§ Mr. WALSH
I beg to move,That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the general administration and practice of the Ministry of Pensions, with special reference to the questions of final and erroneous awards, parents', dependants', and widows' pensions, the regulations governing the appointment and powers of area war pensions committees, advisory councils, regional officers, and special grants committees, the seven years' limit for claims in respect of pensions for death or disability due to war service, and the advisability of appointing an independent court of medical appeal for the hearing of appeals against decisions of the entitlement and assessment appeals tribunals.In connection with this Motion, which I have the honour to submit, there is nothing of a party character, nor anything in its terms affecting any point of principle upon which Members of the House can differ. In this House and throughout the nation there is complete agreement that our primary obligation is to that great body of citizens who, in the most awful struggle known to history, 419 risked and sacrificed all in defence of the State. We all remember the magnitude of the peril which threatened the nation; still in our ears rings the clarion call: "Your King and Country need you"; and we still remember how magnificently the manhood of the nation responded. Great statesmen expressed the profound gratitude that filled the hearts of all, and the promise was made, "Your country will never forget you." In the past, undoubtedly, there was much truth in the quotation, perhaps somewhat hackneyed:Our God and soldier we alike adore,When at the brink of ruin, not before;After deliv'rance both alike requited,Our God forgotten, and our soldiers slighted.I am not saying—far from it—that that is the condition at the present time. I honestly believe that never in the history of any nation has the remembrance of those valiant men sunk so deeply into the mind of the people as it has into the mind of the British people, and I believe that all parties alike are determined to fulfil that promise. I say "all parties alike" quite frankly. I remember the very beginning of the debates in this House that led up to the establishment of the Ministry of Pensions, and I remember taking some little part in its establishment myself, and I am proud to acknowledge that in those proceedings every vestige of party spirit was eliminated, and all parties strove together to establish that great Department of State which is now responsible for the care of those who risked life and limb, and of their dependants. Therefore, I do not think that that quotation, however true it may have been in the past, applies to-day, and I feel that I speak the mind of every Member of this House, and of the mass of the citizens whom we represent, in saying that such a quotation shall no longer be truthfully applied, and that to those who endured sacrifice and to their dependants not merely just but generous consideration shall be given.
Indeed, it was to carry out that governing and primary purpose that the Pensions Ministry was established. That great Department symbolises the good faith of the nation and the sacredness of the promises made to those who risked and sacrificed all for the safety of the State. This Resolution is, therefore, not directed 420 against the principles animating the Minister of Pensions, nor the motives governing the conduct of his Department, but rules and regulations are necessary in every State Department, and these in turn tend to become stereotyped and, if one may be excused the expression, hide bound in application. Departmental rules and regulations seldom permit of the display of human sympathy, nor can they possibly be drafted so as to cover the great variety of conditions that have followed upon the Great War. It may be asked why did the Labour Government themselves not take action when they were in office? The answer is that the Labour Minister of Pensions desired to see, during his short occupancy of that office, what could be effected by administrative action. He effected, I think it is admitted, numerous improvements, but on the 26th May, 1925, he himself said in this House:I want to submit … that the time has now come for setting up a strong Select Committee, representative of all parties in this House, to delve into all the intricacies of this pensions administration once more."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1925; col. 1256, Vol. 184.]Perhaps I might say in passing that the Labour Prime Minister had suggested at the very beginning that probably the better course would be to appoint a Select Committee, but the Labour Minister of Pensions—and I think credit is due to him for his desire—thought it was right, first of all, to see what could be effected by administration. Later, he was satisfied that mere administrative change could not go to the root of the troubles and intricacies, as he described them, which existed consequent upon the Royal Warrant and the various regulations issuing therefrom, and had he been permitted to retain the position, there is no doubt that a Select Committee would have been appointed. Of the many intricacies of pensions' administration, and the comprehensive character of the inquiry desired, Members themselves can form an idea from the terms of the Resolution, which specially refers to final and erroneous awards, parents, dependants and widows' pensions, the appointment and powers of area committees, advisory councils, regional officers and special grants committees, the seven years' limit for claims in respect of pensions for death or disability due to war 421 service, and an independent court of medical appeal to hear appeals against the entitlement and assessment appeal tribunals. I do not propose—it would be a crime against the patience of the House, and against those Members who are interested in this matter—indeed, who is not?—and it would be beyond the power really of any one Member, to go fully into the subject as set out in the terms of this Motion.
On two only of these points do I desire to say a few words, and first as to the position of the permanently disabled soldier or sailor. A person, of course, may be permanently disabled when he is not totally disabled in the physical sense. I need not elaborate it. An illustration is in the mind of every Member, but those of us who have had charge of the administration of workmen's compensation on the industrial side, come constantly in touch with the kind of case where a man might be able, and is able, if work could be found for him, to do a certain amount of work, and to earn a certain wage. The loss of one eye, the loss of an arm, the loss of a leg is, of course, a permanent disability. A man with such disability is not totally disabled, but the moment he begins to offer himself in the industrial field, that disability, although only partial in the physical sense, becomes a total disability in the industrial sense. Very few employers are prepared to take into their service those who have received serious accident of the character I have described. The reply mostly is, "Well, we are very sorry, but, really, we have no room for disabled men. We want men with all their faculties and all their limbs, and although we would gladly give yon employment if it were possible, it is quite impossible." And, of course, the poor man finds practically every avenue of employment closed against him. Apply that particular illustration to the soldier, sailor or airman suffering from a permanent disability, which is not total disability. He is granted a certain percentage allowance, it may be 30, 40, 50, or anything less than 100, which is the total disability, but although he only receives a partial disability allowance from the State in whose defence the sacrifice has been made, when he offers himself in the labour market, he finds that industrially he is suffering from total disablement.
I am quite sure that that is a point worthy the attention of a Select Com- 422 mittee of this House, and I say that with all the greater confidence, because in the very last Workmen's Compensation Act passed in 1923, the point has been met in the industrial world, where a workman only partially disabled finds the labour market closed against him, and finds that he has become in a sense an odd lot, that there is no employer ready to avail himself of his services. He is then enabled by the Act of Parliament passed in 1923 to take his case before the County Court Judge, and if it be proved to that Judge that his failure to obtain employment is due wholly or mainly to the injury that he has sustained, then the Judge is compelled to decide that this man is to receive payment equivalent to that for total incapacity. I do not often give a Conservative Government credit; I do not often think they are entitled to it. But when I feel that they are entitled to it, I do like to give it, and I am quite sure upon that occasion they did adopt the right attitude, and they did embody in the Act of Parliament a true principle, a principle, I am quite sure, the nation would desire, and Members of this House desire, and it is a principle worthy of the consideration of any Select Commit tee this House might appoint.
The other point I would like to make again bears upon conditions very similar in industrial life to those that prevail in this particular Department. I would like to suggest the appointment of an independent medical tribunal, to take into consideration, free from all prejudice, free from all predilections, free as far as possible from all knowledge of what has gone before, the cases that have been submitted against the entitlement and assessment appeal tribunals. I have had a good many cases referred to me, of course, like every other Member. I frankly say that, in the big majority of the cases that have come to me, I have found nothing but fair treatment from the Department, whoever has been the Minister at the time; but there have been many cases—I have received a good number this week—where men complain that the doctor who was upon the assessment tribunal, and the doctor who attended upon the entitlement tribunal, was the same doctor who sat daily upon their appeal tribunal.
As to how far that statement of fact is in accordance with the Act I am not 423 prepared to say. I can only say that these cases have been forwarded to me, and I am sure it is desirable in the interests of all those people—every one of them and their dependants—those who have given their best service to the State—have sacrificed life and limb—in this case their limbs—where, I say, they have undergone this sacrifice, they ought, when their case has been finally settled to feel, so far as it is possible to feel, that they have had full justice, indeed generous consideration, and that nothing in the nature of a biassed tribunal has adjudicated upon their case. I do not propose to say another word in respect to the particular points embodied in the Motion. That I leave to hon. Members in all quarters of the House, who, I know, are fully informed upon the whole question.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordshaving regard to the prolonged consideration of all aspects of pensions administration in connection with the Great War which has been given by select and other committees of inquiry and by this House itself, it would, in the opinion of this House, be undesirable that the settled fundamental principles of war pensions administration embodied in Royal Warrant and Statute, which have been maintained by successive Parliaments and Governments in recent years, should be reopened and be again made the subject of formal inquiry by a Select Committee of this House.I am very glad indeed to have the opportunity of moving this Amendment. In doing so I am not animated by any lack of sympathy with the ex-service men in their grievances. It so happens that, apart altogether from war service, I had nearly 20 years' service before the War, and since the War, and as a Member of this House, I served in 1921 on the Committee which finally settled the constitution of the Pensions Ministry. Since that date I have had the privilege of being one of the three or four Members of Parliament who have been invited by the Minister of Pensions to serve on his Central Advisory Committee. I think, therefore, I may say that I have been pretty closely in touch with pensions administration during these many years, and, obviously, am not out of sympathy 424 with ex-service men. I cannot but regret that the fortune of the ballot—if I may put it so—has thrown it to the lot of a Member on the Front Bench opposite to bring forward this Motion, and, therefore, in some measure, at all events, to throw the question of pensions administration into the vortex of party politics. I quite agree that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) made a most temperate speech. Still, the ex-service men in the country, remembering, quite naturally, that he was Secretary of State for War, may raise hopes that I am afraid are not justified by the circumstances.
What is the position? The whole pensions administration, as set up by successive Governments, is assailed by this Motion. That administration has been laid down by the co-operation of all parties. In 1921 the Committee presented an absolutely unanimous Report. The lines of that Report have been followed ever since that date. What is the position in regard to the occupant of the Ministry of Pensions? Obviously, it has not been a party post. As a matter of fact, out of six occupants of the Ministry of Pensions, three have been members of the party opposite, one has been a Liberal, and only two have been members of the party with whom I am associated. In other words, two have been members of this side of the House and four have been members of the opposite side. That, I think, shows that the administration of this Service has been absolutely divested of any party influence and entirely free from party. I am glad, indeed, that it should be so. What is the position now?
