HC Deb 15 February 1954 vol 523 cc1621-4
2 and 3. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (1) what is the pension normally payable for a war injury involving the loss of one eye when the other eye is functioning normally; and under what circumstances there is an increase in the pension if the sight in the other eye is subsequently lost from some injury or disease unconnected with military service;

(2) what is the pension normally payable for a war injury necessitating the amputation of a lag immediately below the knee; and under what circumstances there is an increase in this pension if for some injury or disease unconnected with military service amputation of the other leg becomes necessary.

10. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will introduce a Measure to secure that a disabled ex-Service man who has lost a leg, an arm or an eye in the war, and who later, for any reason, loses his second arm, leg or eye, obtains a 100 per cent. disability pension.

13. Sir I. Fraser

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if, where the sight of one eye is lost on account of a pensionable disability, and the sight of the other eye is lost through any other cause, he will consider the special hardship of blindness, with a view to increased payment.

Mr. Peake

There has been a rule for some time that, in the type of case referred to, the assessment for the loss of one eye or limb is increased to one-half of the assessment appropriate to the loss of both eyes or limbs from attributable causes. My predecessor had several cases brought to his notice where, because the existing assessment was 50 per cent. or more, no increase could be made on the loss of the second organ. He accordingly undertook to reconsider the matter. I have now come to the conclusion that a more equitable result would be achieved in these cases by adding one-half of the difference between the existing assessment and the assessment appropriate to 100 per cent. in the place of the halving rule now operated. Thus, at present a man who gets 40 per cent. for the loss of one eye and goes to 50 per cent. if he loses the other one through some non-attributable cause will, in future, go to 70 per cent., and the man getting 60 per cent. for the loss of a leg below the knee, who at present gets no increase at all if he loses the other leg, will in future go to 80 per cent.

Mr. Hastings

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, in the case of a paired organ, a double loss is twice as serious as a single loss? Does he really think that even with this proposed increase, the amount is adequate? Will he look at the matter again to see whether, in eye cases, for instance, a further increase cannot be made when both eyes become functionless?

Mr. Peake

If hon. Members will study in detail my answer, I think they will see that my proposal is a very fair one. They should bear in mind that Service organisations would deplore a solution which compensated a purely civilian injury as if it were due entirely to war service.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the Minister reconsider this, particularly in relation to the blind? If a man has lost one eye in consequence of war injury and subsequently loses the other as a result of some pathological condition, surely his total blindness is attributable to war injury as well as to subsequent conditions?

Mr. Peake

If the loss of the second limb or eye is due to the loss of the first one, of course we treat that as consequential and give the man the whole benefit under the War Pensions Scheme.

Mr. Assheton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this concession will be very much appreciated? Will he confirm that it will cover the case of Mr. Barnes, about which the Mayor of Blackburn asked the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) and myself to make representations?

Mr. Peake

Yes, Sir. I am very pleased to say that the case of Mr. Barnes will be covered by this.

Dr. King

Members on both sides of the House will appreciate that the Minister has moved a step towards the position we want; but can he not go the whole hog and say that if an ex-Service man is totally disabled—whatever the cause of the second part of the disability—he ought to get the total disability pension?

Mr. Peake

No, Sir. I think that we must maintain in this matter, at any rate to some extent, the position that the War Pensions Scheme is provided to deal with injuries which arise out of actual war service.

Sir I. Fraser

Does my right hon. Friend remember the line, "In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king"? Does he appreciate that there is no comparison between the two disabilities, and will he try to solve it by ensuring that all one-eyed war pensioners, perhaps by insurance, have some premium paid on their behalf which will give them full benefit if they go blind?

Mrs. Castle

Is the Minister aware that, although his reply may satisfy the right hon. Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton), it does not satisfy me, and that I have recently taken up with his Department the case of the Blackburn man, a Mr. Taylor, who lost one eye in the war and the second from civilian causes? Mr. Taylor's pension was increased to 70 per cent., but he was not one penny better off because he lost his National Assistance. Under this ruling, what will be the entitlement to special supplementary allowances of those men who become totally blind—such as the unemployability supplement or a special allowance for lowered standard of occupation?

Mr. Peake

The change which I have announced in no way affects the position regarding supplementary allowances.

Mr. McKibbin

Does this ruling include those poor fellows who are half deaf owing to the war and who then become totally deaf?

Mr. Peake

Yes, certainly, they will be covered by the rules I have in mind.

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