§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, to leave out from "Minister," to the end of line 15.
1819 This is the first of a series of Amendments put down by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and myself. These Amendments aim at two things: first, at removing that portion of the first five Clauses which limits the appeal under each Clause concerning grants, and, secondly, at amending, in consequence, the last words of the same Clauses, which specify the grounds on which the decision of the tribunal can be based. That series of Amendments goes right through the first five Clauses. The ground on which these Amendments have been conceived is as follows. We thought that the right of appeal given by this Bill should be as wide as possible. We could see no reason for any exception whatever. We thought that if any person whatsoever was aggrieved by a decision of the Minister, that decision should be the subject of appeal to the tribunal. We knew no reason why that should be limited at all. We ourselves do not understand why the Bill could not have been conceived much more simply, the first five Clauses being compressed into one, with a simple statement of three lines giving a right of appeal to any person aggrieved by the decision of the Ministry. But we have, in these Amendments, proceeded slightly more cautiously than that. We propose to omit certain words from each Clause. We keep, therefore, the arrangement of the Bill which sets out the different categories of persons who may appeal, but, in each case where the Clauses go on to limit the grounds of appeal, we propose to omit that limitation, so that we believe that the effect of these Amendments would be to give a general right of appeal to an appellant without any limitation whatever.
We do this on three grounds. The first is that we cannot tell in advance what the effect will be of an elaborate series of five closely-printed Clauses. What we can tell, as a matter of experience in judicial affairs, is that if you set out to define a right of appeal in five closely-printed Clauses, unexpected and unintended limitations are certain to appear. Therefore, we seek to generalise the right of appeal in order to avoid unforeseen results. We also would point out that certain limitations have already appeared in the discussions on the Second Reading of the Bill. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Daventry (Major Manning-ham-Buller) pointed out that the last 1820 words of Clause 1—"on that ground" would be likely, so he thought, to give the Minister the right to come again, if he were beaten on appeal, while under another Clause the appellant would be debarred. My hon. and gallant Friend has put an Amendment on the Paper designed to remove that anomaly. The Amendment which we have in mind would, we think, have also the incidental advantage of removing that anomaly. Again, there is the deliberate intention of the Minister to exclude the right of appeal, in cases where the degree of disablement has been subject to the Minister's decision at any time prior to that at which he decides that the assessment is final. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) has an Amendment on the Paper, of which we approve, designed to overcome that limitation, but we believe and intend that the effect of the proposed generalisation of the right of appeal would be to include the advantages purposed by the Movers of those two Amendments.
We believe that no good reason has been made by the Minister against a general right of appeal. The argument which was used does not, it seems to us, carry conviction. It is said that you must limit the right of appeal, at any rate in questions affecting the degree of assessment, because it is in the interest of the appellant himself. It is said that the essence of these appeals is that they should be final and conclusive, and I should be disposed to agree at this stage with that argument. But the problem is one which is familiar to the courts. It is familiar to the county courts in connection with workmen's compensation, which is an almost exactly analogous subject. The county court procedure seems to me to offer the right analogy to appellants under this Bill. If a person is partially disabled as the result of an industrial accident, the county court agrees finally on the degree of disablement at the time of the hearing. But should his condition thereafter differ, the man may come again. The first decision is final—final that is as to the facts at the time decided, but if the man, or his employer for that matter, can show a material change in his condition, then different issues arise, and a different final conclusion is possible. Therefore, we do not accept the argument which was put forward by the Minister on the Second Reading that it is necessary to limit the right of appeal in matters of degree, simply because it is 1821 necessary that the appeals should have a certain degree of finality. For these reasons, I have pleasure in moving this Amendment, believing that there is no reason whatever and that no case has been made out why the right of appeal granted by this Bill should not be of the most general character possible.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
On a point of Order. Will the hon. Member explain the effect of another Amendment on the Order Paper, which appears to be consequential on that which he has just moved? I refer to the Amendment in Clause 1, page 2, line 6, after "decision," to insert "together with a short statement of his reasons therefor."
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
On a point of Order. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), in moving this Amendment, has introduced references to certain other Amendments on the Paper. I would like your Ruling, Major Milner, on whether we can now include in this discussion the Amendment in my name which proposes to leave out the words "on that ground" or whether that Amendment is to be discussed separately?
The hon. and gallant Member's Amendment will be taken in the ordinary way. We are now dealing only with the first Amendment on the Order Paper, but references may have to be made, in some cases, to other Amendments on the Paper. Where Amendments run together, I shall endeavour to indicate to the Committee whether in my view it will be convenient to discuss them together.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
I wish to support the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), on the broad and familiar ground that not only should justice be done but that it should appear to be done. If appellants are allowed to appear before the tribunal and are turned down after a thorough examination, they will be more or less satisfied. If they are not allowed to appear before the tribunal because their cases do not come within the rather narrow scope of this Bill as now drafted, they will have a sense of grievance and that will be multiplied by thousands of cases. They will not understand the 1822 reasons why they have been turned down. I certainly think that the additional expense of travelling and so forth that will be involved in these Amendments, will be well worth while if a sense of satisfaction is given to those men throughout the country.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
I, too, support the case which has been put forward by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). I agree that this Bill could have been a good deal simpler and that the words which the Amendment proposes to omit will, when their effect becomes known, create a great deal of dissatisfaction among those now in the Forces. There is a universal belief among them that if pensions appeal tribunals are to be set up, they will be tribunals to which any of them will have the right of appeal. As the Bill is at present drafted, and if these words which we now propose to omit are included, it is quite obvious that, in the general sense of the term, the proposed tribunal will not be a pensions appeal tribunal at all, because the Minister will have a veto in reference to the cases which may or may not go, before the tribunal. If these words are included, he will have the right, and undoubtedly will exercise it, of preventing a certain number of men who feel that they should have the verdict of the tribunal on their cases, from bringing their appeals to the tribunal. It may be said—and this is possibly one reason why these words have been included—that without them the tribunal would be swamped by an enormous number of appeals, some of them, perhaps, trivial in character. That may be so, but there are vast numbers in the Forces, and it is no argument for refusing the right that a man ought to have, and which the workman has under the county court rules, of having his case tried by the proper tribunal.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I also desire to support the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). It is of the utmost importance that the principle of generality with regard to appeals should be applied as fully as possible. The argument that I can see against the acceptance of the Amendment is that it might lead to appeals which might be considered trivial, but it is a question as to who is to consider that the matter is trivial. For the person concerned, it is a matter of 1823 supreme importance. If there were a large number of people excluded because it was considered that their appeals would be trivial, there would be a large number of Service people who would be left with what they considered to be a very substantial grievance. I hope that the Minister, now that he has decided to set up the tribunals, will try to make them as wide in scope as possible, so that we might have an end put to all the grievances in the minds of people who have given their services to their country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
I ask the Government to consider between now and the Report stage whether they cannot simplify this Measure on the lines put before us by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) in these Amendments. I only want to add this one point for their consideration to the many that have been put before them. The Bill repeats the words of injury "directly attributable to" and "aggravated to a material extent by." These words were not in the Warrants of the last war, and I do not know whether the Committee are aware of that. These are stronger words than were contained in the Warrants of the last war. "Directly" was not there and "material" was not there. Supposing, in co-operation with us, the Government amend the Warrants, shall we not have stereotyped the grounds upon which these tribunals may try these cases rather than have left the door open to the tribunal to try all cases of grievance?
