Army Pensions Bill, 1936—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be read a Second Time. The Bill is entitled an Act to amend and extend the Army Pensions Acts, 1923-1932. It amends the previous Acts (1) by increasing the allowances payable to certain persons; (2) by altering the method of investigation in certain cases; (3) by changing the date of application for pensions, allowances or gratuities, and of the commencement of such pensions and allowances; (4) by clarifying certain sections. In addition to amending previous Acts, it also extends their scope—(1) by extending the date by which disability due to disease must reach the required statutory minimum of 80 per cent.; (2) by providing for certain types of cases not covered by previous Acts, such as (a) cases where the disability due to disease is less than 80 per cent. but not less than 50 per cent.; (b) cases of disability due to aggravation; (c) cases of death or injury on service but not due to service; (d) by providing special allowances for dependents of persons who were members of organisations and were killed during or died as a result of service; (e) cases of accidental injury by members of organisations.

The allowances of certain persons are increased by Sections 3 and 16 (b) of the Bill, and they relate to the dependents of those who either signed the 1916 Proclamation or were killed or executed during the Rising. Under the Act of 1923 all persons killed during the Rising were treated as officers, and under that of 1927 the Signatories of the Proclamation were specifically dealt with, their dependents being given double the ordinary allowances. This Bill goes a stage further, and on the analogy of the Griffith Settlement Act, 1923, increases—(1) widows' allowances from £180 to £500 a year; (2) children's allowances from £80 to £200 a year until they reach the age of 25; (3) sisters' allowances from £52 to £100 a year during life.

As regards the widows of those who were killed or executed in 1916, the allowance of £67 10s. per annum which may be awarded under the 1932 Act is increased to £90 a year; i.e., the amount payable to the widow of an officer under the Act of 1923. The total cost of these amendments is estimated to be about £1,591 a year.

The second class of amendments deals with administrative procedure. Under Section 7 (3) of the 1927 Act, for instance, members of the forces applying for pensions in respect of wounds received after October 1st, 1924, cannot have their cases dealt with by the Army Pensions Board. Experience has, however, shown that this is inadvisable and, accordingly, Section 4 of the Bill provides that all such cases will be referred to the board. Again, Section 13 of the Bill alters the nature of the certificate to be furnished by the Military Service Registration Board, because the section as at present framed throws too much onus as regards medical certification of disease on the board, composed as it is of men who are not medical experts. The section also gives the Minister power to have a certificate reviewed because, as the 1932 Act stands at present, the certificate, being final and conclusive, is incapable of review even in cases where clearly a mistake has been made. In Section 46, the findings in certain respects of the Army Pensions Board are placed on the same level of finality as the findings of the Board of Assessors under the Military Service Pensions Act of 1924; and of the Referee under the Act of 1934. The object of the section is to prevent vexatious appeals, and to give finality to the investigations and decisions of the board. Power, however, is being taken to refer any genuine case back to the board for investigation.

The third type of amendments deals with the dates for applying for pensions, and the dates from which pensions, if granted, will commence. Under the 1932 Act, for instance, a member of the forces had to apply for a pension in respect of a wound within 12 months after the date of being wounded or after the passing of the Act of 1932. Many soldiers who have been injured on service have failed to apply within those dates and have, in consequence, been deprived of pensions. To rectify that, Section 7 of the Bill permits such men to apply either within 12 months from their discharge or within 12 months from the date of the passing of this amending Act whichever is the later. It is estimated that this amendment will cost about £400 a year. In like manner, Section 17 of the Bill extends the date of application for pensions, allowances and gratuities under the Act of 1932, and it is estimated that the total cost will be about £8,300 a year.

The fourth type of amendment simply clarifies sections or expressions used in the previous Acts. Under the previous Acts, for instance, certain grants of pension were regarded as final, but under the 1932 Act, a pensioner could, within ten years of the date on which a pension was granted to him, apply to have his case reopened on the grounds that his disability had meanwhile worsened. If his claim succeeded, a revised pension would have been awarded, but such pension though temporary in effect, had legally to be regarded as final, and we were, therefore, prevented from affording medical treatment. Sections 11 and 22 of the Bill remove this anomaly and make such pensions formally as well as materially temporary in their effects. The estimated cost, £414 a year, of this amendment will, we consider, be more than offset by decreases in pensions following on hospital treatment.

