HC Deb 09 March 1944 vol 397 cc2168-70
6. Mr. Tom Brown

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will reconsider his decision on the question of granting a flat rate war pension to all parents, irrespective of means, who have had the misfortune to lose either sons or daughters in this war, in view of the growing dissatisfaction now being expressed throughout the country in the delay in dealing with this important question.

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

I cannot accept the implication in the second part of the Question. The Government's decision on this matter was announced by the then Lord President of the Council in the course of the Debate on war pensions on 20th July, 1943, when he confirmed previous decisions of the Government against the automatic award of parents' pensions irrespective of their circumstances or of need. I can find no grounds on which to recommend that these decisions should be altered.

Mr. Brown

Is the Minister aware that there is a rising tide of public opinion, which wants to see this injustice and inequity swept away once and for all? Is he further aware that parents are demanding justice for the loss of their sons and daughters?

Sir W. Womersley

I am aware that that is so in a corner of Lancashire. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, I am watching this. It is not at all widespread and where the true position is put to the people, they have approved the Government's action.

Mr. John Duģdale

Is the Minister aware that when I raised this question some time ago, I had letters not from one corner of Lancashire, but from every part of the country?

Sir W. Womersley

I have no doubt that when it comes to a question of people getting money, the hon. Member could get letters from anywhere.

8. Mr. Quintin Hoģ ģ

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is prepared to take power to make compassionate grants in cases where serving officers and men have died of cancer leaving dependants destitute and not qualified for a pension.

Sir W. Womersley

I should not feel justified in selecting one particular type of case for different treatment from others in which death is not due to service.

Mr. Hoģ ģ

Will my right hon. Friend study the systems in force in America, and in some of the Dominions, whereby this difficulty is avoided and the life of the Service man is insured?

Sir W. Womersley

In those countries there is no system of social services such as we have here. The majority of these widows come under the Contributory Pensions Scheme. In the case of widows of the rank and file, they come in under the provisions laid down in the White Paper of last July.

Mr. Hoģ ģ

But is not the position of the officer completely unsafeguarded by any of the observations my right hon. Friend has just made? Why should the officer be penalised in comparison with somebody else?

Sir W. Womersley

The ranker officer who has qualified for contributory pension benefits could continue as a voluntary contributor after he was commissioned and, therefore, could make provision.

Sir W. Smithers

Is it not a fact that the incidence of cancer is much harder to diagnose than any other disease and—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is giving information and not asking for it.

12. Mr. Loverseed

asked the Minister of Pensions whether in the case of a man discharged from the Army partially disabled but unfit to work for a period of time, he will consider supplementing the pension paid to the rate payable for a totally disabled man for the period until the man is fit to commence work?

Sir W. Womersley

The adoption of the hon. Member's suggestion would involve a departure from the principle that pension in respect of war disablement shall be assessed by reference to the degree of disablement and not to earning capacity. If a man who is unable to work fulfils the statutory conditions, he receives in addition to his partial disablement pension the appropriate sickness or disablement benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts. Where treatment is required for the pensioned disability and such treatment precludes the man from working, treatment allowances equivalent to 100 per cent. pension are payable, together with family allowances.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the Minister aware that where a man is in receipt of a small pension from his Department, plus National Health Insurance benefit, the total amount is not sufficient to enable him to maintain his family and that in some cases men in these circumstances have had to apply to public assistance committees? Is that desirable?

Sir W. Womersley

No, it is not desirable but it is not happening. I am looking into all these cases and trying to trace to bed-rock these allegations about men having to go to the poor law. I am dealing with these cases fairly and squarely.

Mr. Shinwell

Why does the Minister say it is not happening when it has happened? I have sent him a case of that kind, of a man who served four years in the Middle East who is now receiving a small pension and has had to go to a public assistance committee.

Sir W. Womersley

It is not because of the man's disability. I am investigating the hon. Member's allegation.