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I only desire to add a few words to the general case put by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). This is a substantial Amendment, which, I imagine, the Minister will resist. It raises a very important point. As has been expressed by previous speakers, we do not know yet what amendment the Minister is proposing to make in the pensions Warrant in future. He has promised that he is going to make a statement in the middle of this month. We are hoping that in that statement he will make very substantial concessions on the various points that have been put by various hon. Members in this House. It may well be, therefore, that a new pensions Warrant will come into force as the result of the concessions that the Minister, we are hoping, will make in the 1824 middle of this month. Therefore, in view of future events, we desire that an appellant, if his claim is rejected on any ground, shall have an absolute right of having his appeal heard. That is the simple issue which is embodied in this Amendment. If the Minister gets his way, it will be necessary to ask for a whittling down of this Clause, but we would far rather have the Minister grant an absolute right to the appellant to appeal if his claim is rejected. It is true that under the present pensions warrant the two substantial grounds on which he can lodge an appeal are those on which the Minister rejects his claim, namely, that his disability is not aggravated by or is not attributable to his war service. I should imagine, as most of the claims are rejected on these grounds, the Minister will say that therefore most of the appeals will be on these grounds. But we are looking further ahead than this Bill, and that is why we ask the Committee to support us to-day in giving these appellants an absolute right to make an appeal against the Minister's decision.
§ The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)
I think we all approach this subject with the same object in mind, and that is, to see that an appellant has his case considered on the widest possible grounds. I can assure the Committee that that is my object, and I hope that we are going to achieve it by the Bill. I agree with the hon. Member who said that the Bill might have been drawn in simpler terms. Speaking as a layman, I feel so too. But I have to accept the advice of those competent to give me legal advice, and they have drafted the Bill, trying to make it as simple as possible, but still it does appear to be very complicated. The Mover of the Amendment referred to the fact that it is a very bulky document and has many Clauses. As I explained on the Second Reading, we are not just dealing with the Armed Forces of the Crown now, but with so many other categories that it was absolutely necessary that Clauses should be inserted to deal with those categories, but the main points in the Bill are pretty much the same as regards one category and another. Whatever right of appeal we give to ex-Service members we must also give to those in the other services covered by the Bill—the Merchant Navy and the civil population as well. Let me make it quite clear to 1825 start with, in answer to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), that I made a promise that a statement will be made to the House. A promise has been made by the Leader of the House that there will be a Debate on it, and if as a result of that statement and the outline I shall give of the Government's policy, and in the light of the Debate that follows amendments are made to the Royal Warrant, I hope—indeed I am certain of this—that I shall have those amendments in operation before the tribunals commence their sittings. Otherwise it would be a grave disadvantage to those who now regard themselves fortunate in being high on the list if their cases were disposed of before the alteration of the Royal Warrant. Whatever is done with regard to the Royal Warrant, the tribunals will have to adjudicate on the new Royal Warrant and not on the old Warrant. That is quite clear.
§ Sir W. Womersley
Under this Bill, which gives that power. It is just a question of which is the best way to deal with it. I am definitely advised that the Bill as drafted covers the points, at any rate as regards the question of a man's entitlement to a pension, and I have to decide whether a man is entitled to a pension or not, on the two conditions that are laid down in the Royal Warrant. If those conditions are altered and improved as a result of this review, the tribunals will deal with them in the amended form. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not bring in a new Bill?"] I am advised not. We have the learned Attorney-General here, and he will be able to answer that point. That is important, otherwise we should have to abandon the Bill until after the other cases had been brought forward, and I do not think that that would be desirable. My own view is that the sooner we get the Bill on to the Statute Book so that we can proceed with the setting-up of the tribunals, the better for all concerned.
The point at issue is whether the wording in the Bill has the meaning that hon. Members interested in these matters would have desired. It does give a man a right of appeal against any decision I have arrived at as to entitlement. That is what the tribunals have to decide. A question was raised earlier about the case of a man 1826 wanting to appeal against assessment. The answer I gave was that I was desirous that there should be no final assessment until sufficient time had elapsed to see how a man's disease or injury developed. I thought it was in the best interests of the man that that should happen. The man should be given time to establish whether there was permanent injury as the result of anything that had happened in the course of his service before any appeal dealing with assessment was entered into. Therefore it is provided in the Bill that assessment tribunals shall be set up when it is thought desirable, purely in the interests of the appellants.
The hon. Member who moved this Amendment said that a man should have the right of appeal against assessment and could then appeal again later. I very much doubt that. If you are going to have tribunals, you must have final decisions. He referred to workmen's compensation practice. I have consulted Members on all sides of the House, and particularly those who represent ex-Service men, in an endeavour to get the procedure of the tribunals as far away as possible from workmen's compensation practice. We want these tribunals to be informal. I think that is the best word to use. We do not want them to be tied up by case law ruling or anything of that kind. I want the tribunals to have the right to deal with cases without reference to such rules. An hon. Member opposite shakes his head. He belongs to the legal profession. I am arguing this matter from the standpoint of the appellant, and I want to see that he gets a fair hearing of his case. I hope the hon. Member will not press this Amendment, which really would mean wrecking the Bill. I say that because it is all-important that it should be clearly laid down what the tribunals have to adjudicate upon.
§ Sir W. Womersley
If you are going to take away all the conditions laid down by the Royal Warrant and leave open every possible point, then, honestly, I cannot see how the tribunals are to carry on their work. We must have something like uniformity of decision among the tribunals. There will be a large number of tribunals, and unless we have some measure of uniformity there will be no 1827 satisfaction to anyone. You cannot get that unless tribunals are instructed that they have to adjudicate on the definite points at issue. The real grievance in every case is that a pension has been refused. That may have been on the ground that the injury or disease was not attributable to war service or, in the case of disease, was no aggravated by service. The tribunals will have to decide whether a man's constitutional condition has been aggravated by his service. I think the hon. Member will be wise to withdraw the Amendment and let us get on with improvements that can be made, and concentrate on improvement in the Royal Warrant. We are all trying to do the same thing, and I hope hon. Members will accept my assurance.
§ Lieutenant-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)
I am not a member of the legal profession. I am only an ordinary layman, not, I hope, an altogether stupid person. But I am bound to say the speech of the Minister has left me in a state of considerable confusion. Discussion of the Royal Warrant was ruled out of Order on Second Reading. We have now been given by the Minister a very broad hint that at an early date we may expect a new Royal Warrant or very considerable amendment of the Royal Warrant. We are dealing now with the machinery to be set up for appeal tribunals. When I listened to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) I envisaged machinery operating under the existing Royal Warrant. It seems to me that we are under great difficulties in proceeding with the Committee stage in these circumstances, and if I had the status of the right hon. Gentleman on the front bench, I should be inclined to move to report Progress. Surely we cannot complete the Committee stage in the light of legislation which may come about at some future date but which we have not seen. I am anxious to do my duty as a Private Member and to do my best for the members of the Fighting Services, and I support the hon. Member for Oxford in trying to improve the machinery for dealing with the Royal Warrant as it now exists. Unless we can obtain some further explanation I think we are wasting time.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
I think it may be for the 1828 convenience of the Committee if I draw attention to one or two points in the Bill which are relevant to the matters raised by this Amendment, because we do not want the discussion to proceed on any misunderstanding. Some hon. Members have asked what would be the position if there was an amendment in the Royal Warrant. That would depend on the character of the amendment. In Clause 6 (3) of the Bill there is a provision that in determining an appeal under this Act in respect of any claim or award the tribunal shall have regard to the terms of the Royal Warrant. That is a general injunction that they must have regard to the terms of the Royal Warrant which are relevant to the issue.
