HC Deb 16 July 1941 vol 373 cc693-708

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn "— [Major Dugdale].

Captain Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)

I ask the indulgence of the House, that I should be heard more than once to-day. It was not my fault that the business came as it did. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions has shewn himself wise and, if I may say so, statesmanlike in his handling of some of our big problems of pensions administration. It surprises me, therefore, that he should take the view he does about appeals tribunals. I have had in my constituency, and I am sure other Members have had in theirs, cases of men who have come out of the Army, the Navy or the Air Force disabled or sick, or have died, and they or their widows have been granted no pensions. None of us individually can judge whether these cases ought to receive pensions. We may advocate and believe in the cause of one of our constituents, but we would not claim to judge of the facts. We are entitled to see, however, that our constituents get a fair judgment.

The Minister of Pensions will say that he judges fairly according to his lights, that he gets the best advice he can, that he even takes the advice of outside medical men to corroborate and correct the advice of his own medical men. He says that to the best of his knowledge the Ministry of Pensions judge these matters fairly. I believe that to be true, and that the Minister himself, personally and officially, does the best he can to sort out the evidence and choose either for the State, on the one hand, or for the claimant on the other whether a claimant should have a life pension. But it is hardly credible that the Ministry can be wholly without bias, and even if it is, it is hardly credible that the public will believe it. It is most essential in these matters that working-class people—and it is mainly they who are concerned—should have what is, and what appears to them to be, an absolutely fair chance of stating their case. They cannot have that as long as they have to go to the Ministry, which watches its own interests and that of the taxpayers and others.

We cannot get what will be fair or seem to be fair unless we have some kind of independent appeal tribunal. It is not that this is a new idea unfamiliar in this country. The House will be aware that there have been appeal tribunals for this purpose for 20 years. It was in 1919 that the very feelings that are here indicated and are now beginning to occur in our constituencies compelled the Government of that day to set up independent tribunals. The Lord Chancellor was made responsible for them. He paid for them, so that they were not under the financial control of, or selected by, the Minister of Pensions. They were set up separately so as to be really impartial, and a final court of appeal. The ordinary ex-service men called it the House of Lords Appeal Tribunal because it was under the Lord Chancellor, and he felt that he was going to the highest court and to an independent court. These tribunals consisted of an ex-service man, a lawyer of more than seven years' standing, and a doctor. They worked for 20 years, and they worked well. I have the figures of the cases that came before these tribunals. There were 53,000 cases that were allowed by these tribunals from 1919 until the outbreak of the present war, and 113,000 cases that were turned down, so that one in three, practically, of those who went before the tribunals won their case. At the moment there will be a few hundred, or a few thousand ex-service men who feel that they have a claim to be heard. On the evidence before us, one third of these cases would ultimately be found to be deserving of a pension. The Minister would have turned them down. The Minister has done his best with the evidence at his disposal, but an independent court would find differently. It is, however, manifest that there is already some injustice. It is hard to measure how much it is, but it rises day by clay as the numbers increase.

We have raised this matter before with the Minister, both privately and publicly, and he has told us that he cannot support these tribunals, and that it would be impossible at the present time, with travelling as it is and with the shortage of professional and other men, to get the personnel together to start these tribunals. I believe that I am quoting him fairly when I say that he based his refusal on travel- ling and personnel. We all travel; we travel freely. I cannot believe that that is a serious reason. The Minister may think that it would have been so if the war had been different, but it is not different and he must face the fact. There would be three persons on the tribunals, if the old form were followed. 1s it seriously to be said that there are only a small number of lawyers available to take on this job? They get a fee. It is true that it is not large, but this is a sort of labour of love and interest, and I cannot think that there are not solicitors and barristers who would freely do this work. We know that doctors are very difficult to get. I am sure that if my right hon. Friend went to the Ministry of Health he would be told that there were difficulties and a shortage of doctors. But the House must ask him to find them. He must find them for this job.