The purpose of the amendments extending the scope of previous Acts is simply to provide for cases of hardship not covered by existing legislation, and may be best illustrated by means of some typical examples. A member of the Defence Forces or of the organisations mentioned in Part II of the Act of 1932 may have contracted a disease during his service and that disease may be directly attributable to such service, but if on examination by the Army Pensions Board, his disability is found to be less than the required minimum of 80 per cent., no award of pension can be made. Now, in many cases of this nature, time does not lessen but increases the disability, and we are, therefore, extending the time limit by Sections 5, 6, 7 and 15 (2) of the Bill so as to enable such persons to be re-examined by the board and their disability reassessed. The total cost of those amendments is estimated at £3,000 a year.

The amendment just referred to will afford those grievously disabled by disease, due to service, an opportunity of qualifying for pensions already provided by the Acts of 1927 and 1932, but it will not deal with two other distinct types—those who have had or will have such pensions but whose disability has fallen or will fall below 80 per cent., and those whose disability has not reached or will not reach within the prescribed time the required statutory minimum of 80 per cent. In the case of disease due to service we have decided to reduce the minimum required for disability pensions from 80 to 50 per cent., but we are also reducing considerably the rates of pension in such cases. If a person has never reached 80 per cent. disablement, he will get, simply, a final pension at a flat rate of 15/- a week, provided that his disability is due to service and its degree is less than 80 per cent. and not less than 50 per cent. If, however, a person has ever had a pension for a disability of 80 per cent. or over, and the disability becomes less than 80 per cent. but not less than 50 per cent. he will be given the option of taking a final pension of £1 a week or of doing without any pension on the chance that his disability on a subsequent re-examination may again reach 80 per cent. This extension of the Acts is estimated to cost about £15,000 a year.

Another type is that of aggravation. A person may have a predisposition to a certain kind of disease, or he may have had some disease previous to service, which may have been excited, accelerated or aggravated by his military service. The person as a result may be 100 per cent. disabled, and yet, as the previous Acts stand, he is not entitled to pension. The purpose of Part VI of the Bill is to cover such cases by giving persons who qualify thereunder pensions at two-thirds of the rates applicable to persons whose disability is directly attributable to service. The total cost of this amendment is estimated at about £10,000 a year.

Another type not covered by previous Acts is that of a person who lost a leg, arm or eye during internment or imprisonment but whose loss cannot be attributed directly to his service; and there is the somewhat analogous type where a person dies while perhaps engaged with a column but whose death is not due to a disease attributable to service. Provision is made under Section 15 and 17 of the Bill to cover all such cases, and the estimated cost is a recurring annual sum of £90 a year and a non-recurring amount of £100.

Part VII of the Bill deals with special allowances for the dependents of deceased members of the organisations and special gratuities by way of compensation to persons who were not members of the organisations covered by the Act of 1932. As regards the first category, the Act of 1932 provides an allowance for certain relatives who were totally dependent on deceased persons at the time of death, or a gratuity for those who were partially dependent at the time of death. The Act leaves untouched the problem of the same relatives who may have been in comfortable circumstances at the time of death, but who have since been reduced to very straitened circumstances. It is with such as these that the Bill deals, because it is felt that in view of their deceased relatives' contribution to the national cause, it is the duty of the State to give these dependents some special recognition. Hence it is proposed to give such dependents according to their means available from all sources an allowance not in any case to exceed 15/- a week. The annual cost of this provision is estimated at £2,800 a year.

Finally, the Bill provides special gratuities by way of compensation for persons who were wounded or injured as the result of keeping arms belonging to, or being accidentally shot by a member of one of the organisations. Such a type of case was not covered in any way by the previous Acts, and the total cost is estimated at a non-recurring amount of £1,000.

