HC Deb 17 October 1939 vol 352 cc703-6W
Major Milner

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware that William Thomas Brown, formerly No. 4690543, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, enlisted in October, 1937, being medically examined on three occasions and found fit; that owing to service under bad conditions in July, 1938, he developed pneumonia and later pulmonary tuberculosis, stated by his medical man to be due to service; that he has now been discharged but has been refused any pension and that the Commissioners of the Royal Hospital decline to furnish any precis of evidence, or to indicate any means of appeal; what medical authority has reviewed this case; whether such authority was an independent one; and whether there is any right of appeal and a right to a precis of the evidence, and, if not, what steps are proposed to enable such rights to be exercised in future?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I have been asked to reply, as this is an ordinary peacetime case falling to be dealt with under the Army Pay Warrant.

This soldier was admitted to hospital in January, 1939, and found to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. His case was considered in the normal way by the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital, who are an independent body charged with the administration of soldiers' pensions. The Commissioners took the view that the disability was not attributable to the soldier's service, and no pension was therefore admissible under the Pay Warrant. The man appealed to the Commissioners against this decision, and the Commissioners submitted the case for the opinion of the Director-General of Army Medical Services. The latter agreed that the disability, although manifesting itself during the man's service, was not due to service, and that any exposure to bad weather conditions, which occurred five months before, did not materially contribute to the onset of the disability.

Any person who is aggrieved by a decision of the Chelsea Commissioners may appeal either to the Commissioners or to the Secretary of State for War. Every case and every appeal receive the most careful and sympathetic consideration, in the light of the advice of the Director-General of Army Medical Services, who is the only responsible adviser to the Secretary of State in all medical matters. This procedure is considered satisfactory and it is not proposed to alter it.

As regards the request for a precis of evidence, Army medical records are a class of documents that are confidential and privileged, and consequently no disclosure may be made therefrom.

Sir A. Wilson

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will lay before Parliament an explanatory memorandum showing in what respects, and why, the wording of the Royal Warrant of 15th September, 1939, and the Order by His Majesty of 22nd September, 1939. dealing, respectively, with disablement pay and pensions of the Army and the Royal Air Force, differ from their predecessors?

Sir W. Womersley

The alterations introduced both in the general arrangement of these instruments as compared with their predecessors and in the wording of various provisions have been made in the main with the object of using past experience to improve them throughout in form and clearness. The mass of detail contained in such documents makes it impossible to produce the comprehensive memorandum suggested by my hon. Friend without an expenditure of time and labour which I do not feel justified in devoting to it in present circumstances.

Mr. Dunn

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he is aware of the case of Arthur Knowles, 20, Russell Place, Malt by, Regimental No. 19170, Lancashire Fusiliers, Pensions Case No. 2 M.K. 1950, suffering from gunshot wounds of right leg, now in septic condition, arising out of service in the Great War; that this man was evacuated from the Leeds Military Hospital on the 1st September and has received no treatment allowances since that date, and that he has a wife and six children to maintain on 16s. per week; and what are the reasons why this and similar cases cannot be dealt with and are having to be maintained by the public assistance committee?

Sir W. Womersley

Mr. Knowles was discharged from hospital on the 1st September as further in-patient treatment was not required. He was again medically examined on the 12th instant, when it was found that the only action necessary was the provision of a slight protective dressing over the scar. This dressing can be obtained through his panel doctor and the wearing of it will not prevent Mr. Knowles from working.

I have already informed the hon. Member that the pension payable to Mr. Knowles has been increased to the 70 per cent. rate.

I may add that any case found to need institutional treatment for a pensioned disability will be admitted immediately.

Mr. Pritt

asked the Minister of Pensons whether he will arrange that every soldier proceeding on active service should be furnished with a document setting out in simple language his rights to receive a disability pension in the event of his being wounded or injured, or falling sick, and in particular, making clear to him that by virtue of Clause 5 of the Royal Warrant, Cmd. 6105, he will have no right to any such pension if the contemporary official records which are available do not contain evidence of his disability; that where such records exist, however badly they may be kept, no other evidence, however convincing can be accepted, even of a disablity that only emerges after some time; that in no case can his own unsupported word be accepted; and that in any event he will have no right to any such pension unless there is no doubt left in the mind of the certifying medical authority that his disability was attributable to war service?

Sir W. Womersley

I understand that the Royal Warrant in its complete form is to be issued with Army Orders. I may say that I cannot accept the hon. and learned Member's interpretation of Article 5, which will be construed in a liberal spirit in the light of the expert guidance which will be given by medical officers of very great experience and will ensure that no material evidence in support of a claim is excluded from consideration.

Sir A. Wilson

asked the Minister of Pensions what deductions from pay are made in respect of officers, warrant officers and men whilst in hospital under treatment for disease or injury arising out of war service?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I have been asked to reply. As far as the Army is concerned, officers on full pay, admitted to hospital at public expense on account of wounds received in action or illness contracted on service in the field, pay no hospital charge: in other cases, namely, injury or illness contracted elsewhere than in the field, they pay 2s. 6d. a day. Soldiers are not charged anything in respect of hospital treatment unless it is due to an offence under the Army Act or otherwise to their own fault.