I believe that half a dozen or at the most a dozen tribunals would meet the need. I am only asking for these on the ground of expediency. I do not think that he or I or any of us disagree on principle. I think that the first thing that the Minister will say when he gets up is that there ought to be these tribunals. If he does not say so, I shall be astounded. I think he will say it, and also say that it is difficult to do it now. He may say that he will put it off until after the war when he will have many more doctors and lawyers available. If he merely puts it off, the thing will become aggravated, and it will be infinitely more difficult to start dealing with, say, ten times the number of cases in a year's time. If he started now he would obtain various advantages. He would get uniformity of practice in a small number of tribunals operating throughout the country. It would create a feeling among ex-service men that the young fellows were having a fairer crack of the whip than the old ones received, and lastly, he would be avoiding that which is already an injustice to some, and an injustice which must increase as the numbers increase. Some of these men will no doubt die between now and the end of the war without the opportunity of their having had an opportunity of going before a tribunal and stating their case. Their widows will be left with the sure feeling in their minds that their husbands died as a result of the war but without the advantage of having been able to give evidence in support of their claim. It is clear that some injustice must now be occurring, and it will increasingly occur, and I beg of my right hon. Friend to set up his tribunals now and not try and keep us waiting until after the war, or even waiting for months, thus greatly aggravating his own difficulties. I suggest very humbly to the House, many of the Members of which have told me that they will support me in this matter, that our Minister is a good and clever Minister. He is clever enough to take us to-day on to 101 other subjects, if we let him. May I ask my hon. Friends to stick to him to-day on the question of tribunals?

Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)

I want to support the appeal of the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), which was made in such forceful and eloquent terms to the House. Those of us who had experience of cases that arose out of the last war take this line to-day rather on the grounds of that experience. I do not want it to be thought that I am making any attack on the Minister in his capacity as a Minister, because I believe—and I think I can speak for many —that we have a very good Minister of Pensions. I have had brought to my notice a considerable number of cases which have been rejected, and they are rankling in people's minds. In the last war people were able to go before a tribunal. Cases were turned down, but the feeling of the people who appeared before the tribunal was that they had had an opportunity to go before an independent impartial body and that they had exhausted every possible channel before their case had been finally rejected. I know that the Minister has reviewed some of these cases himself and that he has taken the exceptionally important step of referring them to independent medical people. So far as my constituents are concerned, the result has been very satisfactory, but that is not sufficient. People say that the Minister is judge in his own cause, although he has submitted it to independent medical men.

While we may not have a large number of cases, we are bound to recognise that they are accumulating and may reach considerable proportions before the end of the war. By that time there is the possibility of the Minister, or another Minister of Pensions, agreeing to tribunals being set up, and if there is an accumulation of cases it will mean delayed decisions, and this will create bad feeling. What I am concerned about—and I would like the Minister to appreciate this—is that every applicant believes he has a genuine case and ought to be granted a pension. The present system will have a bad effect on morale, and if the Minister would agree to tribunals of independent people being set up, it would assure the people that justice to them is appearing to be done.

Sir Smedley Crooke (Birmingham, Deritend)

I want to add a few words in support of what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), and I want to do so from the point of view of the British Legion, which is the recognised body in the country for looking after the welfare of ex-Service men. The British Legion held its annual conference in London at Whitsuntide, and among the resolutions that were passed was the following: That this conference resolves that immediate pressure be brought on the Ministry of Pensions to establish independent appeals tribunals throughout the country to enable men discharged from the Services who have been denied compensation to appeal independently. That resolution was passed unanimously. I was present at the conference as a member of the National Executive Council, and I can vouch for the active interest shown by all members at the conference when that resolution was passed. Yesterday, I received a letter from the chairman of one of the county councils of the Legion in the Midlands, and together with the letter was a copy of the resolution which that council had passed: That in the opinion of this council the deferment of appeals to pensions appeals tribunals until after the war will prejudice the rights of the applicants owing to the dispersal of witnesses and losses of documents. The letter added: The resolution explains itself, but I would like to point out that hardship cases arc already piling up, and that quite a small cost to the Treasury would be involved in setting up the few tribunals that would now be needed to deal with the present discharges. I submit that that letter gives two substantial reasons why we should ask the Minister to appoint appeals tribunals now. The first is that if we wait until the war is over, witnesses will be dispersed and documents will be lost; and the second is that the cost to the Treasury would be very much less if the tribunals were set up now than it would be if we waited until after the war. Hon. Members know that in peace-time, if one goes to an insurance office, one sees on placards, "Do it now." A well-known Minister of the Crown has said, "Go to it." May I say to the Minister of Pensions, "Go to it now"?

