Orders of the Day — Discharged Soldiers (Hospital Treatment)

Photo of Mr Austin Hopkinson

Mr Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)

If it is in Order, I should like to congratulate the Financial Secretary to the War Office on his very good temper and his very able reply. Hon. Members have spoken about finality, and I should like to point out, from experience, that there is no finality in this. May I take an actual case? In 1900, an officer was discharged from the Army as permanently disabled. In 1914, he rejoined and passed a medical examination. In 1915, he was again discharged from the Army as disabled, but, at the beginning of 1918, he passed a medical examination and finished the war in France. A case of that sort shows that it is no good to talk glibly about finality. Here is a case in which the Army Medical Corps decided that a serving officer was permanently disabled in 1900, and was discharged from the Army, but he was back again in France in 1914, was again discharged as permanently disabled in 1915, and was back again in France with the Army in 1918. I give that example to show how impossible it is to make hard and fast rules.

The Financial Secretary did indicate, undoubtedly, that although he could not commit the War Office, a certain degree of flexibility is allowed in these cases. I think that, if some hon. Members were able to look at the correspondence of the War Office—and the other Departments of State are not far behind—they must agree that this Department takes an immense amount of trouble in order to avoid hurting certain people's feelings. Before I came into the House I read through the whole correspondence with the parents of a soldier who had been killed and who thought that an injustice had been done. It was, obviously, a prejudiced view, and the letters I saw from the War Office were a perfect eye-opener to me, as compared to what I knew of the War Office in the reign of Queen Victoria. The Department clearly made every effort to meet every point put forward by this man's parents, although it was obvious that there were no grounds for their suggestion, and, to me, it is clear that the allegation that the War Office is unsympathetic is quite untrue. It is becoming a habit, because we have a Secretary of State who has the full confidence of the Army, to make attacks upon him in this House as an unsympathetic person. I know, from actual contact, that his devotion to the cause of the soldier has not been exceeded by any Secretary of State for War this country has ever had.

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