case that I have heard of.
There is the case of a man who was an old soldier and, when the call came, joined up. Patriotism, at any rate, was not lacking. He joined up in December 416 of last year and died in January of this year. He was in the Army about three weeks or a month at the outside. During that time, in the bitterest winter we have experienced for many years, that man slept in a stable for two or three nights. He died from bronchial pneumonia. His name appears in the British Army's first Roll of Honour, the only place where it does appear. When I begged for a pension for this man's widow, what did these medical men say? His own medical man who had been attending him on and off for 20 years, wrote me that he had had bronchial trouble and that he had visited him for it, but he made it perfectly clear that for long enough before this man enlisted he had not been under his care. This man went before the Army doctor, and he was passed into the Army. He lived under adverse conditions, to put it mildly. If he had a tendency to bronchial trouble, sleeping in a stable during that mid-winter would not help him to overcome them. When he died as a consequence of all that, I think his widow was entitled to a pension from the State. She has not received it. The Minister wrote:I find that Private Reynolds joined a National Defence Company on the 11th December, 1939, and was posted for duty with the battalion, then forming at the Drill Hall, Warwick Street, Liverpool, where he was housed. He went home on leave at Christmas but died on Christmas day of myocardial failure and acute bronchitis. I sympathise with Mrs. Reynolds in her loss, and I have caused all the facts of the case to be exhaustively reviewed by my medical officers.Then comes the usual statement that regard was had to his physical condition before and on enlistment, andto the very short period of war service, to the nature of the duties performed, to the conditions under which he was housed and to the report by his own doctor who treated him during the fatal illness. It is true that Reynolds was examined and found fit for Army duties in Grade II, but my medical advisers assure me that the nature of the war service performed by Private Reynolds was not such as to have aggravated his chest condition and materially hastened his death.That is not giving the benefit of the doubt to the applicant, but is penalising the widow for what I may call the patriotic folly of the dead husband.
I have another case, and I have asked a Question about this. It is the case of another man who died, a Mr. Collins, and the circumstances are somewhat similar. Mr. Collins wrote to me pointing out that this man had also been in the last war. 417 The case struck me as being worse than the one I had taken up before. The man did four years in the Royal Army Service Corps in the last war. He joined up again for the duration of this war, on 4th December, 1939. On 14th January, 1940, he died. On 30th January the lady had a telegram to say that her husband was seriously ill and, later, the police came and told her she would have to go to Shorncliffe Military Hospital. They gave her two railway warrants, but she says:when I arrived at the hospital, he had passed away, with bronchial pneumonia, which, I think, was caused by the severe weather under Army conditions. He passed seven doctors"—that was when he was taken into the Army—and passed A.1. I applied for a pension, but received a letter to say they could not attribute his death to war service.Neither could I get a medical officer of the Government to agree that it was due to war service. In the streets of our towns and villages, cases of this kind coming home to the people create anything but the morale which is good for this country, and what we are saving in money we are losing in the spirit of our people. The poorest people in the street of this woman would gladly pay an additional tax in order that she might have a pension, because of her husband's death.
I would like to say a word about the War Service Grants Committee, the determinations that have to be made by the Committee and the terms of reference. It seems strange that we should always attempt, and sometimes succeed, in penalising the most deserving people in these cases. We seem not only to have made a practice of it, but to have made a study of penalising the people who are most deserving. I have a case before me now. I have sent it to the Ministry, but there is no hope, because it is outside the terms of reference. This is the position, and the folly of the position. In 1938 a man was earning £3 and paying his mother £2 12s., keeping 8s. a week for himself. This man decided in 1938 to go into the Army as a career. He underwent an operation while in the Army and, through somebody's mistake, he remained longer than he should have done in hospital. He lay there for six or seven months, and at the end of that time he carried on 418 with his training. He is not yet fully recovered, but he is still in the Army. As a consequence of this treatment in hospital and the training expenses in connection with his work in the Army, he did not begin to make his mother an allotment until January of this year. He then allowed her 14s. a week. He applied for some allowance for the mother, who is a widow, and the answer to the application was that six months before the war broke out he was not paying 9s. a week to his mother, the position being that during the greater portion of that period he was on his back in hospital. Prior to that he had been paying her the best part of £3 a week. But he does not come within this particular category, and, therefore, the widowed mother receives nothing on top of the 14s. which the young fellow is paying to her. The consequence is that he is penalised, and we are penalising the best type of individual. Had the definition which was given by one hon. Member been accepted, there you would have a case which stands high and dry, where the person is entitled to an allowance, but under the terms of reference the War Service Grants Committee grants nothing.