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes (Portsmouth, North)

I wish to support the proposal that has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend. As a Member for a naval port, a great many cases of this sort come to my notice, and as a sailor I hear from old shipmates and the widows of old shipmates of a great many fearfully hard cases. When pensioners retire, some perhaps lead fairly easy lives, and then when they are called up in war-time, they have to lead hard and strenuous lives. A great many of these elderly pensioners die as a result of the hard service they have to undergo, but when the cases come up before the medical tribunals, it is said that they died a natural death and that their death cannot be attributed to service. That is not the case. I beg my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions to look into this matter and to make some sort of arrangement to ensure that there may be an appeal in such cases.

Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)

It seems to me that hon. Members who have put forward the proposal that there should be pensions appeals tribunals have made out an overwhelming case. I wish to deal with an aspect of the question which, so far, has not been touched upon. A man has the right to appeal to an independent umpire against being taken into the Forces at all. Only on Monday I had a reply from the Ministry of Labour; they appealed to an umpire against the recruitment of a person who had been called up, and the umpire rejected the appeal. That man is in a much more wholesome relationship when he finds out that his case has been fully examined and that he has been called to the war, not by act of the Minister, but by an independent umpire who had considered all the facts of his case. It put me in a much happier position to enable him to have that opportunity. Surely, if it is right for a man to have the right to appeal against the Secretary of State for War and against his recruitment. it is reasonable that there should be a right of appeal against a decision of the Minister of Pensions in a case where a man has been wounded in one of the Services.

There is another consideration. The Minister will say, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) pointed out, that he sometimes has recourse to the advice of independent medical persons. But he does not call in the advice of independent medical persons as a natural course. He only does so if the widow, soldier or serving man has exerted himself against his original decision. In fact, very often it is not until the person concerned has made use of a Member of this House. Normally, the Minister would accept the advice of his own medical advisers. But medical advisers are doing nothing but this sort of work, and they are apt before very long to be guided purely by case decisions and to pile up a whole series of generalisations, of which they themselves become the victims before many years are over. Therefore, a fresh examination of the facts of the case very rarely occurs, unless a man has sufficient influence to bring about such a re-examination.

There is a third point which, although it is selfish, is overwhelming. Are we, as Members of Parliament, to have no protection? If you do not have appeal tribunals every Member of Parliament will become an appeal tribunal. We shall be overwhelmed with work. Already we are having an enormous amount of work to do—I do not know what other hon. Members have found, but my post-bag is already getting very heavy. It is extremely difficult for Members of Parliament with other duties to perform to go through all the facts microscopically in order to present the case to the Minister in an intelligible form. The Minister ought to protect us against that sort of thing. Certainly he ought to protect himself, because, if we are to become pleaders for cases which arise from our constituents, the position of the Minister is bound to become unhealthy. It also raises a question of constitutional procedure. We ought not to be special pleaders for individuals in the House of Commons. We ought to be laying down the machinery of justice instead of becoming special pleaders for this or that man. The Minister, for his own sake and for the sake of his successors, ought not to be put in a position of increasing antagonism towards Members of the House of Commons. All this would be avoided if the Minister would set up these appeal tribunals. The applicant would have recourse to them in the normal course of affairs, and we should be compelled to raise questions only of general principle. For all these reasons, I implore the Minister to establish this machinery now, because, as has been pointed out, the position becomes increasingly accrimonious when we postpone decision. Surely our men serving the country with such courage are entitled not only to have justice, but full justice, done to them.

Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)

I should like to say a few words in support of the proposal. It is quite true, whatever is said at the present time, that we have a Minister who is unusually sympathetic and human. I believe that to be so, and that he is doing his very best to look at these things from the point of view of the unfortunate persons concerned. But that may not always be so, and the standard may not be maintained in future. It is vital that we should not have to depend on the personality of an individual, and it is for that reason that we want some permanent machinery to maintain the same standard of conduct in regard to pensions whoever may be in office.

It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Major Dugdale.]

Mr. Mander

One important point about it is that it would undoubtedly give satisfaction to the pensioners concerned. Whether in fact the difference would be as much as is thought, they would certainly feel happier about it if they had gone to a proper tribunal and a decision had been come to—and it would have to be a final decision. There could not be another appeal after that. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the appeals which have been made to him from all parts of the House, will seriously consider putting machinery of this kind into operation in the near future.