§ The Attorney-General
If there is anything inconsistent with Clause 1, that is dealt with by Clause 10 (1) of the Bill. which says that where any such Royal Warrant as is referred to in Clause I or any such scheme as is referred to in other Clauses—we need not bother about them —is amended or replaced so as to modify or extend the grounds on which awards may be made and to give rise to any issue on which it appears to His Majesty that an appeal ought to lie under other Clauses, he may by Order in Council make such modifications as appear to him to be necessary for the purpose of granting such a right of appeal. Now the purpose of that was that it was to make it possible, apart from the alteration or any Amendment that may be under discussion at the moment, to keep this Bill, which is a machinery Bill, marching with the Royal Warrant, and our intention under the two Clauses I have referred to was to have provision in order to meet the difficulty. That is not a complete answer to the arguments which have been put forward, but I thought it would be convenient if I explained it to the Committee at this stage.
§ Mr. Silverman
I think we are all grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the explanation he has given, but it seems to a great many of us to make the position a good deal worse than it was before and to make it more than ever necessary that the Amendment now before the Committee should be carried. What is it he has said? He has said that under 1829 Clause 6 (3) if the Royal Warrant was, first, to make the grounds on which pensions may be awarded different and, further, the grounds on which appeals may be brought forward different, then the Minister might by an Order in Council, if he thought fit and at his discretion, alter this Bill in order to make the right of appeal conform with the new Royal Warrant. But that is exactly what this long agitation in the House and in the country has been against. We do not want the decision on such a point to be left to the Minister. We want to be sure that if a man feels aggrieved by the decision of the Ministry, he shall have the free and unfettered right of appeal to an impartial appeal tribunal against that decision. Whatever decision is reached by the Ministry to which exception is taken by an applicant, there ought to be a free and unfettered right of appeal to an appeal tribunal. Why do the Govt. want these words in? There can only be two explanations of the words. They are either completely and utterly without meaning of any kind or they are a limit upon the right of appeal. It must be one or the other. No one can suppose that if the words were left out there could, under the existing Royal Warrant, be any other grounds of appeal than those stated in that Clause. They reproduce the words of the Royal Warrant and cover the grounds of appeal, but if you do not use these words at all, Clause r will say:Where any claim in respect of disablement of any person. …is rejected by the Minister. …the Minister shall notify the claimant of his decision, and thereupon an appeal shall lie.…What is wrong with that? Why is it necessary to complicate something which, on the Minister's own showing, carries the matter no further? I think we are entitled to be suspicious of the Minister's Department. I find it difficult to believe that the Government, the Minister and his Department should make a very strenuous fight to retain words which, on his own showing, are meaningless. If they are so obstinately determined to retain these words, we are inclined to wonder why they want them so much. It seems to us that there can be only one reason for wanting them, namely, because they impose a limit upon the right of appeal. Or is it something else? Are we to take it that what the Minister is really doing is giving us a broad hint either that the Royal Warrant will not be 1830 altered or, if it is altered, that it will riot change the basis on which appeals are granted? Is the Minister saying, "Do not bother about this, because if and when the Royal Warrant is altered these words will still be appropriate"? Let us assume that the Royal Warrant is some day amended in the way that most of us desire to see it amended. Then, under this Bill, the necessary amendment of new grounds on which pensions may be awarded will be excluded from the jurisdiction of these appeal tribunals unless the right hon. Gentleman introduces a new Bill in order to amend this Clause.
When we remember how long it has taken the Minister to introduce the Bill which is before us to-day, I think we are entitled to say, "Let us be sure that we are now getting what we want. Let us have no words that might make people think they were not to have an unfettered right of appeal to an impartial judicial tribunal." If the Minister really means that if the Royal Warrant is altered and he intends to exercise his powers under Clause 6 (3) and do it by Order in Council, why not satisfy us to-day by saying, "I will take the words out, and the Clause will be sufficient to cover the present position and any new position that may be created by any amended Royal Warrant"? If we take the words out, the position is clear now and in the future. If we leave them in, the position may be clear in the future, but it may not. Why the doubt? This Bill has been introduced in order to satisfy the feeling all over the country that these men are not getting a square deal. Why retain the words, the only effect of which on people's minds would be to make them say, "There is still a catch in it"? The Minister said something about the Workmen's Compensation Act and that he wanted to keep as far away from that procedure as possible. I quite understand his desire to have informal tribunals and not be tied by legal formalities in any way, but I would like to warn him that that was exactly what was said when the Workmen's Compensation Bill was being passed. It was said then, "We do not want any courts, trials or actions; we want informal arbitration by arbiters as far removed from that atmosphere as we can get." The result was that there was a great crop of litigation that was more difficult, more abstruse and more complicated than the litigation which arose as 1831 a result of any other Act, even the Rent Restrictions Act which was passed with the same view in mind. These short cuts will not do. If there are words which create doubts and difficulties, and which can be removed without sacrificing the principle of the Bill, then they should be removed.
§ Earl Winterton
It is quite obvious from the discussion so far that the Committee are almost unanimously against the Minister. I do not wish to be disrespectful to my right hon. Friend and I shall endeavour in the course of my remarks to say nothing offensive about him or his administration but to deal with the points at issue. What are they? The only direct reference which I wish to make to my right hon. Friend—and I hope he will not regard it as wounding—is that I thought it was rather curious that in his statement of the position, when he was asked how it will be possible to operate this Bill when a new Royal Warrant was brought forward, he said, as I understood him, "I understand that that is possible." It is not a question of understanding; it is either so or not. The language used by my right hon. Friend was rather unfortunate, and I should have thought he would have been able to give a definite answer. The answer was given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, but I think that the Minister himself should have been able to give it. That may be a comparatively small point, but it is not quite so small as it might appear, because in their approach to this Bill the Committee must be quite sure that the Minister himself has clearly in mind the objects he wishes to obtain, and that was not wholly evident in the course of his speech.
Here I may say, in passing, that if we were in ordinary opposition in peace-time I am convinced that a Motion to report Progress would have been moved long ago. What was the Attorney-General's answer to the point that "the Minister understood"? He gave a very clear reply and referred to Clause 10 (I). I ask the Committee to give their earnest attention to this point, because, with great respect, one has to have regard not to the position of the Government or the Minister. The two matters that should solely influence us are, first, what is best in the interest of the pensioners, and, 1832 secondly, what is best in the interest of the public. There should be no question of saying whether the Minister has been well treated or not. That does not come into it. What is the position under Clause 10? It is this: There is no obligation upon the Minister at all to act. The word used is "may," so that if the Royal Warrant is altered to the advantage of the pensioners, my right hon. Friend could keep the Bill as it stands to-day. The word used is "may"; there is no mandatory power upon the Minister to act, although perhaps the Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong.