Members of Parliament in all parts of the House are not insensitive barometers of the state of affairs in regard to pensions grievances. I happen to represent one of three or four very large constituencies in the country—Lewisham—which includes some 10,000 or 12,000 people, most of whom are ex-service men. I think, therefore, that I have had my full quota of grievances when there have been grievances against the Pensions Ministry. It may be that partly owing to the turmoil existing at General Elections and partly by the promises—I will not say by which side of the House—held out at General Elections, but soon after a General Election Members of Parlia- 425 ment get more pensions grievances placed before them than at other times. That has been my experience following the General Elections of 1922, 1923 and 1924. So far as I can judge by my post, there is much more contentment with regard to pensions administration than there was two, three, or four years ago. My recollection is that in 1924 my correspondence included far more complaints than now. I fully admit that the right hon. Gentleman the Pensions Minister has always met those grievances with sympathy, and that is the case now; and we deplore the fact that the ex-Minister of Pensions (Mr. F. O. Roberts) has recently not been able to get to the House. I find that in 1924 any grievances that I had were just as sympathetically dealt with as they have been since; but my point is that the grievances now are far less than they were in 1924. If there is a case now for going into the whole of this question of pensions administration, there certainly was a far stronger case in 1924.
The ex-Secretary of State for War who has just spoken said that had his colleague, the ex-Minister of Pensions, remained at the Ministry he would have undoubtedly have set up a Select Committee. Might I point out that if, after investigations he, at the end of six months of his period of nine months in office, had come to the House and had demanded a Select Committee I have no doubt whatever that with his knowledge of the matter he would have got the leave of the House to set up a Select Committee. He did not do so. He purposely refrained. It so happens that I have the views of the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Pensions, given soon after he left office. In an article on the 10th January, 1925, these are the exact words he wrote:Of the vast number of claims I believe it is correct to say that some 85 per cent. are all met by the existing laws or regulations. The major difficulties seem to arise with the remaining cases.As I understand this Motion then, this Committee will delve not only into the 15 per cent. but practically the 85 per cent. You are going to upset the whole of the pensions administration, although the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Pensions admits that 85 per cent. are well met by the existing laws or regulations. He wrote this article within 426 a few months of being Pensions Minister, and obviously from his own knowledge. I cannot help feeling, that with his special knowledge, if these were his views, that it is a little bit unhappy that this matter should be drawn into the arena of party politics by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
A further objection to the Motion, as I see it, is that it will raise false hopes in thousands and tens of thousands, and it might almost be in hundreds of thousands, of those whose claims have been fully investigated by the Ministry and by the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. It seems to me to be very unfair indeed, at a time when, so far as I know, there is a very small amount of discontent to raise hopes which are bound to prove false among tens of thousands, not only of ex-service men, but of their dependants. What the country wants is not a Select Committee of Inquiry. We have had committees galore in the past in regard to pensions' administration, and what we want now is security and stability. I should welcome most sincerely a decision to stabilise the present rates for a further period of three years and, it might well be, for another period after that.
I think that would be the way to bring contentment to ex-service men; we ought not to go raking-up cases after a good many years, knowing that in many instances the cases, as put before Members of Parliament, do not embody the whole of the facts. I have often, both during the period of the present administration and while the Socialist Government was in office, sent to the Ministry the particulars of a case with a note saying, "This really does seem a case where the Ministry of Pensions ought to give way—on the facts as they have been put before me." But time after time it has come to my knowledge that only about one-third of the facts have been put before me, and two-thirds have been, I will not say deliberately, suppressed. I would add to that that the cases sent to Members of Parliament are often the worst and most difficult to deal with.
I have referred to the objection to dragging this question into the vortex of party politics, and I would like to quote the experience of America as showing what can happen when it is in the sphere of party politics. In 1912, a hundred years after the war between 427 America and this country in 1812, there were still 238 widows drawing pensions in respect of services rendered by their husbands in the American war one hundred years before. It has been brought forward, certainly in one case, by hon. Members opposite that widows when they marry ought still to have pensions in respect of their late husbands' services. As I have said, 238 widows were drawing such pensions 100 years after their husbands' services in 1812. An even stronger example of what happens when these things are brought into the vortex of party politics was furnished still more recently in America. The civil war in America was fought in the middle 'sixties of last century. One would think, therefore, that the maximum amount to be spent on pensions would have been reached in the late 'sixties or the early 'seventies—within a few years of the conclusion of the war. For reasons, I believe, of a political nature this became a question of party politics in the United States, and the maximum was reached not soon after the civil war but 50 years after. In 1913, 50 years after the American civil war, seven times as much was being spent on pensions as immediately after the war, and there were six times as many dependants. Is not that rather an example of what would happen if we allow lax administration and allow this to become—I say it in no offensive sense—a question of votes?
I have one or two humble suggestions to make to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions. I would like, if possible, to see the number of medical boards reduced, and I would also like steps to be taken to avoid the periodical review of pensions to the parents of deceased soldiers. I know by experience how the mere fact that the pension is to be reviewed causes a good deal of anxiety to the pensioner; and I also know by experience that now, seven or eight years after the War, there must be many cases where a man's health is practically stabilised, and it ought not to be necessary to bring him before a medical board at intervals of three or six months. Let him come before the board once a year, or once in two years, or at even longer intervals. We are all of us out to see justice done to the ex-service man, and in the ways I have 428 suggested the Ministry could do a great deal for them. Speaking from a fairly long experience, I am convinced that the Ministry of Pensions is doing all it can to meet in a generous spirit the grievances put forward. We are all agreed that these matters ought not to be dealt with in a narrow spirit, and that when there is a doubt, we should give the man or his dependant the benefit of the doubt, but I think we should do very much better by continuing on the present lines, and I have, therefore, very much pleasure in moving the Amendment.
§ Colonel CLIFTON BROWN
I beg to second the Amendment.
May I start with a few words which I think will meet with general agreement, for I may have some less pleasant words to say to all sides of the House later? There are two Parliamentary Private Secretaries whom we worry a great deal with pensions' questions; we pester them with our cases. They always do their best for us, and I would like to say to both of them, "Thank you very much!" No one hates to disagree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) more than I do, but there were one or two things in his speech with which I must confess I cannot find myself in agreement. It appeared to me that when the right hon. Gentleman was talking of the way in which compensation was given under the Workmen's Compensation Act in respect of accidents, and so on, he was not dealing with the Motion on the Paper, but was dealing with the whole basis on which pensions are given. We grant pensions now not because a man loses his job, but we compare him with a healthy man and give him a pension according to that standard If his wound or disease has rendered him 20 or 30 per cent. below a definite standard, then he gets a pension.
If we are to follow on the lines along which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, we are going to open every single pension case that is in existence, starting right from the bottom, and that will mean endless confusion for ex-service men. There was a point, also, in his references to independent medical boards on which I wish to say something. I do not want to misrepresent him in any way, but I did understand him to say that he wished they could start free from all knowledge of the case in advance. Whenever I go to a doctor he takes very careful notes 429 to trace my past history and the history of the case. How can a medical board which has no previous knowledge of a case really give a decision in a difficult case?
§ Mr. WALSH
I never suggested that they ought not to be supplied with the man's previous medical history. What I did say was that they ought to be as far as possible free from any predilection. They ought not to know that Dr. So-and-So has already been on the case and has decided so-and-so—that kind of information ought not to be given. They ought to be as free as possible from predilection; but they might very well be supplied with the previous medical history of the case.
§ Colonel CLIFTON BROWN
Then I must have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. In my experience no pressure of any sort, and no knowledge of any particular doctor is issued to these doctors. That is almost entirely the way in which these cases are dealt with to-day. Let me just say a word or two with regard to the whole question. I noted with great pleasure that the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion said that this was not a party matter, and he carefully explained that the question of appointing a Select Committee had been supported from 1922 onward and was not carried out in 1924, and is still being supported to-day. I suppose there are reasons outside party consideration for that. When I opened my "Daily Herald" this morning, I saw there a cartoon dealing with the year 1914 and representing an unfortunate soldier rushing into the recruiting office, and in 1926 it represents another poor crippled man beating at the door of the pensions office where the Chancellor of the Exchequer is represented as saying, "Nothing doing." This is meant to convey that the Labour party are going to give this man his pension, and the Tory party are going to refuse it.
The omnibus Resolution we are now considering embraces almost every subject you can think of in regard to war pensions administration, and it includes every person who has a grievance of any kind. I do not complain, but I do not think it is quite honest party tactics, and it is simply being done in the hope of embarrassing the Government. I do not complain about that, but I think there will be another result of this policy. 430 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince knows quite well that many of those sitting on this side of the House signed the petition initiated by the British Legion, and the Labour party are hoping to get them into the Lobby in favour of this Motion. The only result of that kind of thing will be in the future that no Member of this side will sign petitions initiated by the British Legion. The British Legion has the very important function to perform of being a watchdog, and it is its duty to bark, and when it only does that I have no objection. On the other hand, when it adopts a dog-in-the-manger attitude and tries to get hon. Members to pledge themselves to place the Ministry of Pensions in a difficulty, they are simply playing the game of the dog-in-the-manger, and I shall not support them.
A number of circulars have been sent out by the British Legion, and I will mention one case. It is the case of the widow of a man who belonged to the Northumberland Hussars, which I happen to command, and therefore I looked into that case with some interest, because I wanted to see if it really was a hard case. I found the facts were very carefully and cleverly put. The widow lost her husband, and it was asserted that he got no pension, although it was said that the man contracted a disease in the Army which was the cause of his death. They never stated that the man had this disease before he joined the Army, and omitted to state that it was not caused through service in the Army, and consequently a very small pension was given. When the British Legion put cases before hon. Members, the facts ought to be accurately stated. This is only one case of which I happen to know, and I should not wonder if some of the other cases are not even worse than this one which I have quoted. There are two other points to which I should like to refer. In the Motion reference is made to the seven years' limit for claims in respect of pensions for death or disability due to war service and to final awards. Both those questions were thrashed out before the Departmental Committee which sat in 1921. I admit that they are both very difficult questions, but let us look at the facts.
