HC Deb 06 August 1942 vol 382 cc1171-3
31. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Minister of Pensions why a pension was refused to William Nixon, of Hawthorn, County Durham, an ex-naval rating, aged 23 years, who joined the Navy when 17 years of age, served four years and 10 months, has taken part in several actions, was mentioned in dispatches for having handled an unexploded bomb, who developed a swelling in the thigh as a result of which his leg has been amputated; and whether he is aware that this young man's only means is 11s. 9d. from Health Insurance?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

I am empowered to award a pension only in respect of a disability which is certified to be directly attributable to or materially aggravated by war service. As I informed the hon. Member in my letter of 28th July, I am medically advised that Mr. Nixon's disability is of constitutional origin and that it cannot be regarded as having been in any way influenced by such service.

Mr. Shinwell

How does the right hon. Gentleman justify that statement in view of the fact that this young man served nearly five years in the Navy and during that period no evidence of disability due to constitutional origin emerged, and in view of his service and the commendation of his effort in particular actions; and in view of the strong public feeling in my constituency, will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision?

Sir W. Womersley

I am quite prepared to submit this to an independent specialist to remove, any doubt on the question whether the disability is attributable to or aggravated by service, and I shall be very glad to discuss the matter with the hon. Gentleman after Questions.

Mr. Shinwell

I am grateful for that concession—it is something. Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this young man is now compelled to live on 11s. 9d. a week, health insurance, and is a burden on his parents? That is a most invidious position.

Sir W. Womersley

I realise the difficult position that he is placed in, but I am bound to act according to the instrument passed and agreed to by the House. I am very wishful to help the man, and that is why I want a discussion with the hon. Gentleman after Questions.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it is about time Service Ministers looked after the interests of serving men instead of always passing the buck to him?

33. Major Lyons

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is prepared to reconsider the case of Mr. Sutton, of Belgrave Avenue, Leicester; and, in view of the fact that he was enlisted in medical category A1 in October, 1939, and discharged in October, 1941, as permanently medically unfit, why is responsibility repudiated and no pension awarded?

Sir W. Womersley

The fact that a man is placed in medical category Grade I on enlistment and is subsequently discharged as medically unfit does not of itself give title to pension: it must be certified that the disability which led to discharge was directly attributable to or materially aggravated by service. While I am able to regard any certified degree of aggravation as being "material" in a case where the man was Grade I on enlistment, I am unable to accept Mr. Sutton's case on this ground since I am advised that service played no part in producing his present condition.

Major Lyons

In view of the fact that for two years this man served as A1 and that there was no evidence of any previous disability during that period, is the Minister going to repudiate all responsibility and say that this must be a case where public assistance and not the State should render help?

Sir W. Womersley

I shall be glad if my hon. and gallant Friend will go through the papers of this case. He will then know what the man is suffering from.

Major Lyons

While reserving my rights in the matter, I shall be glad to do so. May I ask, however, whether it is not about time the Minister initiated some alteration whereby the onus of proof is removed from the unfortunate soldier to the State which should prove that his condition was not the result of service? The State has the facilities and the man has not.

Sir W. Womersley

I am prepared to accept that suggestion now. It is up to my Department to make the proof and I am prepared to show my hon. and gallant Friend the papers.

Mr. Mathers

Can I put a Question?

Mr. Speaker

If there are so many Supplementary Questions, we shall never get on at all.

34. Mr. Barr

asked the Minister of Pensions how many pension cases have been submitted to the panel of independent medical specialists since the declaration of war; and with what result?

Sir W. Womersley

One hundred and twenty-seven cases have been so referred, of which 46 were recommended for admission to pension.

38. Mr. William Brown

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is prepared, in view of the substantial increase in the cost of living, to revise the pensions of ex-service pensioners of the last war?

Sir W. Womersley

The rates of pension laid down in the Royal Warrant of the 6th December, 1919, for disablement due to service in the Great War were based on a cost-of-living figure higher than that prevailing to-day. The hon. Member may be assured that the conditions under which those pension rates may be raised, as laid down in that Royal Warrant, are kept constantly in mind, but those conditions are not so far fulfilled.

Mr. John Dugdale

Will the Minister also consider the small number of men whose pensions were fixed before the last war?

Sir W. Womersley

They are provided for.