Here is another case from my own constituency, where the War Service Grants Committee is empowered to recommend grants but only in cases where the war service prevents him from meeting financial obligations which he had previously undertaken. What is the position in this case? The young fellow was an out-porter. He had been unemployed for 10 months, and some months before the war broke out, like many others who had been unemployed, he joined the Army, not to see the world but because he had been unemployed so long. Then the war broke out, and again the widowed mother was not entitled to receive an allowance because this lad has been too patriotic. Under the new regulation and the new interpretation, as an unemployed individual the possibility of what he would have been earning can be taken into consideration, but the fact that he had joined the Army before he needed to rules out the question of an allowance for his mother, and as a consequence the mother is dependent solely upon her widow's pension. It seems to me that in spite of all that has been said about the new order which is to be made to rule these conditions of pension, so 419 long as cases of that kind come to the notice of our people, so long as they are known and talked about by the mothers, and so long as boys are allowed to go and die, and the parents of those boys receive no recompense, so long will there be discontent among the people of this country.
I have another case, of a fine lad of 22, one of the most promising lads in my constituency. He came to London, and joined the Royal Air Force; and was glad of the opportunity. Six months later the poor lad was dead. He had been making his allotment of 14s. a week. The father happens to be working; therefore, there was no allowance; and there is no pension, because there was no allowance. It is true that the mother has received a letter now, as a result of two letters which I wrote to the Minister. The Minister's letter indicates that in the event of the parents falling on evil days they will be entitled, because the lad gave his life, to apply for a pension at some later date. But the Minister cannot guarantee that there will be a pension; he can only say that if he is still Minister something will be done. That is not good enough. The State took that lad for its service: in the service of the State, that lad lost his life; and the parents are entitled to some recompense: not a promise for the future, but something here and now.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Dunn (Rother Valley)
I do not want to keep the Committee any minutes, nor do I want to proceed along the lines followed by the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), because every one of us could bring a number of such cases if he wished. The Minister will remember that a deputation from my constituency came to see him on 21st December, 1939, and that we thoroughly discussed with him the terms and conditions upon which the War Grants Advisory Committee were about to work. I was very surprised to hear the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary deal with identically the same points as we dealt with as long ago as 21st December. It is now 25th June, and it is too bad to try to work that across this Committee after all these months. After the seven months that have elapsed, we are here to-night with, not one but numerous cases of delay. I have written to the Department about cases, and some of them have 420 been thoroughly examined by the Advisory Committee; yet, although the cases were sent in last December, we have had no determinations yet. The Minister, if I may say so, made a good opening statement, and a very long one, in which he took great pains to go laboriously into the activities of every department of his Ministry. But I do not know whether I interpreted him correctly when I understood him to say that the amount actually paid out under the Advisory Committee was £438,900.
§ Mr. Dunn
That was what I thought. He also said that the number of cases was approximately 150,000. I would like to ask, What period did the 150,000 cases actually cover? Did it cover the period from 1st December up to date, or the period from the commencement of the war up to date? That is rather important. I gathered from my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) that out of approximately 150,000 cases dealt with by the Department 60,000 had been rejected. That was the impression I received. The point I want to put to the Minister is that we discussed this matter with the Minister on 21st December. We discussed the question of rents, ground rents, insurance, hire-purchase, educational grants, clothing allowances, dentures and a host of other things that the particular Committee were entitled to take into consideration in fixing additional allowances under the heading of "Hardships." If a true picture has been given by the Parliamentary Secretary to-night, it is amazing, if one takes out administrative expenses, that the average grant made is less than 3s. per case per week.
§ Mr. Dunn
It is a matter of simple arithmetic, and anyone can work out the figures for himself. I understand the figure to be £438,900, that there were 150,000 cases dealt with, and that 60,000 of these were rejected. It is not enough, and it is not calculated to maintain the morale of the people of this country.
The Minister spoke a good deal about the British Legion, and some of us have communications with the British Legion. I was talking to the President of the British Legion in my Division only yester- 421 day. He is a leading Conservative in that Division, and he told me that the British Legion are seething with discontent at the way they have been treated in our particular area. The Minister may remember that at the last Scarborough Conference he was the man who kicked up a row about his predecessor, and nearly broke up the conference because of the treatment that was being meted out to ex-Service men. I beg the Minister not to forget that the soldiers are now in this country; they are not on foreign soil. They will be going to their homes, and if the hon. Lady's picture is a correct one—and this is identical with what he said on 21st December, 1939—we are breaking faith with the homes of the people. There is discontent throughout my Division in consequence of the number of appeals and the treatment of cases.
