§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, I rise to call attention to the pensions and allowances of soldiers discharged from the Army on account of wounds and of diseases contracted or developed on service with the Colours, and to ask the Paymaster-General whether any alteration in the rules governing the grant of such pensions is desirable.
It was in 1915 that a Committee reported as to a fresh scale of disability pensions for those who were entirely or partially injured on military service, and that scale was subsequently adopted and embodied in the Royal Warrant which I have in my hand. I am not going to make any comment upon the amounts of those pensions. I rather wish to call attention to the method and system of their administration. The whole House, I am sure, will agree that there is a general determination on the part of the people of this country that some of the scandals that occurred in former wars shall not be repeated, but that the nation shall deal fairly and generously with her fighting men who have become disabled in her service. I think your Lordships will also be agreed in this, that the nation is further determined that no rules which obstruct the full intention of the nation's generosity shall be allowed to interpose, as it were, between the desire of the nation and the administration of the pensions. I am not going to complain so much of the actual administrators, as we know they have to follow the rules drawn up for them. I will only make this comment, that it is obvious that the method by which these pensions are administered must, of course, have a serious effect upon recruiting, because our compulsory system is only partially applied. But whether that is so or not, the broad question remains—that justice ought to be done to the men who have suffered in our service.
May I call your Lordships' attention to the Royal Warrant under which these disability pensions are granted? I quote from the Royal Warrant of 1914, in which it is stated that—Permanent pensions may be granted at the following daily rates to non-commissioned officers or men discharged as unfit for further service on account of wounds or injuries or sunstroke received in action or in the performance of military duty, or on account of blindness mused by military service, or a disease due directly or wholly to war service.I am quoting from the old Royal Warrant, but I do so on purpose to emphasise the 206 point that although the scales of pension are altered the specific words which I have read are repeated in the Royal Warrant of 1915; and I wish to call your Lordships' attention specially to the words "due wholly to war service."
Before I deal further with the Royal Warrant, I should like to quote a statement made in another place by the Financial Secretary to the War Office on this question. Replying on the point whether pensions should not be given in all cases where men had suffered on service or had contracted wounds or disease, the Financial Secretary said—I think my hon. friend will realise that the medical examination to which recruits are subjected is directed more to seeing that they are likely front the physical points of view to render efficient service rather than to searching for the seeds of disease. I am bound to say that if the Amendment were carried, the kind of medical examination to which recruits would be subjected would be materially altered. We should have to make much more stringent medical examinations and look for signs of disease which at present may often, and I ant afraid do escape observation.I think one might be inclined to reply that, after all, the Government have adopted a particular method of passing men for service and a particular medical test, and it seems to me difficult for the Government to turn round and plead the comparative laxity of their own medical examination as a reason for refusing pensions. I am inclined to think that if an insurance company were to refuse the payment of claims on a similar plea, it would not do a very extensive business. It is quite true, of course—and nobody knows it better than the noble Lord who is going to reply—that difficulty has arisen because there has been a great deal too much laxity in the passing of men into the Service. Many of your Lordships know numbers of cases where men have passed the medical test who ought not to have been passed, and no doubt this is partly due to the faulty system of medical remuneration for passing men. It may be due also to the difficulties —at certain times inevitable difficulties—under the voluntary system; you had to get men, and therefore the State was only too anxious to wink, as it were, at laxity in the medical examination.
But on the broad question of the principles on which disability pensions should be granted, I think we may lay down two propositions. One is that the words in the Royal Warrant which I 207 have read were drawn up before the war and applied to a small voluntary Army highly tested by medical examination, but they by no means apply to, and were not drawn up in view of, the vast Armies we have now raised, not subjected in many cases, as I have said, to so severe a medical test and drawn from all classes of the population, a great many of them at an age much higher than that at which men would have been taken for the Regular Army. My next proposition is that there is absolutely no comparison between the nature of the tests and the strains to which men are exposed during this war and those to which they were subjected in any previous war. Exposure for a fortnight, or even a week, to incessant shell fire night and day is an experience to which nobody who is familiar with previous wars will say that our soldiers have ever been subjected before. The result is that a great number of men who might have fairly escaped the tests of other wars have broken down, and the seeds of disease, which in many cases would have slumbered both during civil life and during the normal stresses of ordinary wars, have awoke and had deplorable effects on the constitution of these men. I therefore draw a very wide distinction between this war, both in respect of the men enlisted and the stress of the war, and all previous wars; and I suggest to your Lordships that the words in the Royal Warrant "due wholly to the war" constitute a very severe test to which to submit Men, and that if literally interpreted they are bound to deprive of pensions a great many men who ought to have them.
Let me take, for instance, the case of consumption. I am told that if a man gets pneumonia from service in the trenches or elsewhere and subsequently develops tuberculosis, he is refused a permanent disability pension on the ground that he probably had the seeds of consumption in him already or cannot prove that he had not already got them. I think, as a matter of fact, this difficulty might be remedied in the case anyhow of an insured man. If the panel doctor had not reported the case as consumptive, I think that ought to be conclusive evidence that the disease had arisen in the course and as a result of the stresses of the war. Then take such cases as those of rheumatism A great many men, especially among the 208 elderly gentlemen who have enlisted in this war, have suffered to some extent from rheumatism, but the kind of rheumatism that is developed from soaking wet trenches and long exposure is of so severe a kind that it can hardly be compared to the original limited pains that these men suffered before in the ordinary course of nature. The same is the case as regards nervous breakdown. A person with ordinary strength of nerves might well have broken down under the terrific stress of this war, and it might be no sign of his having had beforehand something defective in his nervous equipment. In fact, I am informed that a great many of the men who have received partial damage suffer greatly also from different neurasthenic affections. Therefore there ought to be a more liberal interpretation of, or some alteration in, the wording of the Royal Warrant.
Then take partially disabled men who get three-fourths, one-half, or one-quarter of the full pension. The different medical boards have to decide what is the value of the man's work in the market, and it is obvious that different boards all over the country must differ very much in that estimate. Those reports go to Chelsea, and the pensions are granted on the basis of the reports. Therefore in the case of almost the same accident, or accidents which are comparable, there are very different results. I have here some facts given me as regards the pensions granted, which, as I have said, depend on the medical reports. In the case of a man whose left leg had been amputated a pension of 14s. was granted, and in another similar case 17s. 6d., whereas in the case of a man who had lost his right leg 25s. was granted. From the point of view of disability for work I should have thought it made very little difference whether the right or the left leg had been removed. Another point is this, that the difficulty of judging of a man's earning capacity must differ very much with the various medical boards. Moreover, they are apt to judge of the earning capacity of the man by the rather inflated prices that at present obtain in the labour market.
