HC Deb 23 January 1951 vol 483 cc77-108

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Hannan.]

5.33 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

I wish at once to apologise to the House for the fact that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions, who assumed his Parliamentary duties in this House today, is for a second or two not here to reply to the debate. The fault is mine. I understood that there was to be at least a speech by the Parliamentary Secretary on the Penicillin Bill and at least a reply from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, and I must say that on this occasion I underestimated the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's loquacity and allowed a few minutes more than his speech actually took him. The message which I sent to my right hon. Friend was, I am afraid, sent only a minute or two ago, and I am sure that he is on his way here with all convenient speed.

In general, may I say that I have sought this opportunity of raising the general issue of pensions for disabled persons not because there is a new Minister in office and not because I had any dissatisfaction with the old Minister, but partly because I have constantly failed in the ballot to raise this matter for some months and partly because I desire, not in any spirit of criticism or hostility, to raise certain matters which in my view still give cause for anxiety and concern.

On a previous occasion, I think in February, 1947, I had an Adjournment on this subject and on that occasion I took some time dealing with a matter which I am sure will be regarded as important on both sides of the House—the question of the chronic disease. I do not like to use the words "incurable disease," because I hope we have reached the stage in which no disease is regarded as incurable. I was dealing with the case where a disease had become so chronic that such persons had not much hope of a cure.

In my division I have been confronted time after time with cases of disseminated sclerosis, with the case of Parkinson's disease which, I understand, is some kind of encephalitis lethargica. I have dealt with the case of a man who joined the Forces officially fit, who came out crippled by the disease, who was growing progressively worse but in respect of whose case he was utterly helpless to establish as an affirmative that his incapacity was due to service in the Forces because, in fact, no one knows what causes the disease at all. There is no known medical origin. Committees have sat on the subject both in America and in this country, investigations have been made, theories have been propounded, and it is at least relevant to say that in some cases diet has had a good deal of attention given to it in trying to discover the origin of the disease; but the position still is that nobody knows what causes these afflictions and it is therefore utterly impossible for any man to go to the Medical Appeals Tribunal and establish affirmatively that his disease was caused by war service. Nobody knows. I suggest that in those cases the burden clearly should be shifted. The effect of some decisions given by Mr. Justice Denning certainly seems to shift it, but there has been no attempt by the Medical Appeals Tribunal to consider the matter purely on medical grounds.

My right hon. Friend the Minister is now here. I have already apologised for my late notification to him and, now that he is here, I am sure hon. Members on all sides will join with me in welcoming him to his office. The fact that he is being challenged about the administration of his Department, certainly on this occasion in no unfriendly spirit, is an indication that there is no peace for the righteous, or no relaxation for the righteous, and there will be no relaxation permitted by the House.

I hope the House will permit me to repeat myself in saying that I raise this subject in no spirit of complaint against my right hon. Friend's predecessor who, I think, brought to the Ministry great qualities of tact, courtesy and consideration and who certainly introduced many reforms of which all sides of the House approve. In particular, the welfare officers' service is working admirably and I have seen time after time in my correspondence how much pensioners appreciate the courtesy, attention and consideration they receive from welfare officers and how much they appreciate the very full investigation which takes place into their circumstances. Moreover, the Annual Report on Pensions is an inspiring document. It shows that great progress has been made.

It is right, if we have the time—and we do not always have the time on an Adjournment—to try to give a balanced picture of what has been achieved and it is remarkable that, five or six years after the war, the overall number of pensioners is still going up and is not going down as a result of cures or of people being struck off the list. The number is actually going up.

I want to raise one or two matters which I think are important. In dealing with disabled pensioners the policy of His Majesty's Government was, on the whole, to regard as peculiarly worthy of concentration the very serious cases; to say that where a man was employable and where, in times of full employment. he was getting employment, there was not necessarily a great case for increasing the percentage disability pension, but that where he was unemployable and where he needed attendance he should have much more substantial additional allowances and should have a reasonable standard of living. That is a policy of which we all approve.

In my view, the figures show that far too small a percentage of pensioners are receiving those allowances. I think I am right in my figures which show that, for the unemployability supplement, something like 6,000 pensioners receive an allowance. So far as the compensating pension for diminution of occupational capacity is concerned—I forget the precise term used—the figure is something like 8,000 and for the constant attendance allowance it is rather less than 3,000—all out of a grand total of 600,000 pensioners. Here again I must pay tribute to the fact that, where I have dealt with these cases in my correspondence, a number of the allowances have been granted where the facts warranted that decision. At least one came when it had not been requested. Thus, steps are being taken. But I suggest that great satisfaction would be given if there were perhaps a slightly less rigid interpretation of the rules of unemployability.

That brings me to my second point, and here I hope to have my right hon. Friend's sympathy because, while he was Minister of Labour, he had great experience of dealing with disabled persons. He did great work. I come to a matter which arises in Oldham where we certainly are prepared to pay tribute to the work he has done. He will remember that I have had some discussions about it. It is the question of work in the home, which, I think, is important, for disabled persons generally. His predecessor did introduce a home work scheme of his own, and it may very well be that my right hon. Friend, when considering the matter, will think it worth while combining those two, schemes into a general scheme of provision of work within the home.

However, the fact remains that, although conditions today are better than they have been, although more disabled persons are in employment than ever before, although in Oldham the hard core of unemployed disabled persons, which was 700 disabled persons unemployed in 1945. has been reduced now to about 200—I have not the latest figures readily at my hand, but I think that those are roughly accurate—one is still distressed about the number of persons who are quite employable but who, because of their medical record, fail to obtain employment.

This is still quite a serious problem, and here I am sorry to say the nationalised industries have not a very good record in this connection. I am a little shocked sometimes to hear of men, disabled pensioners from the war, who seek or have work on British Railways, who are then submitted to a rigid medical test and told that they have failed the test and can no longer continue in employment. I think that this should cease. I think that the excuse that "Ours is a dangerous occupation" for which people with a slight disability are not fitted is really unreasonable. If the man is prepared to take the risk, the employers should be prepared to take it, so long as, in doing so, they do not endanger anybody else; and that possibility does not arise in all these cases. Work should be found for these people because what they want is work. The cure for their sufferings, or, if not the cure, the amelioration of their sufferings, is work.

Before my right hon. Friend arrived I was making some reference to the question of the sufferers from chronic diseases. I shall not repeat myself. He can read what I said in HANSARD tomorrow, and he can also read in HANSARD of 10th February, 1947, what I said about the matter before.

