HC Deb 23 March 1943 vol 387 cc1477-9
Mr. Arthur Greenwood

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Pensions whether he can give the House any information in regard to the setting-up of pensions appeal tribunals?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

The Government have promised to set up tribunals as soon as practicable. As the House knows, I have appointed a Sub-Committee of my Central Advisory Committee to explore this problem. The House will not expect me to anticipate the Sub-Committee's report, which they will make in due course to the main Committee, but, briefly, the position at the moment is as follows.

Thanks to the British Medical Association we now have a list of doctors who are willing to serve either on tribunals or on tribunal work in the Ministry. The Lord Chancellor is responsible for tribunal appointments, but it is clearly desirable that my Sub-Committee should undertake a general review of this list, not with the object of expressing any views on the suitability of a particular individual, but to satisfy itself generally that sufficient doctors of suitable experience can be regarded as available without serious effect on other essential war services.

In this connection I am very glad to have the valuable help of Lord Horder. He and my own senior medical officers will carefully review the list and give their general opinion on the point of view to which I have referred. I shall then call a further meeting of the Sub-Committee to consider results in the light of the considered opinion of Lord Horder and his colleagues. If the Sub-Committee report in favour of the early establishment of tribunals as a practical matter, and the main Committee support their view, the Government will review the whole problem in the light of its recommendations.

I am as anxious as hon. Members that there should be tribunals and the House may be assured that, when the Government decide that they can be set up, no time will be lost in giving practical effect to this decision.

Mr. Bellenger

The House will be aware that we are to discuss the subject of the Ministry of Pensions to-day. Might I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it will be in order to refer, not in detail but generally, to the subject which the Minister has just introduced to the House?

Mr. Speaker

Most certainly it will. I allowed that Private Notice Question to be put because I thought it would help hon. Members in the Debate.

Mr. McGovern

Is it usual, and necessary, to have a Private Notice Question when a Debate is about to be initiated which will give the Minister an opportunity of making a statement on the subject?

Mr. Speaker

I accepted the Private Notice Question because I thought it would help hon. Members in the Debate.

Earl Winterton

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the pending report of this Sub-committee. In view of the long period which has elapsed since it was first announced that the Committee was appointed, will he give us a date upon which the Committee will report, and also say how long after that it will take for the Government to come to a final decision?

Sir W. Womersley

When we consulted the British Medical Association they asked for a certain time to circulate their associations throughout the country, and my Sub-committee agreed to give them that time. That is the reason for the delay. It is not the fault of my Subcommittee or of myself. I hope to make an announcement very shortly but I think my Noble Friend will agree that a list such as this must be carefully scrutinised.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Are we to take it that when the tribunals are set up all cases which have arisen since the commencement of this war will be dealt with by the tribunals?

Sir W. Womersley

Yes, Sir.

Mr. A. Bevan

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that as things are at the moment it is Members of Parliament who are the appeal tribunals? There is a large accumulation of cases, which will constitute a bottle-neck unless the right hon. Gentleman gets the tribunals working speedily.

Sir W. Womersley

I quite agree that Members of Parliament are dealing with such cases at present. I do not think that Members of Parliament want that privilege taken away from them, even if the tribunals are set up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I understand that Members of Parliament want to help their constituents. I hope that they will approach me in just the same way when the tribunals are set up.