HC Deb 01 May 1941 vol 371 cc543-6
14. Sir Smedley Crooke

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can now supplement his announcement on 16th October last, regarding certain improvements that may be effected in the rate of assessments for specific injuries, as a result of the recommendations of the committee of experts who were then reviewing the matter?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

I am glad to be able to say that it has been possible to make many improvements in the scale of assessments for specific injuries normally applicable to casualties in the present war. In the main, the new assessments correspond closely to the 1919 Warrant.

16. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Minister of Pensions what steps he has taken to extend to the dependants of the Armed Forces who are in receipt of allowances from the Military Service Allowance Committee under Form 21, the application of the modified terms of the Determination of Needs Act; and is the principle being put into operation for all fresh applicants immediately?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions (Mr. Paling)

It has been decided that the principle embodied in the Act shall be adopted in deciding applications for war service grants. The detailed instructions necessary for the purpose are in course of preparation, and will become operative shortly, both for fresh applications, and for cases already in receipt of a grant.

Mr. Dobbie

Can the Minister inform us at what date the instructions will operate?

Mr. Paling

I do not think it is possible to say that at the moment.

17. Mr. Dobbie

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is yet in a position to give an answer to the application for a pension by Mrs. Guttridge, of Rotherham, whose husband was a full-time paid air-raid warden, who was killed at his post as he was preparing to sign for duty, and whose death was caused by a first-aid service vehicle, the details of which the Minister has had forwarded to him?

Sir W. Womersley

I have carefully considered the case to which the hon. Member refers. Mr. Guttridge was not killed at his post, but was in fact run over in the street at about 10 minutes to 10 in the evening while on his way to report for his turn of duty, which began at 10 o'clock. There was no special emergency such as an alert, and there is no evidence that he was doing warden's work of any kind while on his way to the post. In these circumstances it is not possible for me to certify that his injuries arose in the course of his performance of his duties as a warden.

Mr. Dobbie

In view of the fact that this warden was killed within 20 yards of his post, that he was killed by a Service vehicle, and that he was dressed for duty and was proceeding to sign for duty, will the Minister not again consider this case, and does he not understand that it is causing tremendous dissatisfaction?

Sir W. Womersley

We are always getting this tremendous dissatisfaction.

Mr. Dobbie

But it is true.

Sir W. Womersley

It is just sheer nonsense. This scheme was drafted, in consultation with the Trades Union Congress and the Employers' Federation, on the distinct understanding that it should coincide as far as possible with workmen's compensation law. I am advised, by eminent legal authorities on workmen's compensation law, that this man would have no case whatever for a claim under workmen's compensation. That is the reason why I have had to refuse it.

Mr. Shinwell

Surely the matter might be reconsidered? It may well be that when this scheme was devised those responsible did not envisage a case of this kind. Will not the Minister undertake to reconsider the matter?

Sir W. Womersley

There is no doubt that there are certain advantages accruing to the claimant because we observed workmen's compensation practices, but you cannot have it both ways. I will certainly go into this matter again and consult with those whom I consulted before I drafted the scheme, but I cannot make a scheme, which Parliament approved, and then break it.

Mr. Shinwell

Do I understand the Minister to say that he will look at the matter again, and will he keep this particular case in mind?

Sir W. Womersley


Mr. James Griffiths

The Minister has cited precedents under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, but does he not recognise that the Minister, not the employer, decides the matter?

Sir W. Womersley

I am not the employer of this man. I am in just the same position as those who decide on workmen's compensation, and I have to decide between the two parties concerned.

Mr. Dobbie

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the Answer, I give notice that I will raise this question on the Adjournment.

Sir W. Womersley

Thank you. I shall "be much obliged.

18. Mr. Mort

asked the Minister of Pensions whether the funeral allowance of £ 7 10s. recently made under the Personal Injuries Act to relatives of persons killed by enemy action will be applied to all such cases retrospectively?

Sir W. Womersley

Funeral Allowances under Article 20 of the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme, 1941, recently issued, may be granted in respect of funerals which took place on or after December 24, 1940, but after full consideration the Government decided that they could not adopt any earlier date.

Mr. Mort

I should like to appeal to the Minister also to reconsider this question. There are very grave cases, particularly in my own constituency, of difference in treatment between families where circumstances are similar. Why not extend the concession to the beginning of the blitz era?

Sir W. Womersley

The hon. Member is surely aware of the fact that local authorities have power to bury any air-raid victim by granting a State funeral. A grant is made for that purpose and has been available all the time from the Treasury. When the question arose whether these people should be able to make their own funeral arrangements, I felt it was a very reasonable view, and I succeeded in getting these grants allowed, but I cannot hold out any hope of making the scheme retrospective.

Mr. R. Gibson

What is the principle on which the Minister has fixed the date?

Sir W. Womersley

It is the date fixed by the Government, not by the Minister.

Mr. Gibson

But on what principle has it been fixed?

15. Mr. Price

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can state more precisely the circumstances in which compensation can be granted to persons suffering injuries from enemy action whilst participating in air-raid precautions work in connection with livestock; and whether veterinary surgeons, animal students or other persons proceeding to farms to deal with injured livestock are covered in this connection?

Sir W. Womersley

Compensation may be awarded at one or other of the rates laid down in the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme to all persons who suffer war injuries. The types of persons mentioned in the Question are in this respect no different from similar members of the civilian population.