I now come to a matter which is of some concern. No one has had more occasion to lavish compliments on the medical profession than I, or has had more reason to be grateful to the medical profession than I; and they do a great work. However, I am sometimes worried about reports from medical appeal tribunals, and I am sometimes worried about the attitude of mind to the chronic sufferers which seems to have developed on the medical tribunals.

One of my constituents went to a medical tribunal. I must make it clear that the doctor concerned was not a pensions doctor but a locum. My constituent went to his doctor to collect his medical history so as to submit it to the tribunal. It was very decent of the doctor to give it to him, because not all doctors would do so. But the point was that my constituent was very much surprised when he read the entry for 3rd July, 1937—it is surprising how these records are made 19 years after a war rather more frequently than 19 months after a war—which said: He limps, and will continue to limp so long as he gets money for jam from the R.A. Corps, from the National Health, and from the Ministry of Pensions. The man came to see me a month or two ago. He is still limping. He was examined by a medical friend of mine for the genuineness of his case. I have no doubt about it. It is rather a shocking thing that we find that sort of attitude as expressed in that man's case.

I am distressed about another case which came to my hands a couple of days ago. Although this case is still under consideration I think my right hon. Friend will forgive me for mentioning it, because there is a point in it which distresses me, and I am not talking about the case but about the general principle. In this case my constituent was examined by the medical survey board in July, 1948. His military history itself was not a very impressive one. He had suffered from bilateral otitis media for a long period of his service in the Army. He was sent while suffering to service in the Orkneys which I should have thought was the worst possible thing for a man suffering from otitis media. He was discharged, and given a fair pension on the basis of his incapacity. He went to the medical survey board who examined him and reported: His general condition is good. That was on 10th July, 1948. Five weeks later he died. The post-mortem examination revealed the following: the heart muscles had degenerated; the right side was dilated; atherona at coronary orifices; emphysena of lungs; cloudy swelling of liver and arterio sclerotic nephritis of the kidneys; and the cause of death was myo-cardial degeneration due to arterio sclerotic nephritis. I do not profess to have any medical knowledge, but if a medical survey board examines me today and in five weeks' time I am dead with something wrong—with something seriously wrong with my liver and lungs and arteries and my heart—then I lose faith in medical examinations altogether.

Then we get a wretched dispute going on with the appeals board about whether this was due to or connected with otitis media and whether death could be caused by otitis media. Most text books say that nephritis frequently follows otitis media but some doctors say that the arterio sclerosis indicates an intervening hardening of the arteries.

There we get the sort of case where it is utterly impossible for anyone to come to the profession and prove anything conclusively. I say that in a case like that it is reasonable for the Ministry to say, "Here is a man who was gravely ill in the Forces and who has been gravely ill ever since, and who has died prematurely in a very serious condition, and who has suffered all that time, and this is the sort of case where there should be a pension."

My worries about the medical surveys have been a little amplified by one or two other matters which have come to my attention—some of them quite longstanding matters—and by some of the results that have arisen out of them. There is the case of Mr. Parker of Swansea Street, Oldham. Mr. Parker served in the war of 1914–18, and he said he had been shot in the shoulder, and he went on saying that he had been shot in the shoulder for 30 years. For 30 years everybody told him he had not been shot in the shoulder, and that there was no particular wound noticeable, and that there was nothing to complain about. I am glad that the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) is here who can give me medical support if I err, but I should say that Mr. Parker had something to complain about. About 30 years after Mr. Parker had been saying to the doctors that he had been shot in the shoulder he came to me and said he had been shot in the shoulder, and I had him X-rayed at the Oldham Infirmary where the bullet was discovered and taken out—after 30 years during which he had been complaining he had been shot in the shoulder and after 30 years during which he had been told he had not. The Ministry gave him a pension, but refused to pay him back money on the ground that he had not made a claim. This is not good enough. It is just not good enough. The man had really claimed every two or three years for 30 years during which he had been suffering.

That is not the only case. That is one case but it is not the only one. I have had two more cases. One is of a man with shrapnel in the nose, and another of a man with a bullet in the head. That man died while the matter was under investigation. I am told—and I do not doubt its accuracy—that the bullet lodged in the skull and did not enter the brain and that there was no injury to the brain. But the man who had the bullet in his head for 25 years suffered chronically from headaches at night and from sleeplessness and from double vision which surely must have been associated with that bullet. It would have at least been reasonable if that man had said, "Blimey, I do not care what the doctors say, I have a bullet wound, and my condition is due to that." It would not have been unreasonable for the widow to have said that she would not have been a widow but for that injury.

I do feel that there ought to be some machinery for reconsidering these cases. What I suggest is this. I ventured to suggest to one of my right hon. Friend's predecessors a year or two ago what I think everybody will agree was a wise thing. The Minister could say, "The law has been altered a bit now and the chance should be given for the re-hearing of the case of anyone who is dissatisfied." Hon. Members on both sides of the House will probably agree with me that they hear of no more distressing cases and have no more distressing letters than those concerned with the poor men suffering from a sense of grievance over their pensions; and they will probably agree with me that even if the sense of grievance is unjust it causes the sufferer to be worse even to the menacing of his life.

So there is a great deal to be said for some limited system of reconsideration. I think that it could be put on more than one ground. It could be put on the ground that there is no question whatever that the review of the law which has been undertaken under Mr. Justice Denning has really shifted the onus of proof and altered the law on the subject. There are many cases which might have been rightly legally refused a year or two ago which ought now rightly to be granted.

Secondly, I think that it can be put on the ground that, however good the system, one examination is not always enough and one medical appeal tribunal is not always enough. There are many diseases which ebb and flow in their consistency, and there is the possibility that one examination by a medical appeal tribunal on a busy day is not sufficient to give a final determination. I consider that one of the first matters which the Minister should consider is whether he would be prepared to initiate some system of reconsideration of a limited class of cases which was supported by sufficient medical evidence or other evidence to justify the appeal that they were cases to which some consideration should be given.

I have been approached recently, as no doubt have other hon. Members, by the British Limbless ex-Service Men's Association, and I will try to cover some of the points which they have put to me. They advocate an increase in the basic rate of pension. They suggest that the 45s. basic should go up to the basic rate of a warrant officer, Class I. They also complained about the difficulty of finding employment—and the matter of which they complain, which is most important, is that where a man is genuinely seeking work and is in receipt of a disability pension, and who, because of that disability, fails to find it, and the Minister fails to find it for him, he should be entitled to an unemployability supplement until work can be found for him. I urge consideration of that upon the Minister.