Then, too, you have a curious lack of uniformity of decisions between the different bodies that have to pronounce upon these cases. There was a case mentioned in the House of Commons the other day where a man was refused a pension at Chelsea, but pressure was brought to bear— 209 though I think your Lordships will agree that these cases ought not to depend upon representations even by such powerful persons as Members of Parliament—and at last the pension was granted. A week or ten days afterwards the man died; then, of course, the case switched over to the War Office, who have to deal with widows, and they refused the pension. This was not denied in the other House. The invaluable activities of the same person were brought to bear, and after some little difficulty the pension was granted. It is therefore perfectly obvious that we do want a little more system and a little more uniformity. Perhaps in this connection I might remind the noble Lord who is going to reply of the suggestion that was made by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House that a Bill would be brought in setting up a comprehensive Board to administer all pensions. The appointment of this Board might be accelerated with great advantage to these men and to the public.
It was argued in another place by the Financial Secretary that power had been given to the Statutory Committee to deal with cases which fall outside the terms of the Royal Warrant. We had a good deal of discussion of the Statutory Committee in this House, and I think there were many noble Lords—of whom I was one—who expressed the view that it would be extremely difficult, owing to the great severity of taxation now and after the war, for sums to be collected sufficient to supplement the pensions that were granted by the War Office and Chelsea, or to give pensions in eases where those pensions were not granted, and I do not think the subsequent course of the war will lead anybody to change his mind on that important question. Moreover, it is one thing to get a pension granted as of right for military services, and it is quite another thing to get some pension or another granted merely as a compassionate allowance from funds which are subscribed in that way.
One other point. There is delay in the granting of these pensions, and there ought to be some method of tiding over the time between the man's discharge and the period when the pension is received. I have particulars of a case of a man who was discharged on February 14. He was severely wounded and had almost lost the 210 use of his right hand for life. He was discharged from Winchester and received a ticket to York, 10s., and a suit of plain clothes. After discharge the separation allowance ceases, and the man of whom I am speaking is absolutely penniless and has nothing whatever to live upon in consequence of the delay in the granting of the pension. I admit the very great difficulties that arise in deciding who should have pensions and who should not. I do not go so far as some who suggest that everybody who suffers during service should have a pension. There must be cases due to negligence and remissness on the part of the man himself, and it would, perhaps, lay an unfair burden on the State were he able to demand a pension. But the reaction after the great strain of service in this war is rather likely to lead a man into some degree of carelessness in his behaviour in which he would not otherwise indulge.
Before asking my Question. I propose to make three suggestions to the noble Lord. One is that in present circumstances the words "due wholly to" are rather too strict a condition on which to base the grant of pensions. I would suggest that either "aggravated by" or "greatly aggravated by" military service, or some words of that kind, should be substituted. I understand—the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—that when the reports of the different medical boards are received at Chelsea they are considered and pensions are granted accordingly, but that the man's case and its details are not gone into, the authorities at Chelsea being mainly bound by the facts found for them by the medical boards. It might be possible, first of all, to issue rules guiding the medical boards in the performance of their duties. I believe there is an appeal at Chelsea, but very few men know that there is such an appeal. I understand that the appeal is from Chelsea to Chelsea—that is to say, from one set of gentlemen sitting in one room under one name to very nearly the same set of gentlemen sitting in another room under another name. If that is so, I do not think it can be considered a satisfactory sort of appeal; and I suggest to the noble Lord that he should consider whether some sort of public tribunal should not be constituted where these appeals could be properly dealt with. My third suggestion is that the Pensions Board which has been promised should be set up 211 as soon as possible. I think I have said enough to show that there are complicated problems involved in this subject, and I invite my noble friend to make a full—and I hope it will be a satisfactory—statement on this question.
THE MARQUESS OF SLIGO
My Lords, I beg of you to extend to me that indulgence which I have noticed you are good enough to grant to those who address you for the first time. It is not my intention to trespass on that indulgence for more than a few minutes, and I propose to confine my remarks to a portion only of the question which the noble Viscount has so lucidly explained. The point to which I wish to draw attention is the adjustment and alteration of pensions in connection with civil employment.
Perhaps I may assist your Lordships if I briefly sketch the procedure. The disabled soldier goes before the medical board, which, after investigating his case, awards him a temporary pension, and he is then and there instructed to appear again before the medical board after a period of twelve, nine, or six months, in accordance with his case. When he does so appear certain points are taken into consideration, and amongst others the board ascertains whether he has been engaged in some permanent employment and the amount of wages that he has been receiving. In many of the earlier cases, at any rate, the men's pensions, after the first revision of their cases, were reduced; and the word was then spread about, rightly or wrongly, amongst men similarly placed that they had better not go in for permanent employment and good wages because they would probably in that case have their pensions reduced. That created a feeling of insecurity. Men often viewed with apprehension the prospect of their second appearance before the board. The result was that many men preferred to remain idle, to undertake no work at all rather than run the risk of losing their pensions; in fact, it was an invitation to the men to become loafers.
The French, I am informed, had similar difficulties to ours in this matter. They had similar arrangements for their pensions. They found, too, that men were inclined to prefer to remain idle rather than run the risk of losing their pensions. The French have now altered their arrangements, and I am informed that this kind of pension, 212 granted for disablement for military service, continues intact as long as the disablity for that service exists. Every recipient of such a pension in France, even if he, either by manual or technical dexterity, or by intellectual, or artistic, or scientific, or financial, or any other skill or knowledge can earn a competency for himself or even amass a fortune, retains that pension intact so long as the disability for military service for which it was granted exists. The pension apparently there is considered as a recompense for the sacrifice which the man has made, and not as a substitute for a portion of the wages which he had previously been able to earn. Surely if it is possible for France with a compulsorily recruited Army to do this for her men, it should be possible for us to make a similar provision for men who have voluntarily undertaken all these risks.
To revert to our existing system, the authorities have tried to relieve men's minds of their anxiety and they do encourage men to obtain employment. Last November the War Office issued a leaflet in which it is stated that the partially disabled soldier who has been pensioned—should clearly understand that the wages which will be taken into account in fixing his pension are not what he actually earns but what he is judged capable of earning.But though it is easy to say that he should "clearly understand," it is almost impossible to make the private soldier understand the difference that exists, or that any difference exists, between the wages he is earning and his capability of earning. Moreover, it seems to me somewhat difficult even for a member of a medical board, who can have no knowledge of the fluctuations of the labour market, to differentiate between the two. If a man states that he has been earning 20s. a week, surely it is natural that the member of the medical board should consider that he is capable of earning 20s. a week. Moreover, it may be that, shortly after the reduction of the pension in consequence of the high wages which the man has recently been earning, the average rate of wages may drop, or he may even lose his employment. Then, again, it is almost impossible to make the private soldier understand that his pension will not be affected to the extent of the wages that he was earning immediately before. Men cannot understand how capability for earning is calculated. There is also dissatisfaction among men sitting next to each other, 213 apparently with the same disability, but with different rates of pension.