The British Government give the seven years' limit for claims established on the highest medical advice. As far as the 431 widows are concerned, the conditions are very considerably modified to ensure that every reasonable case will get a fair chance. The seven years' limit is a long way more than our Colonies or any other nation has adopted which has a pension system at all. I should like to remind the House that in 1921, when the Departmental Committee thrashed out this matter, the Labour party issued an official document based upon the Compensation Act, and in that document they placed the limit not at seven years but at six months, which they considered was a full and ample limit for cases of this sort.
Lieut.-Colonel WATTS - MORGAN
Will the hon. and gallant Member state if the case he has quoted was passed as an Al man, and would he not be entitled to a pension just the same as a man who met wit an accident and his widow received compensation. What is the difference?
Lieut.-Colonel WATTS - MORGAN
I want to know what is the difference between the two cases. One is the case of an Al man suffering from some disease and is taken into the Army and dies; the other is the case of an A1 man suffering from some disease, and he comes under the Compensation Act if he is killed in an accident and his widow receives compensation.
§ Colonel CLIFTON BROWN
I do not know whether the case I refer to is the case of an A1 man or not, but he was suffering from that disease when he joined the Army. The fact remains that this reference was issued with no suggestion that any disease was suffered by this man before he joined the Army, and the supposition was left that the disease was caused through his service in the Army, and therefore the Pensions Ministry ought to pay his pension, and now the hon. and gallant Member opposite rides off on another point which raises quite another issue altogether.
Let me go back to the next point—I have already got two fences beyond it—to which I desire to refer, namely, the question of final awards. 432 I think we have often taken a very misguided and wrong view with regard to final awards. The matter was thrashed out very carefully in 1921, but many people now think that when a man whose disability is, say, under 20 per cent., gets a lump sum down, the whole matter is finished, and the Ministry of Pensions has no further interest in it. Nothing could be further from the truth. So long as that man has been a pensioner, he receives for the rest of his life free doctoring for his disability, free treatment, and, if necessary, treatment allowances as well. For the whole of his life, therefore, he gets an advantage from the Ministry of Pensions.
That leads up to another point, because, naturally, when you are closing down cases, hard cases must arise, and the Ministry of Pensions, as far as I have followed its operations, has very wisely brought in a system of correction of errors. Any man who gets worse is entitled to medical attention. He goes to the doctor, he goes into hospital, and the Ministry of Pensions is at once able to look into his case. If it is found that he is getting worse, he is treated, and if it is found that any real mistake has been made—and I do not think there are so many as people think—they are able by that means to correct the error and adjust the subsequent pension to the state of health he has then reached. There is quite simple machinery by which, when final awards have been proved to have been made erroneously, the Ministry of Pensions is able more or less automatically to correct those mistakes and put them right.
I have said all I want to say except this, that, as far as a Select Committee is concerned, we must remember what wide effects it would have on ex-service men generally throughout the country. Not only would it raise questions of principle, but if, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, the whole basis on which pensions are to be granted is to be raised, there is no end to the time that a Select Committee might be sitting, and, of course, there is no end to the number of cases that would be held up, and the inconvenience that would be caused to men who are waiting to get their settled pensions. Since 1917 final awards, that is to say, pensions under 20 per cent., have been paid, and we should have to go right back to 1917 and 433 revise every single case if we really wanted to make any change to-day in the system under which final awards under 20 per cent. are issued. Stabilised pensions are what these men want more than anything else. They want certainty more than anything else, so that, whether their pension be big or little, they may be sure of it. There are over 300,000 of these cases, every one of which would have to be put back into the melting pot, and uncertainty would arise where certainty is to-day.
I venture to suggest that, when all these facts are put on the one side, against the really small number of grievances that there are to-day, it is very much to be doubted, looking at the matter impartially, whether the appointment of a Select Committee is worth all this disturbance. Of course, I admit that possibly I am biased. I spent three very happy years at the Ministry of Pensions, and I know all who worked there, but, as an ex-service man myself, and in the light of the experience I have gained, I think, in the interest of my fellow ex-service men, that nothing could be more damaging at the moment to their pensions and to the general administration of pensions than the appointment of a Select Committee, and I hope that all on this side of the House will resist the demand which is now being made.
§ Major COHEN
In taking part in this very unreal Debate, I do not intend to go into any of the technicalities of the administration of pensions. My views I think are so well known in this House—and I aired them as recently as ten days ago, when I urged upon the Government the appointment of a Select Committee—that I do not think it is necessary again to give all the technical reasons and instances which I then gave. I do, however, deplore very much indeed the party bias which has been given to this Debate. It is useless to say that there is no party bias, for the Resolution is moved by a prominent Member of the Opposition who is an ex-Minister, and the Amendment, which to all intents and purposes is a direct negative, is moved by an hon. and gallant Member who is now a Parliamentary Secretary to a Minister, and seconded by another hon. and gallant Member who was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Pensions. The Labour party have put down a Reso- 434 lution expressing the wish to inquire into practically every single branch of the Ministry of Pensions—far more than I have ever advocated in this House, and far more than I have ever wished. The Amendment tries to prove that, so far from a Select Committee being necessary, everything connected with the administration of pensions is perfect, and nothing is needed but, shall I say, a vote of thanks to the Minister of Pensions and the Parliamentary Secretary for so ably carrying on their work.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hexham (Colonel Clifton Brown) has seen fit to make an attack upon the British Legion, and, apparently, he does so because of one instance which, at any rate to his satisfaction, has been proved to be wrong. I myself do not know of the case, and, therefore, cannot argue upon it one way or the other. The hon. Member says he is satisfied that this one case is wrong, and, therefore, he sees fit to condemn the British Legion. On the same line of argument, as the Ministry of Pensions has been proved wrong in countless cases in the appeal courts, I fail to see how the hon. and gallant Member can praise it to the extent that he does. I rather think, however, that the hon. and gallant Member for Hexham overdid things. Methinks he doth protest too much. He talks so glibly in favour of everything the Ministry of Pensions does, that I fancy he imagines himself back in the old days when he was Parliamentary Private Secretary, and when it was heresy for anyone in that position in any way whatsoever to criticise the Government of which he was a very humble servant.
Perhaps I may leave that matter, and, if I may, I would like to make my own position clear to-night, and also, in a few words, the position of the British Legion. The British Legion is at the moment the only representative body of ex-service men in this country. It may be stronger than it is thought to be by some, or it may be weaker, but at the present moment it does stand for ex-service men, and it is the only body that does so stand for them. It has always prided itself on being non-party political. I do not think anyone in this House will ever say that it has taken part in a party political issue. I cannot, of course, speak for all its members. The 435 members of the British Legion are men like ourselves, and they are entitled to have their own party politics. How they vote at each Election is a matter that is unknown to me, and a matter entirely for themselves, but the British Legion, as such, is absolutely non-party political, and always has been. We stand for ex-service men, and for ex-service men only. We are not a Bolshevist organisation, as certain Members on this side appear to think, nor are we a Fascist organisation, as Members on the other side of the House appear to think. We are not attached to the Conservative party. We are not attached to the Labour party. It is our duty to air the views of ex-service men and, as far as possible, on constitutional lines our members are given the justice they seek.
We had a petition to the House of Commons last year asking for a Select Committee. We have had many deputations to the Ministry of Pensions, one as recently as 10th December last, all more or less on the same issue, all asking for a Select Committee or for some concession, at any rate, to be made if a Select Committee was not granted on the question of the seven years' limit and the final award. The Government have refused to give a Select Committee. In their strength they are entitled to refuse anything, and I understand the Cabinet has definitely decided that a Select Committee is not necessary. The Cabinet and the Labour party decided the same thing in 1924, so as far as that is concerned, honours are equal. But it has not done the ex-service man any particular good. I call this Debate unreal, because it really is a party fight and one knows exactly how it will end. The Minister of Pensions later on in the evening will make a most impassioned address from that despatch box. There will be in all probability a Division. The Minister will be followed into the Lobby by all his supporters on this side of the House and the Mover of the Resolution will be followed into the other Lobby by all his supporters. As the Opposition is in a minority the Conservative majority on this side will win, the Ministry of Pensions will give itself a pat on the back and go home rejoicing. Everyone will be satisfied—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—but the poor ex-service man will not be 436 one whit the better. I can quite see the position. Here is a Resolution moved by a prominent Member of the official Opposition. It may be difficult to concede something to it. I do not know whether it will go as far as a Division. It is possible it may be talked out. I only hope it is.
It seems to me rather a terrible thing that seven years after the War is over, when we are all satisfied that at any rate some ex-service men are not getting all they ought to get—we may disagree as to the number, but I think we are all agreed there are some who are suffering—this House of Commons, the Mother of all Parliaments, should be forced to a party division on the subject of ex-service men when one remembers that during the War these ex-service men all joined the Army under a Coalition Government. There was no Opposition. There was no party on the one side or on the other. They all joined up and they were all promised that they would be looked after. Surely we ought to carry that on in the same spirit. It seems to me sometimes that we want a little of the Locarno spirit, which is so rife in Europe, in this House of Commons itself. I would ask the Minister, if he cannot see his way to grant a Select Committee, at any rate to deal more generously and more kindly with the representative body of ex-service men—I mean the British Legion. It seems to me he might consult us a little more than he does. After all we are a large body. We have some 2,600 branches in the country. We are in touch with ex-service men as individuals quite as much, if not more than the Ministry of Pensions themselves. We have on our National Executive Council and staff experts in pensions administration.