The House has been very tolerant with me. I speak with some difficulty. I have the use of only one hand—a temporarily disabled person but a not wholly unemployed person—and I will not therefore raise the wider issues to which I would be happy to devote at least four hours. There is the claim of the Far East prisoners of war, although that may not fall within the jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend. Consideration might be given to arrangements which I understand have been made for some sort of reparations payments, such as is given to members of the American forces who were prisoners of war in the Far East. If it is true that they get these payments, then perhaps General MacArthur, when he is freed from some of his other preoccupations, might remember that there were British forces there who are fully entitled to some of these benefits.

I should also like to make reference to parents' pensions—pensions to parents who have lost their sons or daughters in the war. During the 1914–18 war, the principle was that a pension in that case was given as a right. Since this war, we have adapted the principle by saying that we will give considerably more by way of pension but only to people who establish that they had some dependance or prospective dependance on their sons, which would justify a claim on the basis of financial loss. These people, who come to see us from time to time and who are suffering very tragically, are not seeking money, but they feel that as they have lost their sons or daughters in the cause of war operations, there ought to be some acknowledgment of that service. I feel strongly that some of these cases are never adequately considered and never properly met.

I have tried to cover a fairly wide ground in giving the Minister a cordial welcome to his new office, and I hope to persuade him against the policy of relaxing, to which earlier reference was made. We will, at any rate, try to save him from that. We appreciate that he is taking over a Ministry which has given wide satisfaction to the House as a whole. It is a Ministry which, as the reports have shown, reveals a real humanity and that efforts have really been made to help those most in need. He has come from a Ministry which has done great work in serving the disabled. He leaves it with six years of success, and he leaves it at the very moment where he is able to report the highest figure of employment ever maintained in this country. That is a very great record. That is why we welcome him to his new post, but he can rest assured that, whatever his effort, we shall never regard it as completely satisfactory, and that we shall take opportunities similar to this, from time to time, to urge upon him more and more this good and necessary work, and a work which is fully due to people for the services which they have given to us.

5.56 p.m.

Mr. Shackleton (Preston, South)

The House is very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale), for raising this matter. I think that he obviously has a very deep personal interest in it, because, if I recall his previous accidents, he is entirely in that class known as "accident prone." I understand that his recent disability was acquired in the Swiss mountains. I hope that he was not in the original avalanche which has resulted in such a major disaster.

My hon. Friend has raised a matter which, I am sure, many hon. Members in all parts of the House have a deep interest, and who, if they had known that he was going to raise it, would have looked through their list of cases, particularly those few—and I stress the word "few"—in which they failed to get satisfaction from the Minister. I, too, would like to pay tribute to the Minister who has now become the Minister of Health for his admirable administration, and I am sure that those of us—and I see hon. Members on both sides of the House who serve on the Central Advisory Committee for Pensions—would all pay tribute to his competence in the role which he has fulfilled, and congratulate him on the promotion which he has now received.

It is, however, true that there is still a number of aspects of the work of the Ministry of Pensions, despite the tremendous improvement which has been made in humanising the outlook of their officials and of the service, which I, for one, do not find completely satisfactory. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, has mentioned one matter which I particularly have in mind, and I would also like to quote one or two examples. All of us have men in our constituencies who are disabled, but are not technically unemployable who can-pot get an unemployability supplement, and I would ask for a fairer and more generous application of the rule.

I do not myself believe that the actual figures quoted by my hon. Friend are much of an indication of the measure of need. I do not think that there are many who are left out. I know of one or two cases—particularly one case which I have sent to the Ministry—of a man who is living solely on his pension and has no other means. It was always the proud boast of the previous Minister of Pensions that no such person existed in this country. I admit that these cases are recent. I have sent them to him, and I know that they will be looked into and, I hope, rectified. Nevertheless, I believe that the few cases which are around should have been picked up before they were brought to the notice of the local Member of Parliament.

I would like to urge, a more sympathetic and human approach to the employment of disabled men not only by nationalised industries and by private employers but also by Government Departments. The situation is very patchy. Certain employers in private industry go out of their way to create opportunities for employing disabled people, but I again stress the fact that there are many disabled people who are capable of something more than being messengers or lift attendants. There should be more opportunity for employment throughout the whole scale for these people in the field of local government. Indeed, in some cases men are being held back owing to their medical record.

A case came to my notice only in the last two or three weeks. I have written to the Ministry of Labour and to the present Minister of Pensions about it, and I ask my right hon. Friend to approach his right hon. Friend to see what can be done about it. It is the case of a disabled messenger, a man who was badly gassed in the First World War. He was employed at an employment exchange as a messenger. He was not established, but he had worked for the Ministry for 15 years. Suddenly, he was discharged at the age of 59, although, as far as I can tell, he had undertaken his duties with competence and reliability. He received a curt letter giving a week's notice.

I realise that it is necessary for the Ministry to economise as much as possible, but I believe it would have been possible to save this particular man's job. If the Ministry had consulted other Ministries, I believe that a messenger who was not disabled and could more properly be released could have been found, a man who would have stood a better chance of finding employment. This man has been sent to jobs by the local employment exchange, but as they have involved lifting work he has been unable to obtain employment. The result is that he is well on the way to becoming one of the unemployable.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend, with his knowledge of the Ministry of Labour, can turn his attention to this type of problem. I have nothing but the highest praise for the disablement officers in the Ministry and elsewhere for the work they do. The fact is that this is a matter on which we can never let up; there is always something more that can be done. There are always people for whom it is not easy to find a satisfactory solution and for whom we should continue to struggle. I can think of many other points I should like to raise, but I will conclude by referring briefly to parents' pensions. This is a subject which has been argued on many occasions, and I have been associated with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, in putting forward this case.

I realise that it is difficult at this time to submit an argument for increasing expenditure of any kind. Let us admit that we are faced with a very severe problem in paying for re-armament. I am sure, however, that certain concessions can be made in the field of pensions. One thing that could be done for parents is to raise the scale of need above which no pension is payable, and it is to that type of reform that I ask the Minister to direct his attention. I can assure him that there is very deep feeling among parents, not only from the point of view of need, but from the point of view of principle. They feel that recognition has not been given to them for their plight.