The total estimated cost of the amendments to previous Acts proposed by this Bill is an annual sum of £41,181 and a non-recurring amount of £8,400.

The first observation that I have to make on this Bill is, that I think it is highly undesirable to be bringing in a multiplicity of Bills described as Army Pensions Bills, each Bill designed to deal with the fringe, and only the fringe, of Army pensions, and thereby giving the impression that there is a pensions scheme for the Army. My first inclination, when I saw this fifth or sixth Pensions Bill, was to put down a motion to refer it back until such time as provision was made for pensions for the officers, N.C.O.'s and men of the Army. I think it is nothing short of a grave public scandal that in the sixteenth or seventeenth year of this State, when the Government has apparently gone into the highways and the byways to try and find people to pension, that such a highly-important State service as the Army of the country should be still without any pension scheme for service. We know it is promised. It has been promised for the best part of a decade. It is always "next month," but the fact of the matter is that it is not there at the present moment. I refer to that because when people hear of another Army Pensions Bill they may get the impression that the Army is over-pensioned. Now, I think it is a scandalous state of affairs that when every other State service, and individuals outside of State services, are being provided for, their dependents looked after and their future safeguarded by one form of pension or another, that the serving personnel of the Army should be left unprovided for. The State, in all matters of employment, should be the example for all employers, but the example of the State in its relation to the Army in this respect is one which any of us would be thoroughly ashamed of if any employer in the country were to follow it.

Now, with regard to this particular Bill, I suggest that we should facilitate its passage in every possible way for the simple reason that we are all aware of the fact that there are a large number of cases of extreme hardship: that a number of very tragic cases have been left out, or ruled out, by date or for some other reason, from the Wound Pensions Act and from the previous Acts dealing with diseases due to service. I do suggest to the Minister that there is a very big difference between opening the door to let in somebody who is entitled to shelter and taking the door off its hinges so as to let in a storm. This particular Bill, which is intended to do the proper thing by deserving cases, is unquestionably going to invite, in addition to the deserving cases, possibly hundreds of thousands of applications of a bogus nature. The language is rather loose, the dates are rather elastic and the phraseology in many, many respects unwise. It would appear on the face of it as if the idea is to open the door very, very wide to applications, and then to find, when you go further into the Bill, to limit rather drastically the number of potential pensioners.

It is common knowledge that the normal sequence of steps towards pensioning every form of disability arising out of service is, first to confine it to the words "attributable to." That was the phraseology heretofore. The next logical step to "attributable to" is "acquired on." The step that all authorities agree is rather the big step and the doubtful one is the term "aggravated by." Now, here in this Bill we have jumped from "attributable to" clean over "acquired on," and arrived at the last step "aggravated by." I would ask the Minister to accept this much from me: that there is no term in the medical dictionary more generally abused, and around which it is more difficult to get agreement amongst any two medical examiners, than around that term "aggravated by." There is no standard. There is no scale. It is purely a matter dependent, not on the condition of the patient, but on the condition of the doctor's liver on the day he examines the patient. You will never get any two medical men, or rarely, to agree as to the extent that any disease is, or has been, aggravated by any set of circumstances over a long period. Agreement could not possibly be procured on that. I am well aware of the fact that it frequently crops up in British Pensions Acts, and I have reason to believe that, if either the legislators or the administrators or the medical examiners working under these particular Acts were doing the job over again, they certainly would avoid that particular term. I think that that term "aggravated by" is a most unhappy term. The term "acquired on" is a definite term. It dates the origin of the disease or the wound, as far as the Army records or outside evidences go to show, and it would cover every case that the Minister is aiming at including in this particular Act, but it is a term that can be linked to a period or to a date, and it is a term that cannot be either interpreted too harshly, too rigidly, or abused by making it too elastic.

