HC Deb 28 July 1958 vol 592 cc941-2
41. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance why the claim by Mr. Francis Treanor, of Blackburn, for a war pension for disseminated sclerosis has been rejected, in view of the fact that the consultant physician at South Tyrone Hospital, Dungannan, has stated that in his opinion it would be impossible to prove that the development of disseminated sclerosis, the cause of which is unknown, was not aggravated by the prolonged sepsis following Mr. Treanor's gunshot wounds.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

As I told the hon. Member in my letter of 10th June, the Ministry's senior doctors carefully considered the opinion of the consultant physician referred to but were unable to certify that the disseminated sclerosis was affected by Mr. Treanor's gunshot wounds. My right hon. Friend was therefore unable, under the terms of the Royal Warrant, to award Mr. Treanor a war pension for this condition. As the hon. Member knows, an appeal to the independent pensions appeal tribunal is pending.

Mrs. Castle

Does the hon. Gentleman's reply mean that if the Ministry's own medical advisers take one point of view and an outside independent consultant, with at least equal status, takes another point of view, the opinion of the Ministry's advisers must always prevail, even though the Royal Warrant lays it down that in cases of doubt the applicant must be given the benefit of any reasonable doubt? Is not this a very strange interpretation of the Royal Warrant? If there is a conflict of medical evidence, is it not incumbent upon the Minister to find in the applicant's favour?

Mr. Vane

The hon. Lady can rest assured that my right hon. Friend has taken all these matters into account. As this case is sub judice, it would be better if she did not press me to say anything which could be taken to prejudice this man's case.

Mr. Mellish

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is not an isolated case? Is he aware that when cases come before the appeals tribunal, the tribunal is bound to take into full account the views of the Ministry's doctors and that my experience, as one who has defended many such cases, is that the tribunal finds in favour of the Ministry? Could not this position be reconsidered?

Mr. Vane

This case is sub judice. The appeals tribunal has all the evidence before it. It does not serve the interests of this man or others for hon. Members to suggest that the tribunal is not entirely fair.