Finally, I wish to make two small suggestions: when my right hon. Friend puts in his bill for the year to the Chancellor of the Exchequer he should remember the pensions for widows and also the rate of hardship allowance to which my right hon. Friend has referred. I believe that it will be possible for my right hon. Friend to get certain concessions. We all know that the Ministry of Pensions is bound to be limited by the overall financial situation, but I ask my right hon. Friend to press for these concessions. I would also tell my right hon. Friend that it has been the opinion of all Members associated with the Ministry of Pensions since the war that they expect and have always received a very high standard of sympathy and efficiency both from the Minister and his Department, and that we are fortunate in having my right hon. Friend to take over such an important post and continue the work of his predecessor.

6.6 p.m.

Dr. Hill (Luton)

I was not in my place when the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale), opened this debate, but I have no doubt that he paid tribute to the work of the recent Minister of Pensions. As a new Member, I wish to say that of all the communications sought and received from Government Departments none have been more painstaking and more carefully reasoned and presented than those I have had from the Ministry of Pensions. I am glad that the hon. Member pin-pointed certain subjects, subjects which appear with painful regularity in our post-bags. I am glad, for example, that he made the point that in the case of limbless ex-Service men the fact of temporary unemployability of itself should be evidence of the sort that is required for the special allowance.

I am glad that the hon. Member made some reference to parents' pensions. It is not enough to prove the fact of a past contribution, but it is necessary to prove present dependency. I am bound to say, in fairness to the Minister, that I understand that when past contribution has been proved he frankly admits theoretical liability to pension. It would appear to be unusual frankness on behalf of those responsible for pensions.

A point the hon. Member stressed, which is a point of unusual importance, is the attitude to be taken where, on all clinical and scientific grounds, it is impossible to prove that service caused disablement. This onus is largely changing, and it would not be a departure from principle in that shift of onus to take a somewhat more generous attitude. If no one knows the cause, then no one can exclude the factor of service. I do not wish my remarks to be taken as an expression of strong criticism of the Ministry. I have observed, in the many cases with which I have had dealings with the Ministry, that they have done their utmost to accept the doubt. It needs to be said, however, that if there is no evidence of the cause, then there is nothing to exclude the sequence of events which, in the aggregate, is the period of service.

There has been an enormous improvement and extension in the facilities for mechanical locomotion. A number of the motor-propelled invalid tricycles am out of date, and I believe that steps are being taken for the introduction of new models. I hope that spare parts will be easily available for the new models. I have inspected some of the tricycles that have come from the Ministry to constituents of mine, and inaccessibility seems to be a characteristic of these antiquated vehicles, as, indeed, it was in antiquated vehicles of other kinds.

I would ask that consideration be given to one important change—that the Ministry should consider supplying, at what would be a relatively small additional cost, an invalid tricycle that can accommodate two people. At the moment the invalid using the tricycle—and immensely grateful no doubt he is for that tricycle—must proceed in solitude. It would not be stretching generosity too far to make available a double vehicle instead of the single vehicle. It has practical advantages; if anything goes wrong there is someone who can give a hand. I urge this change upon the human ground that people prefer to go out in pairs, husband accompanying wife, wife accompanying husband, and the like.

One small detail, which may seem to be unimportant but, I am told, is relatively important. I hope that in the newer vehicles there is a means of reversing them. Those who use these invalid tricycles find that one of the most difficult practical problems which occur from time to time is the lack of reversing apparatus, which means that they have to call to a helpful passer-by to aid them, in the process of turning their vehicle round.

This debate, which I am glad has occurred, has afforded us an opportunity, not of launching a general assault on the Department, which no one would wish to make, but of focussing the attention of the House and the Minister upon what are, in effect, some of the lesser aspects of pension administration, but which, to individual cases, can be so very important.

6.13 p.m.

Mr. Mellish (Bermondsey)

I want to join with the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) in agreeing that this debate is not an assault on the Ministry of Pensions, because it is universally agreed that they have done a first-class job in preceding years. I should like to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale) in saying that we have now a very worthy successor to previous Ministers. I am sure that my right hon. Friend, with the knowledge and outlook which he has shown for many years, will make a great success of this position and will discharge his duties with a great sense of dignity and understanding.

The only reason I wish to intervene is because my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, raised what I thought was an extremely important point when he referred to the fact that pension appeals tribunals are often confronted with a fait accompli before the cases have been heard, because of certain medical opinion expressed with regard to these particular diseases. Like other hon. Members in the House, I take a personal interest in pension cases in my constituency, and in collaboration with the British Legion in the last three years, I have defended 40 of these cases at the appeals tribunals. My percentage of failures and success has been about fifty-fifty. Most of the failures have been in cases where the claimant is suffering from diabetes mellitus, disseminated sclerosis or poliomyelitis.

There is one particular case to which I should like to draw attention. A man in my constituency—I will not mention his name—was six years in the Army, two of which were in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, where the conditions were very arduous. When he was discharged he was suffering from dysentery and sciatica. He was discharged, and given treatment for the sciatica. Very shortly afterwards he was found to be suffering from diabetes mellitus, and as a consequence he now has to inject himself with insulin twice a day and take certain precautions. This man applied for a pension and he argued —I put the case on his behalf—that his war service in general, and his prisonerof-war service in particular, were contributory factors. Nevertheless, the tribunal turned that case down not with out a great deal of sympathy for the man, but because the weight of medical opinion with regard to the complaint was against him. Medical opinion said that diabetes mellitus is, in the main, hereditary and that conditions of hardship are not necessarily contributory. The point is that a man who has led an easy life can contract this complaint, and it does not follow that hardship is any contributory cause.

I accept the argument that if a man is fit for service he is fit for pension. This man contracted diabetes mellitus, and all the medical opinion against him cannot convince him that this disease was not due to war service and to the conditions attaching to it. He is a member of a family which never suffered from diabetes, and he has gone a long way back to prove that. The tribunal was very kind, considerate, and fair, but were unable to grant the pension, much as they would have liked to do, because of the view of the doctors on the matter. The same applies to the other complaints mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West. In the case of disseminated sclerosis, medical opinion is that in the main it is hereditary, and, therefore, nothing to do with a man's service in the Forces.