Now, I was reading some of the particular phrases used in Part VI of the Bill. Taking the case of wounds, we have three sub-divisions to that. We have the case of a wound aggravated by a wound attributable to service. That is the first class. Apparently, it refers to a wound which is aggravated by another wound, the other wound being attributable to service. That is one class. The next class is that of a wound aggravated by a disease which was attributable to service—any wound aggravated by any disease which was attributable to service. The third class in that particular section is that of a wound aggravated by service. Surely, the third class includes the first and second classes. I would take it, in any case, that a wound aggravated by service would include a wound aggravated by a wound attributable to service or a wound aggravated by a disease attributable to service, and that, if the paragraph merely read "a wound attributable to service," it would cover the previous two classes. If that interpretation is not a correct interpretation of the intentions of the promoters of the Bill, I certainly think that either the intentions are expressed very badly or that the particular form selected is, to say the least of it, rather laboured.

We have the same differentiation when we are dealing with disease. We have the case of a disease aggravated by a wound attributable to service; then we have the case of a disease aggravated by a disease attributable to service; and the third class is that of a disease attributable to service. When we come on to the question of disablement, we have quite a new choice of words. We have the case of a disablement due to a disease which was accelerated or excited by a wound attributable to service, and we have a disablement due to a disease which was accelerated or excited by a disease attributable to service; and then we have the third class, of a disablement due to a disease which was accelerated or excited by service. Again I think that No. 3 includes Nos. 1 and 2. It may not, but if it does not, some simpler choice of expressing the Minister's intentions might be found. My reason for saying that is that some of us had experience of previous Army Pensions Acts to deal with wounds and disabilities, and to a very great extent this Bill is justified mainly because of omissions from the other previous Acts—omissions by people not applying in time, omissions by people not understanding the previous Acts and not understanding the claims that they had under previous Acts. This Bill is more difficult to comprehend and far more difficult to follow because it is an amendment of three other Acts, and seeing that the ordinary ex-Serviceman could not grasp much simpler Bills, I certainly cannot see any hope of his understanding what is intended in this particular Bill.

In some respects, it is definitely beyond my understanding. I can see a certain amount of point in what I have read out, but I cannot even guess at the intentions behind it. I do not know what type of case they are aiming at. I take it that it would be simpler to say that, where a degree of disability has reached the required pensionable standard, whether due to a disease attributable to service or to a wound attributable to service, or both, the case will then be pensionable under this Bill; but this mixing of wounds and diseases and this mixing of different types of wound and different types of disease, in my opinion, will lead to nothing but confusion. I would suggest to the Minister and his advisors that, in the interests of genuine claimants, much greater steps than were taken heretofore should be taken with regard to adequate publicity. Putting a poster in a post office or at a Civic Guard barracks is all right for most of us who live in towns and cities, but many soldiers come from remote and very backward places. It is within the knowledge of the Department of Defence that many cases failed to apply under previous Acts until the statutory date had passed because they never knew that such an Act had been passed. I do not presume to advise the Department as to what steps they should take for further and greater publicity, but it is within the knowledge of Departmental officers, both civil and military, how best to reach the ex-Army men living in a remote part of the country.

Now, there is another matter in connection with this Act to which I should like to refer. When dealing with disease in previous Acts, the degree of disability required in order to qualify for pension was 80 per cent. In this Act it is proposed to reduce this to 50 per cent. When we are talking in terms of pension, we are talking in terms of permanent final pension, permanent disability, and we are using these terms in connection with disease, not wounds. The degree of disability when dealing with disease is not just the easily defined and automatic business that it is when you are dealing with the degree of disability as a result of a wound. The degree of disability arising from disease is again very much a matter of the particular type of doctor that assesses it and the particular mood in which he is on the date of assessment. The difference between the degree of 50 per cent. disability from disease and 80 per cent. degree of disability from disease is, in my opinion, nil. With a very rough standard dealing with disabilities due to disease, a common or garden standard, the rule would be that a man, though not bedridden, is unfit for work, is not able to work, is a "crock" and a chronic "crock." All such cases would be pensionable whether you make it a 50 per cent. degree or an 80 per cent. degree of disability to require a pension. In practice, every progressive disease that unfitted a person for normal work has been all the time classified as an 80 per cent. disability. The Minister knows from the information at his disposal that even the earliest case of tuberculosis was always marked down as an 80 per cent. disability; in other words, in the opinion of the Board, it was a type of case that should be pensioned, a type of case in which the applicant was not going to get sufficiently well to resume a normal occupation.

