HC Deb 22 November 1955 vol 546 cc1231-6
1. Mr. T. Williams

asked the Secretary of State for War what further consideration has been given to the case of Driver H. Newman, about whom he has been in correspondence with the right hon. Member for Don Valley, and with what result.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Fitzroy Maclean)

Driver Newman was re-examined on 15th November. His ears are not troubling him and I am informed that he is fit to continue full duty.

Mr. Williams

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that this young man has been in the hands of the Army doctors from the day he was called up; that he was in hospital in July, September, October and, apparently, November? Does the hon. Member regard it as sound economy and even human to keep a young man while he is useless?

Mr. Maclean

That is an exaggeration. Army doctors have kept an eye on this young man and I am advised that his medical category remained unchanged. He has been free from all skin trouble, which was one thing from which he suffered, since April, and his ears show no signs of active disease. As recently as 15th November, he was examined by an ear specialist and no trace of ear trouble was found.

Mr. Williams

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Shinwell

On a point of order. There are 36 Questions to the Secretary of State for War on the Order Paper. They include many important Questions, and yet the Secretary of State is not present. Surely he should be present when there are so many Questions on the Paper.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Shinwell

Further to that point of order. Are you aware, Sir, that had it been somebody from this side of the House sitting on the Government Front Bench, hon. Gentlemen opposite would have made an awful lot of noise had he not been present, and we are entitled to press the point. The Secretary of State should be present.

Mr. Wigg

May it not be that the Secretary of State for War, overcome with remorse for what he has done to the Army, has resigned, or even deserted?

Mr. Speaker

This is not a point of order with which I can deal.

Mr. Maclean

My right hon. Friend is answering half the Questions and I am answering the other half.

6. Mr. P. Wells

asked the Secretary of State for War if, in view of 23143109 Private C. W. Barten's low medical category, he will favourably consider his discharge.

Mr. F. Maclean

No, Sir. Private Barten is not fit for front-line soldiering but he is capable of restricted duties and there are at present no medical reasons for his discharge.

Mr. Wells

Is the Minister aware that this man is a first-class stockman, shepherd and general farm hand, and comes from a well-stocked but undermanned farm, and that he will never be a first-class soldier because of his disability? Will the Minister try to be as helpful in this matter as he was over the question of harvest leave?

Mr. Maclean

We try to do what we can in these cases, but the hon. Member must remember that although this man may not be able to perform all military duties, he is at least able to release to do them a fitter man who otherwise would be employed on general duties.

Mr. T. Brown

Would the Minister define what are "restricted duties" in the Army?

Mr. Ede

It is like being an Under-Secretary of State.

Mr. Chetwynd

Controlled operations.

Mr. Maclean

This soldier has been placed in Grade 2 as being fit for restricted service in any part of the world. In fact, it means that he is a general duties man.

Mr. Wells

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise the matter again on the Adjournment.

9. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that 22995980 Private James Wheeler, Ladywood, Birmingham, at present serving in the Middle East, suffered bereavement in the loss of his father over two months ago, and, in view of his anxiety concerning the responsibility of his mother in the care of a family of eight including seven young children of school age or below, why this soldier has not been permitted leave to visit his home; and whether he will now consider the necessity of releasing him from the forces on compassionate grounds.

Mr. F. Maclean

Private Wheeler has been brought home and is going to be discharged.

Mr. Yates

In thanking the hon. Gentleman for that reply, which will considerably relieve the anxiety of a mother with eight children, may I ask him whether he would undertake to see that when a soldier is placed in these unfortunate circumstances and loses his father, he should not have to wait over two months, or until a Question is put on the Order Paper, for justice to be done?

Mr. Maclean

My information is that the soldier in question first applied for compassionate leave and compassionate discharge on 11th November.

Hon. Members


Mr. Yates

On a point of order. The Minister has made a statement which is not correct. I have in front of me a letter from a military official which recognises that compassionate release was asked for before 5th October—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order. There are frequently disputes on matters of fact between hon. Members.

11. Mr. G. Jeger

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the deterioration in health of Private Wilson, about whom he has been informed; and whether he will state the weight and medical categories of this soldier at the time of call-up and now.

