HC Deb 11 April 1946 vol 421 cc2077-80
33. Mr. T. Macpherson

asked the Minister of Pensions if he has considered the recent judgment given by Mr. Justice Denning in favour of an ex-Serviceman on the grounds of "fit for service, fit for pension "; and if he is now prepared to review similar cases which have been refused by his Department.

34. Mr. David Jones

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is proposing to take any action in regard to those cases where ex-Servicemen have been refused a pension, despite a breakdown in health since entering the Service, in the light of the judgment of the High Court, given on 1st April, 1946; and whether he is prepared to take steps to review all such cases despite an adverse decision by the Pensions Appeal Tribunal, if necessary, introducing amending legislation for the purpose.

36. Mr. Garry Allighan

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the ruling given by Mr. Justice Denning in a successful appeal against his Department last week that if a man is discharged from the Services with his health deteriorated from the standard at which the Army certified it on joining, such deterioration may be presumed to be due to his war service, he now accepts the principle of "fit for service, fit for pension."

41. Mr. Shurmer

asked the Minister of Pensions in view of the recent decision of a High Court appeal, which decided that his Department had failed to produce evidence that the appellant's disability was caused by something other than his war service, he will consider reviewing any case dismissed by a tribunal.

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Wilfred Paling)

In the judgment referred to, the learned judge expressed the view that the interpretation to be placed on Article 4 of the Royal Warrant was that if a man is accepted for service in a certain medical category there is a presumption that at the time of his acceptance he was fit for the kind of service demanded of a man in that category; and that in the event of his discharge subsequently on medical grounds due to deterioration in his health there is a presumption that the deterioration was due to his service. He added that the presumption is not a compelling presumption but a provisional one. In order, however, to defeat the man's claim, the evidence had to show a real, preponderance of probability that his condition was not aggravated by war service. In the case before him the learned Judge held that there was no such evidence and that the tribunal could not properly come to a conclusion in favour of the Ministry.

While there may at times be a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a real preponderance of probability I do not think that the general line of approach laid down by the learned Judge differs materially from that followed by my Department

Mr. Macpherson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a large number of cases similar to those dealt with by Mr. Justice Denning? Having regard to the strong feeling among ex-Servicemen regarding the continuance of this scandal, can he suggest some way whereby these cases might be reopened and the Ministry's arrangements brought into line with the law and commonsense?

Mr. Paling

It was laid down when the Tribunal Act went through that certain procedure should be followed—first my Ministry, then the tribunal, and, finally, an appeal to the High Court could be granted on a point of law. That procedure has been followed; the cases mentioned have been to the High Court and the decision is against us. That does not mean that we are wrong in all the other cases. Thousands, at least, of such cases which have had an opportunity to go to the High Court have not asked to be allowed to do so. The decision which has been given does not necessarily mean that the whole of our Royal Warrant is wrong or that it has been wrongly interpreted.

Mr. Shurmer

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the number of these appeal cases is increasing? In view of the evidence brought forward, does he not think the time has arrived to alter the whole of the Royal Warrant and bring in the only real solution, "Fit for service, fit for pension"?

Mr. Paling

If the numbers have increased at all it is only very slightly. There has not been a great number before the Court.

Mr. Allighan

Would not the Minister admit that the effect of this ruling is that the fact that men are accepted in one medical category and discharged in a much lower category establishes aprima facieclaim for pension, and that the onus of disproof rests upon his Department?

Mr. Paling

Certainly, there is a presumption in favour of that—the Judge said so—and we have to disprove that a pension is due.

Mr. Macpherson

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply by my right hon. Friend, may I give notice that I propose to take the earliest opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment?

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