HC Deb 08 February 1945 vol 407 cc2204-6
19. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser

asked the Minister of Pensions how much delay there is between the date when an ex-Serviceman or woman makes application for an appeal and the time when it is heard by the appeal tribunal.

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

It is not practicable in present circumstances to arrange for appeals to be dealt with as expeditiously as would be wished, but every endeavour is made to deal quickly with those cases in which an early decision is specially desirable. As my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, when I introduced the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Bill I indicated that nine tribunals would be set up: by the end of this month 17 will be sitting and from this it will be seen that it has been found possible to deal with a considerably greater number of cases than was originally contemplated.

Sir I. Fraser

Is the Minister aware that the Chairman of the British Legion stated recently that the delay was sometimes between nine and eleven months? When a man comes out of the Service disabled or ill if it is to take nearly a year before the whole of his life can be settled, that must constitute a very great hardship.

Sir W. Womersley

I am aware that that statement has been made. I am not able to confirm it or deny it. All I can say is that we give preference to those who are the most severely disabled, believing it is better that those who are really going to suffer most by reason of delay, should have first turn. In the case where the disablement is very slight, where a man is at work and is not suffering any financial disability thereby, he has to go down the list, and it may be some considerable time before his case is heard.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Is it possible to increase the number of tribunals, in view of the fact that there is a real grievance here?

Sir W. Womersley

I explained to the House at the time the Act was introduced, and I have explained dozens of times since, that there would be delays. As the man-power position was so difficult, I did not anticipate getting more than nine tribunals. The fact that I have got 17 going shows that I have done everything I can to expedite this matter.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Is not this matter more serious than the Minister indicates? If it is taking from nine to eleven months to deal with cases now, and there are 17 tribunals operating, what is to be the position on general demobilisation, when cases of aggravation are bound to be numerous?

Sir W. Womersley

When we get demobilisation, we can get more tribunals.

Mr. Walkden

Not 17 but 77 tribunals will be needed then.

22. Mr. Lipson

asked the Minister of Pensions how many claims for pensions made by widows of members of the Forces who have died of cancer have been granted by Pensions Appeal Tribunals; and how many refused.

Sir W. Womersley

Forty-three such cases have been allowed by tribunals and 465 disallowed.

Mr. Lipson

In view of the varying results of appeals to the tribunals, is there not an additional reason why, when a man in the Forces has died of cancer, his widow should, of right, be given a pension since at present some get one and others do not?

Sir W. Womersley

If it can be shown that service has in any way aggravated the disease, even to a small degree, then a pension is given to the widow. The hon. Member asked me a question about tribunals, not about the number of cases in which we have granted pensions without tribunals.

Mr. Stephen

Will the Minister say that all cases that have been heard by the tribunals will be reviewed, in the light of the decision at the Court of Session, which says that the onus of proof is on the Minister?

Sir W. Womersley

That decision does not alter the position one iota. The onus of proof is not on the person making the application. It has been on the Minister ever since this House decided to that effect.