HL Deb 27 July 1920 vol 41 cc563-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the first two clauses of this Bill, to which I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading, contain the most important proposals in the measure. Clause 1 amends the parent Act of 1916. It proposes to hand back to the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Air Ministry respectively the ascertainment, award, and payment of pensions for all new disability and service claims which may arise from the appointed date. That date is the termination of the war when officially announced. The reason for this transfer, or rather re-transfer, lies in the fact that these Departments alone are familiar officially with the Service records, the good conduct badges and so forth, upon which pensions are ascertained. They are, in effect, the employers of these men, and as the new candidates for these pensions will, ex hypothesi, all be regular soldiers, it is desirable that their interests should be re-transferred to the fighting Departments rather than continued by the Ministry of Pensions, which, I believe, during the war only dealt with something like 1 per cent. of the combatant Forces who were regular soldiers.

I would like to point out that if this proposal is not accepted every man in future will find himself obliged to deal with no less than three different Departments—the War Office (if he is a soldier) for his Service pension, the Ministry of Pensions for disability and loss of working capacity, and, finally, the Ministry of Health so far as his treatment is concerned. That is a brief exposition of Clause 1. Clause 2 deals with local organisation. It fixes the date upon which local war pensions committees are to come to an end so far as new eases of disability or death are concerned. These committees have done very good work, but as time goes on their functions naturally tend to be reduced. They were set up to deal with cases arising from the recent war. They have nothing to do with pre-war cases, and they will have nothing to do with postwar cases. In this case the date on which these committees come to an end so far as new cases of disability or death are concerned is fixed at the same point as the date upon which Clause 1 comes into operation.

Clause 3 empowers the Department to divide county areas into districts and establish committees for these districts. It gives this power to sub-divide and modifies the organisation of the local committees. This will not only tend towards economy, but will improve the machinery as well and give additional convenience to the pensioner. Clause 4 contains minor amendments with regard to the amalgamation of areas. Clause 5 is not unimportant. It empowers the Department to appoint finance officers wherever such a course is thought advisable in the interests of financial regularity. Clause 6 is relatively unimportant, and Clause 7 applies the provision of the Forfeiture Act to the Air Force, which naturally was excluded from the Act passed some fifty years ago, and likewise extends that Act to officers. Clause 8 is formal, as is also Clause 9, which deals with neglected children. The Bill tends decidedly towards economy of administration and it will be valuable for the convenience of the pensioner. I commend it to the favourable consideration of your Lordships.

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.