Mr. F. Maclean

Careful examination has not indicated any deterioration of Private Wilson's health. When he joined he was assessed as fit for duties other than front-line soldiering and weighed 106 lb. On 13th September he was placed in a medical category restricting his service to clerical duties in this country and weighed 111 lb. Last week he weighed 115 lb.

Mr. Jeger

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this man has spent far more time sick than on duty? Is it not a fact that he has been unable to complete his training? Is it not wasteful, as previous Questions have brought out, for the Army to keep unfit men merely to keep the Army medical services fully occupied?

Mr. Maclean

The hon. Gentleman is exaggerating when he says that this man has spent more time sick than on duty. This man has not in fact been sick regularly, and at present he is doing useful work in the Army.

16. Miss Bacon

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that 23065004 Signalman John Palliser reported sick at Catterick on 18th January and 16th February and at Newton Abbot on 23rd March, and was treated with codein tablets; that on 10th April he was flown to Egypt, again reported sick, and was given codein tablets for ten days, sent back to duty, but entered hospital on 1st May seriously ill with empyema, necessitating three operations and blood transfusions; if he is satisfied with the medical diagnosis and treatment given; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. F. Maclean

Signalman Palliser showed no signs of serious illness when he reported sick in January. February and March. He did not again report sick until 4th May, when he was found to be suffering from an acute illness—empyema—which is unlikely to have started more than a day or so before. There is no evidence or probability that this serious illness was connected with the soldier's previous trouble. Signalman Palliser is at present on sick leave.

Miss Bacon

Does not the Minister consider his answer to be most unsatisfactory? Is he aware that this man reported sick four times with pain in his shoulder and his side; on every occasion he was given codein tablets and rubbing lotions, and on one such occasion—on 23rd March—he was put on night patrol? Is the Minister further aware that after this man had been taken to hospital the commanding officer wrote to his parents to say that he was sorry about what had happened, but that when men reported sick it was very difficult to distinguish between those who were really ill and those who were malingering—

Mr. Speaker

Order. These supplementary questions are getting longer and longer. If an hon. Member wishes to tell the life history of a case, or a story about it, it is far better to do so on the Adjournment, when the matter can be properly discussed. This is an abuse of Question Time.

Mr. G. Thomas

On a point of order. In view of the fact that this is the fourth Question on the Order Paper dealing with the medical neglect of personnel in the Army, is it not fair that the House should have an opportunity to press the Minister on that question?

Mr. Speaker

Not at Question Time, is really an abuse, and it is unfair to other hon. Members who have Questions on the Order Paper.

Mr. M. Stewart

With respect, Mr. Speaker, since the question has been asked, cannot it be answered?

Mr. Speaker

If there is an answer, will hear it.

Mr. Maclean

I am advised that on the previous occasions when this soldier reported sick there was no reason at all to suppose that his illness was anything which could not be dealt with by the treatment which he was given. With regard to the last occasion, it is equally clear that his illness bore no connection whatever with his illness on the previous occasions when he reported sick—the disease from which he is now suffering being one which develops very suddenly.

Mr. Stewart

Will the Minister look into the whole question of the treatment of those men who are in poor health and not able to render any good service to the Army, whereas they might be of great service in civilian life? There are too many of them.

Miss Bacon

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

32. Mr. Hale

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that an Oldham soldier, whose name has been communicated to him, is now seriously ill as a result of glandular disease resulting from being unnecessarily subjected to widespread bites of blanket lice; and what action he proposes to take.

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

This soldier's disease is not caused by bites.

Mr. Hale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the disease from which he suggests this soldier is suffering is described in every medical encyclopaedia as "aetiology unknown" and that therefore no one knows its origin? Is he also aware that a very distinguished scientist said in 1888 that it was caused by a virus? Is the Minister further aware that this man served under deplorable conditions for a fortnight, and although he went there fit he was bitten from head to foot and contracted a glandular poisonous disease which arose from the bites? This man has been in hospital gravely ill almost ever since. He is now out of hospital. Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us what authority he has for saying that the disease is not caused by bites in view of the fact that every medical man says that no one knows what causes this particular affliction?

Mr. Head

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that every medical man says that the disease is caused by bites. I do not want to go into details of this disease, I wrote to the hon. Member. My authority for saying that it is considered not to be caused from outside sources such as bites is the information from my medical experts. If I am wrong, the hon. Gentleman can put down a Question and we can go into the matter further. That is my advice from my medical experts.