18. Miss Ward
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it is still the policy of his Department to utilise the services of naval officers at a lower rank than they had reached; and, if so, whether, on their losing their lives, the pension payable to their dependants is at the rate applicable to the rank of their service at the time of death?
It is necessary in a number of cases to make use of the services of naval officers in a rank lower than that which they have previously attained. The general rules governing the award of pensions to the dependants of officers of the Fighting Services who lose their lives as the result of service during the present war were given in the reply which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) on 17th February.
In view of the fact that my Question is right, might I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that the country, through the Admiralty, are treating very gallant gentlemen very shabbily? Will he please reconsider the 630 position, and fight for the men who are taking lower rank and going out on convoys?
I should not like the impression created by my hon. Friend's Question to go forth, as it would not be fair to the Admiralty, because this is a matter to be settled by the Ministry of Pensions and must have regard to the needs of all the Fighting Services. We must get equality of treatment. The Admiralty have made representations in the proper quarter.
May I take it that the pensionable rank is the rank held by a man at the time he retired? Did my right hon. Friend make those representations to the Ministry of Pensions?
The proper representations have been made. In the type of case my hon. Friend has in mind, the overriding consideration is that the widow of an officer who died in such circumstances, while occupying a lower rank than his substantive rank, as was stated in the answer given on 17th February, does not lose the payment for his substantive rank. We pay the higher pension only where the officer is occupying a higher substantive war rank.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes
Is not this a matter for the Admiralty to fight the Treasury over? When I was a Lord of the Admiralty, we never hesitated to fight the Treasury.
I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend, from his long Service experience, and knowing the Admiralty, knows that we, too, fight, and fight hard, for the proper treatment of our officers. In this case we also have to remember that we cannot get exceptional treatment for one Service. It would have to be done for all the Services; and that is a matter for the Government.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby
In view of the importance of this question, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter, having regard to the fact that a large number of officers who have retired and have then taken lower rank have lost their lives doing convoy service, and that no comparable work is done by the other Services?
I wish to assure Members that we have been anxious about the position and have made the appropriate representations to the Ministry of Pensions.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
Do naval pensions come under the Ministry of Pensions? I have never heard that before.
The pensions due for ordinary service, which are part of the officers' contract of service, are regular-scale pensions, but the special arrangement for war service pensions is the same for the Navy as for other Services, and is governed by the Ministry of Pensions.