I am arguing this point, not in order to close the door on any genuine case, but because I think that the alteration from 80 per cent. to 50 per cent. in fact means nothing, that the genuine, deserving, disabled case is already pensionable, and that the reduction in the percentage to qualify for a pension will only have the effect of vastly increasing the number of new applicants. I think that there is no worse mistake in administration than to invite applicants by the thousand, to raise hope in the hearts of unfortunate people, and then to issue out pensions in dozens. With this altered phraseology you are going to get at least as many applicants as ever you had under the combined Acts of the past. Through the reduction in the disability standard, you are going vastly to increase that number, and when all that is over and done with, we all know the limited and well-defined group of persons that you intend to reach and make pensionable by these amendments. It is because I feel that is so that I think it is unwise, by phraseology, even with the best intentions in the world, to think that you are altering a thing which you are not altering by reducing the 80 per cent. to 50 per cent. In practice, you will find that what I am saying is correct, that the man who was more than 50 per cent. disabled as a result of disease was, in fact, graded 80 per cent. and got his pension.

There is one matter further to which I should like to call the Minister's attention before I get away from this aspect of the matter. If there was any fault to be found with previous Pensions Bills in respect to wounds or other disabilities, it was in the rigid interpretation of words and phrases. I had the ordinary vocabulary knowledge of the meaning of the words "attributable to" but my experience, when I had something to do with the administration of previous Pensions Acts, was that I found that I had not even begun to learn the meaning of the words "attributable to.""Attributable to" means one thing to the man in the street; it means quite another thing to the officer in the Department. It was the over-rigid interpretation of terms like that that ruined moderately good pieces of legislation and it was the insistence on the narrowest interpretation, rather than on the freest and broadest, that was responsible for very many grave injustices to deserving applicants. That is really more a Departmental matter than a legislative matter, but I am very strongly of the opinion that in all these Bills there is a very definite want for such an appointment as is known elsewhere as the "soldiers' friend"—somebody who will speak for and act for the applicant and fight his case. The applicant is there, perhaps semi-illiterate. The whole weight of officialdom is there on the side of the taxpayer. In any argument that can be used or any interpretation given—unintentionally, if you like, but it is the custom—the hop of the ball is always against the applicant. That was recognised long ago in other countries and there was some person conversant with the conditions of this type of legislation whose particular office and business it was to act as the applicant's spokesman and advocate in every case when it came up for hearing.

There is one thing further to that. In a common way we are dealing with a multiplicity of organisations. Only one of that multiplicity of organisations has definite records available to the Department of Defence, the Department of Finance and everybody else dealing with the administration of pensions. The state of health of the man who has passed through the regular Army on the date of entry is on record. His state of health from month to month is on record. He cannot get away with a bit of a wangle. The circumstances under which he met with that knock or blow, that wound or injury, whether on or off duty, are there in black and white. As compared with the others the dice is definitely loaded all the time against the man who served in the Army and became disabled during his Army service or as a result of his Army service. We are all familiar with the interpretations which were put on those words, "on duty." It is because of that that I made the suggestion earlier that the wisest term and the fairest term would be "acquired on service."