We have taken the trouble to fix up an organisation which examines every individual case, and the Minister will know that when I sent cases to him, every one of them was worked out on a unit basis and on exactly the same basis as that put forward by the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to-night. I stand here to say that out of the numerous cases we have sent, not 10 per cent. in which awards have been made have fallen within the formula. I beg the Minister, because of the numerous cases outstanding, to speed up the making of these awards—and it is a matter which concerns women as well as men now—in order that the morale of our people may be maintained.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Sir W. Womersley
It is not usual for a Minister to make two speeches in one Debate when his Parliamentary Secretary is available, but it seems to be the general wish that I should deal with one or two points raised on purely pension matters. Many hon. Members have said that they do not feel competent to debate the terms of the amended Warrant until they have a copy of it in their possession. It was made clear that there is to be a further discussion when the Warrant is in the hands of hon. Members and they have had time to consider its terms and conditions and to formulate their own opinions. That being the case, and the hour being late, hon. Members will not expect me to reply to all the points raised on the amended Warrant.
422 I merely gave a sketch of the various amendments introduced by me which I thought were for the benefit of those claiming pensions. I am prepared to have a full discussion on the amended Warrant at a later date. I believe it is better now to leave all the questions which have arisen until the Warrant comes out—
§ Sir W. Womersley
I hope to have it out by Friday or at the latest next Monday. It is not a question of any delay by my Department. The Stationery Office is overwhelmed with work and the proof of this important document must be carefully scrutinised—
§ Sir W. Womersley
We cannot afford to have printers' errors in a document like this. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn) spoke of the deputation which was introduced to me this evening. They were members of local authorities and others, all imbued with the idea of trying to be of some assistance to the serving men in their own areas. I welcome such deputations because we thereby get at the cases which require attention. The hon. Member must admit that a good deal of attention has been paid to his cases. There has been no neglect, as far as I know. He wanted to know about the amount and awards. The figures I have are only up to mid-June.
§ Sir W. Womersley
From the beginning of the war. Up to mid-June, in round figures 75,000 awards have been made and 54,000 have been rejected, and I can assure the hon. Member and other Members that these rejections were made because no case was made out. When all is said and done, you are bound to have some test as to where there is a case for allowances. The average grant is 7s. 8d. The only question that remains is that raised by the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill), which concerns the case of the injured wife and the civil disabilities scheme. I have given the most careful consideration to that matter. I had a deputation from the women's organisations, who put their case very well indeed. I do not know whether the hon. Lady has seen the reply which I gave.
§ Sir W. Womersley
If not, I will send her a full copy, as it explains the reasons why we have had to make the recommendation whereby a wife, when injured in an air raid or by any form of enemy action, cannot be paid compensation, unless someone is employed to do her work. The simple common-sense way in which I look at the matter is this. I know working-class conditions, and I know that a woman, if she is sick or partially injured, will carry on with the work in the household rather than pay someone else to do the work. There is a sense of duty to her husband and children. We make that impossible by saying that if she is sick or disabled on account of enemy action, by air raid or anything else, someone must be provided to do the work so that she can have proper treatment and rest. Therefore, we will provide the money to pay for that help. When it comes to a question of whether or not a woman is an employé of her husband, we are getting into a field into which I would rather not enter.
§ Sir W. Womersley
That is a matter of administration. If the woman is in hospital it is no good paying the money to her. In all our disability pension schemes the money for the wife is paid to the husband, but if we find that he is not using the money for providing help for the woman so that she can have proper rest and attention, we will deal with him very promptly. As to the question whether it is dignified on the part of the woman to allow her husband to draw money on her behalf, that is rather an old question and I do not profess to be able to give an answer to it to-night. The provisions we have made in my opinion are all to the benefit of the housewife and that being so I feel I am justified in carrying on.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I understand the interpretation being given to the scheme is that the only injuries for which compensation can be paid are definite physical injuries 424 and that other injuries, like nervous effects, are not covered. Has the Minister decided that other injuries are excluded from the scheme?
§ Sir W. Womersley
It is stated in the Scheme that the injuries must be physical. As to neurasthenia and all the rest of it, there is a great deal of medical opinion which would be worth while discussing.
When we were discussing this matter earlier in the year, I announced that I had set up a committee of experts, with Lord Horder as chairman. This committee, which was composed of medical experts who had dealt with these cases for many years, said that neurasthenia, if taken in the early stages, could be cured by treatment. Therefore, we provide treatment, but we do not provide pensions. The brochure which has been produced by this committee has been circulated among all the general practitioners throughout the country, and accepted pretty well generally by the medical profession. If the instructions there are carried out, I am satisfied we shall not have anything like the number of neurotic cases that we had to deal with after the Great War. As I announced earlier, the civil liability scheme is coming under review, and I will certainly bear in mind the suggestions that have been made by hon. Members during the Debate. Now I think we ought to go home.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. Munro.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.