§ LORD HARRIS rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is the case that Army Order I of 1916 has deprived certain soldiers of the privilege of claiming from Government an allowance—in addition to their own contributions—for their dependants; and, if so, whether this is not in contravention of the intentions of Parliament.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, a case which attracted my attention at a Tribunal meeting recently has caused me to put this Question. A Territorial soldier stated that whilst he was contributing something to his mother as a dependant she was getting nothing at all from the Government, I
therefore wrote to the Territorial Association concerned, and received this reply—
It is regretted that no claim for Government allowance in respect of this man can now be admitted, as under the provisions of Army Order I of 1916 the claim had to be made on or before December 10 last. The soldier completed Army Form O. 1796, making his mother a voluntary allotment of 6d. a day, but no claim for Government allowance was made.
That answer led me to suppose that the reason why the mother was getting nothing from the Government was, in the first place, that the soldier had omitted to make a claim, which might have been due to his own ignorance; but, in the second place, that the Government had passed an Order which absolutely prevented him, unless he claimed before December 10, from getting the Government contribution although he was contributing himself.
§ It was obviously the intention of Parliament that the dependants of soldiers should be assisted reasonably by a contribution from the Government, the amount depending upon the soldier's own contribution and the extent to which he had been assisting the dependant before he joined the Army. In the face of that which I fancy was unquestionably the intention of Parliament, the War Office pass an Order which, as far as I can see, deprives the man of what was given him as a right. It seems to me questionable whether a Government Department is entitled to do that. Therefore I have taken the liberty of putting this Question. I dare say my noble friend will be able to give a satisfactory reply and explain the circumstances, but I thought it as well that we should have the explanation publicly. This cannot be an isolated case. In all probability there are many others like it, and it would be as well if the men in the Army thoroughly understood why they are deprived of this advantage. The man in question could not understand it. I questioned him closely as to why his mother was only getting 3s. 6d., and all he could say was that he could not get any answer to his requests that she should get a Government contribution as well as his own.
My Lords, if my noble friend has a case in which he thinks that hardship has occurred and he will forward it to me, I will make investigation into it and communicate with him. The War Office do not consider that they have acted in contravention of any intention of 198 Parliament. This new Army Order I of 1916 is a modification with relaxation of a former Army Order of 1915. The reason that the War Office had to set a limit for these applications was that there was such an enormous number of fraudulent claims. Where the claim was very belated it was almost impossible to trace what was a proper application and what was a fraudulent one, and very reluctantly the War Office had to institute a large number of legal prosecutions, with the result that they succeeded in getting a great number of convictions for fraud. I can assure my noble friend that the Rules are not harshly interpreted. That is naturally the very last thing that the authorities at the War Office would wish. I may add—and this would apply to the case he has in mind—that many claims are admitted for consideration if it is shown that through ignorance, or genuine misunderstanding, or for some other good reason the claim has not been received within the proper time. When a man enlists or joins from the Reserve he is required to sign one of the following sections of a form—And a leaflet is handed to soldiers emphasising those alternatives. But even supposing the soldier, after signing (a) or (b), changes his mind, he can make a claim on a form which is obtainable from the Commanding Officer provided that if he changes his mind he does so within one month. I again assure the noble Lord that there is no intention of being harsh with regard to these cases, and, as I have said, if he will be good enough to forward particulars of any case to me I will make it my duty to investigate it.
- "(a) I do not wish to make any allotment from my pay or to make a claim to separation allowance.
- (b) I wish to make an allotment from my pay as stated below, but I make no claim to separation allowance.
- (c) Declaration by a recruit who wishes to claim separation allowance for a dependant."
If a good reason can be shown why they did not make their application, further investigation will ensue.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.