Why does not the Minister receive us sometimes, meet us, meet the men's representatives, but above all meet with our suggestions? He meets us sometimes and is very kind to us, and very polite, but we go away with very little if anything more than we went in with. I have been asking so long for a Select Committee that, much as I deprecate this Motion being brought forward in a party spirit, so it seems to me, much as I think the powers asked for this Select Committee are infinitely too wide, and T should not like to see it set up, still I cannot see myself how, after all I have been working for, I can refuse to vote for a Select Com- 437 mittee, therefore very reluctantly indeed I feel I must go into the Lobby against the Government.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I do not want to intervene in the Debate, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just made a statement for which I should like very much if he would give me his authority. The statement was that the Cabinet of the late Government refused a Select Committee. My recollection—and I have been trying to reinforce it—is that I myself desired a Select Committee, but there were certain points on which the Minister desired to have a little experience before the Committee was set up, and there the matter rested. Everything the hon. and gallant Gentleman says on pensions ought to be treated with very great respect by the House, and I only intervene because I desire that no misunderstanding and no misstatement with regard to what took place should be put on record.
§ Major COHEN
I am very grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's intervention. My only authority for saying what I did say is that the Select Committee was not set up.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I listened with considerable surprise to the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. The apparent objection to the Motion arises from the fact that American widows lived too long, and that frauds were committed in America after the Civil War. That is hardly an argument that will appeal to ex-service men. Before dealing with the general question I wish to say a word with regard to the administration of the Act in Wales. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the other day with regard, first of all, to the removal of the Administrative Committee from Wrexham to Liverpool. Why that removal took place has never been explained, or why, if removal was necessary, it was not removed to Chester, which is infinitely more accessible to all who reside in North Wales. It has involved all the applicants in considerable expense, and sometimes it has been necessary to take a solicitor with them to Liverpool. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider it. I also wish to ask whether or not the members of the Tribunal have a knowledge of the language of the people who appear before them.
438 It is not a matter of sentiment. In my own professional duty I have at least 40 or 50 interviews in the course of a day and not one in 20 of those is carried on in the English language. The reason is not because of my knowledge of Welsh. It is a necessity. It is the language of the people, the language of the home and of the playground. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should seriously consider the position in which the half-educated—in the English sense of the word—Welshman finds himself, who is submitted to medical examination by a gentleman who does not understand a word of what he says, to whom he cannot explain from what he suffers, or to whom he cannot give definite answers. I am told, so far as Liverpool is concerned, that the entitlement tribunal in Liverpool is entirely satisfactory from that standpoint, but the assessment tribunal has neither a Welsh-speaking member nor official. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to have that remedied. I have a letter here written within the last fortnight in which the man writes—he is a native of Anglesey:I cannot tell you how sharp and nasty they all were, and they were all Englishmen on that Board.It might be that the man's impression was quite wrong. [Interruption.] I assure the hon. Member who interrupted me that if he were examined in the French language by a medical man, I am sure his answers would be neither satisfactory to him nor to the medical gentleman who was being consulted. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider these things. It is necessary on grounds of medical efficiency. If the medical man cannot converse with his patient in the s language he understands, it is perfectly J obvious that he cannot do his work as he ought to do it.
On the general question of administration, I desire to acknowledge at once the courtesy of the Minister of Pensions and his officials. On the other hand, the system needs radical change, and I venture to suggest to the House that a system cannot be changed except from the top. There is a lack of either sympathy or imagination in the administration of pensions under the present arrangement. Take the question of separation. A man died the other day who had been separated from his wife. 439 I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman and was informed that even his children were not entitled to provision. I cannot understand why children should suffer because the father and mother have failed to live together. That is one of the things with which I think the Select Committee should deal.
Then there is the question of medical tribunals and, in particular, appeal tribunals. The right hon. Gentleman made the very good point that the appeal tribunal should not be composed of the same people who have sat on the same cases before. It is essential that those gentlemen who, though members of the medical profession, have in fact become Government officials, should not have the final determining voice with regard to these pensions. May I mention two diseases in which a good many mistakes are made—and I speak with some experience of the Workmen's Compensation Act? I refer to nervous disorder and heart disease. With regard to these I venture to say they are the two diseases of which the medical profession is at the present moment most uncertain. Anyone who has to consult even a leading practitioner in London on either of those two diseases will be informed by those high authorities in London that with nervous disorders and heart disease they are practically at sea even at the present day. These are the very cases out of which most of the complaints with regard to medical tribunals arise.
Let me give one instance. I drew the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the case of a man who was suffering from neurasthenia and valvular disease of the heart. His compensation was assessed, and a final award was made that he should be compensated for 70 weeks. I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that it was quite impossible for any medical man to say what was going to happen to any man suffering from valvular disease of the heart in 70 weeks. This poor man had his compensation assessed for 70 weeks in advance, and when I complained to the right hon. Gentleman the answer I got was like that referred to by the hon. Member opposite who seconded the Amendment.
I am told that calculation is made on the assumption that the man will be indisposed for a certain number of 440 weeks, that the disability is then assessed, and that, instead of paying a lump sum, that sum is to be paid during the weekly period of 70 weeks. That is an impossible way of dealing with this man. A man suffering from neurasthenia and valvular disease of the heart cannot be dealt with in that way and when I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an explanation I am referred to a case, perfectly well known to those who deal with the Workmen's Compensation Act, of the assessment value of a little finger. Then the letter proceeds to say that, because the value of the loss of a little finger can be calculated in wages, then some calculation can be arrived at with regard to cases of valvular disease. If that is not the argument, I will hand over the letter to the right hon. Gentleman. In any event, all these things show the necessity for a thorough investigation into the conditions under which pensions are awarded. One hon. Member has already pointed out that we promised these men in 1914 that they would be provided for and their dependants looked after. We are not carrying out that promise. Men who failed to give notice against the final award are finding themselves thrown on the charity of members of their own family who have quite sufficient burdens of their own to bear.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
I find myself very much in sympathy with the remarks of the last speaker. I should like to assure the hon. and gallant Member for the Fairfield Division of Liverpool (Major Cohen) that the Debate from this side of the House is not conducted in any party spirit at all. We have an abundance of weapons with which to attack the Government, and the addition of another one would be merely an embarrassment. Anything that is said from these Benches is entirely in the interests of ex-service men. The two hon. and gallant Members who Moved and Seconded the Amendment seemed to be much more fortunate in their experience of pensions cases than I have been. All of us who advocate the appointment of this Select Committee and who find it necessary to criticise the work of the Pensions Ministry must do so with regret, because the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions and of his Parliamentary 441 Secretary is so constant. At first, especially, you believe that there is no question at all that your case is going to be most successful. When, a few days later, the cold, hard, official letter comes, saying that the case has been turned down, it shakes one's whole faith in human nature.
One of the points which has been referred to is that of administration. The last speaker put in a word for his native country of Wales. To-night I shall take the opportunity to say a word about the proposed removal of the regional headquarters from Scotland. We have been looking for that proposal ever since the widows and dependants' pensions were taken to London. Nevertheless, we must make a very strong and decided protest against it. I protest, first of all, on the merits of the case, even as presented by the right hon. Gentleman in his letter to the Scottish Advisory Committee. One of the right hon. Gentlemen's points was that since the removal of the widows and dependants' cases to London they have been dealt with more expeditiously. That is directly at variance with the experience of those in Scotland who have had to deal with pensions, and I am afraid that the Minister's information in that respect has not been accurate. We can show many cases where considerable delay has taken place, and delay that did not take place before.
All cases dealt with in London involve delay. Final-award cases in Scotland. under Circular 30, are sent to London to be decided. We have had considerable experience of delays up to as much as 17 weeks. I brought forward a case, which the right hon. Gentleman will remember, where a man was boarded in Edinburgh last May, and in January of this year the award was still not published. I think it is agreed, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree, that the administrative work in Scotland has been done well, expeditiously, and economically. I would like to ask the Minister of Pensions whether the equivalent cost of administration in Scotland is not considerably less than in London. A question was asked in the House last December, and the reply was that the cost of the staff in Edinburgh was 5s. 8d. per file as against 9s. 4d. in London. I would like to ask how much more it is going to cost to carry on the Scottish work in London than it costs in Scotland? The sum of £20,000 has been mentioned, but I do not 442 know whether or not that is correct. However, on its merits the proposal to remove the regional headquarters from Scotland is clearly not justified.
Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman does not realise that Scotland is in quite a different position from regions in England. Scotland is even in a different position from Wales, because we can proudly claim in Scotland that we were able to withstand the attacks of the Saxons more successfully than our unfortunate brethren in Wales. In any case, whatever the reason, the administrative unit has been England and Wales together and Scotland by it-self for most services. We look after our own health, education, agriculture and other things. We are trusted with these matters and we want to know whether we cannot still be trusted to look after our own ex-soldiers, whom we know and understand. The right hon. Gentleman has the misfortune not to be a Scotsman and he does not understand why there should be any fuss. He thinks it is merely a matter of administration and that it is natural for us to put up a little stir and noise about it, through injured vanity, but that there is nothing more in it. I can assure him that there is a great deal more in it. By his action he is outraging Scottish national sentiment. Where he cannot even justify his action on the merits of the case, there is very good ground for reconsidering his decision and, at least, postponing this matter for a very indefinite time.
In regard to the main case for a Select Committee, it is no argument to say that we have had such a wonderful continuity among different Governments from year to year that it would be very unfortunate to upset it. After all, pensions is a new service and has been a changing service. There have been many introductions of new regulations and the result has been that in many cases the system is now working badly. I think a Select Committee to look into the whole matter is a common sense proposal and not one to be afraid of.
