HC Deb 15 November 1965 vol 720 cc668-70
29. Mr. Hale

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether she will introduce legislation to provide for disabled and sick discharged soldiers and sailors the right to rehearing of an application for a pension, on new medical evidence being available.

The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (Miss Margaret Herbison)

As my hon. Friend knows legislation is not needed to enable my Department to re-examine cases which have not been the subject of a decision by the Pensions Appeal Tribunal and we are always willing to do so. Even where a P.A.T. has found against a claimant, he has a statutory right of appeal to the High Court on a point of law and if, exceptionally, new medical evidence later becomes available which throws fresh light on a case, there is a well recognised procedure by which it can, by consent, be remitted for rehearing. I am satisfied that this procedure, which is well known to the British Legion, is in the best interests of the claimant; and before considering any changes in the adjudication arrangements for war pensions I should wish to consult them.

Mr. Hale

Is the Minister aware that there is not one hon. Member on either side of the House who has not had cases of disabled soldiers who have lost their claims because they could not find medical evidence at the time, that this Question does not deal with points of law, that this procedure by way of appeal is exceedingly expensive and costly and that people cannot always take advantage of it, that a Measure to rectify this anomaly was introduced in the last Session and that no hon. Member on either side of the House raised his voice against it, and that it was defeated by her own implacable opposition? Would she explain why?

Miss Herbison

I am sure that my hon. Friend must realise that, in getting justice for disabled ex-Service men, there is no conflict between him and me. What I want to ensure is that justice is done to every disabled ex-Service man. I understand that the British Legion value the flexibility of the present arrangements, whereby we have the "consent-remit" procedure. I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall have discussions with the British Legion and the other ex-Service men's organisations to find out their views, in order that, at the end of the day, there will be justice for every disabled man in this country.

Mr. Wood

Will the right hon. Lady agree that various improvements have been made in this procedure over the years? Will she accept the assurance that any further improvements which she can make which would increase the justice done to these men would have the full support of the House?

Miss Herbison


Mr. Gower

Would the Minister agree that the present arrangements to which she refers seem to give the benefit to the Ministry rather than to the claimant? Would she look at that?

Miss Herbison

I am certain that the present arrangements do not give the benefit to the Ministry. Where there are questions of doubt, in almost every instance the disabled ex-Service man gets the benefit of the doubt.

Mr. Hale

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that Answer, I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter at the earliest possible opportunity on the Motion for the Adjournment.

Forward to