Some of our people find it extremely difficult to understand some of these cases. For my own part, I believe that the exprisoner-of-war to whom I have referred contracted the disease as a result of his very arduous time in the Army, but the Ministry were unable to award him a pension. I hope that it is to matters of this kind that my right hon. Friend will apply himself when he gets firmly into the new office in which he is now serving.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, mentioned parents' pensions. It is difficult to explain to parents that because they happen to be earning £7 a week they can get nothing for the son they loved and lost. They cannot understand the argument, "You are earning £7 a week, but if it should drop to £4 a week, come along and we will see what we can do for you." It should not be a question of need for the initial payment of a pension, but an acknowledgement.

I want to end by saying that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, has done a great public service by raising this matter tonight, to which we are giving attention in the midst of all our international troubles. I hope that the Ministry will continue to give the great service which it has been performing, so that the anomalies which are left may be removed and we can get justice and satisfaction.

6.21 p.m.

Mr. Basil Nield (City of Chester)

I should like to add a few words in support of the case which has been made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale), and which was impressive. It has received general agreement in all parts of the House. There are two very short points which I desire to make on this subject, but before I come to them I would express the hope that the disability of the hon. Member for Oldham, West, will be short-lived. I should also like to voice a welcome to the right hon. Gentleman the new Minister of Pensions who, I know, will bring to his new office great warmth and sympathy.

The first of my two points concerns the onus of proof in certain cases. The House might best address itself to this point by considering the sort of case which is often brought to our notice as Members of Parliament. It is the case of the man who goes into the Army, where he is medically examined and is passed Al. In the course of his service he becomes ill, and his illness progresses until it becomes a disability. It is then often impossible to convince that unfortunate individual that his service had not something to do with the disability, whatever the doctors say.

I believe that the view as to where the onus of proof lies in such cases has largely changed and that a more generous view is taken in that respect. One hopes that that is the case, and that it will now rather be a matter of showing that the disability did not arise from the service than of the disabled person having to establish that it did. I feel that the matter can be dealt with administratively in a more sympathetic way. I would add that there are psychological factors. One is that if a man is seriously disabled he may, in any case, have to be supported out of some fund of public money, and that it may afford the man more satisfaction that the help should come out of the funds of the Ministry of Pensions.

The other point is rather in the nature of a question about appeal tribunals relating to special cases. If I am right, new principles have been laid down fairly recently, particularly by Mr. Justice Denning, as he then was. Many cases were decided upon old principles, and the House quite rightly decided that they should have an opportunity of coming forward again to have new principles applied to them. I know that such special appeal tribunals were working until recently, and I would like to know whether they have finished their work or are still in being. I promised to be brief, and I shall. Every hon. Member will desire, despite all our difficulties, that we should do whatever is possible for Service pensioners. These matters have given us all very great concern and we hope that some of the hardships will be removed. For example, parents' pensions have given most of us considerable concern. I desire to support the general case which has been made.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I am very glad that this matter has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale). I want to make what I think are important points on matters which are causing a great deal of worry in connection with pensions cases. The first is the attitude of the Ministry towards cases of coronary thrombosis. I understand that the Ministry do not agree to pensions in such cases, and I should be very pleased to know whether that information is right or wrong.

I want to mention a case which came before the tribunal last Monday morning, in which a widow was trying to establish a claim for a person who was a sergeant in the "Liverpool Kings." The man had done 18 years' service, or 18 years and 3 months, to be precise. He had served two years in Gibraltar and at least one year and nine months in Burma. Like other men taken on for longer service, he was periodically examined. He died in September, 1949, in Burma. I took the matter up with the Ministry and endeavoured to get their consideration, after the widow had approached me. The information which I secured from my medical friends delayed the appeal tribunal for nearly 12 months. When I raised the question at the opening of the case before the tribunal I was assured by the tribunal that the opinion expressed by the medical adviser of the Ministry decided the case even before the tribunal had looked at it.

I was advised by the tribunal that some of the authorities upon whom I had relied in regard to this case were not necessarily right in asserting that stress, strain and climatic conditions had anything to do with the case. The tribunal stated that those factors had nothing to do with this case, that the cause of death was hereditary and that the man would have died of coronary thrombosis whatever walk of life he had entered. In addition to that, they stated that the number of coronary thrombosis cases weeded out or discharged from the Army had been about 321 in seven years. I had cited the authority of a very eminent medical writer. I forget his name, and I have not my papers with me. Like other hon. Members I was caught out by this debate, although glad of the opportunity which has been given us to speak on this matter. That authority stated that stress and strain were contributory factors which could be the cause of death.

Such an expression of opinion ought to be taken into consideration with the other medical opinions given to the Ministry. The Ministry do not consider that any case of this kind has been made out, but it seems to me that there is such a case. The Ministry's view has not altered over the years but I believe that medical opinion has softened and changed considerably, and as a result of the advice which has been given to me by medical men I am satisfied that the Ministry should have second thoughts about pensions in these cases.

I want to say something about what was put to the tribunal in this case to show that there is something in stress and strain being a contributory factor. This man's wife is a constituent of mine and he was a Liverpool lad and lived in Kirkdale before he joined the Army at the age of 21. He did over 18 years' service. In his last few months in Burma he had occasion to see a doctor. When this matter was taken up with the Minister attempts were made to verify this but there was no record of it. Nevertheless, on at least one occasion a month before he passed away the man had a heart attack and went sick. The doctor treated him for indigestion. The widow told me—I think I am justified in repeating this because there is a shortage of bottles—that a beer bottle was used to hold his indigestion mixture. A month later the man passed away in his office doing his job. Whatever may have been the opinion of former Ministers and whatever may have been the medical advice given to them, the Ministry should now have second thoughts on this question.

I am sorry that I did not speak before the hon. Member for Luton because his opinion about this would probably have been of value. From the way he spoke I gathered that he shares the point of view to which I have been trying to give expression, that in cases where individuals have been serving in the Forces and, with stress and strain, the complaint has developed and brought about premature death, a pension should be payable. I am glad to have had the opportunity of ventilating this matter for it is one which affects very many men in the Services and I hope that as a result more attention will be given to it than in the past.

6.35 p.m.

Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)

It must be unique in Parliamentary history that at a time of acute international tension we can find time to discuss other very vital social problems. Like many other hon. Members, in the short time in which I have been a Member of the House I have had a great deal of correspondence on this matter. I should like to pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Health for the painstaking care and consideration which he has always given to the cases which I have submitted, though I have not achieved 100 per cent. success. I have been somewhat astonished at the facility with which some cases get through and the extreme difficulty which one experiences in other cases in which one might have thought that the supporting evidence was overwhelming.