Would it not be possible—I put forward this proposal with due humility, for it may perhaps have been already considered by His Majesty's Government—would it not be possible to let the man know the worst, so to speak, the first time he appears before the board? When his pension is then granted and he is told to come up in twelve, nine, or six months time for its revision, would it not be possible to let him know that unless in the meantime his disability had increased or the average rate of wages had dropped, or both, his pension would automatically be reduced, and that subsequently at other revisions there would be further reductions until the minimum pension for his particular form of disability had been reached? During the long period —the first period—for which the larger scale of pension is granted the man's nervous system has time to recover from the shock of the operation, the treatment in hospital, and the subsequent inaction during convalescence. He has time to accustom himself to his disability—to do without the arm, the hand, the foot, whatever limb he may have lost. He has time to consider what form of employment will be best suited to his condition, and to seek out and obtain that employment. Consequently when he went up again before the medical board for revision, the reduction of his pension would not come upon him suddenly and without warning, and, moreover, he would know the amount that it would be. This would be an inducement to men to seek employment as soon as their health and strength permitted.
At present, rightly or wrongly, many of these men associate employment and the earning of wages with a reduction of pension. The inducement for men who are imbued with these ideas is not to obtain employment. A man goes to his home, it may be in an out-of-the way part of the country. Being discharged from the Army he ceases to wear his uniform and to be under the restraint of discipline, and the name and honour of his regiment no longer act as a stimulus to good behaviour. He may not be fond of or may not have the means of reading. Probably for many years, certainly for many months, he has been accustomed to an open-air life. He finds the cramped quarters in which he must necessarily live very irksome. He goes out of doors, and having no occupa- 214 tion tends to become intensely bored; and, owing to the inclemency of the weather perhaps, gradually drifts into a public-house. We all know what it means when a man with no occupation and some spare cash forms the habit of visiting public-houses. He begins to be neglectful of his personal appearance, and goes gradually downhill, eventually losing all self-respect. This is bad for the reputation of the Army, it is demoralising for the ex-soldier, and it is distressing to us who honour these men for fighting our battles. I venture to hope that if His Majesty's Government have already considered the form of proposal which I have indicated but cannot see their way to make an alteration of the pension arrangements, they will, at any rate, make some public announcement which will reach these men assuring them that industry and self-respect will not necessarily mean reduced circumstances.
My Lords, I should like to make a few remarks in support of my noble friend Lord Peel. This question is one which is sure to receive sympathy in your Lordships' House and in every part of the country, and I am quite certain that the nation will approve of any steps that may be taken to ease the life of those who have been wounded or disabled or have contracted disease in this war. Mr. Bonar Law described these men as "children of the State," and I think as children of the State we are bound to see that not one of them suffers in any way after the war through his patriotism in going to fight for our safety and our honour. I am old enough—and there are many Peers in this House who are old enough—to remember the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, and we can recall facts that have always been a disgrace to this country—how men who came back from those wars went to the workhouse, or sold matches in the streets, and were absolutely uncared for. It was better after the South African War, but there were cases then which were very deplorable and discreditable. Such cases should never be allowed to occur again.
I noticed in the Press that it was stated that some of the men who had been employed in this war had died in the workhouse, and reference was made to the disgrace of their having a pauper's grave. I object altogether to the scorn that is thrown on paupers. They cannot 215 help themselves. A great number of the people in our workhouses are very old people, and the minds of many of them are affected. They have had the worst of luck in life; things have gone against them; it is not their fault that they go to the workhouse, and there should not be any scorn attached to the name "pauper." They much more merit our pity and our sympathy. But I do think that a soldier who has fought for his country should have those honours and that respect paid to his memory that are the custom of the Service, and that he should not be allowed to go to the workhouse and be buried in what is styled a pauper's grave.
I do not want to find fault with the Government in regard to this matter. I recognise the tremendous difficulties they have to encounter in everything connected with the war. We were totally unprepared. We have entered into a gigantic, an enormous undertaking, which is all the more difficult because we were unprepared. And I must acknowledge that the first business of the War Office is to carry on the war, to do everything they can to win the war. At the same time the question of those who are damaged by the war must be faced in a larger way than the Government have done up to the present. There are many cases—I need not produce any; they have appeared in the Press, and your Lordships know many—that are â propos of the case we are discussing. But I would like to speak on the principle, which I think is unsound, of leaving discharged men for weeks without any money at all until the pensions are settled. And remember this is at a most critical moment, when the man wants money most, either to recover his health or to get better food or better lodging. Men are a long time without getting any money at all after having been discharged. And then the pensions vary. In some severe cases men get a pension of 4s. 8d.; in others they get 12s. Yet in less severe cases that have come to my knowledge the pension given is 25s. That shows that there is want of organisation and want of fair play with regard to this subject of pensions. I have a large number of cases from Sir Frederick Milner, who deserves the greatest credit for the way in which he has worked during the past eighteen months to relieve these people. In many cases where the pensions have been too low at first, his indefatigable 216 energy has resulted in the men getting a proper pension. But I think that is altogether wrong. We must not let these poor soldiers trust to what friends they may have in the State, to the Member of Parliament or influential friend who takes up their case. Many of these men are without friends, probably the large proportion of them, and some of them are without relatives. Those are the men whom the State should take care of without any outside influence at all. When a man is discharged as medically unfit his pay and allowances cease on that day; yet he may, as I have said, be weeks before he gets his pension. I acknowledge that there is some difficulty in settling the pension, but difficulties are made to be faced; and we have no right to allow a man, because he is discharged as medically unfit, to go to his home or wherever he can go without any money in his pocket.
Another case which I would like to bring to your Lordships' notice is the question of Royal Warrant 1117, which provides that a gratuity of £2 should be given to the man on his discharge. This is not given to the man; it is given to the paymaster. The man may be weeks and weeks before he gets this £2, and that again at a critical moment when he needs the money. There are many cases of this kind which have been relieved by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society. I venture to say that there has never been a greater society in England than this one. The work they have undertaken for the benefit of these men, the sympathy and kindness they have extended to them, have been perfectly splendid. I believe this society has relieved over 40,000 men in the peculiar case that I am mentioning to your Lordships, where the man is suddenly discharged with no money in his pocket until his pension arrives. I would urge that in the case of these men the authorities should act immediately, and that the men should not have to wait for this long time, which leaves them very often in great distress. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society do act immediately, and that is where they have been of such great benefit to the men.