With regard to final awards, the Minister has said that it is a great convenience and satisfaction to the ex-service man to know that his case will not be taken up again and that he will not have to be re-examined. We do not object to final permanent pensions, 443 but we would like, even in that case, to have the option of a re-examination if the man's case becomes worse and his pension is obviously inadequate. That was the position in the original Royal Warrant. The Minister of Pensions only had power to deprive a man of his pension if it had been obtained by fraud, and the man was eligible for an increase of pension. With regard to the final awards referred to by an hon. Member opposite, where 7s. 6d. for 26 weeks or more is given, it is quite impossible for any medical man to say that a man's condition is such that he will be restored to perfect health exactly in 26 weeks. That system was devised at a time when I think—there is no question about it, though one does not like to say it—there was an attempt to get rid of the ex-service man problem altogether and to settle it once and for all and not be troubled with keeping up the whole machinery of pensions. It is very difficult in these cases to get a re-opening. It can only be done after the award is shown to be definitely erroneous. That is a very difficult thing to secure.
Respecting the seven years' limit, we have had a good many cases of late. During the six months' period in which we now are, something like 2,000,000 men will have reached the time of seven years after their discharge from the Army. I am aware that there is a Regulation now under which, even after seven years, if a man has been wounded or injured and is showing effects from the wound or injury he may get treatment and may further be assessed for pension. But that does not apply to disease. After all, it is disease that we are dealing with mostly nowadays, especially the disease of tuberculosis, where there has been very considerable difficulty in assessing and in tracing as to whether the disease was originally contracted or aggravated in the Army or not.
One thing that I feel about the whole pensions system is that it penalises the man who was plucky, the man who did not run to the field ambulance or the hospital on every occasion. A man may have worked, as many did, with heavy colds or chest complaints for months. He carried on and there was no entry in his medical sheet. He ultimately developed tuberculosis. His medical sheet was turned up, and he was told, "This was 444 not contracted in the War, because there is no record of your having been to hospital with pleurisy or anything else." The plucky man has been penalised all along the line.
I want to say a word about the case of the widows. Under Article 17A, no pension is given unless the death certificate shows quite definitely that the disease or injury from which the man died was directly due to war service, and even then if the award was under 40 per cent., there is no pension. If the award is over 40 per cent. it is only given at the discretion of the Minister, and that discretion is very seldom exercised in the woman's favour.
There is one other important point on which I would like to say something, because I have never heard very much prominence given to it, and that is in regard to the definition of the word "widow." In the 1919 Warrant, Article 24 says:But widows shall not include the widow of a soldier whose marriage took place after removal from duty on account of the contraction or aggravation of wounds which caused his death.It will be noted that the word "first" is not included there, but the word "first" was later put in before the word "removal." That has caused a tremendous amount of hair-splitting and expense and trouble, and legal and medical consultations, and ultimately, in many cases, has resulted in gross injustice to the widows of our soldiers. I have brought to the notice of the Minister the case of a doctor, a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who served during the whole War from the time of Gallipoli. After Gallipoli he came home, married in 1916, and afterwards served both in France and Italy, where he was severely wounded. He came back again and served at home in camp, and ultimately died from pernicious anæmia. That man's widow was refused a pension on the ground that he had contracted his disability in Gallipoli before marriage. I was able to produce a certificate from the very highest authority on that disease, stating that in his opinion, after going into the whole of the facts of the case, the disease was not contracted until 1918 during a severe attack of influenza. In spite of that, the Minister of Pensions turned the case down and said the widow was not eligible for a pension. That widow is now going out 445 to work, and trying to support her two children.
I have another similar case, where a man after marriage was sent to the front and wounded, and his wife has no pension. There are numerous cases of that kind. It is no use to say that everything is well, and that pensions administration is what the British public would wish to have it. This provision about widows was obviously designed, just as the similar Clause of the Widows' Contributory Pensions Bill was designed, to prevent a designing female from marrying a pensioner who was on the road to the grave, and doing so because of his pension. That was the only reason for the insertion of that Clause. Yet the Ministry have used that Clause to debar women who married bona fide and were married bona fide; they have used the Clause—even where no one could decide when the disease first started—to deprive them, and their children of the allowances which the country intended and which British public opinion would wish them to have.
I want to put in a word also for tuberculous ex-service men. They are not very satisfactorily treated in some ways. They get allowances, certainly, as long as they are in hospital, but not after they are discharged only fit for light duty, which is not available. I put in a plea for the restoration of the special diet allowance which they had some years ago. That is a very important point. There are some other things that I wanted to say, but I have already taken up more time than I intended. I earnestly press for this Select Committee. I agree that its effects may cause same trouble to the Ministry, but it will be worth while. One hon. Member has said that it would upset ex-service men. I am sure that it would satisfy ex-service men, for many of them just now are unsatisfied. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction throughout the whole country at the administration of the Pensions Service
One hon. Member has criticised the British Legion. So far as my experience goes, it would have been a bad look-out for the men and widows of Scotland had it not been for the British Legion there. Officials of the Legion go with the men to the tribunals, and I know, by contrasting 446 their cases with those of others where such assistance has not been given, that the help of the British Legion officials has been for the benefit of ex-service men. I agree that it is very unfortunate that this should be necessary, and one of the reasons why I wish for a Select Committee is that it should not be so necessary for officials of the British Legion, for Members of the House of Commons and others, to stand up for the ex-service man, and, by fighting, to get for them the justice which should be given as a matter of right and custom.
Lieut.-Colonel DALRYMPLE WHITE
I wish to support the Amendment, and for two reasons. The first reason is that this question of a Select Committee has been repeatedly considered, and repeatedly refused by successive Governments. Only a few minutes ago I would have said that it had been refused by the Labour Government, but since the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I suppose I ought to say that it was considered by the Labour Government, but was deferred for further consideration, and as a result was not carried into effect—which comes nearly to the same thing. My second reason is that such an inquiry would entail a vast amount of labour, a vast dissipation of work. It would probably raise false hopes in the minds of those whom I might call the unlucky ones as regards pensions, and on the other hand it might raise fears in the minds of those whom I would term the overlucky ones, of whom there are many. When you talk to pensioners you find that there are many who think that they are getting more than they deserve. We do not want to interfere with them. If they have a generous pension, let them have it.
If a Select Committee were appointed and it agreed that nothing should be done, it would merely have been a vast amount of work and energy expended for nothing. If on the other hand the Select Committee chose to take the bit in its teeth, and to make a number of far-reaching recommendations, it might mean that scores and hundreds of thousands of individual cases would have to be reconsidered. During that time there would be much suspense, and as a result there would probably be a great deal of disappointment. Heaven only knows what the clerical staff of the Ministry would become. It would certainly have 447 to be doubled, and possibly trebled or quadrupled. Hon. Members opposite might say that that was a minor matter. I think that Members on all sides of the House will agree with the statement that we all recognise that the present Minister of Pensions is a man full of human sympathy, who does try to do what is in his power for the ex-service man, and we ought all to thank him for having introduced quite lately the stabilisation of pensions, which will be of great benefit to the ex-service man for three or four years to come.
All who have studied the question of pensions know the difficulties with which the Minister has to contend. I do not wish to use any hard words in reference to the cases which come before him, but I will say that a large number of men who are "down and out"—I am not blaming them, for I should probably be the same myself in the same circum stances—who find themselves short of money and find that no friend will lend them money, if they take influenza and become seriously ill, make application to the Ministry to see if they cannot get something out of it. Cases of that kind are constantly coming before the Minister, as well as the genuine cases. He has also a great deal of trouble, I imagine, in regard to the Treasury. The Treasury, of course, is supposed to be the watch-dog over all Departments and the Ministry of Pensions is not exempt from its oversight in these cases. Having said so much, I would impress on the Minister that whatever other economy the rank and file throughout the country may favour, they are not in favour of economies effected at the expense of the deserving cases of ex-service men.
I am sure the hon. Member will allow me to continue my speech. I think we all admit that on the whole the Ministry is very well administered. It would be idle, however, to pretend that all the Regulations and all the administrative acts of such a Ministry under any Government are perfect. As I know from personal experience, the Minister has been able to reopen cases of men who were wounded, even after the period for appeal had expired, 448 and he has shown considerable latitude in reference to these wound cases. I ask the Minister if he could not extend that consideration to certain cases of illness. I do not refer to cases where, in the rush of the moment, a mistake was made by the recruiting medical officer and three days afterwards the man was found to be an invalid and was discharged. I refer to cases of men who on enlistment were marked "A1," who went out to one or other of the theatres of War and served a considerable period in the trenches and were then invalided owing to illness. I hope in such cases they will not be marked merely as "aggravated by War service" and nothing more.
I join with hon. Members in whatever part of the House they sit in saying that where a man has been marked "A1," has served a considerable time, and has sustained disability, he should get the benefit of the doubt. Allowing for all that, I conclude by saying that I am perfectly sure a Select Committee such as is proposed would be impossible in practice, and I am going into the Lobby against the proposal.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. T. KENNEDY
If the debate on this Motion has assumed a party character, that is very largely due to the party spirit infused into it by hon. Members opposite. So far as we are concerned our single purpose in introducing this Motion was to protect interests which are not now protected by the Minister of Pensions, and to lead to an impartial inquiry into the whole matter of pensions administration and practice.
That does not necessarily mean that the whole fabric of the existing administration is to be destroyed. It means that it is to be examined impartially and it may be—indeed, I expect it would be—discovered that a considerable part of the existing machinery meets its purpose. It would I think inevitably also be discovered that part of the existing machinery is defective and unsatisfactory and operates disastrously in reference to a considerable percentage of ex-service men and their dependants. Supporters of the Amendment have suggested that there is some unworthy party interest 449 behind this Motion. Surely they remember that as recently as last year, 250 Members of this House signed a requisition to the Ministry pleading with them to establish the very inquiry for which we ask to-night. I shall be interested to note how many of the signatories to that petition will be found in the Division Lobby against this Motion. I am assuming, as I fear I must assume at this stage, that the Minister will not concede what the Motion asks.
