HC Deb 23 July 1953 vol 518 cc560-4
3. Mrs. Braddock

asked the Minister of Labour if, in view of the number of complaints of errors in call up for National Service, he will institute a full inquiry into the records kept in his Department and the results of medical boards, to ensure there is no possibility of errors in records.

Sir W. Monckton

As I stated in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) last Thursday, I am myself looking into the arrangements for call up in relation to recent complaints alleging the call-up of unfit men and I will certainly see that the point raised by the hon. Member is covered.

Mrs. Braddock

Will the Minister also let the House know whether there is any truth in the suggestion that new regulations, or new instructions, have been issued that medical boards must not turn down more than a certain percentage of men in each of the categories?

Sir W. Monckton

I am obliged to the hon. Lady for giving me an opportunity of saying that no such instructions have been given.

Mr. Bowles

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider a letter, if I send it to him, from a man in my constituency who volunteered for the R.A.F., was examined by a civilian medical board and passed as fit, also passed by a specialist, and went into the R.A.F. but was rejected as unfit the next day? He was called up in April this year and the same thing happened again; he was called up and was rejected the same night. This has now happened twice in four months to the same young man. It is very upsetting from the point of view of his civil employment and loss of clothing and other things which he had sold, such as his bicycle.

Sir W. Monckton

I will certainly look into the case if the hon. Member will send me details. I would take the opportunity of pointing out that it sometimes happens, necessarily, that a man rightly passed as fit for service goes to a particular Service which requires a different standard from the other Services. For instance, the R.A.F., for some purposes, want a different standard.

Mr. Marquand

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman keep in close touch with the Minister of Pensions on this matter and ask him whether he has any records of numbers of young men discharged from the Forces who apply for a pension but fail to get it on the ground that they were unfit when they were called up?

Sir W. Monckton

The hon. Member has drawn my attention to a matter with which I shall have to deal on a later Question. I do get the co-operation of the Services and the Ministry of Pensions in looking into what I might call early reject cases, which, I think, cover the cases the hon. Member has in mind.

Mr. Gower

Is there a close liaison between the Ministry of Labour and the Service Departments in marginal cases? Where there is the least doubt in the minds of doctors, do they get in touch with the Service concerned and the medical examiners there?

Sir W. Monckton

It is rather the other way round. There is medical examination by civilian doctors for the Ministry of Labour and, thereafter, as soon as the man gets into the Service-it varies between a fortnight and three months, or something of that sort—he is examined again by a Service doctor with all the results of my Ministry's examination before him. It is rather they who might consult us than we who consult them.

4. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Labour if he will hold an inquiry into the present medical board system operated by his Department in order to restore public confidence in this important Government machinery concerned with recruitment to the Armed Services.

8. Mr. Snow

asked the Minister of Labour if he will institute a Departmental inquiry into the operations of the medical examination boards for National Service men, which are the responsibility of his Department.

Sir W. Monckton

No, Sir. I am now engaged on the consultations with chairmen of medical boards, to which I referred in my answer to a supplementary question by the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) on 16th July. I have already arranged for the boards to be reminded of the importance of making a full inquiry into the candidate's medical history and of paying full attention to consultants' reports. I am also amending the forms sent with the summonses to medical examination so as to draw attention to the fact that medical certificates or reports brought to the examination will be fully considered.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has already started personal visits to medical boards. I propose to do the same after the House rises.

I think that the most fruitful course will be to complete the steps which are already in hand and the examination of the individual cases brought to my notice. I also propose to make a further investigation, with the co-operation of the Services and the Ministry of Pensions, into all cases of men discharged, during a recent period, shortly after entry with a view to determining the present extent of error and whether it appears to arise most commonly in certain types of cases or districts.

Mr. Dodds

I am sure that almost everyone will appreciate what the Minister has said, but does he appreciate that the statement he made last week, in view of all the evidence available, was considered to be not good enough to meet the present situation? What he has said today will go further, but there will be a lot of interest in medical boards when the House reassembles.

Sir W. Monckton

I am obliged to the hon. Member for what he has said. I am anxious to do all I can to probe this matter because, although it is easy to say that the cases which come to my notice against the quarter of a million examined in a year are few, while there is one case I should like to track it down.

Mr. Snow

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman draw the attention of his officials who may be investigating and advising him on the matter that a very high proportion of the men rejected by the Service Departments after being taken in are psychiatric cases and that it might well be a good thing to look into the question of having psychiatrists in attendance on local medical boards?

Sir W. Monckton

I will certanly bear that in mind. The hon. Member is quite right; about half the rejected cases are psychiatric cases.

16. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will include in the call-up notice a statement that certificates from private doctors submitted on reporting for medical examination will be taken into consideration by the medical board.

Sir W. Monckton

Yes, Sir. Arrangements are already in hand for this to be done.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

While thanking the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether these revised call-up notices, including the suggestion contained in the Question, are to be put into use immediately?

Sir W. Monckton

Yes, they are. It is a matter of getting them printed and sent out. The amendment made is in these terms: The Medical Board will give careful consideration to any medical evidence which you may bring with you regarding any illnesses or disabilities from which you have suffered.

Mr. Awbery

Will the Minister place on the board an obligation to call for the medical history of the man?

Sir W. Monckton

The first doctor who does this examination has the task assigned to him of getting from the man all the particulars he can about his medical history. The difficulty is that we cannot get copies of medical documents of each man unless he brings them; there are no other sources from which to get them. We are making careful inquiries, and the effect of the suggestion, which the hon. and gallant Member put into his Question, will be that the man, before coming, will be encouraged to bring with him the documents which the board should see.