§ The Attorney-General
One has to be a little careful not to press the word "may" too much. There are authorities which say that "may" may imply a duty. It is often used in Acts of Parliament instead of the word "shall". I think it will be found to be a word used when there is power which has to be exercised if administration is to be carried on.
§ Mr. Silverman
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene for a moment to point out what I had overlooked and what the Attorney-General must, I think, have overlooked. We are dealing with a proposed Amendment to Clause r of this Bill, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman intervened a little while ago to say that it was covered by Clause 10 (1). That Clause gives the Minister no power at all to amend Clause 1.
§ Mr. Silverman
No. It says:Where any such Royal Warrant, Order in Council or Order of His Majesty as is referred to in section one of this Act or any such scheme as is referred to in section two or section three of this Act is amended or replaced so as to modify or extend the grounds on which awards may be made.…
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not want there to be any misapprehension as to the interpretation of Clause 10 (2). It does not give 1833 the Minister power at all. It gives His Majesty a discretion, and such words never imposed a duty on anyone, because you cannot put a duty upon His Majesty by words such as these. It is always discretionary.
I think I ought to tell the Committee that whilst I am very willing to accede to the evident wishes of the Committee, that we should have a general discussion on the first Amendment, it must be on the understanding that if Clause 10 or other matters in the Bill are referred to at any length, we shall not have a second discussion at length when we come to that Clause.
§ Earl Winterton
It is probably my fault that the Committee was led to discuss the matter. I say the position is thoroughly unsatisfactory when, it may be through no fault of the Minister, we are asked to pass a Clause with certain words in it when, in the light of recent events, in the light of the statement by the Minister himself, and above everything else in the light of the opinion clearly expressed in this House, there is likely to be a considerable alteration in the Royal Warrant. That is a thoroughly unsatisfactory position from the administrative point of view. The second unsatisfactory position is that just pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), that if the Government—I do not suggest that this Government would do it—wished to run away from their obligations, they can perfectly well do so under the Clause. In fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, I think there is an answer to be given to what I have just said. He can say, "But the House has pressed for this Clause in one form or another. We could not wait until the Royal Warrant was considered before we brought in a Bill, and we had to bring in the Bill in the form in which it is." If he had made that defence in the first instance on the administrative side, I should have been more satisfied than I am, but he did not. He tried to pretend that it was a convenient course in itself, and I say emphatically that it is not.
Coming to the actual words proposed to be left out, let me restate the argument which many of us have used. We were quite rightly precluded on the Second Reading from going into the whole question of the Royal Warrant. Here we can clearly deal with it, because 1834 these are the words in the Royal Warrant. The first point which has never been answered as far as I know is that put by the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). Never in my experience has anyone had a greater technical and practical knowledge of the Pensions Acts than the hon. and gallant Baronet. Why is it that the words we are now using which are the words in the Royal Warrant are less favourable to the pensioner than were the words in the Royal Warrant in the last war? The right hon. Gentleman may say they are not less favourable, but the question has been constantly asked, and it has never been answered from the Front Bench.
The other point I want to make is a fresh one, which has not come up in discussion. Under the words proposed to be left out the tribunals are limited to a very considerable extent. They are especially limited by the words that it arose or existed during such service and was aggravated by such service to a material extent and remains aggravated thereby. However strongly the right hon. Gentleman may urge on the Committee and state from platforms in the country that you must have limiting words of this kind, if you are to do justice to the taxpayer as well as to the pensioner, you will never persuade not merely the pensioner himself and his relatives but the people of the country that when a man or woman enters any of His Majesty's Services absolutely fit, is passed A.I, and subsequently becomes ill, it is not in some way attributable to service. If I were in the right hon. Gentleman's position, I should very likely take the Departmental point of view, because some Ministers always take the Departmental point of view. He may say, "That is all very well, but the Noble Lord knows perfectly well that if we did that, we should have to pay the taxpayers' money in a number of cases where it never ought to be paid out." That may be so, but the running sore in the body politic will remain, and it will get worse as the war goes on.
I know something about medical practice, because I have been a member of the British Hospitals Association and have been chairman of a hospital for 30 years past. No one will dispute that the greatest unknown factor in the whole of medicine is the original cause of cancer. There is more difference of opinion be- 1835 tween doctors on that than on any other question. My right hon. Friend the other day gave a most sympathetic answer in a most sympathetic manner about a man who joined the Army in perfect health but developed cancer and died of it. He said that under these words that we are seeking to exclude, which are in the Royal Warrant, this was not directly attributable to Army service. How does he know? How does anyone know? If a man or woman in a perfectly healthy state goes into the Service and dies, you will never persuade the public that the illness was not due to Army service in some way. You may make the answer, "That may be so. The Noble Lord may be right. But in the interests of the taxpayer I shall have to continue to do it." I only say, from the point of view of public policy and the effect on the minds of the public and of war pensions, that you will never persuade them. I beg my right hon. Friend to consider whether it is necessary to have these words in this form and to base himself upon the defence that these are the words of the Royal Warrant.
We have asked for two things. We have asked for the tribunals, and we have asked for a less rigid insistence on the actual words of the Royal Warrant. My right hon. Friend has met us to some extent on the first point. He has most emphatically not met us on the second. The Committee would not be doing its duty, in view of the opinions which have been expressed in all parts of the Committee during the Debate, in Questions and on platforms, if they did not vote against the Government. If they supported the Government, they would be stultifying themselves, because this is a primary issue. It cannot be dismissed as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. It is one of the issues that arise under the Bill on which the Government have failed to satisfy the Committee.
§ Major Sir George Davies (Yeovil)
While I do not share the suspicions of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) about the motive behind this Clause, I very largely share his general view about it and that of my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). It is an issue of prime importance. The dilemma as I see it is this. After considerable pressure from all quarters in the House and outside, we are 1836 arranging for the setting-up of these tribunals. As the result of pressure from the same quarters, we have had forecast to us that substantial changes are going to be made in the Royal Warrant. The Government naturally do not wish to postpone the coming into operation of these tribunals until such time as the Royal Warrant may or may not be amended, and therefore they have tried to bring in a Measure which will be applicable if and when the Royal Warrant is to be substantially amended. This is a psychological matter. Every Member's postbag has been filled for years with cases, whether well-founded or not, of people who feel a festering sore because they have not had a square deal. It is useless to tinker with it. We have to realise the situation and deal with it on a broad scale in order to do away once and for all with this constant running sore of dissatisfaction that their case has not been fairly dealt with. There is a price to be paid, there will be a congestion of work for the tribunals, and there will be a call on the taxpayers to pay out moneys which perhaps cannot be legally substantiated.
