§ 1. Sir I. Fraser
asked the Minister of Pensions if the Government have now considered the representations made by the British Legion in their deputation of 27th January; and if he can now inform the House of the result.
§ The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Heathcoat Amory)
Yes, Sir. The standard rates of war disablement and widows' pensions were increased last year and I am afraid that I cannot hold out much hope that a further general increase will be found possible at the present time. The Government are keeping the various aspects under continuous review, against the background of our general economic position.
§ Sir I. Fraser
While thanking my hon. Friend for his advocacy, albeit unsuccessful, may I ask him if he will get authority from the Cabinet to enter into unprejudiced discussions with the British Legion in the hope that we may between us settle this long standing grievance which is so widely felt?
I should like to assure my hon. Friend that I require no authority to discuss these matters with the British Legion. I have done so on several occasions, and I am going to see a deputation from the British Legion in 1928 a week or two, when I shall be perfectly prepared to discuss this problem in all its aspects.
§ Sir I. Fraser
But will the Minister recollect that when he receives a deputation he generally listens very patiently but says very little? Will he not enter into discussions as between man and man, one old soldier and another?
When one sees some delegations it is very difficult to get a word in endways. I think my hon. Friend will agree with me that, generally speaking, the attitude he has mentioned is a model attitude on the part of someone receiving a deputation. I have never refused to hear the case that has been put forward, and I shall be very glad to consider any further representations that are made, any new points, anything like that, and I have promised that those representations will be considered by the Government, and I renew that promise whenever any further representations are made.
§ Mr. McKibbin
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Northern Ireland Area Council of the British Legion are bitterly disappointed that the Budget made no proposals for an increase of war pensions as they consider that their claims are just and long over due? I hope the matter will be dealt with as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Jack Jones
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he ought to convey to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the extreme disappointment felt in this matter, and that he ought to convey to him our sentiment towards the fact that while it was found possible to give to those who have taken plenty he found it impossible to give to those who have given practically their all?
I do not think anybody can be more disappointed than the Government are that it is not possible in present circumstances, in the Government's opinion, to give a further increase 1929 of pensions this year, but my right hon. Friend will, no doubt, read what hon. Gentlemen have said.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If the Government's failure to respond to what is the overwhelming and almost unanimous opinion of hon. Members is due to a lack of finance, is it not possible for them to reconsider the Budget position?
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that last year, at a moment of particular financial difficulty, and at the height of the financial and economic crisis, the Government did find it possible to make a bigger single increase in war pensions than, I think, had ever been made all at once before.