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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that very full response. Will the rules provide timescales? In other words, will there be rules to prevent the process being elongated? On the draft rules to be discussed with the veterans' organisations, will they require the MoD to reply within certain specified times?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I have not seen the draft rules. I am not in a position to be able to answer accurately. The draft rules will be open to discussion with veterans' organisations. If that is one of the points of concern, I am sure that it can be looked at very carefully. I am careful in the answer I give to the noble Lord, but I see no reason why that should not be looked at carefully.

MoD Ministers will take a close interest in the working of the scheme. Frankly, if it is not found to be delivering fair results, I can confirm to the House that the design of the arrangements will be reviewed. It remains our strongly held view that a beyond reasonable doubt standard of proof is not appropriate to a no-fault scheme and is out of line with current good practice. As I indicated in the examples, it delivers decisions that we believe can no longer be justified. We are confident that the revised statement of approach on this issue will ensure a fair division of responsibilites. Our work has indicated that no claim would fail where there is reasonable evidence of injury, ill health or death due to service.

I fully support the argument that we should recognise the unique and special contribution that our Armed Forces make by having a generous compensation scheme for injury or illness caused by service. It is important that we should concentrate our resources on cases where service is the likely cause and, in particular, focus our provision on the seriously disabled. That is what we are doing. The issue for the House this afternoon is whether, within existing funds, we should make improvements for the more seriously disabled or introduce the generous war pension scheme's standard and burden of proof.

We have no doubt that it is right to address the inadequate level of benefits for the more seriously disabled rather than extend benefits to those whose conditions are unlikely to have been caused by service. That is the choice the House has to make. The other place, the elected House, has made its views quite clear and on a point where affordability is, frankly, at the heart of the issue, I would ask noble Lords to accept this judgment.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the Minister mentioned a figure of £300 million over 10 years; that
 
2 Nov 2004 : Column 168
 
is £30 million a year. Does he agree that every page of the actuarial report he mentioned is riddled with uncertainties and caveats?

Lord Bach: My Lords, of course I accept that actuarial reports are actuarial reports. I do not expect them to be as final as the noble Lord seems to indicate. I do not think that I could agree with the way he has put the matter.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that by citing those two examples he is not demonstrating the wilfulness of former armed servicemen, he is demonstrating the weakness of the appeal system?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am certainly not suggesting that anyone is being wilful at all. People are absolutely entitled to take account of the present scheme. That is their right and that is what those individuals did. I am telling the House that any scheme based on those principles cannot be right.

Viscount Slim: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, am I right in understanding that if the government measures are passed, he is prepared to have further talks with his honourable friend in another place, Mr Caplin, and the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, to see whether there is some way forward? Would that include the pre-1973 position of widows who, as I have said, are on one-third of a miserable, miserly pension and will not be offered to buy in for half, or whatever? Will that come up in the discussion?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount. He will know that earlier in this House, the Government made a concession on pre-1973 widows—I know that he is referring to widows since that time. I cannot give him that guarantee. I can just repeat what my honourable friend Mr Caplin said in another place. He met the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and indicated to him that,

I want to be absolutely straight with the House: those are the words that were used in the other place and I know that Mr Caplin stands by them.

Lord Garden: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he return to where he talked about those reluctant claimants? Would he not expect that with a more difficult approach to the burden of proof, their reluctance will turn in to their not being claimants at all, although they have a proper case?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I do not think that that will follow. It is important that the rules are laid out. We really want those who received injury due to service to get what they are entitled to and to try to make it easier for them to come forward, rather than less easy. That
 
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is what we intend. I understand the point that the noble Lord makes, but we want servicemen injured in service to know their rights—perhaps to have them more clearly laid out to them than in the past—and it to be taken for granted that they will make a claim where such a claim is justified.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he confirm his promise that if the Bill is passed, he will ensure that all pre-1973 war widows retain their pension for life?

Lord Bach: My Lords, the concession that we made earlier, which I think went halfway towards what the noble Baroness wanted, will stand, whether or not the Bill passes. I make that clear.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate—including my noble friend—which has been one of high quality. He will not be surprised that I do not accept his submission to the House. The case that my noble friend cited of an ageing servicemen who claimed benefit for a soccer injury during his service is not only utterly remarkable but totally bizarre. To leave anyone with the impression that such a case is in any way common or even representative of an insignificant minority would be even more bizarre. What the ex-service community has asked for is examples of systematic abuse. The charge was that the war pensions scheme is now abused day after day at considerable cost to the taxpayer. The only example that we have now been given is the one that I have just cited which, as I said, is remarkable to the point of being totally bizarre.

The Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Defence Secretary got it right in describing our Armed Forces as the best in the world. That is why they deserve the benefit of the doubt and an acceptable burden of proof. Parliamentarians have a compelling duty to ensure justice for those prepared to lay down their lives in our service and the dependants of those who do so. Indeed, we see that as our most compelling duty.

The clash this afternoon is not between Left and Right, but between right and wrong. Let us not be intimidated from doing what we believe to be right. I ask the House to approve the amendment.

On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 94; Not-Contents, 140.


Division No. 1


CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Biffen, L.
Blatch, B.
Boyce, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Chelmsford, Bp.
Chorley, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cox, B.
Craig of Radley, L. [Teller]
Craigavon, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
Dundee, E.
Dykes, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Fearn, L.
Ferrers, E.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Fitt, L.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fowler, L.
Freyberg, L.
Garden, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Glentoran, L.
Greengross, B.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Jacobs, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kalms, L.
Kingsland, L.
Laidlaw, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Lindsay, E.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Liverpool, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
McNally, L.
Mar, C.
Marsh, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Methuen, L.
Michie of Gallanach, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Montrose, D.
Morris of Bolton, B.
Morris of Manchester, L. [Teller]
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Northbourne, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Plumb, L.
Rawlings, B.
Redesdale, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sandwich, E.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Selsdon, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Steinberg, L.
Stern, B.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Ullswater, V.
Vallance of Tummel, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Windlesham, L.
Young of Hornsey, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council)
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bhattacharyya, L.
Billingham, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Borrie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Bramall, L.
Bridges, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Chan, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dearing, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Drayson, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Brookwood, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Griffiths of Burry Port, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haskel, L.
Haworth, L.
Hayman, B.
Henig, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Jordan, L.
Judd, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Laird, L.
Laming, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Leitch, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lockwood, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L.
May of Oxford, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mitchell, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Morgan, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Parekh, L.
Paul, L.
Pendry, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prosser, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Radice, L.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Rogan, L.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Rowlands, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strange, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Walton of Detchant, L.
Warner, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.


Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.


 
2 Nov 2004 : Column 171
 

On Question, Motion agreed to.


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