Now we have an opportunity really to deal in a broad way with the matter. This harmless-looking Amendment has been brought forward. It does not seem much in itself, but it runs fundamentally through the whole of the Bill. It is going to change it completely. If my right hon. Friend accepts it, it is stultifying the whole Bill. It seems to me that the only common-sense thing that can be done is to move to report Progress in order to reconsider the whole situation, but we do not want to play party politics on an issue like this, particularly the party with which I am identified, which has given whole-hearted support to the Government in all their undertakings for winning the war. The last thing I want to do is to voice anything which will be embarrassing, particularly to my right hon. Friend, for whom I have the greatest affection and respect. At the same time we are in a dilemma, and I think we are going to stultify ourselves, having got to the situation of setting up these tribunals with every prospect of substantial amendments to the Royal Warrant, and then tinkering with the matter so that we still leave dissatisfaction and shall still have a public opinion which feels that it has not had a square deal. It is a psychological more 1837 than a logical question, and the Minister will be making a very great mistake if he ignores the feeling in the Committee.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I want to call attention to certain words in Clause 10 (1) which have not yet been referred to but which make the position more unsatisfactory than we have realised up to the present, for the words "may by Order in Council" mean that the matter is left to the Minister. I want to call attention to certain earlier words:any issue on which it appears to His Majesty that an appeal ought to lie.That is a matter of policy. The Government have to decide whether an appeal ought to lie. It may be for reasons of economy that they do not want to extend the right of appeal. It is a political decision which has to be taken and that makes it all the more important that we should during the passage of this Bill make certain that any amendment in a new Royal Warrant will carry with it the same right of appeal for certain and not at the will of the Government. I hope that my right hon. Friend who I am sure is anxious to give satisfaction to the Committee and the country in this matter, will respond to the obvious feeling in the Committee and consider whether there cannot be in some way some Amendment which will make it certain that the right of appeal will as a matter of right and law go with any amendment to the Royal Warrant.
§ Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)
I want to put a simple proposition to the Minister. My personal experience of the right hon. Gentleman has been a very happy one. He has always given personal consideration to any cases that have been put by hon. Members and my view is that he has given sympathetic consideration to them. There is one class of case, however, that of cancer, which has already been mentioned. How can the Minister or any doctors determine whether it is or is not attributable to any cause? Nothing will convince a man or woman who has been passed A.1 that, after some period of service he or she is put out of the service because of cancer, the disease was not caused by the service. The Minister is taking to himself the right to say without qualification or hesitation whether service is or is not the cause of the disability. The Minister has divide 1838 ex-Service men or any appellants under this Bill into two sections—one those who have the right of appeal if their claims have been rejected by the Minister, and those who have not the right of appeal but may be given that right. Under what conditions may a man be given a right of appeal? He has the right under Clause 1, paragraphs (a) and (b), and the Attorney-General went out of his way to explain the other circumstances under Clause 10 in which he may have a right of appeal. He can only have that right if His Majesty determines that it should be granted. In practice that will mean the Minister will determine whether the right of appeal shall be granted. The Minister, however, has already determined that the application for a pension shall not be granted. When the applicant desires to appeal against that decision the Minister has to determine whether the right shall be granted. That is an unfair position.
Is not the whole question a very simple one? A man goes into the Service and contracts, say, tuberculosis or V.D.H. I have had many such cases, as other Members have. The man is then told that the disease is not attributable to or has not been aggravated by his service. I have produced medical evidence from several highly qualified medical practitioners that in their view the disability was directly due to military service, but the Minister has turned the application down. He may continue to turn down such applications in certain circumstances. The applicant may have the right of appeal in some circumstances, but in others he may not have the right unless the Minister determines otherwise. I think it is the view of the Committee—at any rate, I hope it is—that any person who is called up or volunteers for service and who is compelled after a period to resign because of his physical condition, ought at least to have the right to appeal to some one other than the Minister to say whether his condition is due to his service. If a person is dissatisfied with the decision of a magistrate or a judge, he has the right of appeal. If a man is judged by a panel of four or five doctors to be AI physically, and if afterwards his condition deteriorates and he is put out of the Service as unfit, no human being would accept the decision that the disability is not to some extent due to service. If 1839 the Minister says that is not so and no compensation can be granted, the man ought to have the right of appeal. That is the view of the House and the country and the Minister would be well advised to take that view before circumstances arise which may compel him to.
§ Mr. Astor (Fulham, East)
I would with the utmost sincerity and deference ask the Government whether they cannot possibly accept this Amendment. They have said that they are trying to get exactly the same results as we are. It is quite clear that the general opinion of the Committee prefers the method involved in this Amendment to the method which the Government propose. Not one hon. Member has risen to agree with the Government. We want a general right of appeal and to have it stated in as clear and simple terms as possible. Neither the Attorney-General nor the Minister has produced any objection that any dire results would follow if the Amendment were accepted. They have merely stated that in their view they thought it was not necessary, but the whole Committee obviously prefers the Amendment. I do hope that they will say now that they will accept it.
§ Mr. Dobbie (Rotherham)
I support the Amendment, in view of its comprehensive character and of the general volume of opinion expressed by successive speakers in this discussion. I would like to ask the Minister now whether he is in a position to make some sort of statement, so that we might, in view of the large number of Amendments on the Paper, proceed with the work of the Committee. This is the machinery which will to a great extent bring confidence or otherwise to members of the Forces in relation to the Royal Warrant. If the machinery is not right, if it will not give power to the tribunals to do the thing that we think is right, a tremendous lot of confidence in the new Royal Warrant will be lost. I hope that the Minister will now be in a position to make a statement accepting this Amendment because of its justness and because the people concerned are entitled to it. I can assure the Mover of the Amendment that if he takes it to a Division the party to which I belong will give it their complete support.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes (Essex, South-East)
The right hon. Gentleman is in 1840 rather a difficult position, but he must appreciate the strength of the arguments in favour of this Amendment which have been put forward from all quarters of the Committee. When an Amendment is discussed in Committee hon. Members have to consider it on its merits. We have debated this one for an hour, and although the Minister has certain difficulties, he must realise that the general view of the Committee is in favour of avoiding limitation as far as possible of the right of appeal. I awaited the Minister's answer with some anxiety, because I thought that there might be a real answer, but the only answer has been that unless he has the existing words or words like them in the Bill, there will be no uniformity and his tribunals will not know what to do. That has been the only argument put forward. I would suggest that my right hon. Friend's difficulty would not be overcome in that way, because if the Royal Warrant is to be produced in a short time, the very words on which he is insisting will be meaningless. It seems to me that we cannot put words in the Bill which the greater part of the Committee do not like and which are likely to be meaningless at a very early stage. I appreciate that there are technical difficulties, but I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman were to find some words to meet the wishes of the Committee his stature would not be less in the eyes of any Member.
§ Mr. Willink (Croydon, North)
In view of the condition of my voice I had not intended to speak, but I feel so strongly about this Clause that I feel bound to do so. The technical and narrow character of the drafting will give rise to great difficulties. I would refer to three points in particular.
The main object of the Amendment is to get rid of a limitation on the right of appeal. It deals with that in a general way, but I should like to refer to three matters in respect of which, in my view, the whole Clause is thoroughly faulty. The first is that an appeal only lies under this Clause when a claim is wholly rejected. It is obvious that a man who considers he has zoo per cent. disability and is awarded only 40 per cent. ought to be able to appeal. The Clause is faulty in that it only provides for an appeal where the rejection is total. The second point is that all 1841 the Minister has to do is to inform the claimant of his decision. All he has to say is "Your claim is rejected." He has not to give any reasoned grounds for that judgment, and the man does not know whether his disability is being attributed to his misconduct, or whether his complaint is regarded as not being attributable to war service or as not having been aggravated by war service. Nothing has to be done except to inform the applicant that his claim is rejected.
