HC Deb 22 April 1959 vol 604 cc378-82
30. Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

asked the Secretary of State for War what was the medical category of No. 23604106 Rifleman T. Williams at the time of his enlistment on 22nd January, 1959; and on what medical grounds he was discharged from the Army as unfit for military service two months later.

36. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for War what was the medical grading of 23604106 ex-Rifleman T. Williams, Green Jackets Brigade, now discharged from the Army and returned to civil life and professionally known as Terry Dene, on first attestation into the Army; how long elapsed between his medical examination on first entry into the ranks and his reporting sick and being admitted into an Army or other hospital; and what was the total cost to public funds of the sojourn of this soldier in the service from the day of first attestation to the day of final discharge, including all hospital costs, both military and civil, as paid from Army funds and within the Army Vote.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hugh Fraser)

Rifleman Williams reported for duty on 22nd January, having been placed in Grade I at his pre-service medical examination. When his Army examination took place on the 23rd January the unit medical officer found no reason to disagree with this grading. Williams reported sick on the following day and was admitted to hospital.

The total cost of Rifleman Williams to Army Votes was about £100, his treatment in a civil hospital being provided by the National Health Service.

With regard to the medical grounds for discharge, I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to my Answer on 15th April.

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

Will my hon. Friend agree that the rejection or immediate release from the Forces on medical grounds of these people earning big money—whether they be T.V. stars, racing car drivers or first-class cricketers who score centuries for their counties a week after being released on medical grounds—causes great resentment among the ordinary young men of this country who are prepared to do their duty by their country despite the loss of money and interruption of their career which it entails? Will my hon. Friend further agree that, as a result of these cases, they and their parents are now losing faith, not merely in the efficiency, but in some cases the integrity, of the medical boards concerned?

Mr. Fraser

There is absolutely no question about the integrity of the medical boards concerned. I must say that I somewhat resent that slur on the medical board. These cases are few, and when they fall on famous figures immediately there is immense publicity attached to them. In this case we are perfectly satisfied that what was done was done correctly.

Mr. Strachey

Does the Under-Secretary of State admit that the series of coincidences is past credence and that there has been now a series of prominent men released from the Services in this way? At the end of the period of National Service, when it is very important that men who have to be called up should retain their belief in the integrity of the Services, the Under-Secretary ought to provide great safeguards to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen again.

Mr. Fraser

That is precisely what we did. That was precisely why Rifleman Williams was sent not merely to a military hospital but to a civilian mental hospital. The reports from that civilian mental hospital and our own medical reports showed that he was unfit.

Mr. Nabarro

Will my hon. Friend recognise that not only is there great public concern about this case arising from the enormous earnings of this man in civil life, but also the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the House are gravely concerned about it? Is he not aware that this man did one day's soldiering, after having been found completely fit for the Army? Then, after several weeks he was discharged, and, to add insult to injury, within hours of his discharge he was "rocking and rolling" on television programmes and again earning very big money? Is my hon. Friend aware that this case merits further scrutiny and should not be laughed off by the War Office or by the Ministry of Labour?

Mr. Fraser

There is no question of laughing this case off. I have been into it most thoroughly. Like many hon. Members of the House, I was naturally distressed by this event. I repeat that this man was not fit for military service.

Mr. Robens

No hon. Member wants to cast slurs on the medical profession, but how does it come about that these men are able to pass the necessary medical examinations to get into the Services and then within a very short period are found to be unfit for service?

Mr. Fraser

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour replied to that in an earlier Answer.

35. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for War how many days 23604106 ex-Rifleman T. Williams, Green Jackets Brigade, now discharged from the Army and returned to civil life and professionally known as Terry Dene, served in the ranks; how many days he was under medical care and attention; and how many days elapsed between the date of first attestation into the ranks and the date of passing under the care of the Army medical authorities.

Mr. H. Fraser

The numbers of days are 94, 62 and one, respectively.

Mr. Nabarro

Is my hon. Friend aware that the whole series of answers today from the Treasury Bench will create the impression in the minds of the general public that there is one law relating to National Service for all normal young men and another law for persons who are television artistes or otherwise earning large sums of money in civil life?

Mr. Fraser

I completely deny that. My hon. Friend has drawn precisely the wrong conclusions from the answer which I have given. It is precisely because Williams was treated as other men that he has had this twenty-eight days' leave which we give to all persons discharged on medical grounds.

Mr. H. Morrison

Is the hon. Gentleman conscious of the fact that there is strong apprehension and feeling not only on both sides of the House but among the public outside that somehow favouritism has been shown to this young man? In view of the fact that he is a "rock and roll" expert, has the War Office consulted the Admiralty as to whether he would be suitable for sea service?

Mr. Fraser

I know the right hon. Gentleman has vocal attributes, but I personally am not going to be rocked or rolled by him.

Mr. Jennings

Is my hon. Friend aware that this man is making his first stage appearance at the Majestic Cinema, Chaddesden, near Derby on Sunday, since the termination of his short Army career? In view of this fact, how far does my hon. Friend reconcile the expert opinion of the Army medical authorities with this man's apparent quick recovery?

Mr. Fraser

I must point out that it is not merely the opinion of the Army medical authorities which is involved in this case, but the opinion of the civilian hospital to which Rifleman Williams was sent. On this point both are unanimous.

Mr. Strachey

The hon. Gentleman has never dealt with the point raised by my hon. Friend that what causes public anxiety in the main is that these men are all passed as fit to serve by one set of medical authorities, and then sometimes within a very short period are found unfit by the other set of medical authorities. How does the Under-Secretary account for this?

Mr. Fraser

I account for it by the fact that if it is a psychiatric case, as this proved to be, the circumstances change very swiftly, and the final evidence which we have from the civil and military doctors is to the effect that this man is unfit to be a soldier. Let me say that it is to the credit of hundreds of thousands of young men that they are medically fit to be soldiers.

Mr. Monslow

Has the hon. Gentleman not heard of another good example of this sort of case concerning the "pop" singer, Marty Wilde, who, because of corns, was exempted from service, while I have made representations on behalf of men requesting exemption on the grounds that they are following an academic career, and exemption has been refused?

Mr. Fraser

That is an entirely different question and one which has not come to the military authorities' attention.

Mr. Shinwell

Does all this mean that there is room on the stage, the music-hall and television for psychiatric cases?

Commander Donaldson

While the House has expressed its feelings, may I ask whether it would not be a fair comparison to give the figures of normal young men not in the public eye who have been discharged in similar circumstances, and let us keep the matter in perspective?

Mr. Fraser

I will obtain those figures if my hon. and gallant Friend will put down a Question.

Mr. Nabarro

I would have smartened-up Terry Dene's parade for him.

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