HC Deb 27 February 1941 vol 369 cc619-20
34. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the excessive delays that now occur in the investigation and granting of pensions, he will take steps to expedite the administration of the pensions schemes?

Mr. E. Brown

I am not aware of any delay in deciding claims for pension where the necessary evidence of title has been furnished by or on behalf of the applicant. Where, however, this evidence is not furnished, every opportunity must be given to applicants to establish their claims and some expenditure of time in settlement is inevitable. If my hon. Friend has any particular cases in mind in which he considers there has been undue delay, perhaps he would be good enough to let me have details.

Mr. Strauss

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these delays get very much worse and that it takes weeks now to get a reply in the simplest cases; and surely something should be done about it?

Mr. Brown

I could not accept that as a general statement. The House understands full well that last year was a memorable year in the history of pensions, that there was an abnormal flow of claims, and that the Department had 300,000 claims from women for the old pension at 60 under the 1940 Act. Altogether 604,000 persons had their cases settled by the Department during the year, so the House will see that I cannot accept the general statement of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

Will the Minister see that speedier consideration is given to these cases?

Mr. Brown

The fact is that we are always in a dilemma. If we make the decision too soon, we are charged with not giving the applicant a chance, and if the Department prefer to spend a little time trying to give the opportunity that the hon. Gentleman desires, we are criticised.