The third point is this: The Committee will remember that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Daventry (Major Manningham-Buller) asked the Parliamentary Secretary whether it would not be possible, when the claim had been rejected once, and there was another appeal for the claim to be rejected by the Minister on another ground. The Parliamentary Secretary replied:We are a little uncertain as to whether that is so. We think not. If it is so we shall he very surprised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th June, 1943; col. 1424, vol. 39o.]We have had not a word about that from the Minister of Pensions or from the Attorney-General. The claim may fail in the first instance on the ground of the complaint not being attributable to service nor aggravated by war service, but it is open to the Minister and those in his Department to keep their second case up their sleeve, and it is within the option of the Minister when the appeal has been allowed, to withhold or reduce the award. It is intolerable that a pensioner should succeed and that the Act should give the right to the Minister then to turn round and put up another case against the claim. On these three grounds I submit that this Clause is wholly faulty and should be withdrawn.
§ Mr. Butcher
I do not intend to delay the Committee, because I feel that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions will be happy in the reinforcements he has received from the Government side. Nothing is more refreshing than to see him in consultation with the Leader of the House, the Lord President of the Council, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Patronage Secretary. Some of us who feel strongly on this matter have the 1842 greatest friendship for the Government and are prepared to support the Government on all matters of major policy whole-heartedly and with the utmost loyalty, but when it comes to matters of this kind we propose to exercise our own judgment and to carry our judgment into the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. Hubert Beaumont (Batley and Morley)
I want to add my voice to the appeals made to the Minister to accept this Amendment. May I suggest to the Minister that he would do not only a generous but a very wise thing if he accepted the Amendment? If he does not, if he hardens his heart, it will be taken to be a challenge, and the majority of Members will of necessity, not only because of their convictions but also because of the promises they have made to their constituents, have to support this Amendment. I have not yet recorded a vote against the present Government since its formation—I exercise a right of discretion—but I shall be on this occasion compelled to do so not only because I disapprove entirely of the Clause as it is but also because of the promises I have made to my constituents on this matter. It can be truly said that the attitude the Committee is taking up is absolutely representative of the wishes of the people of the country and that the attitude of the Minister is quite out of harmony with the wishes of the country. I cannot understand why he has not been more receptive to public opinion. He is a man of great receptivity, a man who claims to know the pulse of the people, and yet in this particular matter he has hardened his heart and opposes the will of the common people.
The country demands that justice shall be done to men and women who are forced to leave the Services on account of ill-health. The measure of the sincerity of this House will be determined by how its Members vote on this Amendment and from that the country will judge and assess the honesty of the intentions of Parliament. This Amendment is fundamental, and deals with the most important Clause of the Bill. It is the very crux of the problem. If 1he Amendment is accepted—and I hope that despite the reinforcements which have come along the Minister will have the wisdom to accept it—the Minister will be credited with sound common sense and 1843 with a good understanding. If he does not accept it he will be regarded as a man of ill judgment.
It may be said that some people might get money from the country which they otherwise would not get if a universal right of appeal was allowed. That may be so, but I submit that where there is a doubt the sick man or woman should have the benefit of the doubt rather than that we should by Act of Parliament deprive men and women of what is their absolute right. It is quite impossible, with all the logic that one can bring forward, to justify to the parents of a man or a woman, or to the man or the woman, who have been accepted into the Forces, who have been passed by four or five doctors as AI and fit for service and afterwards been discharged on account of illness or disability that their illness is neither attributable to nor aggravated by war service. We have to accept full responsibility after having taken a man or woman into the Forces as fit, and the nation must accept the responsibility and liabilities of that action. I hope the Minister will see the wisdom of bowing to the storm and will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Eden
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
Let me first apologise to the Committee for the fact that I have not been here during the greater part of the discussion, and that applies also to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who is more informed in these matters than I am. The reason is that there was a meeting of some importance of the War Cabinet, and with the best will in the world it is not possible to be in two places at once. I have received an account of what has passed and of the speeches which have been made, and during the last few moments I have had the advantage of listening to one or two. Let me therefore make plain the position of the Government. In the first place, it was never our purpose to drive through this proposal against the wishes of Parliament. What was in our minds was that there was a demand for the early setting-up of these tribunals, a demand which we sought to meet. In present circumstances, and with the Committee knowing that an examination is being made by the Government of proposals which may affect the 1844 Royal Warrant, it is quite natural that the Committee should say that that alters the position fundamentally, and we should much prefer to look at this picture again when we know what are the proposals which the Government are going to bring forward. I do not think that is an attitude which the Government can really say is an utterly unreasonable one. In fact, it is one which clearly has a very large measure of force. If that be the position of the Committee, it is one which, so far as the Government are concerned, I am ready to accept. I am quite ready to agree that this Bill should stand over until such time as the Government's other proposals, the general proposals, are made available to the House so that the House can examine this in relation to the new Government proposals and see the picture as a whole. That seems to me to be a request which can quite reasonably be made, and in order to meet it I am proposing that we should report Progress.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I think the proposal just made to us is a sound one. I think it is a sound one because, as I see it, even when these tribunals are set up, we shall be in relatively the same position as we are at the present time. Everybody has cheered the Minister of Pensions and said how sympathetic and generous he has been in all the cases which has has dealt with, how he has gone as far as he could go according to the powers that he has, but the tribunals will only have the same powers. I have argued all along in favour of the principle "Fit for service, fit for pension" and I can see nothing in this Bill which will grant that. We should have to accept what is in the Royal Warrant, and that means that the tribunals cannot go any further than the right hon. Gentleman himself has gone. I have in mind a specific case——
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr Charles Williams)
On the question of reporting Progress, we can only argue whether it is advisable to report Progress or not; we cannot argue about cases which the hon. Member may have brought to the Minister or details of the Amendments which we have been discussing.
§ Mr. Tinker
Thanks for the guidance. On this point I am speaking for myself, and I am prepared to accept the proposal 1845 to report Progress so that we can see later what is proposed.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
I am afraid I can hardly agree with the Leader of the House in his proposal to report Progress. I believe it only means —not that I distrust the Leader—that we are to put off the evil day because the Government have recognised at a late hour in the day that the tornado has reached the Floor of the House, and they wish to reshape the situation in a manner which will be unsatisfactory to Parliament when the matter comes forward again at a later stage. What we have been arguing is that certain terms contained in Clause I are of themselves grossly misleading and hamstring appellants. The Minister has indicated clearly what is not only his own attitude but the attitude of the Government. I believe that the Government should now accept the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Hogg) and let us get on with the rest of the Clauses to-day, and therefore I shall be disposed, if there is a Division, to vote against the Government reporting Progress.
§ Sir Ian Fraser
I should like to thank the Leader of the House for his most conciliatory speech. I think this is the first occasion during these Debates when one with his authority, and after consultation with his colleagues in the War Cabinet, has shown us that the Government mean to have full regard to the wishes of Parliament. I should like to thank him very much for what he has said, and, for what my voice is worth, I should like to ask my hon. Friends on all sides of the House to accept this proposal to report Progress. Then the Government will have a chance to, and I hope they may be good enough to, consult with those who have put down Amendments, so that by good will and in co-operation a Bill may come forward which lines up properly with the new world we are in and bring satisfaction. May I add that I am sure that it is not outside the gifts of the Lord Chancellor or the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Pensions to see to the administrative work of getting together the personnel of the tribunals, and arranging for the rooms in which they will sit, the clerks which they will need, and other things which are not in dispute, so that even if it be 1846 a week or two before the Bill comes back no time will have been lost.