I have one other point to make, and it is by way of a request. We have in Part II of this Bill a proposal to give pensions to the dependents of the people called "signatories." I do not think there is a single member of this House, irrespective of his political alignment either at the present moment or in the past, who is not going to welcome the proposals there. I do not think there is one, no matter how strongly he may have opposed the action taken by those signatories at the time, who is not going to support this proposal in order to pay his tribute of respect to very brave men who were prompted by patriotic urgings. The signing of that Proclamation was the beginning of a phase of war. The ending of that particular phase of war witnessed the signing of another document—the Articles of Association. Many people in this House disagreed also with the action of the men who signed the Articles of Association, commonly called the Treaty, but they were both milestones on a road. Just as I say that those who opposed, politically and otherwise, the action of signing the Proclamation of 1916, would gladly subscribe to the proposals made here as a tribute to men who did their duty irrespective of risk, now I would suggest to the Minister that he might do the same for the dependents of those who signed the Treaty, committing himself in no way to an endorsement of the act, but merely to reciprocate what is being done with regard to others. Clearly it would be within the scope of the Bill. The term "signatory" is defined here in this section in the following terms: "In this section the word ‘Signatory' means a person who signed the Proclamation published on Easter Monday, 1916." If a few words were added to that, "and those who signed on behalf of Ireland the Articles of Association on such and such a date," it would meet both sides. I think it would do a lot as a contributory factor to burying the hatchet. It would be committing the Government to no extent as approving the action taken by those men. We can all hold our views with regard to that, but it would be at least a recognition of the fact that, whatever they did, right or wrong, they did it stimulated and urged by a high sense of patriotic duty.

I was very interested to hear Deputy Dr. O'Higgins giving us the medical mind. It is the first time, I think, that I ever heard the medical mind so fairly and squarely put before this House, as far as their methods of assessing and adjudicating on pensions are concerned. I should like to raise an appeal here in this House in support of some of his remarks. It has been my experience in another direction—on a very large scale in another direction—and on this whole question of pensions and appeals— that with all the regulations, subsections, references back, and new clauses in long lines, marshalled in paragraphs, the ordinary ex-soldier has no hope whatever of being able to present his case in such a way as to give him any decent chance of success. The soldiers' friend and the officers' friend was one of the great means that the British ex-service men had of penetrating the armour-plated barrier with which the Ministry of Pensions had surrounded itself. Over and over again claims met with success due to the soldiers' friend taking up the cases and going into them, warning the applicant of the pitfalls, telling him that if he claims there he fails, if he comes here he has a chance of success, or if he goes there he succeeds.

The present Postmaster-General in the British service was one of the greatest friends the British ex-servicemen had in the British House of Parliament. By his incessant questions in the House he ultimately became so popular with the British ex-servicemen that he was appointed Minister of Pensions. All the British ex-servicemen thought that now at last, with a friend there as Minister, they were going to stand a chance of great success. What happened? When he went into office he found that the whole place was so closed up in red tape and regulations that he could make very little effort indeed to alleviate matters for the numbers who are waiting for a fair and square chance. The result was that he more or less fell into unpopularity rapidly.

Deputy O'Higgins has made one remark with which I do not agree, and that is that the words "aggravated by" should be taken out. If there was ever a loophole or an opportunity for success for a man in respect of his claim after it has been defeated it is those words "aggravated by." The words "attributable to" or "acquired on" can always be used to the detriment of an ex-serviceman if the doctor has a bad liver. The words "aggravated by" give him a chance. I am sorry to disagree with my colleague and friend Deputy Dr. O'Higgins, when I say that the words "aggravated by" ought to be kept in. I am sure that, through those words, many ex-servicemen can succeed in getting some form of pension.

I have only a few minutes in which to wind up this debate. I just want to say that I believe we know the extent of the problem with which we have to deal. We had a big number of applicants under previous Acts, and because it was stated in these Acts that no one could get pensions unless the disease was attributable to service, I do not believe that stopped any one from applying. Because it was stated in these Acts that a man must have 80 per cent. disability before getting a pension for disease, I do not believe that stopped any one from applying for a pension for disease attributable to service. I had a very thorough investigation made in the Department as to the cost of the Bill and the estimate I gave, £40,000, is the limit. The figures we got for "aggravation" show that that would cost £10,000 a year. The fact of the matter is that the applicant has not alone one friend but two friends on the Board. Whether or not a man suffered from disease or whether it was due to service is not assessed by permanent civil servants. First of all you have the Registration Board consisting of three men who had active service. Then you have the Army Pensions Board consisting of an Army doctor, an outside doctor who had service, and an outside chairman who had active service. They administer the Act as fairly as possible to the applicants. They do not approach the applicants as enemies going to rob them. They view applicants as deserving soldiers entitled to anything that the Act can give them.