The Government have given pledges, but I am sorry to say they have not kept them. Men were promised on joining that they should not suffer from their patriotism 217 if they were disabled. They were promised that their earnings and their pension should be made up to 25s. a week. At any rate it was so understood, and if that pledge was not given it should be contradicted publicly. The men are under the idea that it was given. Then there is another delay which comes very hard on the men—I refer to the delay in regard to back pay. Men are discharged penniless, and it is weeks and weeks before they get their back pay. Some new arrangement should be made so that they should get the back pay much more quickly than is the case at present. My remarks are also applicable to the Navy, but the noble Lord opposite is going to respond, I understand, only for the Army. The two cases, however, are the same, so I join them together.
There is very cruel treatment to sailors and soldiers in the way described by the noble Viscount. It is continually the case that after men are discharged something develops that was occasioned by their work in the Service; but when these men apply to the authorities they are informed that their incapacity is not attributable to causes connected with the Service. Many cases of this nature have come before me in my time, and I have worked hard for the men, and lots of people have done the same. But my point is that outside influence should not be required, because that means that only a favoured few benefit. We want to secure a reform in the interests of the many who have no friends. May I narrate to your Lordships a few of the diseases brought on by military and naval service? First, there is sunstroke. A man may get sunstroke and be sent to hospital, and he may get over it and serve his time, but when he gets older the effects of the sunstroke come against him. That is a case that very often happens. But it is said, "This is not the result of your work in the Service." Then there is rheumatism, and this is particularly applicable to the present war. Men may serve in the trenches through the war in a most plucky and gallant manner, and it may be that two years afterwards they will get a most acute form of rheumatism, perhaps even rheumatic fever. Then they will be told, "Oh, but you were well when you left the Service." Strained heart is a common thing in the Navy. The man goes into hospital and may be there some weeks, but that complaint may come against him after he has served his time. It is 218 the same in the Army. All those matters ought to be entered on the man's certificate. Worst of all is consumption, a most terrible disease. In both Services men get consumption continually; they are told that they did not get it in the Service, but must have had some symptoms before they joined. Surely that is not a very sensible argument. They were passed as sound into the Service; therefore they must have got the disease while serving. I hope that special attention will be given to this question in the present war. The amount of consumption among the men who have come home is extensive.
I have a few proposals to make to the noble Lord, for I do not want all my criticism to be destructive. I suggest that the pay and allowances should be continued until such time as the pension is fixed. I suggest that the £2 gratuity under Royal Warrant 1117 should be given to the man immediately on his discharge and not to the paymaster. I suggest that the back pay should be paid on discharge—sometimes it amounts to a fair sum—instead of the man having to wait for months for it. I would further suggest that the pensions should be equalised on the principle suggested by the noble Viscount, and that some arrangement should be made by which it should be publicly declared that all men who are in this peculiar position, who have suffered from the war but have not got pensions and are in want, should be entitled to apply to the Lord Lieutenant of their county. I am sure that if that could be done a great deal of this sorrow and unfair treatment would be remedied. This would, of course, require money, but as far as my opinion is worth anything I am certain that, those of us who have a little more money than other people would be prepared to pay any sum which the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought right to impose in additional Income Tax for these poor soldiers and sailors. But I am not pleading the cause of these men. I am more or less making a demand that they shall get fair play, that they shall get what the State owes them for their gallantry during this war. The suffering they have endured for their country should not be added to; they should not drag out the rest of their lives in poverty. The least the country can do is to see that those who wreck their lives for our honour and freedom do not suffer.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD NEWTON)
My Lords, the subject raised by the noble Viscount opposite is, as everybody recognises, one of great and growing importance, and I cannot refrain from congratulating myself upon the fact that the speeches which have been made this afternoon have not been couched in a hostile spirit and contrast very favourably with utterances which have been made elsewhere. I think that everybody will be in agreement with the noble Viscount when he expressed the opinion that in the case of this war precedents should count for very little. He said very truly that the present circumstances are entirely different from anything that has prevailed before and should therefore be dealt with in a corresponding spirit by the Government. I think I can claim that this fact was recognised by the Government before I and my noble friends beside me had anything to do with it.
It was in consequence of the recognition that anything would be preferable rather than that there should be a vast body of discontented and dissatisfied feeling in the country that the scales of pensions were revised. As a matter of fact, the present conditions of pension here are higher than those that obtain in any other country, and are a considerable advance upon anything that has prevailed in this country hitherto. The Warrant of 1915, of which so much has been said this afternoon, was, I understand, the product of the combined wisdom of three Chancellors of the Exchequer, and on that ground alone it ought to be considered a valuable production. As has been pointed out in the debate, the basis of this Warrant is that the man—a private—is assumed to be capable of earning 25s. a week, and therefore in the event of his being totally incapacitated, he would be entitled to a pension of 25s. a week, plus 2s. 6d. for every child under the age of sixteen; and, as has been already pointed out, a man who is adjudged to be suffering from three-fourths incapacity would get three-fourths of that amount—namely, 18s. 9d.—one-half incapacity, 12,s. 6d.; and one quarter incapacity, 6s. 3d.
The duty of administering this Warrant and the preceding Warrant falls, as every one knows, upon the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital. I need hardly point out that the Commissioners are not responsible for the framing of the Warrants; 220 they are solely responsible for their administration. As illustrating the enormous increase of work in connection with pensions I may say that the cases dealt with by the Chelsea Commissioners are already fifteen times as many as before the war began. The procedure has been shortly and quite correctly defined by my noble friend Lord Peel, but I may as well repeat what the system is. A discharged man is examined in the first instance by a medical board of three officers, who assess his incapacity in the labour market. The case then comes before the Chelsea Commissioners. The awards granted are generally for six months; of course, in a case where the disablement is obviously permanent the award is permanent, and there is no question of revision. But in the case of revision the man appears before another board, and if his condition is unchanged his pension remains unchanged too. If the man has improved in health, his pension is reduced. If the man's condition is worse, then the pension is increased. I should like in this connection to point out that the Chelsea Commissioners in these instances do not confine themselves solely to the medical report but use every opportunity that is within their power in order to investigate the real conditions.
It is obviously desirable that the fullest inquiry should be made and every information possible obtained, because it is unfortunately the case that there are a large number of men who make no effort to obtain employment at all. The noble Marquess opposite (Lord Sligo) had something to say upon this subject, and it was with the view of preventing this kind of thing that the Government decided that the scale of incapacity allowance should be based, not upon what the man is actually earning, but upon what he is assumed to be capable of earning. A great deal has been said about appeals. Every man has a right of appeal, and appeals are constant; I might almost say that they are invariable. In the event of an appeal the whole case is reopened, and it constantly happens that increases in the pensions are made. These appeals often come in many years after the original award was made, and at the present day quite a large number of appeals come in relating to the South African War.
