HC Deb 27 November 1941 vol 376 cc873-6
34. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Pensions whether the War Service Grants Scheme includes persons other than members of the Armed Forces and their dependants; and, if so, how far its operations extend?

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

Men called up for Civil Defence under the National Service Act, 1941, and men posted to employment with a County War Agricultural Executive Committee on or after 1st June, 1941, may apply for a war service grant if, as a result of being called up or of taking such agricultural employment, they are unable to meet their financial obligations.

Mr. Bellenger

Is the scheme limited to those two particular classes? If so, why?

Mr. Paling

It is limited to the two particular classes at present.

Mr. Collindridge

Is it intended to be offered to the dependants of those who lose their lives during the war?

Mr. Paling

Not necessarily.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

Will the Minister do something to ensure that the grants when made are adequate?

Mr. Paling

We are trying to ensure that they are.

35. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is yet in a position to announce the results of his reconsideration of the case of serving men who die while on service or are invalided out of the Service on account of illness or disease, declared to be non-attributable to service?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

I presume that the hon. Member has in mind the announcement which I made on 3rd July in answer to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner), although the scope of that announcement differed somewhat from that implied in the present Question. Awards have been made in a considerable number of cases which have been submitted for review in the light of the revised ruling to which I then referred.

Mr. Stewart

Is the Minister aware of the antagonism that exists throughout British Legion circles respecting the rates to dependants of men who are killed or who die, and that real distress is caused in the country? What answer does he propose to give to these people?

Sir W. Womersley

My hon. Friend is well out of date. I have been in constant communication with the British Legion on this question, and there is not that widespread distress prevailing now. So far, I have been able to deal with 69 per cent. of the cases and to give an award.

36. Mr. Stewart

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is yet in a position to announce the result of his reconsideration of the case of serving men who are killed or injured by an accident while not actually on duty?

Sir W. Womersley

I have had this subject under close consideration and I hope to discuss certain proposals with my Central Advisory Committee at our next meeting.

37. Mr. Mathers

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has any funds at his disposal to meet the needs of the wives and other dependants of members of the Fighting Forces who lose their lives on service, thus causing serious cuts in family incomes; and how applications for such funds should be made?

Sir W. Womersley

Provision for widows, children, and other necessitous dependants of members of the Fighting Forces who lose their lives as a result of war service is made by means of pension or allowance from State funds and education allowances for the children may also be paid in certain circumstances. Apart from the continuing provision thus made by the State, I have at my disposal a small voluntary fund—the King's Fund—from which occasional help can be given to relieve temporary distress or need. Applications for grants of this nature can be made either to the Regional Office of the Ministry or direct to the Ministry Headquarters.

Mr. Mathers

Is the Minister aware that, in the light of the new allowances paid to wives, the hardship referred to in the Question is one that cannot adequately be covered by such means, and will he take into account the possibility of making better arrangements immediately, in view of the undoubted hardship which falls upon widows because they receive lower allowances than are granted to wives?

Sir W. Womersley

Where any case of hardship is brought to my notice, I go into the matter very carefully and render all the assistance I can. I am glad to say that not only have I this Fund to draw upon, but many other funds, such as the British Legion and other benevolent institutions which assist me in these matters. The hon. Member must bear in mind that a pension is an annuity, whereas the allowance made to the wife of a serving soldier is only a temporary allowance for the period during which he serves.

Mr. Bellenger

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that this matter is not one for charity, but is rather a direct obligation of the State, and will he give further consideration to the matter?

Sir W. Womersley

The hon. Gentleman does not quite grasp the position. These are not charitable grants in the sense in which the term is generally used. Money has been subscribed by a generous public for a special purpose. To use it for that purpose surely cannot be described as charity in the ordinary sense of the word.

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