HC Deb 22 April 1959 vol 604 cc373-4
17. Mr. Sydney Irving

asked the Minister of Labour if he is satisfied with the way in which medical boards are operating in respect of National Service men, in view of the case of 23604106 ex-Rifleman T. Williams; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Yes, Sir. I have the fullest confidence in the skill and judgment of medical boards set up under the National Service Acts. The boards consult specialists in cases of doubt, and any man who thinks he has been wrongly graded may appeal. I have already given in reply to the hon. Member on 18th February an account of Mr. Williams' examination by National Service medical boards.

Mr. Irving

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this sort of case causes great public interest and that the public will not be able to see the logic of a situation in which a man is found fit for service on one day and fit for discharge on the next? In view of these cases and of other cases that appear to be arising, will not the Minister look at the system again?

Mr. Macleod

I will look at the methods, but I must say that I find nothing surprising in the fact that medical men differ—that is very commonly known. The ordinary composition of the board is a chairman and four doctors, who call in consultant advice. In this case, they called in and considered the advice of two consultants. It was quite a long time later, and in quite different circumstances, that other doctors came to a different conclusion.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

In view of the immense public interest in this case, will my right hon. Friend make it quite clear that he and others of his right hon. Friends are entirely dependent upon expert advice in such matters, and that it would be quite wrong for him, on political or any other grounds, to interfere with the experts' conclusions?

Mr. Macleod

Of course, that is so. Equally, I do not disclose—except, in this case, the fact that consultant opinion was obtained—the details of the medical examination.

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