I should like to take this opportunity of stating quite deliberately, as a result of my own experience, that the action of the Chelsea Commissioners with regard to dis 221 charged soldiers is uniformly sympathetic, and that whenever possible the benefit is always given to the soldier. And upon this point I appeal with confidence to noble Lords, some of whom are present this afternoon, who have occupied the same position that I do at the present moment, and who have had experience of the working of the Chelsea Commissioners. As far as that goes, the constitution of this body ought to be in itself a guarantee that the incapacitated man will receive sympathetic consideration If you look at the list of Commissioners you will find that they are nearly all military men, ranging from the Secretary of State downwards. As a matter of fact most of these highly-placed military officials, in consequence of the excessive strain which is put upon them at the present moment, find it quite impossible to attend the ordinary meetings of the Chelsea Commissioners, and the work, as in the case of many other bodies, is carried on practically by a small number of men. Most of these are military men, and although I myself have made a practice of attending since I have occupied my present position I and the other civilians are in a constant minority. I will go so far as to say this, that every opportunity is taken whenever it offers itself to stretch the operation of the various Warrants as much as possible in favour of the soldier.
I will give the House a few examples of cases which have recently come under my notice, which show the spirit of which I speak. I take the case of a man who was awarded a pension of 8s. 9d. This man was severely wounded eight or nine miles behind the firing line in consequence of his hammering a live shell. Then I take the case of a man who was awarded a smaller pension of 12s. 6d. This man lighted his pipe with a detonating fuse, and severely injured himself in so doing. Then I take the case of a sergeant who was awarded a pension of 17s. 6d. This man shot himself when his rifle, contrary to orders, happened to be loaded. There are, if anybody chooses to look them up, plenty of cases of men who have been pensioned as the result of accidents received in playing football. I have a case here of a man awarded a pension of 18s. 9d. who was injured playing leapfrog on the parade ground. I do not introduce these cases out of a spirit of levity, because this is the last subject of which one would desire to make fun. I merely instance these as 222 cases in which the accident, lamentable as it may be, was to all appearances due to the-man's own carelessness. In addition to these cases, if anybody chooses to examine the files at Chelsea he will find that in numerous instances pensions, in some cases amounting to the full 25s., have been awarded to men who have hardly performed any military service whatsoever and from whom the country has derived no benefit at all.
There has lately been in various quarters much denunciation of the Government and of the War Office with regard to their alleged meanness in the granting of pensions in cases of wounds and disablement. These denunciations proceed chiefly from three classes of people. In the first place, from what I may call the professional denouncers of the War Office—those people who apparently are under the impression that the war can be brought to a successful issue and society reorganised provided that the War Office is sufficiently abused. The second class consists of those persons who hold advanced opinions on all social questions; and the third class consists of persons who are animated by genuine philanthropic feelings. And whilst I am prepared to admit that those people who are inspired by genuine feelings of philanthropy do a great deal of good, yet I do not think it can be disputed that they do a great deal of harm too; and for this reason. By dint of diligent research they discover a hard case, and they thereupon parade it as an instance of the general treatment which the soldier receives at the hands of the Government and the War Office, and therefore produce a deplorable impression upon the public, and I need hardly point out the effect which it must have upon recruiting.
Two charges in particular have been made against the Government as to this question. It has been, for instance, alleged by responsible persons that the War Office does not recognise tuberculosis or frostbite as being due to military service, and that a man who contracts either disease is not eligible for a pension. Let me first take the case of tuberculosis. Even my noble friend opposite (Lord Peel) seemed to be under some doubt as to whether tuberculosis contracted in France entitled a man to a pension. Last January eighty-seven cases of tuberculosis contracted in France were dealt with at Chelsea. In seventy-nine of these cases pensions were awarded, 223 and the remaining eight are under consideration. That ought to be sufficient answer to those who complain that tuberculosis is not recognised. I take the other case, that of frostbite. The legend that frostbite is not recognised by the Government as making a man eligible for pension apparently rests upon a statement made in a Police Court to the effect that a man had been invalided, that he had been frostbitten in the trenches, and that he had been refused a pension. A Police official who was present corroborated the man's statement, and, I think, asserted that there were hundreds if not thousands of men going about the country in a similar condition. As most of your Lordships are probably well aware, the whole story of this man was a pure fiction. He had never been out of the country at all. Yet it is upon fictions of that kind that much of the denunciation of the conduct of the Government with regard to pensions is based; and these statements have unfortunately in many cases been made by people who ought to know better.
I should be the last to claim that the present system is perfect. I readily admit that there are cases of hardship. I do not say that it is inevitable, but in the circumstances it is not very surprising; and I presume that it was partly to deal with cases of this kind, cases which do not come within the four corners of the respective Warrants, that the Statutory Committee was created. I deplore the fact that there is a want of uniformity, but I do not see how you can expect complete uniformity from all the medical boards throughout the country. The result is—and it is deeply to be regretted—that the administration of these pensions occasionally assumes what I suppose must be called a capricious character. But the real grievances and hardships in connection with pensions seem to me to be caused, not so much by cases of wounds, but, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, by cases of disease which in medical opinion were constitutional and not directly due to military service. In the event of disease being wholly and directly caused by the war, then there is no question and the man gets his pension at once; but in cases where military service has clearly brought to light a latent or constitutional disability the practice is to give a small pension under a former Warrant if the case is not covered by the Warrants of 1915, and this smaller pension 224 is invariably granted in the case of a man who has served abroad, and not infrequently in the case of a man who has only served at home and possibly only for a short period.
It would not be honest on my part—and I desire to be as honest as I can in the circumstances—if I did not admit that this continual contest which goes on with regard to the liability for the contraction of these diseases between, shall I say, the Government and the man is due to the fact that vast numbers of men have been recruited who were physically unfit. It is not the smallest use my attempting to deny the fact; it is perfectly plain, and everybody realises it. But when everybody realises that it is so, I think everybody ought to realise at the same time that such a condition of things is absolutely inseparable from the voluntary system. Look what happens. Under a universal system the Government has its pick of the flower of the population, and takes precisely the men that it requires. But under a voluntary system you have no power over the men; you have to take the men who come forward. The numbers have to be found somehow or other, and therefore it is inevitable, if you are aiming at a very large number, that amongst them there should be a proportion of men who were physically unfit. To such a length has this been carried that in one battalion alone—the 20th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment—no fewer than sixty men were invalided who had practically performed no military service at all. These men were invalided for very long-standing ailments, or from being over age.
My noble friend Lord Peel asked me whether I considered any alteration in the pension rules desirable. I am not sure that I am the proper person to whom this inquiry ought to be addressed, because it seems to me that this is a question of a highly important character which can only be decided by the Cabinet. But if my noble friend likes to have my own opinion, founded upon such experience as I have bad, I will say this. Personally I consider that a great deal of the criticism directed against the administration of these Warrants is unfair, because it is directed against the medical boards, who only record, as they are told to do, their considered opinions, and that appears in some quarter to be regarded as a crime. But there is on 225 suggestion which has occurred to me—I think it was put forward also by my noble friend Lord Peel—with regard to the question of aggravation. It has occurred to me that if aggravation could be in some form or other recognised in the new Warrant it would make the situation clearer. In practice, as I have endeavoured to explain, aggravation is already recognised by the Chelsea Commissioners to a limited extent, but I think that if it were publicly recognised in a Warrant, as has been done in the case of officers, it might, he advisable; and I believe—although I should be sorry to pledge them upon the subject—that this question is under consideration by the War Office at the present moment.
