HC Deb 14 June 1917 vol 94 cc1144-6W

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that there is growing dissatisfaction at the manner in which some of the medical examinations under the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Act of men who were previously rejected are conducted; whether he is aware that men totally unfit for military service are being classified for active service; whether he will furnish to the House of Commons copies of instructions, printed and oral, which have been given to the medical boards; whether he will state why some of the entries on the classification cards given to men upon re-examination do not agree with their medical history sheets; and whether he will state what is the percentage of men previously rejected as totally unfit who, upon re-examination, have been classified in categories A, B, and C?


In reply to the various points raised by my hon. Friend, I may say that I am aware that attempts are being made to stir up dissatisfaction with the administration of the Review of Exceptions Act. There have been cases in which reasonable grounds for dissatis- faction have been present. In practically every case these grounds had been removed before any public comment arose.

The whole working of the administration is being, and will continue to be, most carefully watched, and throughout the country medical boards are working with great care.

I am not aware that any man totally unfit for military service is being accepted for active service. If my hon. Friend will supply me with details of the cases he has in mind, they will be fully inquired into.

Copies of all printed instructions issued in connection with the Review of Exceptions Act are in the Library of the House. No secret or oral instructions have been issued by the Army Council.

With reference to alleged cases of disagreement between the classification shown on a man's medical history sheet and on his classification card I have no knowledge. The proceeding is to attach to the medical history sheet a counterfoil of the classification card. This counterfoil is made out at the same time as the classification card which the man received. It, therefore, is extremely unlikely that mistakes are made. If the hon. Member knows of any śpecific instance full inquiries will be made. The instructions dealing with this matter are in the Library of the House.

Figures are not yet available for the whole country, but in some localities the percentage of A category men has been low. In one district notorious for fraudulent rejection in the past the percentage has been as high as 25 per cent, on the examinations conducted up to the 1st June. All the suspected cases were called first in that area, and the result has been fully to substantiate the worst fears of the authorities. The boards conducting those examinations were composed entirely of civilian doctors, with Territorial or temporarily commissioned or retired presidents. They have been specially inspected by inspectors from the War Office and their work has been reported as a model of careful examination.


asked why men previously rejected as medically unfit are upon re-examination in some instances given classification cards marked category R.E., and are told that they must come up for re-examination in three months, whereas the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Act provides that no man who is not accepted for service shall be called up for further examination for six months?


Such orders would be directly contrary to the instructions issued by the War Office. If my hon. Friend will give me particulars of a definite case, I will have the matter taken up at once.


asked if a man holding a certificate of absolute exemption on physical grounds from a tribunal is liable to be called up for re-examination under the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Act; and, if so, and if he is placed in some medical category, whether he can be called up to the Colours so long as his tribunal certificate is not withdrawn?


If particulars are given of the man to whom my hon. Friend's question applies, inquiries will be made. If, however, he is a man to whom the Military Service (Review of Exceptions) Act, 1917, applies, he was excepted from the provisions of the Military Service Acts, 1916. In that case any exemption which a tribunal may have purported to give him was an exemption from a liability to which he was not subject and had, therefore, no validity. When the Statutory Order requiring him to be medically re-examined was issued under the new Act he ceased to be an exception to the old Acts and had the ordinary right of making application for exemption to the appropriate tribunal.