HC Deb 22 May 1946 vol 423 cc320-1
34. Mr. Thomas Macpherson

asked the Attorney-General if he will now agree to abolish the six weeks' time limit for disabled ex-Servicemen for taking their cases before the High Court after rejection by the Appeals Tribunal, since numbers of these men are satisfied that their claims are similar to those recently admitted by Mr. Justice Denning.

The Attorney-General

No, Sir. The course suggested would be quite impracticable having regard to the large number of appeals which have already been determined and finally disposed of within the framework of the Act and the existing Rules. The vast majority of appellants showed no dissatisfaction with the decisions in their cases until the recent judgments to which the hon. Member has referred. Nor does it follow that these cases are necessarily affected by those judgments, the purport of which appears to have been misunderstood both in this House and in the public Press.

I would remind the hon. Member that Parliament has decided that the award of pensions by my right hon. Friend is to be subject to appeal to independent tribunals and thence to the ordinary courts of law. Where issues of this kind are made justiciable by the courts they must be subject to legal principles which have been evolved by the judiciary over a long period of years, and the adoption of the hon. Member's suggestion would be diametrically opposed to these principles.

Mr. MacPherson

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that, because legal principles have been disregarded before the tribunals, many disabled ex-Servicemen would like to take their cases to the High Court because they feel that their cases are on a parity with those which Mr. Justice Denning has recently dealt with?

The Attorney-General

I am quite unable to accept the assumption of the hon. Member, which I believe to be contrary to the facts. It not infrequently happens that a decision of the higher court reverses a view of the law which has hitherto been acted upon in lower courts, but if that were to enable the litigants, in cases which had previously been decided, to reopen those cases, there would be no kind of finality at all in legal proceedings.

Mr. Leslie Hale

Is the Attorney-General aware that most Courts of Appeal have an inherent power to ignore time limits and to extend, time limits in order to give a right of appeal, and is he further aware that, in regard to there being no protests in this matter, many Members of Parliament are being inundated with letters of complaint on the subject?

Mr. Hopkins Morris

Does the answer of the Attorney-General mean that the Minister of Pensions contemplates appealing against the decisions?

Mr. Sydney Silverman

In view of the tact that the Minister of Pensions opposed the appeal before Mr. Justice Denning and lost, does it not follow that, in previous cases, he has denied to applicants pensions which, on Mr. Justice Denning's ruling, they are entitled to have, and will the hon. and learned Gentleman say on what legal principle the State proposes to continue to ignore this and to deprive those men of pensions to which they are rightly entitled?

The Attorney-General

The assumption made by my hon. Friend does not follow and, therefore, the further part of his question does not arise.

Mr. Macpherson

Will my hon. and learned Friend reconsider his decision, especially in cases where the medical member of a tribunal has given evidence before the tribunal which Mr. Justice Denning has ruled is quite irregular? There are many such cases.