Commander Bower (Cleveland)

I support the proposal very strongly, and I should particularly like to reinforce what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes),because I myself in this war have personal experience of the kind of thing that he referred to, the question of these elderly men who go to sea and do not stand up to the conditions. Last autumn from 9th September onwards I had command of a small ship and spent 32 out of 40 days at sea. When my ship's company joined, I naturally took a look at them to see what kind of fellows they were, and I was horrified to see among them, in view of the small and lively type of ship, that there were several pensioners who did not look extremely fit, and so it proved. After two trips I turned two or three of them out of the ship. I went to the depot and asked for reliefs but they said they had not any. I said I would go without them; I would not take those men to sea again. They replied that they had all been passed fit in the barracks, and I am sure that is true. I put a question to the First Lord asking if large numbers of men, unfit for sea, had been sent to auxiliary vessels. The answer was that that was not the case and that everyone was passed fit. I am sure they were passed, but they were not fit for the job. They are exactly the kind of men who, some weeks or months afterwards, develop a complaint and die of it and are told it is non-attributable, and their widows get no pension.

These cases can be dealt with more sympathetically by an independent tribunal without this desperate bogy of the Treasury behind them. I am convinced that, with the best will in the world, civil servants are always thinking of the Treasury. A tribunal would snap its fingers at the Treasury, and rightly so. I have lately had a similar case in my constituency. A battery sergeant-major, a veteran of the last war, was called up in this war, went to Dunkirk, suffered extreme hardships, behaved very gallantly and got the D.C.M., but a few months later developed a tumour of the kidney, had to be operated on, and died. His widow's case was turned down—non-attributable. It might quite well have been non-attributable. I do not deny that, but it is one of those cases where it might have been attributable which the Minister is bound to turn down, and to which an independent tribunal would give favourable consideration. That is the kind of case for which we want a tribunal. We are not dealing with facts and figures but with personalities, with human flesh and blood and human material. I assure the Minister that we Members of Parliament are willing to shoulder the burden and that we shall not hesitate to worry him about these cases, but without such a tribunal not only Members but the Minister will continue to be worried. I feel sure that after consideration he will give way to the universal demand which comes from all quarters of the House that these tribunals should be set up.

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

Let me first deal with the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) and the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower). They referred to the question of the older men who had been taken into Service and passed as fit. Then something happened to them and the claims for pensions were rejected. Hon. Members will recollect that only a fortnight ago I announced in the House that I had succeeded in getting these cases dealt with on a special basis. I realised that there were many men taken into the Army, Navy or Air Force and passed as Grade A, that is, fit for service, who afterwards came out, some of them with an aggravation of a constitutional disease, and, therefore, entitled to some consideration. I got the matter put right and all the cases that have been mentioned by the two hon. and gallant Members can be dealt with under the new regulation whereby I can count that aggravation as material and bring them within the ambit of the Royal Warrant. No appeal tribunal could do otherwise than come to decisions on all these cases according to the regulations laid down by Parliament. Until that new regulation came into force, no appeal tribunal could have done anything in the cases I have mentioned. I am now dealing with them rapidly and wiping away a large number of cases that might have come before an appeal tribunal.

May I refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), because he put forward three potent reasons why a tribunal should be established. One of them appealed to me very much, and I smiled when he mentioned it because he said it would be of great benefit to me. No one is more alive to that fact than I am. My responsibility is to decide, and that is a great responsibility which I take very seriously, because I realise the effect on morale, if cases are talked about in the constituencies when men have apparently been treated unjustly. I realise that I have a duty to the man who has served his country and to the widow or dependants of those who have given their lives. I would like to have a good deal of that responsibility removed from my shoulders. When my hon. Friend says it would also relieve Members of Parliament of a difficulty, I cross swords with him, because I say that it will not. My experience on a war pensions committee, in the British Legion and as a Member of this House, has shown me that a constituent with a claim to a pension is not always satisfied with an appeal tribunal. He believes that there is a higher court of appeal in the House of Commons. I get many letters from Members who say, "We know that this case has been to an appeal tribunal, but, in spite of that, will you not reopen it?" I have these appeals regularly. One inquires into such points as to whether there has been a severe attack of a particular disease since the tribunal came to its decision, and I take them into careful consideration. It would be a very nice thing indeed if tribunals would remove all these difficulties.

Mr. Bevan

It would not remove them all, but it would minimise them to an extraordinary extent. [Interruption.]

