HC Deb 18 June 1918 vol 107 cc145-7
3. Mr. HOGGE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether any inquiries have been made into the circumstances in which Private James Stevenson, H.L.I., aged eighteen, on whom an inquest was held at Peterborough on 51st May, was passed Grade 1 one month before his death, in view of the fact that he was suffering from chronic meningitis; and, if so, with what result?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

I am making inquiries into this case, and will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as I am in a position to do so.


asked the Minister of National Service whether he is aware that the standard of medical fitness for Grades 1 and 2 men in Birmingham has recently been reduced; whether such reduction has taken place with the sanction and authority of his Department; and, seeing that it inflicts hardship on men of from forty-three to forty-eight years of age, especially as the tribunals make no allowance for age in fixing a man's grade, whether he will state what action he proposes to take?

The MINISTER of NATIONAL SERVICE (Sir Auckland Geddes)

I am glad to have this opportunity of stating that there has been no change in the standards of medical fitness required for classification in Grades 1 and 2. When introduced in October last the term "Grade 1" was defined as meaning men "who attain the normal standard of health and strength and are capable of enduring physical exertion suitable to their age." This definition was at that time placed in the Library of the House. It has never been varied. Current statistics covering large numbers of examinations show that there is no increase in the proportion of men placed in Grades 1 and 2. I would add that there is no difference in principle in the grading of men above and below forty-three years of age.


Seeing that complaints of a similar kind are coming from all parts of the country, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it rather strange that that should happen if the Department is taking no action in the matter, and if they find that such complaints are arising all over the country, and people are feeling very much aggrieved, would it not be better that he should take some definite action to counteract this alteration of policy which is undoubtedly taking place in the tribunals?


There is no alteration of policy in the Government Department concerned in this matter. There has been announced by certain chairmen of tribunals and Appeal Tribunals a change in policy in their action, but that has nothing whatever to do with the Ministry of National Service. The number of complaints received is extraordinarily small. Out of the last 1,250,000 examinations performed by National Service Medical Boards there is less than 1 per cent. of complaints.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chairman of the House of Commons Tribunal expressed very strong views on the matter?


I can only believe that the right hon. Gentleman referred to, the Chairman of the House of Commons Tribunal, did not know what the meaning of Grade 1 was when he made that statement.


Are we to understand from that reply, when the right hon. Gentleman stated that there was only 1 per cent. of complaints, that only 1 per cent. of those who have been examined have appealed?


Only 1 per cent. of the last 1,250,000 examined have raised any protest against the grading which they have received—that is to say, out of the 1,250,000, we have had 11,441 protests of one sort or another. That includes appeals. Of the total number of appeals against medical examinations, 7,800 have already been dealt with by the Appeal Tribunal, and 4,266 cases dealt with by the tribunals have been allowed to go forward to the assessors and 3,679 have been refused by the tribunals to be allowed to go forward to the assessors.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say within what dates the 1,250,000 are included?


It is impossible for me to give any indication of the rate of examination. Statistics have already been given in regard to the numbers passed. At the present time it would be quite contrary to the interests of the State to give the exact date, because that would indicate the rate of recruiting. I am speaking of the most recent 1,250,000 passed up to the end of last week.


Are all these 11,000 cases subsequent to the last Military Service Act?


I cannot answer that.


If it is a fact that the Chairman of the House of Commons Tribunal knows so little, will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Prime Minister to have him removed from that post?


The Chairman of the House of Commons Tribunal stated, according to the Press reports, that all Grade 1 men of the new military age were to be regarded by him as being Grade 2. In view of the fact that Grade 1 is defined as meaning "a man who attains the normal standard of health and strength and is capable of enduring physical exertion suitable to his age," that statement of the Chairman of the House of Commons Appeal Tribunal can have no meaning.

17. Colonel ASHLEY

asked whether, in view of the announcement by the Ministry of National Service that Grade 1 men of the age of forty-six and upwards shall not be sent into the firing line unless they volunteer to go, he will consider whether time-expired discharged men of the same age and service, who are now being called up under the new Act, shall at their option be retained in this country, either for the training of recruits or for Home defence?


I am afraid that I cannot give any pledge that such men will be retained at home, but they will be treated similarly to other men of the same ages.

Colonel ASHLEY

If the civilian of forty-six is called up and he is not put into the firing line, why should you send an ex-Service man after forty-six years of age into the firing line and thus differentiate between the two?


I am not prepared to give any sort of pledge at the present moment.


In view of the pledge having been given, will he keep that pledge as regards boys of eighteen being sent to the front?

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