I have one or two cases to cite. One relates to a man who was wounded in the 1914–18 war. To this day he carries a piece of shrapnel in his right buttock. I do not know much about medical matters, but I should imagine that the positioning of a piece of metal in a man's body would at some time or other, between 1918 and 1950, cause some disability. That man has a disability but the Ministry say that he has not the disability which he claims to have but a disability in another part of his body altogether, of which the man himself is quite unaware. I submit that this is a case where one ought to take into account the commonsense point of view that, after all, a piece of shrapnel is a foreign body and is very likely to cause some difficulty in a man's physical makeup.

Another man was gassed and also had trench fever in the First World War. He still bears the evidence of the trench fever but his medical papers in the Ministry have no record that he suffered from it at any time, notwithstanding the fact that he was invalided out of that war. That man is incapable of any work whatsoever today. He suffers from a considerable number of complaints in consequence of that trouble. His case has been put forward by successive Members of Parliament for Ilford without any success whatever.

There are also the cases of two other men, both of whom were invalided out of the Services. Today, neither of these men is capable of any work whatsoever. So ill and incapable are they that they have to be carried about in their own homes. Every action which they do has to be guided and supported by their wives or other persons in their houses. In such circumstances it is not possible for a wife to go out to supplement any income which may be coming into the family. The result is that in some of these cases extreme hardship is being occasioned. In the last two cases I have mentioned there is a conflict of medical opinion, and in both there is the wretched disease of disseminated sclerosis notwithstanding the fact that both men were invalided out of the Service for some reason or another, and both were accepted into the Service on a medical category of A.1.

If I have any criticism to make of the Ministry of Pensions, it is their slowness in dealing with some of these cases, although in many there is considerable speed. However, one I have mentioned has been continuing in correspondence since I have been a Member of this House, which is nearly a year. All the time conditions in that family are getting worse and worse. Surely it should not be impossible for the officers of the Ministry to deal with these acute cases with greater despatch than they are doing at present.

Finally, I make an appeal to the Minister. In September last year the British Limbless ex-Service Men's Association made an appeal to the Prime Minister and to other Ministers in connection with the pensions paid for amputations. The rates are still the same as those of 1919, but conditions have changed and the cost of living is out of all proportion to what it was when the pension for this type of case was fixed in that year. Surely there is the strongest case, on moral and ethical grounds, for the man who has given his very limbs in the service of his country to be given more consideration in 1951 when prices are so different from those in 1919.

6.41 p.m.

Mr. Frank Anderson (Whitehaven)

Like other hon. Members I want to pay my tribute to the generous consideration that the present Minister of Health has always given to cases which I have submitted to his Ministry. While I feel sure that the new Minister will give the same sympathetic consideration to cases that will occur during his period of office, I recognise that however much the Minister may be in sympathy with a case that is put up, he has to be governed by the instrument that governs him. In other words, the Warrant has to do to the job and not simply the Minister.

I shall touch on an aspect which so far has not been considered this evening. I have been responsible for about 220 cases going before the pensions appeal tribunals and I am glad to say that I have won 83 per cent. of those cases. I have made it a practice not only to take notice of what appears upon the precis sheets that go before the tribunals, but also of the complete history from the beginning of a man's service to the very end. I have found that in the majority of cases the additional information secured and put before the tribunal has been the deciding factor in his favour.

I suggest that instead of considering just the fact that a man has been in hospital and what he has been treated for, an effort should be made to get from the man concerned the whole of his experience during his service, because it may be found that there is a contributory cause which does not appear on the précis sheets. I recommend the Minister to consider that aspect of the question. I have also found that there is a lot of information on the précis sheets which is foreign to the man concerned.

Again, when we have tried to get the opinion of a specialist, he has not been prepared to go before a tribunal and this has made it difficult for the man to have an expert opinion. We know that the Medical Services Division has every facility for getting medical evidence, but the applicant should be given access to the same expert opinion as the Ministry of Pensions. This would at least prevent the man concerned from feeling that he was not getting a fair crack of the whip. Disseminated sclerosis has been mentioned in this debate. I did not come prepared or I would have brought much more information with me. However, I have secured, in one case, an expert opinion as against the opinion of the Medical Services Division, but a promise had to be made that I would not ask this expert to go before a tribunal in the event of the case, going there.

This specialist, speaking of disseminated sclerosis said: In spite of the statement appearing in the opinion given by the Medical Services Division of the Ministry of Pensions … that 'it is considered that it is not due to a virus or other form of infection,' I would point out that no inconsiderable weight of neurological opinion favours the view of infection by a virus or similar infecting agent. If this is so, and it is impossible to prove the contrary, such a virus might well be contracted on service, especially following the debilitating effects of several attacks of malaria during 1942 to 1944, which "(this applicant)" appears to have suffered before the disseminated sclerosis manifested itself by symptoms. Such a period of quiescence is well known with regard to viruses and other forms of microorganism, for instance the virus of encephalitis and protozon (spirochaete) of syphilis. So this expert comes to an entirely contrary view to that of the Medical Services Division.

A man who is not using the services of the British Legion will find himself at a slight disadvantage. When he appeals to his own medical practitioner, in the majority of cases the medical practitioner will say that he has no right to express an opinion; but he is the medical man concerned, and in getting these cases before a tribunal there is the utmost difficulty in securing an opinion from a specialist. I think that the Ministry might make it a little easier for that opinion to be obtained, so that it may be found how far the Medical Services Division are correct in their opinions.

I want to deal also with Hodgkin's disease, of which I have had experience of five cases. In three cases this disease occurred after the men had been vaccinated, but in the remaining two cases that could not be proved. I submitted a long account of these cases to the Ministry some considerable time ago, but when once the Medical Services Division have come to a conclusion there is the utmost difficulty in getting them to reverse their decision. I hope that in cases such as Hodgkin's disease, where it can be proved, for example, that in three out of five cases vaccination had taken place, at least some further consideration will be given.

We have the greatest difficulty also with nerve and neurasthenia cases, and I hope that in this direction also facilities may be given for applicants to obtain opinions from specialists to see how far the opinion of the Medical Services Division can be controverted in the light of the knowledge which a medical adviser would have of a man and his family. I hope that consideration will be given to allowing the applicant the same access to a specialist as have the Medical Services Division.

