HC Deb 15 June 1955 vol 542 cc570-1
16. Mr. Dodds

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what period a man, details of whose case are in his possession, served in the Royal Air Force before it was found that he was not up to the required physical standard; and why it was not found possible to allocate duties in keeping with the physical limitations involved.

20. Mr. Gough

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air why the Royal Air Force have rejected the services of a man, details of whose case have been sent to him, because of flat feet, when they have accepted two other men, of whom he has also been informed, who had been more seriously disabled.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)

This man reported for duty on 5th May. After a medical examination he was seen by two orthopaedic specialists, one Service and the other civilian. Both advised that the disability already present as the result of a foot defect would be likely, in their judgment, to be aggravated by the normal conditions of Service life. In the light of this advice it was decided, on 16th May, that he was unlikely, on medical grounds, to become efficient in any form of Royal Air Force duties.

Both the other men referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) were trained and experienced pilots. There can, I think, be no comparison between the reduced standards we may be prepared to accept to enable us to use the skill and experience of such men and those acceptable in an untrained recruit. Moreover, in neither of these cases was there reason to suppose that the disability would be aggravated by further service.

Mr. Dodds

Does not the Minister appreciate that unless he gives a better explanation than that the public will look upon this as a wangle? How does he explain the fact that there are many men in the Royal Air Force who are excused drilling, marching, and carrying any pack at all, who wear canvas shoes and who are in grades 3 and 4? If it is not a wangle, how can he justify keeping them in the R.A.F. when they are much worse than this man? If it is not a wangle, will the hon. Gentleman let the others out?

Mr. Ward

There is no question whatever of any wangle. The point is simply this: we have to bear in mind, first, the present medical condition of the man, and, secondly, the likely effects of normal Service life upon that condition—whether it will deteriorate or not. As the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, there are quite a number of people in the Forces who are restricted in the way he described, but in those cases we are advised that Service life is unlikely to aggravate their condition, and indeed under some forms of treatment there might be an improvement.

Mr. Gough

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the two officers to whom I referred, who had no legs and who served as most distinguished fighter pilots during the war, seem to prove that this young man, who has a brilliant athletic record, could also become a fighter pilot? May I also ask my hon. Friend most emphatically to confirm that the person who is more distressed about this than anybody else is the young man who is the innocent cause of all this trouble?

Mr. Ward

I certainly think the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question must be true, although I have not spoken to this man. Perhaps it would help the House to form a judgment in this matter if I were allowed to read one sentence from the report of an extremely eminent consultant in orthopaedic surgery, without mentioning his name: My own view is that it will not be long before he is a candidate for operation and in my judgment Service life is likely to exacerbate the condition and precipitate operation. I do not think we can possibly overlook that point.

Mr. Dodds

Owing to the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment when I have fully prepared my case.