§ 3.22 p.m.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make representations to ensure that servicemen who served in the Falklands War and who now suffer from psychiatric disability will benefit from financial help from the South Atlantic Fund.1628
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, the operation of the South Atlantic Fund, and the decisions taken for the disbursement of funds held by it, are entirely matters for the trustees of the fund. However, I am informed that the trustees of the South Atlantic Fund and the authorities of the Service benevolent organisations, which are working closely with the fund over the handling of individual cases, are all fully aware of the need to take into account psychiatric as well as other disabilities when they make judgments on payments appropriate to need. Certain grants have already been made in such cases.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Minister for his reply. However, is he aware that this has been the subject for debate at the national conference of the Royal British Legion and at the metropolitan area conference of the Royal British Legion, of which I have the privilege to be president? Moreover, is he aware that at those conferences grave anxieties were expressed as to how the matter was being investigated with regard to those servicemen who fought in the Falklands and who could be described as difficult or perhaps psychiatric cases? There was no problem whatever with the DHSS because they said, "Yes, they are entitled to everything", but there was some disquiet with regard to the manner in which those responsible for administering the South Atlantic Fund were looking at these particular cases.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I am sorry to hear about the disquiet to which the noble Lord has referred, but I believe that the facts are as I have described them. I understand that the trustees of the South Atlantic Fund have considered the claims from men suffering from psychiatric illness in the same way as they have considered claims from men suffering from physical injuries. One of the factors that they have had to take into account is the extent to which such illness was suffered as a result of the conflict. That is of course much more difficult to determine in psychiatric cases than in physical injury cases. I can tell the noble Lord that I think that there have been about a dozen cases so far.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister very sincerely for the interest that he has shown. I do not consider the matter closed. I may have to pursue it in other fields, but I am very grateful for his deliberations, for the way in which he has examined the matter, and also for what he has told the House this afternoon, which I can assure him will be readily accepted with great approval by the Royal British Legion.