Sir W. Womersley

An hon. Member says that a great deal would depend upon the tribunals. That is so if the tribunals were on the same lines as before, but that is a question with which I have nothing to do. The appointment of the tribunals is in the hands of the Lord Chancellor. I am very much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) for introducing this matter, which has been the subject of much correspondence and of representations from branches of the British Legion and from Members of Parliament. It is rather interesting to have a Debate upon a subject on which we are all agreed, because I am just as much in agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend as regards the necessity for tribunals as any Member of this House. Let me read what I said on 25th June, 1940: 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."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1940; col. 322, Vol. 362.] That is a pledge given not only on behalf of myself but on behalf of the Government, and whoever succeeds me as Minister of Pensions will have to carry that pledge out as and when it is possible to do it. My hon. and gallant Friend anticipated my reply very cleverly and I must pay tribute to him for that. He knows the difficulties that confront me. Let me say once again that I, personally, am definitely in favour of appeal tribunals for the reasons already stated, first, that they give to those who are claiming pensions a feeling that they have had justice done to them, and, secondly, that they would relieve meand Members of Parliament of a good deal of responsibility. Therefore, there is no question in dispute between us, except as to when these tribunals are to be set up. It has already been stated by my hon. and gallant Friend that in the last war they were not set up until 1919, for exactly the same reason as I shall put forward here today, that we have not available the medical men with sufficient experience to deal with these cases. If they were available we should set up the tribunals to-morrow. To do so would be a great relief to me and would, no doubt, give great satisfaction to other people interested.

Mr. de Rothschild (Isle of Ely)

Does not the Minister have the assistance of medical men at the present time?

Sir W. Womersley

Yes, I am coming to that point. My hon. and gallant Friend said that it would require only one or two doctors.

Sir I. Fraser

I said between 6 and 12.

Sir W. Womersley

I have gone very carefully into the matter. First of all I had to take into account the estimate made by people like the Scottish Legion as to what they would require; I had to go round the country and find out. This is what I am told is the minimum that would be necessary: at least two for each region, and that would necessitate the employment of 26 barristers, 26 doctors and about 200 lay staff. In addition to the staff required for the tribunals themselves I should have to have an additional 25 doctors and 200 lay staff to prepare proper précis of the cases to be given to appellants, so that they should have a fair chance to stale their cases, and I should also expect that the appellants would themselves have to employ doctors. I am informed" that at the moment there is a severe shortage of doctors in all the Services, and, indeed, there is a shortage of general practitioners. Only the other day complaint was made in the House that panel patients were not receiving the attention they ought to have on account of the shortage of doctors. That matter is being considered at the present moment. When we get to know a little more about it, and if it is possible to find the people necessary, we can go ahead with the setting-up of tribunals.

On top of that, we have been told by those in authority that we have to husband our man-power in all Government Departments. We have not to employ people who might be usefully employed in other Services. My calculation is that I should want at least another 400 people on my staff properly to prepare for these cases and so that the people applying might have a fair and reasonable chance of presenting their cases.

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

How many cases would there be, that you would require 400 people to deal with them?

Sir W. Womersley

We cannot tell. Applicants may decide to take a chance, even though they have a poor case.

Mr. David Adams (Consett)

Would that 400 include women?

Sir W. Womersley

Not to deal with these cases. I have a number of women on my staff, but they could not deal with these cases, and if the hon. Member came into my Department, he would know the reason why. The hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale referred to the number of cases that had been rejected by the tribunal, but I think he was wrong in his calculation. The proportion of rejected cases admitted by the Tribunal was 9 per cent.

Sir I. Fraser

I was referring to the total entitlement claims.

Sir W. Womersley

The real point a issue is the principle. I can assure hon. Members that I am keeping the point in mind about tribunals and that I am absolutely and wholly in favour of them. A soon as it is practicable, I shall set up those tribunals, and this difficulty will then be at an end.

Sir I. Fraser

While thanking my right hon. Friend very much for his sympathetic speech, may I ask whether it would be possible for him to invite two or three Members of this House to look at has figures?. Some of us feel that he has been wrongly advised about his calculation, and we should like to be satisfied that his claim for 400 extra staff is justified.

