HC Deb 25 July 1946 vol 426 cc202-5
29. Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison

asked the Minister of Pensions whether, in view of the misgivings expressed by the Lord Justice Clerk and the judges of the Second Division of the Court of Sessions in giving judgment on 19th July as to the way in which Pensions Appeal Tribunals are interpreting, or failing to interpret, the Royal Warrant to the detriment of appellants, he will introduce legislation at an early date to enable any appellant whose claim has been rejected by an existing tribunal to lodge a further appeal to be heard by a new tribunal.

Mr. Wilfred Paling

I will, with permission, make a statement at the close of Questions on the matter raised by the hon. and gallant Member.


In consultation with my Central Advisory Committee, and in the light of representations made to me by the British Legion and other interested parties, I have given careful consideration to the situation arising from recent judgments in the High Court in England and in the Court of Session in Scotland. In order to ensure that in past cases there may be no grounds for any feeling of injustice, I am prepared to receive applications from those persons who, having had their appeals disallowed by a pensions appeals tribunal before 1st August, 1946, are of the opinion that their claims would have succeeded had they fallen for consideration after the promulgation of the judgments in question. My Department will examine these applications, applying the criterion whether the claims if now falling for consideration would, in the light of the judgments, be likely to succeed on merit. Where it is so satisfied entitlement to pension will be admitted. Where the claim should still, in the opinion of my Department, be rejected it will be open to the applicant to ask that his case should be referred to a special Arbitration Tribunal which the Government will set up. This Tribunal will be outside the scope of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal Act and references to it will be on the basis that both the appellant and the Ministry will accept its decision as final and conclusive. If the appeal is allowed the case will thenceforth be treated in the same way as one allowed by a statutory tribunal. Any award, whether made on review by the Ministry or after reference to the Arbitration Tribunal, will take effect from the date which would have been applicable had the original appeal to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal succeeded.

In submitting his case to the Ministry, the applicant will have the right to adduce new evidence, and in the event of a reference to the Arbitration Tribunal, both sides will have the right to produce further evidence and to recast the presentation of their case. My Department will deal as quickly as possible with applications, but hon. Members will appreciate that it will take some time to dispose of the cases which go to the Tribunal.

Lieut-Commander Hutchison

Will legislation be required to do what is proposed? If so, will it be introduced as soon as possible after the Recess?

Mr. Paling

I do not think that legislation will be required.

Mr. Thomas Macpherson

While thanking the Minister for the statement which he read to the House, and which will be received with great satisfaction by thousands of ex-Servicemen in this country, may I ask him whether the right to go before the High Court will still remain, even after cases have been before the special tribunal, because if cases had not gone to the High Court, the step now proposed to do justice to the men would not have been taken?

Mr. Paling

There will be no appeal to the High Court in arbitration cases that come before me or go before the arbitration tribunal.

Mr. Osbert Peake

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us anything about the constitution of the proposed special Arbitration Tribunal, bearing in mind that the Statute which deals with ordinary appeals provides for representation by a serving colleague of the appellant?

Mr. Paling

Yes, Sir. We propose that the constitution shall be similar to the statutory tribunal already existing.

Mr. Gallacher

May I ask the Minister very seriously whether, instead of these tribunals and super-tribunals and all this complication, he would consider changing the Royal Warrant and laying down the principle, "Fit for service, fit for pension"?

Mr. Paling

I have answered that question on numerous occasions. The proposal, "Fit for service, fit for pension," has been considered not only by this Government but by previous Governments, and has definitely been turned down on each occasion.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is the right hon. Gentleman issuing a statement for the guidance of applicants as to the method to be followed in submitting their applications for renewed consideration?

Mr. Paling

I think that all that they will have to do will be to let us know that they wish their cases to be reconsidered. Whether we can take special steps to let them know about this matter I do not know, but interest in it is pretty widespread. The hon. Member may be aware of the fact that the ex-Servicemen's organisations are particularly interested in this subject. That may be sufficient.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Will there be the same appeal to the High Court as there is from any other tribunal?

Mr. Paling

No, Sir.

Squadron-Leader Fleming

Will the Minister take steps to see that all men whose appeals have been turned down since August last year will be notified first, through his own Department?

Mr. Paling

I have looked into that proposal and I do not think it is possible. The answer I gave to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) just now covers that point.

Mr. Medlicott

Will the Minister draw the attention of his colleague the Minister of Health to this example of the immense importance of the judiciary to the rights of the individual?

Sir T. Moore

What will be the composition of the new tribunal?

Mr. Paling

A lawyer or barrister as chairman, a doctor and a layman, the latter according to the particular class of ex-Serviceman to be considered.

General Sir George Jeffreys

In view of the great importance of applicants to this super-tribunal having real confidence in those who are to judge their cases, will the Minister ensure that the chairman shall be not merely a barrister but a lawyer of such legal experience and standing as will command the utmost confidence among all concerned?

Mr. Paling

I am very anxious to ensure that that shall be so.

Mr. Mitchison

Will there be a similar condition as there is now, in regard to an appeal to the High Court?

Mr. Paling

No, Sir.

Mr. J. Lewis

What is to prevent an applicant from appealing to the High Court?

Mr. Paling

If an applicant in this class of case comes before us we expect him to agree that after he has gone to this special tribunal that should be an end of the matter.

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