HC Deb 15 April 1943 vol 388 cc1361-4
14. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can give the facts of the case of the boy of 15 years of age named T. J. Reynolds, of Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, who was gassed while fire-watching; and is it intended to compensate the boy's parents for their loss?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

As I explained to the hon. Member in a letter dated 25th March, it has been accepted that this boy's unfortunate death is due to a war service injury and his father's claim to pension falls to be considered under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme. Pensions to parents under this scheme, as to parents of deceased members of the Fighting Services, are dependent on the existence of need broadly interpreted. Mr. Reynolds is not in need at the present time, but he has been advised that his case can be reconsidered on application should his circumstances worsen materially.

15. Mr. Smith

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has now given further consideration to the need for awarding a pension or allowance to all parents who have lost their sons or daughters; and what action does he intend to take?

Sir W. Womersley

I dealt with this question at some length in the Debate in the House on 23rd March, and I see no reason for modifying the views which I then expressed.

18. Mr. Banfield

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will amend the Royal Warrant to enable the widow of a soldier, killed while returning from a 48-hour leave, to receive a pension, in view of the fact that, while the Royal Warrant may permit payment under the circumstances outlined if the soldier had been on regular leave, the 48-hour leave stands on a different footing?

19. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in the case of an accident to a soldier returning from leave, his pension rates are affected by the length or type of leave granted to him?

Sir W. Womersley

I can already accept liability for cases of death due to accidents occurring on the direct journey to or from a member's home when the leave has been granted exceptionally, for example, for compassionate purposes or for short embarkation leave, even though the leave is 48 hours or less. I regret that I am unable to recommend that the State should accept liability for similar accidents where the member has made a journey, whether to his home or elsewhere, whilst on pass or short leave.

Mr. Banfield

Is the Minister aware that these differences seem to the public very difficult to understand? Here is a man killed anywhere in His Majesty's uniform; it seems difficult for the widow to understand how it is that she is not entitled to pension. Will he look into the whole of this matter and see whether there is not a way out?

Sir W. Womersley

I quite agree that it is difficult to understand, and I am giving this matter my most careful consideration. I have introduced, as hon. Members know, many improvements in connection with accidents, and I have still an open mind.

Mr. G. Strauss

Can the Minister say specifically whether, under present conditions, there is any difference between a man on 48 hours' leave and one on seven days' leave in regard to compensation? If there is such a difference, surely he agrees that it is quite indefensible?

Sir W. Womersley

There is no difference in compensation. If pension is granted he gets the same pension as any other Service man. There is a difference, if it is 48 hours' leave or not, as to his title to pension. There is certainly a difference in that matter.

Mr. Shinwell

If going on pass or short leave is part of the regular practice of the Forces, why should there be any distinction?

Sir W. Womersley

It is just when it is not part of the regular practice of the Forces. It is when he is going out of his own volition.

Mr. Walter Edwards

Is the Minister not aware that when a man is on 48 hours' leave, just as when he is on seven days' leave, he is subject to military laws; he has to salute in the street when he is in uniform, and the circumstances are exactly the same?

Sir W. Womersley

I have to bow to my hon. Friend for knowledge of the present war and conditions during that period, and I will not comment on that, but there are other matters to take into consideration. I have already told the hon. Member who put the Question in the first instance that I am considering it.

20. Sir H. Williams

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will give the number of cases in which compensation based on negligence has been denied to claimants who have been awarded payments under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme; and whether, in view of the disparity in the award under the scheme and the value of the case based on negligence, he will consider a review of all such scheme settlements?

Sir W. Womersley

The information in my Department does not enable me to say in how many cases, in which awards have been made under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme, compensation based on negligence could have been claimed but for the operation of Section 3 of the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, and it follows that I am unable to undertake the review of such cases.

Sir H. Williams

Having regard to the fact that under the scheme people are entitled to less in certain cases than they would have received if there had been no scheme, does the Minister think it right to continue to deprive people of their Common Law rights?

Sir W. Womersley

The Government decided at the beginning of the war that they would undertake liability for certain accidents and so forth. It is true they also took away the right of people to sue under Common Law. That is a matter, of course, of primary Government policy, not mine.