Sir W. Womersley

I have a very good Advisory Committee representing all parties, and if there is a question of consultation, I should certainly go to that Committee. I should like briefly to explain what we are doing in the meantime. We are not neglecting the claims of these men simply because it is not possible to set up a tribunal. In the first place, I instituted an independent medical referee. I have nothing to do with this appointment, which is absolutely independent. The nomination is by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians, and I have nothing to do with the way in which the appointment is made. I do not issue instructions to them under any circumstances, or it could be said that they were not perfectly independent. Ninety-odd per cent, of the cases which would go to an appeal tribunal would do so on medical grounds, and we are therefore dealing with a great many of these cases by sending them to an independent medical specialist. There is only one complaint about this. In most cases the decisions of the specialists have been accepted without question, but there has been a grievance because the men say that they were never really examined. But the specialist takes the documentary evidence from my doctors and also from the man's own doctors. In many cases there is no dispute as to what is the matter with the man, and the only question is whether his disability is due to service or not. These cases can be decided on the documentary evidence. I feel, however, that there is a feeling among some people that if they were examined, they would feel better satisfied, so I am issuing instructions. The only difficulty I foresee, if a man is appointed as an independent medical specialist and then instructions are issued to him, is the question as to whether we are not trespassing on his independence. I will put it to the bodies appointing these men that there is a strong feeling that the claimants should be seen by the doctors themselves, but I cannot order them to do it. They have the right to do it now if they wish, but if I begin to interfere with their functions I am immediately removing that independence which we are all so anxious to maintain.

Throughout the country I have what are known as War Pensions Committees. They consist of a chairman, representatives of ex-Service men, of the local authorities, of employers of labour and of trades unions—they are, indeed, very representative bodies. They have many duties to perform, and they willingly give their services voluntarily. Among these duties is one which requires them to inquire into any complaint made with regard to pension matters, to investigate it and report to the Ministry. During the last few weeks I have been travelling around the country, visiting various regions and meeting chairmen of these committees, and we have discussed the matter, because they, like the British Legion and others, felt that the establishment of appeals tribunals would be not only desirable but in the best interests of all concerned. They are willing to assist me to get over our difficulties until it is possible for us to get these tribunals into being. The arrangement I have made with these committees is this: the men— or the widows of men who have been killed—shall go before the committees. They are local committees and will have the benefit of local knowledge, and they will make a full inquiry into the case. I had to tell them that I could not establish them as judicial tribunals, because that would not be right and proper, but I did ask them to investigate these cases in a judicial manner, and report to me. I can assure hon. Members, as I have assured members of these committees, that I shall take great notice of any recommendations they send in. That will help, until such time as we can provide these tribunals, at any rate, to obliterate to a large extent the feeling, which I know exists among these men, that they have not had a fair chance to state their case. Now they will be able to go before people they know and are not afraid of; it will not be like going to a court of law, where some people are not very good at stating their case. They will have a real, fair and square chance to state their case to the committees, and I hope that will help us out of the difficulty until I am in a position to set up proper appeals tribunals.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

The Minister has given us a reply which is characteristic of him. He knows that I have dealt with this matter of appeals on a previous occasion when I associated myself with my hon. Friend the Member, for Llanelly (Mr. J.Griffiths). But in spite of the fact that his reply is disappointing on the main point put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for the Lonsdale Division (Sir I. Fraser), I think we should be cheered to some extent by the fact that the Minister is feeling the pressure brought to bear upon him in respect of this particular aspect of pensions administration. Very definitely, he has moved since the last occasion on which this matter was raised. He is making progress. He himself has indicated that he is in favour of these tribunals being set up. I feel certain that those interested, in every quarter, will continue to exert that pressure in order that the Minister himself may be assisted in carrying out his belief in these tribunals by having them established at the earliest possible moment. The fact of the enormous work which, he indicates, would be required now to deal with these appeals, shows clearly how, to allow tribunals not to be set up until after the war, means an accumulation of a tremendous amount of arrears that could not otherwise be dealt with. I think that is unwise, and certainly continues a feeling of frustration, a feeling of injustice, that is in the minds of many people.

I rose simply because a Scottish voice had not already been raised this evening in pressing this matter, to indicate clearly to the Minister that this grievance is felt in every part of the country which is represented in this House, and to indicate to him that this pressure for something we believe to be absolutely essential will be continued until his desire and our demand are carried out, to have independent tribunals set up.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and