HC Deb 01 July 1943 vol 390 cc1767-72
31. Mr. Summers

asked the Minister of Pensions on what grounds he has refused a pension to the widow of a soldier, whose name has been given to him, who died in the Middle East suffering from head injuries, and whose death was stated to be in the service of his country?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womeirsley)

As the injuries sustained by the soldier in question were the result of a traffic accident which occurred whilst he was not on duty, I regret that under present arrangements I cannot award his widow a pension. As, however, the hon. Member will be aware, I am shortly to make a statement to the House on pension matters generally, including accidents to members of the Forces while they are not on duty, but he will appreciate that I cannot anticipate any decision which may be reached on this question.

Mr. Summers

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the information he has just been good enough to provide is considerably more informative than that sent to the next of kin? Will he consult with his colleagues with a view to adopting a form of notification of death to be sent to the next of kin so as to convey as much information as possible?

32. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that voluntary subscriptions by colliers and other workers for their comrades serving with the Armed Forces are taken into assessment when considering war service grants; and whether instructions can be issued to ignore such items of household income?

Sir W. Womersley

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley) on 23rd June last, of which I am sending him a copy.

Mr. Bellenger

As that reply, which I have not seen, was probably unsatisfactory, may I ask whether these contributions by workmates to their colleagues in the Services are not in the nature of a voluntary whip round and whether he will not totally ignore such contributions?

Sir W. Womersley

My Department has to make up the deficiency in the income of the household. That is our duty and we must take into consideration what the income is. If it is just an occasional gift of money or kind we should, not take it into consideration, but if it is a regular income it must be taken into consideration.

Mr. Bellenger

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that what he is doing is to throw some of his responsibility on to the voluntary efforts of these workers?

Sir W. Womersley

I do not agree.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the effect of the decision is that where these men previously contributed they are now ceasing to do so?

Sir W. Womersley

We make up the deficiency anyhow.

Major Lyons

Is the Department really bound to treat as income voluntary and friendly gifts of this nature? Is it not all very mean?

Sir W. Womersley

There is a good deal more in it than that.

Mr. Sorensen

Does it not also impinge on the whole question of Easter offerings?

33. Mr. A. Edwards

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can give an estimate of how much money would have been involved over and above the payments already made for pensions and dependants allowances had all claims been met since the beginning of the present war?

Sir W. Womersley

I regret that the records of my Department do not enable me to furnish the hon. Member with the information desired.

35. Captain Gammans

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is prepared to reconsider his decision that the death of Mr. L. E. Sunderland, of 17, Church Crescent, Muswell Hill, N.10, a Civil Defence worker, was not due to the injury which he received on duty, in view of the verdict of the coroner for the county of Middlesex that death was accelerated by a fracture of the spine sustained by a fall from an upper bunk at an air-raid precautions post; and whether coroners' verdicts are considered in deciding the eligibility for a pension?

Sir W. Womersley

As I have already informed the hon. and gallant Member, the case of Mr. Sunderland has been thoroughly investigated. All the evidence, including the report of the coroner's inquest, has been considered by my principal medical advisers who, however, are unable to certify that Mr. Sunderland's death at the age of 68 from a prostatic affection, common amongst elderly men, was accelerated by the injury which he sustained some three months before, and after which he was able to continue at duty.

Captain Gammans

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the strength of feeling that must be aroused among Civil Defence workers when his Department overrides the verdict of a coroner's inquest after it has heard expert medical evidence, and is he prepared to reconsider the case?

Sir W. Womersley

We have to take all medical evidence into account, including the findings of the coroner's inquest, and in a case like this, where there can be no possible connection between the disease from which the man died and any injuries he received, we are bound to find against a claim.

Captain Gammans

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

36. Captain Gammans

asked the Minister of Pensions on what grounds the denial of the right of a pension to the unmarried dependant of a member of the Civil Defence services, who may have been killed or may die as a result of Civil Defence duties, is justified, as such a dependant of a member of the fighting forces is eligible under certain circumstances for a pension; and whether he is prepared to promote the necessary legislation to remove this anomaly?

Sir W. Womersley

This is a matter which is included in the general review of the provisions of the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme which I have undertaken and which is still under consideration.

37. Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he proposes to continue the discrimination between accidental death occurring on 48 hours' leave and seven days leave, respectively, when deciding whether a widow's pension is admissible?

Sir W. Womersley

This is one of the matters upon which I hope to make an announcement at an early date.

Sir T. Moore

Will my right hon. friend bear in mind that there is no sense or logic in making this discrimination?

Mr. Bowles

The right hon. Gentleman has made three or four references to the statement he is going to make in the near future. Is that intended to initiate a Debate, or is it merely to explain the provisions of a new Royal Warrant?

Sir W. Womersley

I understand that arrangements are being made through the usual channels to have a full Debate on my statement.

38. Mr. Mander

asked the Minister of Pensions approximately the additional annual cost that would be involved at the present time if rue onus of proof as regards eligibility for pension in the case of ex-Service personnel, enlisted as Grade I was shifted on to the State and the assumption adopted that such a person was entitled unless the contrary is proved?

Sir W. Womersley

I regret that I am not in a position to give the information asked for by the hon. Member.

Mr. Mander

Can my right hon. friend at any rate say whether the amount would be substantial?

Sir W. Womersley

I cannot give any information at all.

39. Mr. E. P. Smith

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will give an assurance that the absence of any Service medical tests or any recorded medical history will not prejudice the interests of any Home Guard who may have occasion to apply for a disability pension?

Sir W. Womersley

Yes, Sir.

40. Mr. Turton

asked the Minister of Pensions whether copies of A.F.B.117 and of proceedings of courts of inquiry into accidents or diseases suffered by members of the military forces are made available to claimants for war pensions on the ground of such accidents or diseases?

Sir W. Womersley

If a member of the Forces is discharged on medical grounds his case, with all the relevant documents, is referred automatically to my Department for consideration and no formal claim has to be submitted by the individual concerned. When the Pensions Appeal Tribunal Bill now before the House becomes law a dissatisfied ex-member of the Forces will have the right of appeal to an independent Tribunal and, if he exercises this right, he will be supplied with a statement of the facts relating to his case. The form of the statement and what documents should go with it is a matter for consideration and may be dealt with by the Rules to be made by the Lord Chancellor under the Bill now before the House.

Mr. Turton

As these documents contain the history of the accident that occurred in the Service, will my right hon. Friend see that claimants receive copies of them?

Sir W. Womersley

I notice that the hon. Member has an Amendment to the Bill, and perhaps he will await the discussion on it.

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