It has been suggested that there is an inconsistency on the part of the Labour party in bringing forward a Motion of this character, in view of what happened during 1924 in regard to pensions administration. Let me state the facts as far as the Labour party is concerned. I believe the Minister of Pensions is to adopt a method which I am sorry he adopted in former Debates of sheltering himself behind what he believes to be the shortcomings of the late Labour administration. I hope he will not pursue that policy to-night, but, even if he does, I am prepared to argue now that our record on pensions administration, and especially on this matter of the appointment of a Select Committee, will stand examination and will stand contrast with anything done by the Ministry of Pensions since the Labour party left office. The Leader of the Opposition stated tonight, accurately, the position of the Labour party on this question. I only need to state briefly what the late Pensions Minister said in this House on 26th May last in order to put this matter beyond any shadow of doubt. Speaking on the general question of administration and the special difficulties he had discovered during his period of administration, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. F. O. Roberts) said:I always made my own position clear in connection with the acceptance of the methods of the correction of errors—that no finality was to be attached to the matter so far as I was concerned. It was a tentative experiment. We could then have an idea as to what might happen in the future. A thoroughly searching investigation is now due."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1925; col. 1250, Vol. 184.]The right hon. Gentleman applied that to the various difficulties which he encountered in the pensions' administration during 1924. He added:There is a demand for a revision, consolidation, and simplification of the exist- 450 ing Regulations, and I think a Select Committee … would be able to deal with all the points which would be raised. … I feel certain that in asking for the setting up of this Select Committee we are not asking too much."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1925; col. 1258, Vol. 184.]That is the deliberate judgment of the Labour Pensions Minister, expressed in May last year, and if any hon. Member asks to-night why that policy was not applied in the eight months of the Labour Government, I think the answer can easily be supplied. The fact of the matter is that the Labour Ministry inherited in the matter of pensions administration a very difficult and very confused situation, and during the greater part of our eight months of office, the Pensions Ministry was engaged in straightening out difficulties, and in correcting confusion and in arriving at conclusions as to how far ordinary methods of administration would remedy the difficulties that everybody then admitted existed. I need say nothing more on that matter.
I would like to state briefly what I think ought to be stated to-night, the general grounds upon which we put forward the demand embodied in this Motion. In past Debates the Minister of Pensions has sheltered himself behind the terms of Royal Warrants and legislation, especially the Act of 1921, in order to explain away the shortcomings of his Department. I hope no such attempt as that will be made to-night because, as a matter of fact, on examination all the special difficulties that emerge to-day in pensions administration will be found to arise not on the basis of the terms of the Royal Warrants, nor on the basis of legislative enactments. They arise almost entirely on the basis of Regulations for which the Pensions Minister himself is personally responsible. It must not be forgotten in regard to the matter of final awards in particular that the whole matter of the making of final awards is not a compulsory matter. It is permissive, and it is optional under the 1921 Act. The genera] principle that I should like the House to-night to apply its mind to is not what the Pensions Minister thinks of his Department and its machinery. It is perfectly natural that to-night the Minister of Pensions should seek to justify his Department. It is perfectly natural that he should try 451 to put up the best case possible for these servants of the Ministry who are to-day applying themselves to the administrative work of his Department. I am not quite sure that the Minister of Pensions is the person best qualified to explain his own shortcomings, and in this connection I want the House to remember he is doing to the House to-night exactly what the Ministry does to the ex-service men in the matter of pensions administration.
I should like him to enter, if he possibly can, into the spirit and the mind of the voluntary workers up and down the country who have assisted materially and usefully in the work of pensions administration up to now, and if he does that I think he will admit that from one end of the country to the other there is intense dissatisfaction and unrest, which has been expressed in resolutions and communications addressed to the Ministry of Pensions, communications the meaning of which I think no Minister could fail to understand. It is a fact to-day that so far as the general administrative method of the Ministry is concerned and the general policy of centralisation of executive authority here in London, not only in Scotland, but in every part of the country there is intense dissatisfaction and a desire to see the adoption of that policy which I think must be adopted in time if ex-service men and their dependants are to receive equitable treatment—the policy of decentralisation, of giving to local authorities, and local committees and local medical practitioners far more authority and power in the decision of assessments and entitlements than they have had up to now. That is, of course, a complete reversal of the policy which the Minister is now proceeding on.
The general feeling—and this is no exaggeration—amongst a very considerable section of ex-service men, of pensions committees, and area administrators, is that the pensions machine to-day is a soulless machine which grinds out official decisions on purely legal grounds—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and on grounds that are taken to secure the end that I am certain this House does not generally desire to reach, of achieving economy of administration at the expense of the ex-service men and their 452 dependants. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] That is a feeling that is very widespread. It is shared by a very large number of people who are to-day engaged in the work of pensions administration.
Take the matter—and I am simply running over in outline the main grounds upon which we put forward this Motion to-night—of final awards. What is the real fundamental reason for the establishment and the continuance of this principle of final awards? Does anyone in this House dare to assert that any medical authority, however competent, can examine a man to-day, and say that in 12 months, in two years, or three years hence the disability from which he is now suffering will have disappeared, and he will be in a normal condition?
That is what the Minister assumes to do in the matter of final awards. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Yes. It is perfectly true that the man who gets his final award can within 12 months appeal to the tribunal for a consideration of his case, but I say it is a sheer impossibility for any medical authority to say on any sound medical grounds what the condition of an ex-service man suffering either from any surgical or medical disability will be 12 months hence. The truth is that the principle of final awards is on exactly the same basis as the principle of the seven years' limit. It is part of the machine contrived in order to create as many obstacles as possible in the way of an ex-service man proving his claim and maintaining his right to a pension. It is so regarded, I do assure the House, by thousands of ex-service men [HON. MEMBERS: "Non sense!"]—who have been penalised by Regulations which this House has never had the opportunity of considering.
The system of final awards was ostensibly instituted as a means of avoiding what was regarded as needless repetition in the matter of medical examination. If it served that purpose, and that purpose alone, we should be happy on this side to support it, but I want to remind the House that there is a vital difference between the final award as that term is now understood, and the final pension that we should like to see granted to ex-service men at the moment their condition becomes such as would enable competent medical authorities to 453 say that the condition was largely stationary. We want to see restored the provisions of Article 5 of the Royal Warrant of 1919, establishing the principle that a pension could not be reduced, that a man could not be reboarded, but that he could ask at any time for a review of his ease if his disability got worse. That there is great want of care in the matter of pensions administration and in the deliverance of medical judgments on cases was evidenced by figures recently provided to the House.
The Minister, on 10th December last, told the House that, out of 6,239 appeals against final awards made last year, the Ministry's decision was found to be wrong in no fewer than 3,381 cases. Those figures alone, I think, prove the necessity for some inquiry into the manner in which those cases are now being disposed of. In the 10 months ending 31st October, 1926, only 1,000 cases were dealt with under the regulations governing erroneous awards. Are we going to assume that, in regard to those erroneous awards, even that limited number of corrections was made on the initiative of the Ministry itself? [An HON. MEMBER: "All of them !"] Without any intervention on behalf of the ex-service men by Members of this House? I think it would be found that in the great majority of those cases they had to be pressed on the Minister of Pensions by representatives of the ex-service men in this House, and that they would never have been heard of if they had been dealt with through the ordinary machinery of pensions administration.
I pass from the matter of final awards to a matter touched on by an hon. Member behind me, but which, I think, needs to be examined in another aspect, and that is the manner in which widows' claims have for some considerable time been and are now being treated by the Ministry. It is a fact that in the first ten months of last year, up to November last, one-third of the pensions granted to widows were given only after the widows had appealed to the tribunals, and that fact in itself, I think, constitutes a very grave scandal. Then there is another matter involving the interests of the widows of service men. I put a question to the Minister of Pensions last week relating to the number of cases in which 454 widows' pensions have been cancelled on the ground of alleged misconduct, and I want here to enter my strong protest against the Ministry of Pensions constituting itself a moral censor over the conduct of the widows of service men. It is a principle that is not applied, I think, in any other State Department. It is a principle that is not applied to service men themselves in the matter of their pensions, and I think it a most improper thing that the Ministry should ask the police, on the ground of what might be merely gossip, to call on a widow, to make inquiry into her alleged misconduct, and then, on the ground of a biased report which the widow herself has had no opportunity of combating, to have her pension disallowed.
The other matter of the seven years' limit has been, I think, sufficiently dealt with to-night, and the last point to which I will draw attention is the matter of tuberculous cases, as those cases are related to the matter of the benefit of the doubt which is supposed to be accorded to claimants to pensions to-day. The assumption is that when a man's medical history is deficient, if the man is not able to prove his case, the Ministry gives him the benefit of the doubt in regard to any matter relating to the origin of his disability. As a matter of fact, that is not true in practice to-day. The man does not get the benefit of the doubt, and especially is that true with regard to tuberculous cases, and other cases of a medical character. The case I have in my mind at the moment is a case which I want to quote as a typical case. I know it is perfectly easy to meet cases quoted in this House by alleging that they are exceptional, that they are not representative of the general run of cases dealt with by the Ministry.
But the case I mention is so typical of many other cases which I have met in my own constituency, that I cannot refrain from citing it here as a typical case. It is that of a miner who enlisted late in the War, and who, in 1918, in barracks was one of the victims of an influenza epidemic. There was no hospital in the country for the corps in which he belonged, and the consequence was that the whole company lay in huts during the period of their illness. The man went overseas and was never free of the disability he contracted during 455 that illness in barracks. There is most conclusive evidence that while he was in the trenches in France he suffered from a very serious hæmorrhage, that while lying in the trenches hp was spitting blood, and while he never actually reported sick between that date and the date of his discharge, there was conclusive evidence that all the time he was in France he was suffering from the effects of the illness which I have described. The man came home, and, as a matter of fact, was never able to do a heavy day's work. During the whole period from the date of his discharge up to 1920, when he was certified as a tuberculous case, he suffered more or less from chest trouble.