One other aspect on which I should like to speak is that of the disabled person who happens to be in a country area. In some cases he seems to be forgotten. He draws his pension, signs on, often by post, and seems to have no opportunity to be employed. I hope that the Ministry of Pensions will not simply leave it to the Ministry of Labour to do what they can in these cases, but that something more will be done for these men in the countryside, where there may be only two or three disabled persons who are unemployed and merely drawing their unemployment pay plus their pension. More detailed consideration ought to be given to the kind of work which can be found for these people rather than that they should be allowed to walk the country roads, as they are doing at present.

I trust that the medical men on the appeal tribunals are up-to-date in their medical knowledge. I sometimes fear that some of them have retired from the medical service a long time ago. If they have to become judges as to how far a case is proved or otherwise, I hope that steps will be taken to ensure—I know that this does not rest wholly with the Ministry of Pensions—that these medical men are competent and have the necessary knowledge to pronounce judgment upon the cases with which they have to deal.

6.54 p.m.

General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)

I should like, first, to join with other hon. Members, not only in wishing all success in his new office to the Minister, but also in paying a tribute to the work of his predecessor who s now the Minister of Health. I should like at the same time, as memories are sometimes short, equally to pay a very strong tribute to the Minister's earlier predecessor, Mr. George Buchanan, for I believe, from experience and after a long time on the Central Advisory Committee, that Mr. Buchanan did, perhaps, more than anybody else to humanise and to relax the officialdom of the Ministry and to make it the very flexible organ which it now is for doing good.

None the less, it is possible to improve the system of the Ministry and pensions generally. The system is still too complicated. There have been too many additions to amendments of and subtractions from the various regulations and scales of pensions. The rates are not simple by any means. My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), with the British Legion behind him, and I and various hon. Members have in the past urged that there should be an inquiry by a committee into the whole system of disability pensions.

That request was in no way intended as a vote of censure upon the Ministry; it was exactly what we said it was. We thought that the system could be improved, and we asked that there should be an inquiry. We still believe that the system might be improved and that there might well be an inquiry, and we cannot see that in expressing that view and in asking for an inquiry we are in any way casting missiles at the Ministry of Pensions, which, we acknowledge, has done very much good work and has become, as I have said, very much more human and far less official-bound than it was a few years ago.

We believe that some increases in pensions are necessary, although I know how inappropriate it is at the present time to ask for increases in anything. We do not ask for enormous increases, but some increases are necessary, and we believe that a rise in the basic rate for total disablement is justified. We ask again that this may be very carefully gone into, not by a departmental committee, but by a committee of inquiry. There are some pensioners who are now living on a very bare scale. Especially is this true of oldish men, with, perhaps elderly wives. These households have at their disposal only one or two ration books and it is very hard for them to manage.

The cost of living has risen very much, and in many cases, not only in Government service, but in industry generally, wages and salaries have risen to keep pace with the increase in the cost of living. That cannot be said of pensions. Life is a very different affair for the pensioner, who has to live without any increase on account of the higher cost of living. Life is very hard for many pensioners, and theirs is a case which might well be looked into and some, not very large, but more or less adequate, increase might very well be granted.

Sometimes it is not recognised that disabilities grow worse with the passage of time and that pain is apt to increase. Particularly is that the case with injuries to the eyes. As a man grows older his injury is apt to have more effect in affecting his sight. That is also the case with other injuries. An hon. Member quoted a case of a man who, having been wounded in 1916, was still found to have a piece of shell in his body. An acquaintance of mine recently wrote to me from a hospital saying: It is an extraordinary thing, I lost my leg from wounds in 1916, I was in some pain the other day and it has just been discovered that I have a piece of shell in me above the place from which my leg was amputated. I quote that case to show that there are cases discovered only after many years. I urge that the cases of people wounded years ago, or having had some serious disease years ago and now finding the effects growing greater, should be considered and in some cases some allowance might be made in the pensions. I know it is done in some cases, but I think it might be done more liberally.

Cases of pensioners living in the United States and Canada particularly, and in some other Dominions do need careful looking into. We all know how our currency has depreciated in terms of the dollar. We know also that the present Minister of Health has recently been to Canada making inquiries and that he met a certain number of British pensioners there. I am sure he did his best in the course of a very quick tour, but I have had letters from pensioners there saying they did not think he stayed long enough or went carefully enough into a great many cases in order to realise how hard is their lot now. These British pensioners had pensions granted in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but they live in a land where the dollar is the currency. I suggest it might be well for the Minister to go more carefully into this matter than may have been possible so far.

I hope the Minister will pay attention to the points which have been raised and will not take the attitude which has been taken—and which is the only complaint I have—that this request is an adverse attack on the Ministry. The request is made by the British Legion and many pensioners, as well as hon. Members, that the whole matter of pensions rights and the system should again be inquired into, if possible by an impartial Committee.

7.5 p.m.

The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Isaacs)

I am very glad that this debate has taken place tonight, but I am sorry that it has taken place so soon after my taking the position of Minister of Pensions. It is no good my trying to convince the House that I can answer all the questions that have been put. If I tried hon. Members would know that I was fobbing them off. On the other hand, it gives me an opportunity of listening to various grievances—there have not been many—covering a number of cases and I make the promise to the House immediately that every case that has been referred to tonight will be examined.

The debate was opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale). I very much regret his disability, but it did not interfere with the ludicity and speed of his vocabulary. There are two things to which he referred and which have been running through the discussion this evening. The first was the tribute he paid to my predecessor, which I was very glad to hear. I was also glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) go further back to a Minister before my immediate predecessor, one who, as he is not now a Member of this House, we may mention by name, Mr. George Buchanan. That was a very well deserved tribute. I can assure the House that the spirit of George Buchanan and the others permeates the whole staff of the Ministry. I am sure that if I have not already absorbed it I shall absorb the same approach to the matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, referred to the welfare services, and those services are also well deserving of the kind words he expressed. They are imbued with the desire to help those who go to them. My hon. Friend referred to the problem of finding work for some of our unemployed disabled persons, and on that matter I can speak with a little more comfort and assurance because, until a few days ago, one of my duties was to find work for disabled people through the Remploy Corporation and in other ways.

Reference must also be made to other organisations, the British Legion's "Blesma" and other voluntary organisations, which are very active in co-operating with the Ministry of Labour in finding work for these people. It is not the job of the Ministry of Pensions to put men into employment. I can speak with some little knowledge of the Department which deals with the employment of disabled persons, and I know that they look upon it as an important task. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) made reference to the case of a messenger at an employment exchange and I will look into that matter.

