§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (THE EARL OF CRAWFORD)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The bulk of it contains administrative amendments to the large volume of Acts already existing on the Statute Book relating to pensions to those who have served in the war. There are only two clauses, I think, which raise any novel question or question of principle—namely, Clauses 7 and 8, to which I will refer later. Clause 1 is purely administrative, and applies to the members of the mercantile marine certain advantages from which they have hitherto been excluded. Clause 2 relates to information from employers. Under the existing Statute the Ministry of Pensions is entitled to require information from employers about the prewar earnings of disabled men. This clause extends that power, enabling the Ministry to ascertain the pre-war earnings of 786 deceased persons, thus making it possible to deal in a much more satisfactory manner with claims put forward by widows.
Under the present Statute only three months' pension may be paid in advance. Clause 3 extends that period to six months, which will be of value to those who propose to emigrate, three months being too short for that amount of remittance. Clause 4 is a purely technical Amendment, and the same applies to Clauses 5 and 6. Clause 7 applies to soldiers the right which already exists under the Naval Act of 1865 in respect of seamen, giving a statutory right to a pension rather then treating the pension as an act of grace or of bounty. The Select Committee which has recently been inquiring into this subject laid special stress upon that point, and this clause is accordingly introduced. It makes no difference in the amount of pension or in the nature of its award, but merely gives it a statutory authority.
Clause 8 is likewise based upon a recommendation by the Select Committee, to the effect that an independent authority should be set up to whom certain appeals should be referred. It is proposed that the Lord Chancellor should be the authority to select these independent tribunals, and your Lordships will see that the Panel is to consist of a man of legal experience, who will be chairman, of a medical member, and, whether the case be of an officer or of a man, of an officer or a man as the third member of the Court. I need only add that these tribunals will not deal with any question raising the amount of pension, but will only deal with whether the person who makes the appeal is or is not entitled to a pension. The amount and claim will have to be dealt with by the Medical Appeal Boards now being constituted by the Ministry. The last Clause of the Bill is again purely technical. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Crawford.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.