§ Sir Cyril Entwistle (Bolton)
I hope that the Committee will accept the Motion moved by the Leader of the House. I would like to put forward a reason why I think it would be to the advantage of the pensioner arid everyone that the proposal should be accepted. Even if the Amendment had been accepted by the Government I do not think its effect would have been so fundamental. The first point in the Amendment——
§ Sir C. Entwistle
Then I will not pursue that point. It is clear that the tribunals will be able to hear appeals under the Royal Warrant, and if the Royal Warrant is to be amended, as we hear it is, on quite fundamental points, there will be no loss through any delay in the setting up of the tribunals. Every case which, in the meantime, would be heard under the Bill as it now stands, would have to be reheard when the Royal Warrant was amended, if such Amendment affected the grounds of entitlement. Therefore, I consider that Members who want concessions made in the directions that have been advocated will not lose anything by accepting the Motion to report Progress at this stage, as it will save the rehearing of those appeals, when the pensions Warrant is subsequently amended.
§ Mr. Silverman
No one would object to the Government having an opportunity to reconsider the whole matter, if the result were to give the House and the country a better Bill, but the Government have been considering this matter now for a very long time. The Amendment that was moved and that led the Leader of the House to make this proposal is not one that went to the root of the Bill at all. It is true that we are all anxious that, if the Royal Warrant were ever amended, the Bill should give a right of appeal in the new circumstances created by any Amendment to the Royal Warrant, but that can be done very simply now. If the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) had been accepted or voted by the Committee, the Clause would be ample to cover both the present position and any new position which might be 1847 created if the Royal Warrant were ever to be amended. If we have convinced the Government that the words which we want to leave out ought to be left out, the simple thing to do is to leave them out now and to go on with the enactment of the necessary machinery for the appeal tribunals, in the way that would have been followed if the Amendment were accepted, and which would be applicable now and in the future, whatever changes are made.
I resent very much that the Bill establishing appeal tribunals, which we have wanted for so long, should be indefinitely postponed because of the reluctance of the Government to accept what is really no more than a formal Amendment. It is wrong that the whole thing should be thrown back into the melting pot. If the Committee adopt the Motion to report Progress, since there are only three or four weeks left, we shall not get another Bill before the Adjournment for the Summer. If we reject the proposal to report Progress, we may hope to have the pensions appeal tribunals working in August. If we report Progress we shall not. When the Bill is indefinitely postponed a new agitation and a new controversy will begin which will be totally unnecessary. Nothing in the Amendment would justify so drastic a proposal. It would almost lead one to think that the Government are so reluctant to have pensions tribunals at all that, having been reluctantly compelled to introduce a Bill, they snatch at the first excuse for withdrawing it and delaying the matter again. There is nothing whatever in the proposal that has been made that ought to delay or impede in any way the creation of the tribunals now, and the thing coming into active operation on the date originally promised. If the Royal Warrant is amended at some other time, we should accept the Amendment proposed in the Committee. The machine will be just as good for that purpose as it is for this purpose. Those who have led the fight for the Amendment and for the appeal tribunals for so long would be well advised indeed not to fall into the trap that the Leader of the House has set for them.
§ Mr. Mander
I have considerably more confidence in the sincerity and good intentions of the Government than the hon. Member who has just spoken. The 1848 Leader of the House has acted most wisely in responding, as he always does, to the manifest feeling of the Committee. As I understand the proposal, it is that those concerned will get into touch with hon. Members who are interested in the different Amendments to the Bill and that a further Bill will be brought forward before we adjourn. I take the speech of the Leader of the House to mean that the Government will go into this matter, and that they intend to bring forward an amended Measure before we adjourn and before the Recess, taking into consideration the views expressed in the Committee. If that is so, there is no reason for any delay in the setting-up of the tribunals. The necessary arrangements can be got on with by the Minister of Pensions, and before we adjourn we shall be able to pass legislation that will be satisfactory to the House, covering any future amendment to the Royal Warrant.
§ Mr. Hogg
As I fear that I have had something to do with bringing about this situation, I hope the Committee will forgive me if I try to make my own position clear on the proposition now before us. I should like to express my gratitude to my right hon. Friend for his sensitiveness to the feeling of the Committee. I welcome it. I listened with a great deal of sympathy to the argument addressed by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). I had taken the view that this was a comparatively minor Amendment which the Government might have accepted easily, and was not fundamental to the Bill. The Government have been generous to the Committee, and it is now time for the Committee to be generous to the Government and to accept the proposal which has been put before it. I would only say that I am sure the Government will not take this attitude on the part of the Committee for any sign of weakness on any of the other Amendments, which otherwise would have been discussed. The Amendment which was before us was one of the least, and though feeling was strong about it, feeling would have been a great deal stronger on some of the others.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
This is one of the occasions when I should have thought a Back Bencher would have welcomed the change of heart on the part of the Government. It is many years 1849 since I sat on the back benches, and therefore perhaps I do not always enter into the back bench spirit. Let us look at this matter as a problem affecting Members on all sides of the House. The question of the treatment of ex-service men is no political party matter. Everybody is obviously interested. If the Government have been a little reluctant and a little slow, at least there is something to be said for accepting an act of grace from them. I agree with what has just been said about the Amendment. It is not without importance, but I can see some of the difficulty of the Government about accepting it. It is not one of the major difficulties that we may have to face, however, as the Bill goes through its remaining stages.
I was not in my place when the Leader of the House made his proposal, but I take it to mean that the Government are prepared to reconsider the implications of the Amendment. I will go further than that and suggest that now the Government have had some indication of the temper of the Committee—I do not mean temper in the bad sense—and the tone of the discussions, they should take the Bill back and look at all the Amendments and perhaps introduce a greatly improved Bill. I think ex-service men will be grateful not merely to the Government, but to the Committee for the line that has been taken to-day. It has been pointed out that it may mean a great deal of delay. I do hope that if the Committee accept the Motion to report Progress, as I hope it will, the Government understand that the opportunity is not to be used as an excuse for further delay. I am trying to make my own position clear, I have been in office, and I know that questions get shirked. I hope the Government will sincerely and honestly look at this problem in the light of the expressed wishes of the Committee. Hon. Members are in far closer association with ex-service men and with the rank and file of the electors than Ministers can possibly be. If there were an assurance that this matter is to be dealt with speedily, that the whole of the Amendments on the Paper are to be looked at, perhaps a little more considerately than they have been looked at by the Government in the past, and that before we rise—and we have a few weeks in front of us yet—we shall have the Bill reintroduced, I would in that case ask Members on all sides of the Committee, if 1850 those assurances are given, to accept the Motion to report Progress.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I agree very largely with what has just been said, but I would like to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the claims of a number of ex-Service men have been turned down, the men being informed that the claims would be heard by the new pensions appeal tribunals. Unless we get an assurance that what is now happening will not delay the hearing of those claims, I fear those ex-Service men will be much disappointed. Can the Leader of the House give us an assurance that we will not adjourn for the Summer Recess until we have approved the new Royal Warrant and have passed all stages of the Bill? I put it like that, because we have been informed that the new pension appeal tribunal would be set up not later than early in September. If the Government would give that assurance, it would mean that the Bill could be in operation by that date. I am most grateful to the Leader of the House for the attitude which he has taken to-day, and I reinforce the appeal that between now and the time when this Bill, or a further Bill, is introduced the Minister should discuss the matter with those who have put down Amendments and should try to reach a certain measure of agreement.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I am surprised at the number of Members who have expressed their gratitude to the Government for bringing forward the Motion to report Progress. I do not feel in the least grateful to the Government. I think their action is a very mean action. It is quite obviously the only way in which the Government could have avoided defeat. The whole of the Committee was in favour of the Amendment, and in these circumstances instead of the Government accepting the Amendment the Government thought fit to bring forward a Motion to report Progress. The hon. Member who preceded me hoped that we would get the assurance from the Government that the Bill would be put upon the Statute Book before the Recess, and that there would also be the amendment of the Royal Warrant before the Recess. I have no doubt that we shall get that assurance from the Government, but the attitude of the Government to-day in their stubborn refusal to accept 1851 this Amendment appears to me to show that despite the attitude of Members of this Committee and of the people outside this Committee in seeking the generous treatment for Servicemen who have been wounded or have lost their health in the service of the country, and civilians who have also suffered in the service of the country, are going to have anything but generous treatment from this Government. I protest against the Motion and the attitude of the Government in refusing to accept what was the obvious opinion in the Committee by accepting the Amendment and giving to the people of the country what they and ex-Service men should get—"Fit for Service, then fit for pension."