There is far more being done in a cheerful spirit by management in this country about the employment of disabled persons than is commonly recognised and appreciated. The Act of Parliament dealing with the employment of disabled persons calls upon every employer in the country with a staff of more than 20 persons to engage 3 per cent. of disabled persons. By and large that 3 per cent. has been taken up. There are one or two cases of a special kind where it is not taken up for instance, no firm is expected to dismiss an able-bodied man in order to employ a disabled man, but, as soon as there is a vacancy, if the firm has not the 3 per cent. quota, it must take the disabled man to make up the quota. Many firms have far more than the 3 per cent. of disabled men.

My hon. Friend threw some doubt on whether the Government itself is doing its share in this field. There has not been time to look up the matter, but I can assure him and the House that the Government, in all its employment spheres, is well above the 3 per cent. If I remember rightly it is considerably over 5 per cent. That leaves a residue to be found employment which, as far as possible, is done through the Remploy organisation. On the other hand, there is not only the legal responsibility on employers to take the 3 per cent., but the disabled rehabilitation officers of the Ministry of Labour informed me, when I discussed this matter with them recently, that as a rule they find little difficulty in persuading an employer to give a chance to a disabled man.

My visits to factories throughout the country, Remploy and ordinary factories, have filled me with astonishment at the amount of work which a supposedly totally disabled man can do. Once a man is well into a job with a firm which is willing to take him there seem to be no obstacles which they cannot overcome. But the great value of this work is not only the finding of a job for the man but the fact that by doing so a man who has become disheartened, who feels that no one wants him, is turned into a man who is earning his own living, standing on his own feet, looking the world in the face again and who believes that he is now wanted although he is disabled. I can assure the House that that kind of work will be continued.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan) referred to the case of a death after a fairly recent examination. He would not expect me to give him an answer tonight, but I will look into the matter and find out something about it. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, and myself are a little awkwardly placed tonight. He came and gave me notice as soon as he received permission to raise this matter on the Adjournment. He expected to have a little longer time to prepare his case and I anticipated having a little more time to prepare the answers and the information he desired, but matters have turned out otherwise. We have reached this stage of our proceedings earlier than we expected and we have not been able to take all these points into consideration.

The hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) touched upon an important point about the vehicle service. That service is being overhauled. Attention will be given to providing better facilities where that is possible, but I am informed that the difficulty about providing a vehicle which will carry two persons is that without some special legislation such vehicles would come within another taxation class, and that might make matters difficult. However, the matter is being examined, and we will do what we can.

Mr. Leslie Hale

It is the intention of the Government to introduce a Budget this year. That will be an occasion when that point could be dealt with. I am sure it would be perfectly simple to examine it.

Mr. Isaacs

My hon. Friend must not, in the customary phrase, expect me to anticipate the Budget statement.

The hon. Member for Luton referred to the kind of reply which he gets about the cases he submits. He says that they are detailed and informative. I have had many of these letters before me. I have been pleased to see the great pains taken in each case to give the fullest possible information to the Member who had written about a case. I promise that that will continue and that any information which we give will be as full and as detailed as possible.

The House will not expect me tonight to supply a lot of detailed information. I have only been able to check two or three facets of the matter since the debate started. One of those is in respect of claims for unemployability supplement. Over 1,000 of these awards are being paid to limbless pensioners, which represents about 65 per cent. of the cases. That is all very well, but 35 per cent. of the cases remain. They will be looked into.

The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield made reference to the additions to the scale which have made the Warrant rather complicated. I am being pressed today for additions to the scale, and if we keep on adding to it we must not complain, as I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not, that it is a little complicated. During the short time I have been at the Ministry I have been studying the Royal Warrant, and it has already given me a headache. One thing I have learned about it and its administration is the spirit in which it is approached in the Ministry. My hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. F. Anderson) said that the Minister is governed by the Royal Warrant. That is so. I can act only within the terms of the Royal Warrant, but there is a nice little escape clause which gives the Minister discretion on many points.

What is more, in the earlier part of the Warrant I read that where there is any doubt, that doubt is to be exercised in favour of the applicant. I have found that to be the spirit of the Ministry. I have only had a short time to talk with the staff there but I have been impressed with the fact that they look at a case, not in the spirit of "What reason can we show why this man is not entitled to it?" but in the spirit of "What reasons can we find to entitle him to it?" I assure the House that where I have any discretion it will be exercised in the spirit of the Warrant, that is of giving the applicant the benefit of the doubt. We should try to find the necessary reasons why we should give and not withhold.

Sir G. Jeffreys

May I explain what I was trying to argue? It was that because this scale has become, as the right hon. Gentleman admits, a very complicated one, the case for an inquiry as to whether a new scale, a new Warrant, ought not to be substituted, is strengthened.

Mr. Isaacs

That is the remaining point to which I wish to refer. I have some recollection that this matter has been previously discussed in this House in some form, and I cannot express my views on the subject without looking at that debate and finding out more about it. I do not think that we can lessen the complication of the Warrant itself if we are to keep on adding new claims. If we could meet all the points which have been put forward in this debate, and they were added to the Warrant, it would be more complicated. But no one will complain of these complications if there are a number of different cases to be dealt with.

I cannot give any assurance about any kind of inquiry, but if the House will give me an opportunity of trying to examine the whole purpose of the Warrant, I assure hon. Members, if they will forgive me the personal reference, that in the same way that I made the question of the Remploy factories for the employment of disabled persons a matter very dear to me at the Ministry of Labour—I saw it was of great value to the community—so I recognise that the duty of the State is involved in this matter. The Warrant has said that these people shall be taken care of. The only question is what is the limit of the people to be covered and the limit of the care they are to have.

I do not suppose that I can improve upon the humanity in the handling of these cases of my predecessors at the Ministry of Pensions, but I give the assurance that I will do all I can to maintain the standard. I welcome this discussion. I shall carefully consider every point which has been brought out and go into the questions with my advisory council, a very valuable body. I hope to meet them, I believe, tomorrow, and I shall consider at any time any proposals put forward in the hope of being able to say that a case has been made out which is good enough to win the support of this House and the Treasury. I thank hon. Members for their kindness to me while I have been making this wandering and discursive reply. I ask them to accept the will for the deed. I shall do the best I can about the matters that have been raised.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Eighteen Minutes past Seven o'Clock.