HC Deb 12 February 1942 vol 377 cc1564-7
11. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Pensions why, in view of the Government's admitted liability for a disablement pension to men admitted into the Forces A1, and later discharged on medical grounds, he has refused one to Mr. John Lewis Castle, of Cheltenham, who served in the Army for 27 years, from 1914 to April, 1941, when he was discharged on account of deafness, due to his having been blown up in the last war; and will he arrange for Mr. Castle to be given a disability pension?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

The interpretation to be placed on the words "materially aggravated" which I announced on 3rd July last applied to men passed fit on recruitment or mobilisation for service in the present war. Mr. Castle claims that he was fit on enlistment in 1914 and that his disability, deafness, is due to an incident in 1916. In the case of a claim made so long after the expiry of the statutory time limit for the submission of claims relating to great war service there must, before I can exceptionally deal with the case, be evidence to justify a certificate from my medical advisers that the disability is due to service. There is at present no such evidence, but if Mr. Castle can produce it I shall he happy to look at his case again.

Mr. Lipson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the medical board which recommended his discharge from the Forces said that his disability was 30 per cent. on medical grounds, and that, apparently, has been turned down by his own medical officers, and cannot he re consider that point further?

Sir W. Womersley

I must have evidence of the incident which caused his deafness. Mr. Castle remained in the Army until recently, having done 27 years' service, and he made no complaint whatever during the time he was serving in the Army. The incident took place in 1916. He retired as a quarter-master, which is a very high rank for a warrant officer, on a pension of 36s. 2d. a week.

Mr. Lipson

Is not the Minister aware that this man was discharged on medical grounds and that, therefore, as he had been for 27 years in the Army, there is a very strong presumption that his medical grounds of discharge were caused by his military service; and will he not be a little more generous in his interpretation of this matter?

Sir W. Womersley

I am always generous in my interpretation in any particular case, but I can deal only with what hap pens during the present war. If this happened during peace-time service, it is a matter for the War Office and not for me.

Mr. Rhys Davies

In determining a case of this kind, why does the right hon. Gentleman rely exclusively on medical opinion? Is he not aware that in cases of workmen's compensation medical opinion is only part of the evidence to be determined by a body of laymen?

Sir W. Womersley

I have already announced that I want the applicant him self to furnish me with particulars of the incident that caused his deafness, and it has not been furnished. I am not depending solely upon medical opinion, but I want evidence from the roan himself. Surely, it is reasonable to ask for that, and I have informed the hon. Member that if evidence is furnished I will go into the case again.

Mr. Stephen

Can the Minister say whether, if there is some conflicting evidence, it is the practice of the Ministry always to give the benefit of the doubt to the applicant?

Sir W. Womersley

There is no evidence on which to decide whether there is disablement or not. I have not had the evidence. The case has merely been brought to my notice by the hon. Member.

Mr. Stephen

May I ask—

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Stephen

Mr. Speaker, this is very important—

Mr. Speaker

We really must get on with the Questions.

12. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will give further consideration to the cases of widows who have each received the maximum compensation of £600 arising from the death of their husbands through explosion at a Government factory; whether he is aware that the contrast of this, with much larger amounts, given in lump sum or in pension to widows whose husbands were employed by private employers, or were in National Health Insurance or were on active service with the Forces, creates a sense of grievance; and whether steps will be taken to remedy this unequal treatment?

Sir W. Womersley

The hon. Member presumably has in mind compensation payable under the Workmen's Compensation Acts or schemes made thereunder. Such payments are not within the provisions of the Service warrants or civilian schemes for which I am responsible but are matters for the employing Department concerned.

Mr. Sorensen

Can the right hon. Gentleman say to which Department I should address the Question?

Sir W. Womersley

If the hon. Member will have a word with me, I think I shall be able to put him on the right lines.

14. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Pensions what is the average rate of allowance granted under the War Service Grants Scheme; and in how many cases has the maximum grant of £3 been paid?

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

On completion of the recent review of existing cases it was found that the average grant in such cases was 15s. a week. As regards new applications since received, Command Paper 6318 has enabled an award to be made in a large number of cases which previously it would have been necessary to reject. One result of this, however, has been that the average amount of the award in new cases has declined and at the end of January last it was just over 12s. a week. The number of cases in which the maximum grant is in payment is about 400.

Mr. Bellenger

Does not that answer indicate that the benefits which we were told would flow from this new scheme have not come up to expectations?

Mr. Paling

It does not indicate any thing of the kind. As a matter of fact, benefits have flowed very generously.