HC Deb 11 November 1941 vol 374 cc2022-4
17. Mr. Crowder

asked the Secretary of State for War what objections, other than finance, there exist in the way of treating dependants of serving soldiers in the same way as wives in respect of the Government allowance; and how much such a change would cost the State?

Captain Margesson

The difference between family allowance and dependants' allowance is based on the generally-accepted principle that a man's responsibilities towards his wife and children differ, both in kind and degree, from his responsibilities to other dependants. For this reason, family allowance in respect of a wife and children is regarded as a normal service emolument of a married soldier who fulfils the prescribed conditions. Dependants' allowance, on the other hand, was introduced as a special war-time measure, to meet hardship arising from the inability of a man who has joined the Colours to continue during his service a contribution that he was previously making towards the support of a dependant other than a wife or children. The rate of allowance is, therefore, determined partly by the amount of his contribution in civil life and partly by the circumstances of the dependant during his service.

As regards the second part of the Question, I am afraid that it is not possible to form any reliable estimate of the cost of such a change, as particulars of dependants not covered by the present scheme are not available.

Mr. Crowder

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that the Dominion Governments make the same payments to widowed mothers as to wives? Will he consult with the High Commissioner as to the procedure adopted by the Canadian Government?

Captain Margesson

The Canadian Government make their own arrangement, which are quite different from ours.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister aware that there are shameful cases of neglect and ill-treatment so far as widowed mothers are concerned?

20. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the rules governing the issue of dependants' allowances are being made to conform with the new concession indicated in Paragraph 8 of the Command Paper, whereby the first 4s. of a soldier's pay is ignored when assessing amount of war service grant?

Captain Margesson

My hon. Friend appears to be under a misapprehension. Paragraph 8 of the Command Paper to which I assume he refers does not state that the first 4s. of a soldier's pay shall be ignored for the purpose of assessing the amount of a war service grant, but that, where a man's pay does not exceed 4s. a day, the war service grant will be calculated on the assumption that the family receives only the amount of the qualifying allotment laid down in the case of Army family allowances. The contribution which a soldier is required to make from his pay as a condition of receiving dependants' allowance is in no case more than the allotment assumed by the Ministry of Pensions in assessing a war service grant.

Mr. Bellenger

Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that the concession granted by the Ministry of Pensions in respect of war service grants is more favourable than the rule adopted by the Service Ministries in assessing dependants' allowances?

Captain Margesson

No, Sir; that is not so. In some cases the rules are rather more favourable.

21. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) how many applications for dependants' allowances have been received; and what percentage of these has been rejected in the case of soldiers and women members serving with the Army, respectively; and what is the average rate of allowance paid;

(2) how many dependants' allowances have been granted to unmarried dependants living with soldiers as their wives?

Captain Margesson

Up to 18th October, 1941, 407,556 applications for dependants' allowances had been received. Over the whole period, the percentage of men's claims rejected was 51 per cent., but since April last this figure has fallen to 35 per cent. In more than half the cases where an application was rejected the soldier stated that he did not wish to make an allotment from his pay if the allowance were not granted. The percentage of women's claims rejected was 48 per cent. The average rate of allowance now in payment is 18s. a week. Separate figures are not available for grants of dependants' allowance to unmarried dependants living with soldiers as their wives.