§ STATEMENT BY MR. FORSTER.
§ Sir J. REMNANT
asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office if his attention has been drawn to complaints of delay in the payment of war gratuities in the cases of those who have lost their lives in the War; and if he will see that prompt payment is made?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I have already dealt with this matter in reply to previous questions, but I will take the opportunity of explaining fully how delay arises in connection with payments of war gratuity to the representatives of officers and men who died before the grant of gratuities was made.
The gratuity for men was granted in December, 1918, and for officers of the Regular Army in January last. The corresponding gratuity for Territorials and other temporary officers, which was laid down in Regulations before the War, has been issued throughout the War with the rest of the officer's estate.
These gratuities have first to be assessed and then to be paid out in accordance with the testamentary dispositions of the officer or soldier or otherwise in accordance with the laws of intestacy. The first part of this work has to be done, in the 1631W case of officers, in the War Office; and in the case of soldiers, in the pay offices, where alone the necessary particulars of service are recorded.
It will be remembered that immediately after Christmas the pay offices were subjected to the exceedingly heavy strain of demobilising the men then in the Army and paying the gratuity to the living ex-soldiers, and they were unable at the moment to take in hand the cases of men no longer alive. But as the strain of demobilisation has slackened they have taken up the assessment of these arrear gratuities, and are now making rapid progress with it.
The work of distributing the gratuities to those legally entitled has to be performed in a branch of the War Office with specially trained staff in view of the legal and other questions involved. For estates still in hand at the date of the grant of the gratuities, issue has been made with the rest of the estate, but there were some 700,000 estates which had already been distributed, the accounts of which had to be re-opened. The performance of this work and the training of the necessary staff for it inevitably occupy a considerable time, and it was decided that the only fair way of determining priority of payment was to proceed according to the date of death. An announcement has already been made in the public Press that applications for the gratuity are unnecessary. They cannot be allowed to affect the order of priority, and the work involved in replying to such application would only occupy the time of the staff engaged upon making the payments. Such applications accordingly have remained unanswered, but in order that there may be no risk of failure to deal with an individual estate announcements will be made from time to time in the public Press that the issue of gratuities in order of date of death has reached a certain date, so that the representatives of any officer or man whose death occurred before that date may send a reminder if they have heard nothing on the subject.
Everything possible is being done to accelerate the rate of issue by training additional staff, and in other ways.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
asked the Secretary of State for War whether several applications have been made to him for payment of the gratuity of Private William Edwin Howe, No. 43245, Middlesex Regiment, who was killed in October, 1918, on behalf of his only child and next-of-kin; whether 1632W any acknowledgment of the claims has been made; and when payment may be expected?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to-day to the hon. and gallant Member for Holborn dealing with these cases generally. Two applications for war gratuity have been received in the case to which my hon. Friend alludes. Although it has been announced in the Press, and by notices exhibited at post-offices, that applications in such cases are unnecessary, so many applications have been received that it has been found impossible to answer them individually without seriously delaying the work of issuing the gratuity.
§ Major WARING
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the gratuity payable for the loss in action of a limb is £3,000 in the case of a general and £100 in the case of a second lieutenant; and, if so, whether, in view of the fact that the disability is equally, if not more, onerous in the case of the younger man, he will consider the desirability of recommending that the inequality of these gratuities should be redressed?
§ Mr. FORSTER
The amount for a second lieutenant has been raised to £250 for cases in the present War. It is not proposed now to abandon graduation by-rank.
§ Major HENDERSON
asked the Secretary of State for War whether ho is aware that the war gratuity due to the late Private James Hutchison, No. 201474, l/5th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action on 10th November, 1917, has not yet been paid to his widow, Mrs. Martha Hutchison, care of Turtle, 57, Maclean Street, Glasgow, S.S.; and whether he can take steps to have this payment expedited?
§ Mr. FORSTER
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to my statement today in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holborn.