HC Deb 19 February 1942 vol 377 cc1887-9
26. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Pensions how many of the 127,000 applications for war service grants made since the new scheme was announced have been rejected?

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

The number is approximately 30,000.

27. Mr. Hewlett

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will consider amending the War Pensions and Detention Allowances (Mercantile Marine) Scheme so that merchant seamen can benefit or their dependants can receive pensions in the event of such seamen contracting disease such as dysentery, diphtheria, etc., and so bring the scheme into line with those governing the service of men in the Army, Navy or Air Force?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

The Pensions (Navy, Army, Air Force and Mercantile Marine) Act, 1939, under which the War Pensions and Detention Allowances (Mercantile Marine, etc.) Scheme is made, authorises awards of pension to merchant mariners and their dependants in cases of disablement or death directly attributable to war injury or to detention sustained by reason of service in British ships. I should not feel justified in proposing an extension of the Act to cover cases of disease contracted in the normal course of the seaman's calling.

28. Major Milner

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will publish a comparative table showing the pensions paid following the last war and those paid in the present war?

Sir W. Womersley

In view of the very large number of figures required for a complete table, I should not feel justified in present circumstances in devoting the necessary time and labour to compiling it, but I may explain that a White Paper, giving the new present war rates of pension, will be published within the next few days, and that the corresponding rates for the last war are contained in the Great War Royal Warrants, etc.

Major Milner

Would it not clearly be a great convenience if in a few selected cases, at any rate, soldiers of the lowest rank, for example, 100 per cent. disability pension was given as it was after the last war and as it is to-day, and similarly with widows? Could not the right hon. Gentleman give half-a-dozen selected cases of that sort?

Sir W. Womersley

I hope to have the White Paper in the Vote Office next week. It contains a complete list of the new rates of pension for every rank in the Army, Navy and Air Force. I will take into consideration the suggestion about publishing examples.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think a comparison will be worthless unless he publishes figures as well as to the cost of living at the two dates?

Sir W. Womersley

I quite agree, and I shall be prepared to give them.

29. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Pensions why a former pilot-officer, of whose name he has been informed, who fought in the Battle of Britain and has since been discharged on medical grounds, has been told that he cannot be informed of the medical reasons for discharge?

Sir W. Womersley

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the papers which relate to this case. I will, however, look into it and communicate with the hon. Member as soon as possible.

Mr. Lipson

Is it not the usual practice to inform the applicant of the nature of the disability?

Sir W. Womersley

It is the usual practice, but in this case I understand he was asking for papers.

30. Mr. Hannah

asked the Minister of Pensions whether a man passed into the Army A1 who subsequently breaks down in health and is discharged, is automatically entitled to his pension?

Sir W. Womersley

No, Sir; the disability must be certified by my medical advisers to be either directly attributable to service or to be, and remain, aggravated to a material extent thereby. As I stated in answer to a Question by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) on 3rd July, where, in the case of a man definitely passed as fit on recruitment or mobilisation for war service, effective service is found to have caused a degree of aggravation in a previously existing condition, the fact of discharge resulting from that condition would justify me in regarding the aggravation as material and thus bringing the case within the scope of the Royal Warrant. There are, however, some cases in which it is not possible to certify that service has caused any worsening.

Mr. Hannah

Are not doubtful cases very apt to be decided against the soldier?

Sir W. Womersley

No, Sir. I can say this emphatically. Where there is a doubt, we give the benefit of the doubt to the applicant.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this is a clear case where an appeal tribunal would give great satisfaction?

Mr. Messer

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered, what many Members have asked for, the setting-up of an independent medical tribunal to which these men can apply?

Sir W. Womersley

There is already an appeal to an independent medical referee nominated by the Presidents of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. That has worked very satisfactorily up to now. In reply to the first supplementary question, the fact that of the cases reviewed after I made the announcement regarding this concession over 70 per cent. have been accepted is some evidence that the benefit of the doubt is given.