Various suggestions were made by my noble and gallant friend opposite (Lord Beresford). I admit that I am not quite able to hear them all accurately in mind, and I think that perhaps it would be better if he would return to them upon another occasion. But when the noble Viscount opposite invites me to express my opinion, I may point out that there is an obvious alternative to the present procedure. You can, if you choose, recognise that all men who break down shall be eligible for pensions. At all events that plan would possess the merit of simplicity, and it would save those persons who, like myself, have to administer these Warrants shorn a very invidious duty. But it is just, as well to see what that really means. I understand that the total amount now being paid in pensions for disabilities incurred during this war is at the rate of £1,500,000 a year, and it is calculated that it may easily rise to £7,500,000 a year if the war lasts till March 31, 1917. As everybody knows—the figures have been given—about one-third of the men who have been discharged have failed to receive pensions. If all received pensions the annual charge would now be, in proportion, £2,270,000 a year, with a possible rise to £11,360,000 at the end of March, 1917. Soldiers' widows' pensions are now at the rate of £2,000,000 a year, and may rise to £5,000,000 a year. There would also be a corresponding increase in the charge for dependants. Of course, if this alternative were adopted it would also mean that there would have to he a time limit, and it is equally obvious that a far more severe medical examination would be required. I have not the remotest idea whether this heroic course is 226 likely to be adopted, but I hope that I have not altogether failed to make plain to noble Lords that at all events as far as the Chelsea Commissioners are concerned the regulations under the Warrants are administered in a sympathetic spirit; and when critics denounce these bodies for their niggardliness or for their hardheartedness, I would ask that it should be remembered that they have a duty to perform not only towards the soldiers but towards the body of taxpayers generally.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, I do not profess to be familiar with this subject and am only forming my opinions from what I have heard in the course of this debate. In spite of the sympathetic reply given by the noble Lord there does appear to me to be one unsatisfactory feature in this case, and that is that the Regulations and the practice under which they are administered are very difficult to harmonise. The Regulation lays down very plainly that, particularly in the case of disease, in order to get a pension the disease must have been "directly or wholly due to war service." The noble Lord said that the Chelsea Commissioners give a very wide construction to that, and very wisely so. But, as it appears to me, they are placed in the unfortunate dilemma of either having to go against, the strict terms of the Regulation or do what they think to be an injustice to the man. The best plan would be to change the terms of this Warrant, and I should be very glad to hear before the debate closes whether there is some prospect of that being done. No doubt it is the business of the Cabinet, to decide, but I am sure it would be an advantage to the House if the noble Marquess could tell us that there was some prospect of bringing the practice and the Regulations into harmony.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I should like to add one or two words to this conversation. Nobody can complain of the tone of my noble friend opposite in his reply on behalf of the Government. I do not think anything could be said on that head at all, except perhaps this—that I slightly regretted the rather cold-blooded calculation which he gave at the end of his speech, in which he explained to your Lordships how very expensive it would be if all the men who were discharged as medically unfit were pensioned. It is quite true that all cannot 227 be pensioned; but, broadly speaking, if a man is passed as fit to fight for the country he is also entitled to be taken care of if he breaks down in the service of the country, and I should regret that there should be any appearance of grudging on the part of the Government or the Treasury in dealing with cases of this kind.
My noble friend dealt with a great many points in the debate, but he did not touch upon one very significant series of observations which were made by my noble and gallant friend. Lord Beresford pointed out that there had been a good many cases where pensions had been refused or very inadequate pensions awarded, but where the decision had been altered upon pressure by influential Members of Parliament or other persons. Those of us who read the public Press are familiar with the fact—because a gentleman, a great friend, I think, of all your Lordships, who has taken a public part in connection with this subject, Sir Frederick Milner, has stated it openly—that on several occasions by the very strongest pressure on the authorities he has induced them to alter their decision. Because Sir Frederick Milner, a person of great influence, presses the authorities, the decision is altered; where no pension has been awarded a pension is granted; or perhaps an inadequate pension is made a full one. My noble and gallant friend behind me spoke of other cases where the influence of a member of the other House had been exerted with the same beneficial effect. I confess that this makes me very uncomfortable. For what is going to happen to the men who have not influential friends? I wish my noble friend opposite had been able to deal with that. Had he been able to get up and say, "There never has been a case in which influential interference has modified the decision of the pension authorities," that would have reassure your Lordships. But he did not deal with the point at all, and I suspect that he cannot deal with it. I am afraid it is true that, under pressure, what would have been an injustice has been set right. We have no guarantee, therefore, that, though not intentionally as far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, there are not other injustices, that there are not other cases where, owing to carelessness or inadvertence on the part of those who administer these rules, inadequate pensions or no pensions at all are awarded—cases 228 where there are no influential friends to intervene.
I do not want to say very much upon the specific question of tuberculosis. My noble friend gave a list of a number of cases in which quite recently the Chelsea Commissioners had awarded pensions in the ease of tuberculosis. I think the House was very glad to hear that, because a very unfortunate impression had got abroad which must now be set at rest. There had been a very unfortunate impression that the authorities would not recognise for the purposes of pension cases where men broke down at the Front through tuberculosis. There was a certain limiting, observation made by my noble friend afterwards, in which he said, I think, that a pension was awarded only where the breakdown was directly caused by service at the Front.
§ LORD NEWTON
Under the new Warrant—the 1915 Warrant—the breakdown must be due to what has happened during the present war. If a man develops a disease which in the opinion of the doctors was constitutional or latent before the war, or from which the man had obviously suffered before the war, then he would have to be dealt with under another Warrant under which he would get less favourable terms.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am glad to hear that, because the word "latent" is extremely disquieting. I believe that, according to the best medical opinion, we all have latent tuberculosis in our systems. Therefore if the criterion is whether the disease was "latent" before the service at the Front, I think it would be very deceptive. The real point is this. Was the man able to earn his living before he enlisted, and is he, in consequence of his service at the Front, now unable to earn it, or unable to earn it as fully? If the service at the Front has caused him to be less able than he was then, it does not matter what was wrong with him before; he is entitled to the care of his countrymen for the service he has rendered to his country.