How does the Ministry of Pensions treat this case? It appeals to the arbitrary and altogether artificial restriction on the right of these claimants to pension by saying that a tuberculous case, in order to rank for pension, must have developed within 12 months of the date of discharge, and that in this case, which was only certified as a tuberculous case some 20 months after discharge, the trouble could not possibly be attributed to war service. I do not give all the details of this case, except to quote the unbiassed medical testimony in regard to this case when the man was examined. This is the view:I am of opinion that this man is suffering from tuberculosis of the lungs, and that the disease is attributable to his service in the army during the War. The history of the case is that symptoms of tuberculosis appeared about September, 1918, and, in my opinion, that the tuberculosis of this case was attributable to the man's service is based on the following: He joined as an A.1 man, developed a cough while in the service, and in September, 1914, haemorrhage set in, and the case developed as I have described.Evidence was procured from the man's associates. The man was serving in the trenches. I want to inform the House how the Ministry of Pensions treated that evidence when it was submitted to them. The Ministry said about the case:The spitting of blood may result from causes other than tuberculosis of the lungs, and the fact that spitting of blood is corroborated by the man's comrades gives no clue to the origin of the blood. If the disease started in September, 1918, the physical signs of tuberculosis would have been more marked two years later.456 As a matter of fact, two years later the case was marked a 100 per cent. case. In spite of that the Ministry turned the case down and the man to-day is physically unable to work, even after he has had a period of sanatorium treatment. He is not receiving anything in the way of pension for the disability from which he suffers.
Our general complaint against the Pensions Ministry to-day, apart from the general issues I have tried to describe, is that neither the House, nor the country, nor the ex-service men know what the Ministry is doing in the way of its pensions Regulations. I put a question last week to the Minister asking him to tell me if he would circulate to hon. Members—[HON. MEMBERS: "Time!"] I will finish in a moment, but this is a signal point in our appeal for an inquiry. I asked the Minister last week if he would circulate to Members, or place in the Library, copies of the circular issued recently to area officers of the Ministry instructing them as to the procedure in cases excluded by the operation of the seven years' limit. Our appeal for information regarding this important circular, which affects the basis upon which the pensions are to be granted in this connection, and as to the contents of the circular, was turned down. Why does the Minister of Pensions fear publicity in regard to the manner in which his Department is being worked? Why should he issue secret instructions to his servants in this or in any other matter? Surely it is in the interests of the ex-service men to know exactly to what they are entitled? On these various grounds we appeal for an inquiry into the whole matter of pensions administration, and I trust we shall have a satisfactory answer from the Minister.
§ The MINISTER of PENSIONS (Major Tryon)
I hope I shall give satisfactory answers to the hon. Member. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) made a very moderate speech, but one could not help seeing the devastating effect which an inquiry might well prove to have if his suggestions were adopted. It might well be that, if a man's earnings have to be taken into consideration, an. unemployed man would get a higher pension, while a man who, in spite of his 457 disability, managed to do some work, would receive a less amount. It would mean reducing the amount of the pensions of those gallant men who, in spite of their disability, are employed. In other words—and this is a most important point—it might well be that the scheme adopted would be absolutely incapable of administration, and if it could be carried through it would undoubtedly mean that large numbers off men would lose the pensions which they are now getting.
Other points were put by one or two Members, and I desire to say that I appreciate the point in reference to the Welsh language. I am very sorry that the speeches of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hexham (Colonel Clifton Brown) were not made at a time when the House was more full; and I would suggest with much respect to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Fairfield Division (Major Cohen) that he must not take the attitude that the British Legion are an organisaion which nobody can criticise. If the British Legion have presented a case to the House in a way which omits essential facts, it would be better for the British Legion to acknowledge their mistake instead of making an attack on Members, and making references to the fact that certain Members have served in the capacity of Parliamentary Private Secretary—a very onerous position which should not disable a Member from speaking freely on matters affecting other Departments.
§ Major TRYON
I think when the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. T. Kennedy) looks over his speech and goes into the facts he will realise what an enormous number of inaccurate statements he has made, and how much he misapprehends the position. For instance, he said that practically all the cases which were put right under the correction of errors system are put right through the intervention of Members of Parliament.
§ Major TRYON
No, I do not think that is so. The hon. Member tried to convey the impression to the House, in a statement from which he has now endeavoured to escape, that the majority were put right through the intervention of Members of Parliament. As a matter of fact, the overwhelming mass of corrections of error take place through the normal channel, which is the medical channel; they are corrected when the men come up for treatment.
We have heard a good deal about the British Legion petition and its two points—final awards and time limits. I think nobody reading that petition would be made aware of the fact that the final awards are modified by the system of correction of errors, though it must have been well within the knowledge of the British Legion when they worded the petition. Nor would anybody reading the petition be made aware of the fact that the Government had already announced that on the seven years' limit they are prepared to deal with exceptional cases. Whether that is a satisfactory solution or not is a matter for judgment, but certainly the facts ought to have been presented to those who. were going to sign the petition. I understand that the petition is regarded as a very large one because it was signed by 800,000 people. One Member, speaking on behalf of the British Legion, said in a moment of great enthusiasm that it was the largest petition since Magna Charta, which he evidently thought was got up by the Chartists.
As a matter of fact, 800,000 signatures to a petition got up by an organisation which professes to speak so very decisively for ex-service men, and to have so many thousands of branches, is not a very large number, because it includes the signatures of women as well as men, and of men who are not ex-service. It must be remembered that there are no fewer than 5,000,000 ex-service men in the country, and with their dependants and people who might be tempted by the various offers held out, there might be anything from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 people who could have signed. Out of that enormous total, and after all the use of cinemas. [An HON. MEMBER: "And intimidation!"] and other means used by the British Legion only 800,000 signatures were obtained.
459 The problem of final awards is a very important one. We hear of complaints, I read of complaints, and I know there are such cases. Among the most frequent complaints at the present time are the complaints of men who say, We do not want to go on having these medical boards any longer. We want to get the pension settled, and settled for life. Ever since the beginning of the Ministry, and in the Warrants which were prepared by the two first Ministers of Pensions, both of whom were Members of the Labour party, cases under 20 per cent. were paid off by what is really in the nature of a lump sum. Cases of 20 per cent. and upwards get a weekly pension. The British Legion propose that the right of appeal to reopen the cases in spite of the final awards should be given an unlimited number of times in cases of disability under 20 per cent., but deny that right to cases over 20 per cent. Why a privilege of this kind should be given to the slightly disabled when it is denied to more serious cases nobody has yet explained.
If you are going to have final awards you must have finality both under and over 20 per cent., and that is what is being done under the Act of 1921 which puts the position of final awards on a statutory basis. On that one special occasion during the man's pension life there is a new tribunal, the Assessment Tribunal, to settle the case between the man and the nation as to the final compensation for his disability. The British Legion propose that the final assessment tribunal, set up for one special occasion, should be invoked over and over again for the men under 20 per cent., but not for the men over 20 per cent. It is obviously impossible for the tribunal to make a final settlement every few months.
What the campaign of the British Legion would mean is that we should get back on to a conditional basis, that all these cases might be re-opened, that many men now having settled pension would have their pensions endangered. Beyond all doubt, if the House of Commons should decide that there should be no final awards, we should have to carry out the wishes of the House, with the result that 200,000 men who are drawing pensions at the 460 present time, and want to get their pensions settled for life, will never get them settled at all, because they will be kept in the balance going before the medical boards, and if that happens they will owe their position to the action of the British Legion and those who support them.
We have been told that this point of view is supported from every part of the country unanimously. Anybody who has been a Member of this House for some time will know that there is such a thing as sending out Resolutions from headquarters and getting them passed all over the country. Like many other people, I have an instrument at home by which I am able to receive wireless messages and so-called music from various centres. Sometimes that music is good and sometimes it is not. I was listening one night to a tune, and I tuned my instrument to listen to various stations. I listened to Aberdeen, Birmingham and Bournemouth, and I found that from each of those centres came the same tune, but I discovered that the tune was only being played by one band, in London, and that it had been relayed from London all over the country. Sometimes I think that these stations do not always pick up what has been relayed. I promised the House that I would make inquiries into this question, and I have been all over the country for the purpose of doing so, having had the most valuable assistance from my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.
We have been as far north as Inverness, as far west as Cornwall, we have been to Wales, and so on. And, when I have been down and have met the chairmen of committees, the ex-service men who have come in, by chance, and not in some organised demonstration, those working in the offices, and the voluntary workers to whom we owe so much, I have not found anything to bear out the contention of the right hon. Gentleman—I got a far different story. While attempts are made by various organisations to create similar opinions all over the country, I find that there are committees which prefer to think for themselves.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Minister must be given time to reply. There are no fewer than 15 counts in the indictment, and he must have time to reply to them.
§ Mr. LAWSON
You were pointing out, quite rightly, that the right hon. Gentleman has some 15 counts to answer. May I ask if it is not fair to ask that he should answer the points that have been put? [Interruption.]
§ Major TRYON
I would remind the House that this is a Motion in favour of an inquiry. I promised the House that I would make an inquiry, and I propose to give the House the result of the inquiry which I promised to make. I went, among other places, to Portsmouth, which is a typical example of a city which has been historically associated with both the Army and the Navy for a great number of years. I found that the War Pensions Committee at Portsmouth had refused to accept these ready-made opinions, and had personally conducted, with enormous labour, an inquiry on their own account into the question of final awards. They advertised, and they asked people over an area with a population of about 500,000 to send in their cases. I have all the details, though I have not time to give them all; but at all events this was the conclusion:The Committee are of opinion that the results of this investigation do not justify a deputation being appointed to interview the Minister of Pensions with regard to re-opening the question of final awards and treatment allowances.There is another point into which I have also made inquiry. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fairfield has spoken in this Debate, and upon a former occasion. The occasion to which I refer was that of the 10th December, 1924. It was after that speech that large numbers of signatures were obtained for the petition. I am sure that, like the 462 ex-service men themselves, my hon. and gallant Friend must have been misled by the headquarters officials of the British Legion. In ordinary parlance they have let him down very badly.
