HC Deb 21 March 1946 vol 420 cc2014-7
21. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Pensions in how many cases he has appealed to the high court against the decisions of pensions appeal tribunals; and in how many of these cases he has been successful in reversing the decision of pensions appeal tribunals to grant a pension.

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Wilfred Paling)

1 have applied for leave to appeal to the high court on a point of law against nine of the more than 36,000 decisions of the pensions appeal tribunals. The court has upheld the view which I advanced in the six appeals so far heard. One case related to the tribunals' jurisdiction. In three of the remaining five cases alter native compensation is payable.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that appellants are adequately informed that they also have a similar right of appeal to the high court?

Mr. Paling

I think they know about that; indeed, a number of them have appealed.

22. Mr. Hale

asked the Minister of Pensions when the arrears of pension due to Marine Thomas L. McCrea, Ministry of Pensions No. B/10M1/31179, in respect of the period April to October, 1945, will be paid to him.

Mr. Wilfred Paling

When Mr. McCrea was medically examined towards the end of last year the extent of his disablement was found to be less than 20 per cent. He was, therefore, awarded a final weekly allowance for a period of 70 weeks. I am quite prepared to arrange for the period to commence in April last although such an arrangement may not affect the total amount payable to him. If, to wards the end of the period, Mr. McCrea finds that his condition has not improved, he should apply to my Department for a further medical examination.

Mr. Hale

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no notification has been sent to this man to say that he has been awarded a pension for a final period of seven years? Is it not contrary to the whole spirit of the Pensions Act that the Government should decide on a final period without having the man further examined? Further, is my right hon. Friend aware that the man was incapacitated from April to November, but has not received a penny for it?

Mr. Paling

I am not aware of all those things, but I am aware that a letter is being sent to my hon. Friend.

23. Mr. S. Shephard

asked the Minister of Pensions how many applications to go before an appeals tribunal were received by his Department during 1945; and how many of them have been passed on to the Attorney-General.

Mr. Wilfred Paling

During 1945, some 22,000 appeals were received and some 26,000 sent to the tribunals or otherwise settled. To date, about 14,000 of the appeals which were lodged in 1945 have been so disposed of, and in a further 3,500 cases statements have been sent to the appellants.

Mr. Shephard

Is the Minister aware that there is great dissatisfaction about the delay between the time a man makes an application and the time in which his appeal is actually heard? This delay has been going on now for nearly three years. Cannot these appeals be heard in a reasonable time?

Mr. Paling

Before we set up the tribunals there were a great number of cases waiting to be heard, and they are being heard as fast as possible. Indeed, in the last 15 months we have overtaken the arrears to the extent of nearly 6,000 . cases, in addition to dealing with current cases.

Mr. Shephard

How many appeals are outstanding?

Mr. Paling

I cannot say without notice.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Would the Minister set up another appeal tribunal in Scotland? The tribunal is hopelessly overworked in Glasgow. Appeals have been waiting to be heard for many months.

Mr. Paling

We have set three up lately, and we now have 23.

24. Mr. Keeling

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that his Department has asked the widow of a R.A.F. officer killed in action during 1944, who is applying for an education grant for her child, to state the income of her husband before marriage in the years 1937–38 and 1938–39; why this inquiry is made; and whether he will give instructions for such inquiries to cease.

Mr. Wilfred Paling

One of the conditions for the grant of an education allowance is that the child would probably have received the education contemplated had the father survived. To establish this, it is generally necessary to make inquiries as to the father's income prior to the commencement of his war service. I am, however, satisfied from other information supplied by the widow that an education grant on a day-school basis is justified without further investigation.

Mr. Keeling

What possible relevance can prewar, prenuptial income have to this matter? Is it not very regrettable that widows of men killed in action should be pestered in this way?

Mr. Paling

I do not accept the suggestion that they are pestered. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We can pay up to £80 extra for further education, and I do not think it is asking too much that we should be assured that the children concerned would have had such education had their fathers lived.

Mr. Butcher

Would the right hon. Gentleman describe this as a means test?

Mr. Keeling

I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.

25. Flight-Lieutenant Beswick

asked the Minister of Pensions if he will now consider removing the restriction on payment of marriage allowances to pensioners who marry within 10 years of their war services, as far as it affects pensioners of the 1914–18 war.

Mr. Wilfred Paling

The Government had fully in mind the case of the pensioner of the 1914–18 war when they fixed the time limit as high as 10 years from the end of war service.

Flight-Lieutenant Beswick

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that he said that he was unable to make the abolition general because he considered the period of ten years sufficient time for a pensioner to make up his mind whether he intended to marry? Since the 1914–18 war pensioners did not have this period of ten years for contemplation, will the Minister consider waiving the restriction in their case?

Mr. Paling

That would make a differentiation between pensioners from this war and those from the previous one.

Mr. Martin Lindsay

Does not the Minister think it wrong that the ex-Serviceman should lose this advantage after ten years in view of the fact that the disability he carries does not automatically cease at the end of that time but stays with him for the rest of his life?

Mr. Paling

It is a big improvement on what existed before. Then none of them received the allowance.