§ 7. Mr. McKay
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that a constituent of the hon. Member for Wallsend was discharged from the Merchant Navy because of two periods of serious illness due to an X-ray examination for stomach trouble, was thereafter called up for National Service, sent to an eye specialist and, although eye weakness was discovered, was listed for the Royal Air Force and down-graded, and, after objecting to the medical report, was sent for an X-ray examination on 12th October 1959; what is the latest medical report on this man; and whether he will release him from service.
§ Mr. McKay
Does not the Minister think it is rather peculiar for a man to be dismissed from the Merchant Navy because of stomach trouble and then the first thing that happens to him is that he is examined for his eyesight? In view of this and other difficulties which I have reported to him, will the right hon. Gentleman now give this matter favourable consideration?
§ Dr. Summerskill
Is not there an important point of principle here? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is customary for a man to be discharged on medical grounds from one of the 642 Services and still be liable for call-up for National Service?
§ Mr. Hale
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this man is due to be called up within a few days; that he has a child aged four—I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has had very short notice of this matter, for which I apologise—and that I have had a letter today to say that his wife is expecting the immediate birth of a child—indeed, it is overdue; that he is buying his house on mortgage through a building society and that his situation really is serious? Cannot he at least send a telegram postponing the call-up until he has completed his investigation?
§ Mr. Heath
As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is a very difficult and complicated case. It has been through the machinery set up especially to deal with cases of personal hardship of this kind. We are making urgent further inquiries and, if they cannot be completed, I will look into the point which the hon. Member has raised about an actual deferment of the call-up for a short time.
§ Mr. Hale
He must know whether he has to go to Devizes or not on Thursday, and this is Monday. One has to write or to wire to Oldham. Cannot I wire to him, "Do not go until you hear"? After all, an undertaking was given. I do not want to be discourteous to the right hon. Gentleman, who is always so courteous to me, but an undertaking was given.
§ Mr. Heath
I think there has been some confusion about the undertaking which was given by my predecessor in answer to a Question by my hon. and 643 learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) on 13th May, in which he pointed out that in the case of families, married men and so on, exemption was not automatic but had to be considered by this machinery and that most sympathetic consideration should be given. That has been done in this case. I will see this evening whether it is necessary to agree to the suggestion of the hon. Member.