§ LORD NEWTON
He almost invariably gets a pension. Perhaps I ought to have explained that the cases where men fail to get pensions are almost always those of men who have never been out of the country at all, or where the disability arises from their own fault.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am glad to hear it. I am dwelling on the point, because I want to make it absolutely certain that henceforth there shall be no doubt on the subject. As the noble Lord has said, it is very bad for recruiting and very bad for the Service that there should be suspicions of this kind. I do not think, if I may say so, that the military medical authorities are altogether without blame that there should be this bad impression about, because they carry out their duties sometimes very awkwardly. Let me give one case, that of a man who has been serving in the Royal Engineers. His name is Blaydon. He is an old soldier. For twelve years he served with the Royal Artillery, and he re-enlisted in this war. In consequence of the very severe character of the present campaign he had a nervous breakdown. He was invalided home, and went to Netley Hospital. He was a man of very good character, and this is what happened to him. On January 28 last—this is not an old story but quite recent— he was taken by an orderly straight from Netley Hospital to—where do your Lordships think? He was taken straight to the infirmary of the workhouse at the place where he lived, which is Ware in Hertfordshire. There he was left. I have no doubt that communication was made to that admirable organisation the Soldiers' and Sailors' Help Society, and they, after a certain interval, intervened and got him out of the workhouse.
There was no doubt no intention on the part of the high military authorities to insult this unfortunate man. But when my noble friend talks about a bad influence on recruiting, just conceive the influence of such a circumstance as that. Just conceive in the districts round Ware what must be thought of a Service which takes a man of excellent character, and when he has broken down in the service of his country, transfers him straight from Netley Hospital, the principal hospital under the charge of the War Office, to the workhouse! Those are the things which do such infinite harm; those are the things which want looking up; 230 that is the stamp of occurrence which has led to the outcry of which my noble friend complains. I am quite certain that after what my noble friend has said this man, if he does not recover, will get his pension. But I am anxious to know what provisional arrangements the military authorities make to carry these unfortunate men over the time until their pensions are decided. That is a very important matter. I do not suppose there are very many cases in which a man is taken, according to the example I have given to your Lordships, straight from the hospital to the workhouse, but I suspect there are a great many others where it will end that way. He is discharged from the hospital; he has no money, no pay—the separation allowance stops—what is he to do? He cannot live upon nothing. Is he to go to the workhouse? Is that the intention? If not, the Government must make some arrangement to meet the difficulty.
My noble and gallant friend behind me made a proposal. He said, Why should not the men's pay go on until the pension question is settled?" Why should not that be done? That appears to be a very simple expedient. If the man is able to earn his own livelihood, no difficulty arises; but I am dealing with the cases of men who are suffering from wounds or from sickness and who are ex concessis unable to earn or fully to earn their own livelihood, and if I may use a slang expression it is "up to the Government" to make some proposal to meet that difficulty. I am speaking entirely in their own interest, for remember we are no longer living under free conditions. The Government—I think most rightly—are compelling men to join. The responsibility thus becomes even more incumbent upon them to make provision. You cannot force a man to join the Army, and then when he is completely knocked up turn him out to starve. It is impossible. Some arrangement must be made. I do not know whether your Lordships would consider it improper if I now went into the Question which stands in my name on the Paper and which is so nearly allied to this discussion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I will say a word in reply to the noble Marquess in a moment. But I would prefer that he should put separately and later the Question standing in his name on the Paper.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Certainly. There is one other point which I think is germane to the present discussion, and which arises out of the speech of my noble friend Lord Newton. He said that the enlistment of physically unfit soldiers was inseparable from the system under which we have hitherto worked. I wonder whether he knows how far that kind of enlistment has been going on. I have personal experience of it. It is not inseparable. It is one of the greatest scandals ever seen, the way in which unfit men have been passed into the ranks. I have seen them with my own eyes; it has been my duty to inspect them. I have seen child after child paraded before me as being a full grown man and passed by the doctors. I have said to them, "How old are you?" At first they told me they were of sufficient age, but after a little cross-examination it appeared that they were only fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen. Then I said, "But what happened to you?" "Oh," said one, "the gentleman who enlisted me asked me what my age was, and I told him. 'Did you say you were nineteen?' he asked. 'No,' I said, 'I am seventeen.' He said 'Walk round the yard, and when you come back you will be nineteen.'" That sort of thing has happened over and over main, and I have no doubt that similar reasons led to the enlistment of men totally physically unfit. There was a case in the troops with which I have been connected where a man had lost the two centre fingers of his right hand, and the index finger was stiff; yet he was enlisted as an adequate soldier. Such a man could scarcely hold a rifle, much less fire it. That has happened over and over again, and it is not at all inseparable from the system of voluntary enlistment. The reason I suspect is that the doctors are paid by the number of men they pass and not by the number they examine, and that is a system which ought to be altered. Another reason is that no one is punished when it is found out. Those are the two things which have led to this state of things. I do not know whether that is directly material to the main part of the discussion which we have had, but I thought that perhaps your Lordships would allow me to tell the House my own experience in the matter. I earnestly hope that my noble friend, who all through the discussions in this House has been most sympathetic to the case of the soldier, will be able to reassure us still further as to the future policy of the Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I cannot pretend to the special knowledge of this subject which is possessed by my noble friend behind me (Lord Newton), and I am afraid it is quite impossible for me without further inquiry to deal with some of the specific cases to which the noble Marquess opposite has drawn attention. The question is, as Lord Peel told your Lordships at the beginning of this discussion, extremely complicated. We have to bear in mind, on the one side, what is due to these men who have deserved all that the country can do for them; on the other, we cannot afford to lose sight of the heavy burdens which are accumulating upon the shoulders of the people of this country, and we must in common fairness to them see that ordinary prudence and caution are observed in dealing with the question of these pensions. I thought my noble friend who spoke just now was rather needlessly severe upon my noble friend Lord Newton when he charged him with making cold-blooded calculations as to the cost of these pensions if they were to be granted in an indiscriminate fashion. These things have to be considered, and I do not think, particularly when my noble friend is sitting next to the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, he ought to speak lightly of those who desire to guard against financial abuses even in cases in which our sympathies are so deeply engaged as they are in cases of this sort.
The question which we are discussing to-night seems to turn very largely upon the interpretation of the Royal Warrant of last year. What does that Royal Warrant say? It says that in order to qualify for the special rates of pension the soldier must be discharged as unfit for further service on account of wounds, injuries, or sunstroke received in connection with or in performance of military duty, or of disease "due directly or wholly to war service." Those words have of course to be interpreted by the boards which are responsible for these pensions; but I have no objection whatever to telling my noble friend what kind of interpretation I personally place upon those words. In my view, if you have to deal with the case of a man who on his discharge is unable to support himself and who but for hardships or injuries received during the war would have been able to support himself, that man clearly is entitled to claim at the hands of the State that proper provision 233 be made for him, and it seems to me quite impossible that the State should repudiate that liability merely because researches into the back history of the man disclose the fact that at some time or other he had in him what are described as the "seeds of disease," and that he was therefore, if one may so put it, a bad bargain for the State. The suggestion was made either by Lord Peel or by my noble and gallant friend Lord Beresford that the onus was being thrown upon the man to prove that he had not or never had the seed of infirmity in him. I think that would be a monstrous proposition, and I cannot believe from what my noble friend (Lord Newton) tells me that there ever has been any question of throwing an onus of that kind on the man who comes forward to apply for a pension.