The fact of the matter is that the Acts of 1923, 1927 and 1932 contained a couple of words that prevented the board giving, what I considered to be, the applicants' rights. You had it that disease must be attributable to service, and that, in the strict interpretation put upon it by the legal advisers, meant that if it could be said that the disease was not wholly due to service it was not attributable to service. To give an instance of what I mean by aggravation, and the cases that would be covered by that, you have cases of T.B. If it came out in cases of T.B. that a man had at some time or other before service pleurisy or some complaint like that, on the legal interpretation we could not give that man a pension, even though he had served all the time, and was now 100 per cent. disabled, because no medical man could say, seeing that he had pleurisy beforehand, that the disease was due solely to service. It could not be said that it would not have arisen if he had not had service. In the same way there are cases of men 100 per cent. disabled owing to heart disease. A man who served four or five years and went through hardship, but had scarletina or some disease like that which affected his heart before service, even though in a normal way it might not have developed so rapidly or be in such a dangerous state, as he had heart disease before, it could not therefore be held to be attributable to service, although it was gravely aggravated by it. Under the present Bill we will be able to deal with cases of that kind.

Then you have mental cases. If there is any history of insanity, even in a grandmother, or in any part of the family, you cannot hold that a mental case is solely attributable to service. It may have been grievously aggravated by service. We all know that many men who suffered severe hardship developed mental disease owing to war conditions, when they would not have done so at their normal occupations. There again this Bill will help us to deal with that type of case. On the Committee Stage we will go into some of the points raised by Deputy O'Higgins. There is a difference between wounds and disease, and there is also the question of aggravation to be dealt with. In the Acts there is a difference between "wound" and "disease". A wound is pensionable from 20 per cent. upwards, but disease only from 80 per cent. upwards. I want to deal with the point that this Bill is going to create a storm around the word "aggravation". I do not think that is so. We know the number of claims, and we have all the forms and assessments of the doctors as to the state of disability due to disease. In regard to aggravation, a man must have reached 80 per cent. disablement before he can get a pension at two-thirds of the normal rate. It is only in the case of disease solely due to service that we go as low as 50 per cent. for pensions. Between 50 per cent. and 80 per cent. we get 15/-or £1 a week.

As Deputy O'Higgins knows, there are some very hard cases, because when a man falls below 80 per cent. disablement for disease due to service he is cut off. A number of hard cases occurred of men who took care of themselves and fell below 80 per cent., where we must cut off the pensions. In this Bill we are providing that men who take care of themselves, and who are once assessed at 80 per cent., that we will follow them and give them a £1 a week for life, and have nothing more to do, even if their disability goes up, or we give them the option of going back on the 80 per cent. I think most of the men who will fall below 80 per cent. will take £1 a week to enable them to buy medicine and to keep below the 80 per cent.

Although this Bill is not directly framed with regard to service pensions, it does in fact do away with some hardships from which the serving personnel has suffered under previous Acts. The ordinary Service Pensions Bill, like Police Pensions Acts is in draft, and I am hoping to get it any day. This Bill does away with several hardships of a smaller type that the Army at present serving suffers from, from the point of view of wounds and disability. They are of a minor character but, on the whole, I can say this, that we are hoping that the Bill will do away with what I feel are legitimate grievances of men who have given service to the nation. It will not do away with all hardships, but it will relieve the greatest of them. No matter what we do, and no matter how we extend the scope of this legislation, there will still be people outside. I do not believe it would be possible to deal with the suggestion of Deputy O'Higgins as to the signatories to the Articles of Association. As this Bill is framed the widows and dependents dealt with in it are the widows and dependents of men who died actually on service or from disease arising out of service. I do not think the Deputy's point could be covered. As I say, no matter how far we extend Bills of this nature, there will still be something left to be dealt with and to be met by other means. I am hoping that the Bill will have the effect it is intended to have, and that is, to relieve a lot of what I consider are legitimate grievances.

You would want to consider the outside friend again.

He is there too, inside.

They get contaminated inside.

Not a bit of it.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage to be taken on Tuesday, 1st June.