§ Mr. Eden
I really rise to answer one or two points raised, and in particular to reply to those points put to me by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I can say to both these questions, first, whether this particular Amendment will be re-examined with a view to trying so far as it lies in our power to meet the points in the Amendment, and secondly, whether later Amendments will be similarly examined, the answer is, "Yes, Sir." I would like to assure the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) that I am not manoeuvring or trying to do some rather clever dodge. I am afraid I am not half a good enough Parliamentarian to do that. My purpose is to try to give expression to what I feel is the real feeling of Members on all sides of the House. It is not a party question but one with which Parliament wishes to deal on what it considers is a fair basis. It is the duty of the Government to pay attention to this feeling, and that is the object I had in moving to report Progress. I do not consider that this need cause any delay at all in the actual setting-up of the tribunals. I am not proposing to withdraw the Bill but only to report Progress. Though I cannot give a definite pledge this should not cause any delay at all. In view of this, I ask the Committee to agree to the Motion.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I want to emphasise the fact that many Members feel it is not a matter of only just one Amendment. I myself have felt that there are a number of obscurities about the Bill. The Amendments revealed those obscurities. There is the question 1852 of the onus of proof, which differs between a man wounded in war and a man who appeals about sickness. There is a whole series of questions which need clearing up about this Bill at the present time because of the way it is drafted. I speak as one who has been a member of a tribunal. It would make the work of the tribunals difficult. I would urge that this Bill not only be taken back but considerably redrafted so as to have clear thinking behind it to enable the work of the pensions tribunals to be carried out. I think that is the only course possible. If we are to be grateful to anyone, it is not only to the Leader of the House, but to the Committee itself. The Bill as brought forward at present is an unworkable Bill, and I hope it will be brought forward in a form in which it will be workable.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I wish to re-emphasise to the Leader of the House that just examining the Bill afresh will not be enough. I feel that he does realise the temper in this Committee—in all parts of this Committee—and the temper of the people outside in desiring a Measure which gives to the people now serving in the various branches of national service full opportunities to have their cases examined by an independent tribunal, and anything less than that, in spite of what the Minister of Pensions may say, will not be good enough, and this Committee, I feel sure, will not stand for it.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
Will it be possible, in view of what has happened, to put forward a date on which the House will have an opportunity of discussing the Minister's proposals for improvements in the Royal Warrant? I understood we were to discuss that in July. If we could have that date put forward, it would help to make it easier to come to a decision.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
I find myself in slight disagreement with some of the remarks that have been made. I think the Bill ought to be withdrawn. If the Bill is to meet the wishes of the Committee, I do not think you can make this Bill satisfactory by a wholesale amendment of it. I am quite convinced that if 1853 the Bill is to be a success, I would sooner wait months, even right into the winter, and have a proper Bill than rush it through now and have an improper Bill. I do not think it matters much about the right of appeal. What matters is the conditions under which those concerned can appeal. The appeal in itself really matters little if things remain the same. My own view about it is that the Bill is very unsatisfactory and raises wide issues. The Leader of the House said that he was going on with the present Bill. Quite frankly, I think that amending and chopping it up is not a proper way. I think the approach of the Bill, the basis of the Bill, is wrong, and if I were giving advice, it would be that I am not keen for it next week, next month. I know that when this Bill is passed it will govern people for years to come, and I would sooner take a month longer in order to safeguard the years ahead than save a week now and lose something for many years ahead.
What I am anxious about is that the Bill itself should safeguard certain rights, and in my view this Bill within its terms could not easily do that. I think the best way is to withdraw the Bill entirely and for the Government to make a new approach to the Bill, to bring a new mind to the Bill, redraft it, and introduce the new Measure which I think it has now been demonstrated is required. The Leader of the House appears always to be using his simplicity. Those who know him better know he is not nearly so simple as he would like us to believe. That is one of the masquerades that has made him successful—appearing simple when he is not. I have been too long here to be impressed by statements about the Government being generous to the House. It does not work. The Government have put forward the action proposed for a sensible reason, that if that had not been done, the Government would have been defeated. Do not let us go on congratulating a generous Government. Let us find something of the meaning of Parliament, and this meaning of Parliament does not mean that we have to get up and be awfully kind to each other but that we should get up and say the things we believe in. The Government have moved to report Progress, because the Leader of the House knew he would be defeated. Like a good Parliamentarian, he changed his mind and moved to report Progress. That is 1854 good politics, right and properly done. I say to him that as well as this Amendment there are other Amendments that raise most fundamental issues, and that even if the Bill were carried having regard only to this Amendment, there would be so strong a minority and feeling that it would be almost impossible for any Government to go on. I say frankly that you should recast the Bill in the light of these Amendments and in the light of the feelings that have been expressed to-day. I would sooner wait a month, sooner wait six weeks, and get a Bill drafted properly and thoroughly than rush it through. As the Bill stands now, it does not matter twopence whether it goes through or not. The position now if this Bill went through is that so far as the ex-Service man is concerned the right of appeal to the tribunals would be no better than the right of appeal to the Minister, if as good. As the Bill stands, and even with certain tiny Amendments, it is of little use. I want to see, not the Bill patched up on its present basis, but a new Bill on lines which I have indicated.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I wish to ask whether it is really the intention of the Government to set up these appeal tribunals and have them operating and arriving at decisions before the House discusses the Royal Warrant? The House may make decisions affecting the Royal Warrant. Is it really the intention of the Government to have these tribunals operating and arriving at decisions before we fully discuss the Royal Warrant with all its implications?
§ Sir W. Womersley
I know that the hon. Member for very good reasons was not present when I made it quite clear, when dealing with this Amendment in the first instance, that anything that was contained in an amended Royal Warrant would be binding on the tribunals. That is the complete answer.
§ Mr. Davidson
Alterations may take place on the discussions in July, but is it the intention of the Government to have these appeals tribunals operating before that?
§ Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.