A good deal was said just now by my noble friend Lord Salisbury as to the medical examinations after which men are allowed to enter the Army. I am afraid there is no disguising the fact that in a great many cases these medical examinations have been conducted with what I can only describe as culpable negligence; but even if that is the case, I make great allowance for the circumstances under which the examinations have been carried out. We know what the pressure has been, we know how intense has been the desire to collect a large number of recruits within a small limit of time; but making all possible allowance for that, I do think that the evidence is overwhelming to show that in a great many cases there was most regrettable laxity. That is most unfortunate. But, on the other hand, I am certainly not here to say that when a man has been formally accepted for the Army by responsible officials of the State he can afterwards be mulcted because those officials failed to perform their duty with the amount of care which might properly have been expected of them. lf, as Lord Peel put it, the State has "winked" at undue leniency of that kind, the State has to suffer for it, and it is most unfortunate that that may be so. But, of course, there are other cases in which there may have been what amounts to something like fraud on the part of the recruit, and if that is so it seems to me that some freedom must be left for investigation of cases where there has been a deliberate attempt to mislead the military authorities.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friend (Lord Newton) has said enough to show that the whole question of the rules and regulations which govern these matters is being carefully considered by the military authorities and by the Government, but I own that it seems to me almost hopeless to look for such precision in the framing of rules as will render it impossible to avoid occasionally cases of very great difficulty and complication. The case seems to me to be rather one in which we have to look for wise and sensible administration, carefully supervised, as a means of preventing abuses; and I think my noble friend has said enough to show that such administration may be anticipated. I rather doubt whether we shall ever be able to get at absolute uniformity of practice and an absolutely perfect system, although we may get to something much more perfect than we have at present. But I hope that gradually as time goes on we shall succeed in establishing a practice which will prevent the recurrence of such abuses as may have been complained of in the past.
My noble friend made some severe remarks upon the manner in which, in two or three cases of which he was himself aware, Members of Parliament had intervened and prevented a great injustice being done. I am not at all shocked at the interference of Members of Parliament in cases of this kind. I think, on the contrary, that they are there to watch these things, and perhaps it is very fortunate that they do watch them.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hope that my noble friend does not think for a moment that I complained of Members of Parliament intervening. What I complained of was that their intervention was necessary.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
It does not seem to me in the least to follow, because these Members of Parliament, in the proper exercise of their duties, were able to prevent an injustice which would otherwise have occurred, that the board which was responsible for the failure to give an adequate grant or for the refusal of a grant was culpable in the matter. After all, these cases depend to a great extent upon the evidence which can be produced, and one 235 can very easily conceive that there should be cases in which the man's case had never been put properly before the responsible board. In a case of that kind it is the most natural and legitimate thing in the world that the friends of the man who know his circumstances and are able to present the case properly and adequately should do so, and that the hoard, with that further information before them, should review their original decision. That seems to me to be all perfectly in order and not necessarily to imply discredit upon anybody.
I desire to say before I sit down that we very carefully note the suggestions which have been made during the course of this discussion. Some of them seem to me to be very practical and helpful. I agree with my noble friend Lord Salisbury that a great many of these points require what he called "looking up" I noted, for example, Lord Beresford's suggestion that some arrangement should be made under which the man's pay should be continued until he receives his pension, so that there should be no interval during which the man was left entirely without means. The same remark applies to his suggestion that the gratuity to which the man is entitled under the Royal Warrant might be paid more promptly, instead of having to go through the hands of the paymaster. There was also what seemed to me to be a useful suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Peel—namely, that the question of the appeals should be put upon a more satisfactory footing. I think it is necessary that there should be an appeal in doubtful cases, but it is a great thing whenever you have an appeal to satisfy people that the appeal is a real appeal, and not, as was suggested a little while ago, an appeal from one set of people to the same set of people sitting under a different designation. My noble friend who leads the House will have something to say of the larger points which my noble friend Lord Salisbury was on the point of approaching just now. I will only add that noble Lords may take it from us that we really desire to see this question dealt with, not only fairly and justly, but in a spirit of liberality and generosity to the men whose claims we are discussing this evening.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I am sure we all recognise the very cordial reception which the noble Marquess has given to the suggestions which have been 236 made from this side. I only rise to emphasise one further suggestion, and to say that I think the noble Marquess has rendered a great service to the House and to the country by bringing back this subject to something like a proper focus, because there is a tendency at this moment to dwell upon the mistakes which have been made and which must occur in dealing with tens of thousands of men, rather than on the great change of opinion which has taken place in the country as to the manner in which they should be treated. I have the unfortunate experience of two wars, the Egyptian War and the Boer War, at a time when public opinion was wholly different. In the first instance we had a very large number of men for whom there was no provision at all, and I was very much struck by what fell from my noble and gallant friend Lord Beresford, because in those days sunstroke was treated as not being a disease incidental to climate or military service. It was virtually held—it was a point against which I protested over and over again—that if a man got sunstroke in India it meant that he had not properly taken care of himself or that he was in some way more liable to that disease than he should have been, and consequently he was denied a pension. Something of the same kind is true about rheumatism. I only mention that in order to point to this, that in all these questions there has been not only an advance but an absolute revolution of opinion on the part of the Government, and provision has been made which there never was the least intention of making in a previous war.
Even with what has been promised to-night, it seems to me that there are one or two little holes to be filled up. If the War Office are to keep any hold on these pensions at all—and your Lordships will recollect that there is a considerable danger on the other side of a number of pensions being claimed that have not been earned—I do not see how they are to do so unless some time elapses between the man's discharge and the time Chelsea gives its verdict. Various suggestions have been made as to filling up the time, and I think the only point on which Lord Lansdowne did not reply was in connection with Lord Beresford's suggestion that there should be an appeal to the Lord Lieutenant of the county. If such a thing were done it should be very carefully guarded, because what we want to prevent is a dissatisfied soldier 237 having to bring influence to bear and things being done that way which would not be done otherwise. I think it would be desirable, if possible, for the War Office to appoint some authority in each county to which the soldier who for some reason or another has not received his gratuity or his pay and has not yet had his pension assessed should be able to appeal for immediate assistance; and, if I may say so, I believe this would stop half these cases, which really are scandals although they may be very few in number. I hope my noble friend Lord Newton will consider whether anything of that kind is possible. I think it would be of great advantage.
§ LORD BERESFORD
Will the noble Lord also consider whether steps can be taken to stop men being sent to the workhouse?