HC Deb 20 May 1953 vol 515 cc2086-7
Mr. Harold Davies (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been drawn to the treatment of Gunner Harrison who died in Moston Military Hospital, Chester, whom orderlies were instructed not to aid, and whether he will give this House a report.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)

Yes, Sir. I read reports in the Press about this case. If proved correct, the allegations made by certain witnesses would constitute a very grave charge against the hospital concerned. I have ordered an immediate inquiry into the whole matter. In the meantime I would ask hon. Members to keep an open mind about what I admit to be a most serious charge. I assure the hon. Member that I have no wish to hush this matter up and that I will give him a full and frank statement as soon as the inquiry is completed.

I should like to take this opportunity of expressing to the mother my sympathy in the death of this young soldier and for the added distress which the present circumstances must have brought to her.

Mr. Davies

Whilst thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, which demonstrates openly to the House the serious view which he takes of this matter, may I ask what kind of inquiry it will be in view of the fact that every parent with a young son of 18 will be concerned whether, if that son is suffering in hospital, he might be treated as allegedly this son was treated?

Mr. Head

I have given instructions for a full and searching inquiry which will go right down to the bottom of this matter, and I assure the House that I shall give a full and frank statement in the light of that inquiry.

Mr. Shinwell


Hon. Members


Mr. Shinwell

I do not have to ask the permission of hon. Members opposite to ask a question. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this is to be a Departmental inquiry held in camera or whether it will be an inquiry by an independent person held in public so that the public may be fully informed?

Mr. Head

This is a matter in which the normal procedure of inquiry is best pursued. If we have a public inquiry there is always difficulty about witnesses giving evidence over certain matters. The matter is now the subject of the normal procedure of inquiry. The full facts will be put before me and I assure the House that if the hospital is to be blamed I have not the slightest intention of attempting to conceal that fact from the House.