§ Major TRYON
All who know my hon. and gallant Friend will have anticipated the generous way in which he assumes to himself this responsibility, but at the same time I cannot withdraw the statement. I do not wish to attack him, but those who, I am sure, prepared for him the details of these cases. His contention for the Legion is that at every point there should be some appeal to the Tribunal. Whether it is over the seven years' limit, whether it is on final awards, at every point the Tribunal must be allowed to come in, and it is because of our refusal over the seven years' limit and in connection with the correction of errors that he brings these complaints against us. He quotes three cases. The first is that of Bridges; he complained of the condition of the man as it was in February, 1924. At the end of that very month the case came before the Tribunal and was decided against the man. I am not going to argue whether the case was right, but I think the House ought to have been told it went to the Tribunal.
The second case was that of Mrs. Churchill. Her husband had less than three months' service in the Great War, all home service. He contracted tuberculosis nearly three years after his discharge, and in his lifetime the tribunal decided that the tuberculosis was not attributable to war service, and they also rejected the widow's subsequent claim for full pension, so that the tribunal came in twice. The British Legion did not tell us that. The third case was that of Mrs. Shine in which my hon. and gallant Friend said that death was admitted to be directly due to war service. As a matter of fact that was not so. Both claims, in respect of bronchitis and tuberculosis, were decided during the man's lifetime by the independent tribunal as neither attributable to nor aggravated by war service. I do not ask the House or anyone to decide as to these cases, but in an appeal based on a demand for a tribunal, and where large numbers of signatures may 463 have been influenced by these cases, the House ought to have been told that the tribunal was brought into action no fewer than five times.
I thought I was very fortunate when the chances of the ballot put this Motion into the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince, because he had only lately been Secretary of State for War and, as Secretary of State for War, had maintained a Warrant which upheld the seven years' time limit in this kind of case. He was also a member of the Cabinet which took no steps whatever to remove this time limit when they were in power. The fact is that the seven years' time limit was imposed by the unanimous decision of the House of Commons. It was only settled after consultation with the best medical advice we had. It was considered that any illness ought to develop in less than seven years. The Government are prepared, as I have announced, to recognise, even after the time limit, that exceptional cases may arise, but that is quite a different thing from the whole demand that is being put to the House.
Since the last General Election there is hardly one principle, contrary to the foundations of our War Pensions System, which has not been urged upon me as Minister of Pensions. We have been urged, for instance, to allow women for years to come to acquire pension rights by marrying pensioners. If that is to go through I can only say that the people are not yet born who will be brought in. They may be born in 10, 20 or 30 years' time and may marry some old pensioner on his death-bed, and be entitled to a pension for years to come. I ought to say that, of course, the late Government did not accept the proposal.
That is not the whole proposal. We are also asked to sweep away all time limits; that is to say that claims may come in for 40 or 50 years from 5,000,000 people. In conjunction with that we must also remember that the British Legion supported the Bill brought in by the last Minister of Pensions when in opposition. It was a Bill under which any disability of a kind which might be due to the War was to be accepted as due to the War unless the Ministry could prove to the contrary. 464 One of the hon. Members who spoke in this Debate referred with considerable force to the fact that the Labour party, in the days before they took their present line on this matter, went into the question of pensions from, I think I might say, a more impartial point of view.
That was in the happy days when, as one Member who spoke said, all parties were co-operating to make the best possible system of pensions. This came from the headquarters of the Labour party. They suggested a six months' time limit, not a seven years'. They said, "There will have to be some limitation as to time. There is a strong presumption that if no claim has been made in six months it is because the man has no case."
I need hardly say one of the first things the Labour Government did on coming into office was to drop that Bill. The British Legion supported it. The right hon. Member who brought in this Motion spoke of the non-party spirit. We all recognise how far he went in that direction himself in his speech. If that is to prevail, should not the House consider very carefully before it passes any proposal for a Select Committee? Of the six Ministers, three have been members of the Labour party.
There has been inquiry after inquiry and committee after committee, but our objection to upsetting all that work is that you cannot now re-open all these questions. You cannot change the system of compensation according to the extent of disablement to a system of awards based on employment. It must be remembered that if it be decided to appoint a Select Committee, we should have to stop at once the granting of final pensions to a large number of men who to-day are passing from the realms of anxiety and uncertainty to knowing that their assessment is assured to them, and that they have a position of safely. Under the final awards, any man over 20 per cent. is assured of his assessment for life and is perfectly free from all risks and doubt as to his assessment being cut down by the Ministry. It is a Statutory Award: we believe that to be a great advantage to the pensioner, and we are not prepared to leave the matter to the risk of a Select Committee. We believe that on this point we are standing in the interests of the ex-service men.
465 The last speaker, to whom I am entitled to reply, alluded to the amount of unrest and uncertainty amongst pensioners. It would be better if he would remember that the Labour party made this question a party issue. I have here a number of points to that effect. We are told that there was anxiety among the ex-service men. Certainly there was. They were told that the Conservative and Liberal parties had pinched £11,000,000 from the pensioners. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member says, "Hear, hear!" Then why did his Government take off another £6,500,000 when they came into office?[Interruption.]
The Labour Government came in and brought in Pensions Estimates £6,500,000 lower than the particular Estimates which they said had pinched £11,000,000 from the pensioners. One hon. Member who is not here to-night, a member of the late Government, told us that medical boards existed for no other purpose than to cut down pensions. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear !"] One hon. Member says, "Hear, hear!" Let him listen to the answer. Then why did the late Labour Government hold 166,000 medical boards in six months while they were in office? If hon. Members opposite wish to take a non-party aspect of this question they should act rather on the lines of the speech of my right hon. Friend who introduced the Motion.
§ I have not time to say all that I had intended, but I want, in conclusion, to466
§ state that our policy is not to stand still. All through, it has been the Ministry of Pensions which has taken the initiative in reforms. It was the Ministry of Pensions which made a reform by giving a concession on the seven years time limit for widows. That was an important concession. It was the Ministry of Pensions which introduced the Correction of Errors, on their own initiative. It was the policy of the Conservative party, unitedly, which determined to stabilise pensions even though it cost £6,500,000. Throughout, our policy has been to watch and to keep in touch with the Committees. I hope to go round and to meet many Chairmen of Committees. Our main point is that we want to work to settle this question amicably, to give security to the pensioner, and to give him that security we have stabilised his rates.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 151; Noes, 256.469
|Division No. 45.]||AYES.||[1.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Connolly, M.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Cove, W. G.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Crawfurd, H. E.||Groves, T.|
|Baker, Walter||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Grundy, T. W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Dalton, Hugh||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)|
|Barnes, A.||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)|
|Barr, J.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Batey, Joseph||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Dennison, R.||Hardie, George D.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Duckworth, John||Harris, Percy A.|
|Broad, F. A.||Duncan, C.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon|
|Bromfield, William||Dunnico, H.||Hastings, Sir Patrick|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Hayes, John Henry|
|Buchanan, G.||England, Colonel A.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Cape, Thomas||Fenby, T. D.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Forrest, W.||Hirst, G. H.|
|Clowes, S.||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Gibbins, Joseph||Holt, Capt. H. P.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R||Gillett, George M.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunei||Gosling, Harry||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)|
|Compton, Joseph||Greenall, T.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|John, William (Rhondda, Wast)||Palin, John Henry||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Philipson, Mabel||Townend, A. E.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Potts, John S.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Kennedy, T.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Varley, Frank B.|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Viant, S. P.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Riley, Ben||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Lansbury, George||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stratford),||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Lawson, John James||Sakiatvala, Shapurji||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Lee, F.||Scrymgeour, E.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Livingstone, A. M.||Sexton, James||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Lowth, T.||Shaw, Rt. Hon, Thomas (Preston)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Lunn William||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Welsh, J. C.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J.R. (Aberavon)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Westwood, J.|
|Mackinder, W.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Whiteley, W.|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|March, S.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Maxton, James||Snell, Harry||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Windsor, Walter|
|Montague, Frederick||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Morris, R. H.||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Stephen, Campbell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Mr. Warne and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Oliver, George Harold||Sutton, J. E.|
|Owen, Major G.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Albery Irving James||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Crookshank, Cpt.H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootie)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M.S.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Curtis-Bennett. Sir Henry||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Hilton. Cecil|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Balniel, Lord||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Barclay-Harvey, C- M.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Berry, Sir George||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Elveden, Viscount.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Fermoy, Lord||Jacob, A. E.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Fielden, E. B.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Fraser, Captain Ian||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Gates, Percy||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Goff. Sir Park||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gower, Sir Robert||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Grace, John||Loder, J. de V.|
|Christie, J. A.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Looker, Herbert William|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Gretton, Colonel John||Lougher, L.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Grotrian, H. Brent||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vera|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Lynn, Sir, Robert J.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||MacAndrew. Charles Glen|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hammersley, S. S.||McLean, Major A.|
|Cope, Major William||Hanbury, C.||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Couper, J. B.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Harland, A.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Remer, J. R.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Rentoul, G. S.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y. Ch'ts'y)||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Waddington, R.|
|Meller, R. J||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Merriman, F. B.||Ropner, Major L.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Rye, F. G.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Salmon, Major I.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Murchison, C. K.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Savery, S. S.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Neville, R. J.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Shepperson, E. W.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Nicholson, Col. Bt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Oakley, T.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Withers, John James|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Penny, Frederick George||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Stanley, Hon. 0. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Storry-Deans, R.||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Pilcher, G.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ramsden, E.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Major Sir Harry Barnston and Mr. F. C. Thomson.|
|Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
Resolution agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after Eleven o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.