Medical Examination.

Oral Answers to Questions — Military Training. – in the House of Commons on 22nd June 1939.

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Photo of Mr John Morgan Mr John Morgan , Doncaster

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that Mr. Rallinson, of 17, Shadyside, Hex-thorpe, Doncaster, has been passed as fit for military service even though he wears a glass left eye; and will he state the regulations covering such a decision together with the number of other militiamen similarly affected who were either rejected or accepted by the various medical boards concerned?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The instructions to the medical boards provide that persons with one eye only may be placed in Grade II and marked "(a) vision," provided that that eye is free from disease and reaches a specified degree of visual acuity. Mr. Rallinson was examined and graded accordingly on 15th June. I regret that the figures asked for in the second part of the question are not available.

Photo of Mr John Morgan Mr John Morgan , Doncaster

Will the fact that this man is suffering from this disability, coupled with the fact that he is the principal support of a widowed mother undergoing medical treatment, be taken into consideration if the case comes before the hardship tribunal?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how a glass eye can show a certain kind of disease?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

No, it is the other eye.

Mr. W. Joseph Stewart:

Can the right hop. Gentlemen say what are the duties of a soldier who is put in Grade 11?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

They are similar to Grade I.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

asked the Minister of Labour the latest figures with regard to the medical examination of militiamen?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The number of men medically examined up to 19th June was 49,586. Of these 41,297 or 83·3 per cent, of the total were placed in Grade I, and 4,553 or 9.2 per cent, in Grade II, but of this number more, than half were in that grade, only on account of defects of vision or feet The total number of men passed fit for the two grades now being called up for training is, therefore, 45,850 or 92.5 per cent. Of the remainder 2,443 men or 4.9 per cent, of the total were placed in Grade III which is the grade appropriate to men who would be fit for certain selected occupations in the Forces but are not at present to be called up for the Militia. The number unfit for any form of military service and placed in Grade IV was only 1,293 or 2.6 Per cent, of the total. I will circulate in the Official Report a table giving corresponding figures for each of the administrative divisions of the Ministry.

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Is it a fact that the standard has been lowered for these militiamen as compared with the Regular soldier?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I would refer the hon. Member to an answer which was given to the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald). Perhaps I had better repeat it. The question was: Whether the same standard of physical fitness was applied in the medical tests of the militiamen as is done for recruits for the Regular Forces? The answer given was: No, Sir; the medical examinations for the Regular Forces have in view the needs of particular units, whilst the examination of militiamen is of a more general character." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1930; col. 1817, Vol. 348.]

Photo of Mr Jack Lawson Mr Jack Lawson , Chester-le-Street

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Army Report on the conditions of health and examination shows no difference of that kind, and that we have always been led to believe; that there was a general standard? Is he aware that his statement has led people in all parts of the country to believe that the standard has been lowered for militia men and that his answer has. given co lour to that statement?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

That is not so. I am informed that the standards have been -changed in some respects in regard to the Regular Army in recent years. So far from the report showing what the hon. Member suggests, if he will refer to the Annual Reports for 1936 and 1937, the detail of these change will be found.

MILITARY TRAINING ACT, 1939.
Analysis of results of Medical Examinations during the period 8th June, 1939, to 19th June, 1939.
Grade.Numbers medically examined.
London Divn.S.E. Divn.S.W. Divn.Mids. Divn.N.E. Divn.N.W. Divn.N. Divn.Scot. Divn.Wales Divn.Totals Divn.
I7,6123,8313.3517,0724.5925.3682,8104.5652,09641,297
II318158167357145343921641321,876
II (a) (Vision)457191155321250320117178682,057
II (a) (Feet)11168681056985177522620
Total of II and II (a).8864173907834647482264172224,553
Total of I and II.8,4984,2483,7417.8555,0566,1163,0364,9822,31845,850
III5081932244202123691322571282,443
IV23011514520010920088137691,293
Grand Totals9,2364,5564,1108,4755,3776,6853,2565,3762,51549,586
Grade.Percentages of men medically examined.
London Divn.S.E. Divn.S.W. Divn.Mids. Divn.N.E. Divn.N.W. Divn.N. Divn.Scot. Divn.Wales Divn.Overall per cent.
I82·584·181·583·585·480·386·384·983·383·3
113·53·54·14·22·75·12·83·15·33·8
II (a) (Vision)4·94·23·83·84·64·83·63·32·74·1
II (a) (Feet)1·21·51·61·21·31·3·51·491·3.
Total of II and II (a).9·69·29·59·28·611·26·97·88·99·2
Total of I and II(a)92·193·391·092·794·091·593·292·792·292·5
III5·54·25·55·03·95·54·14·85·14·9
IV2·42·53·52·32·13·02·72·52·72·6
Grand Totals

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Would a young man with one eye be accepted in the Regular Forces?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

If the hon. Member will put that question down I will answer it.

Photo of Mr John Cartland Mr John Cartland , Birmingham King's Norton

May I ask whether any steps have been taken to improve the health of those men who are put in category 4?

Following is the table

Photo of Mr Joshua Ritson Mr Joshua Ritson , City of Durham

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that a young man named Thomas Robinson was medically examined on 13th June, 1939, at Sunderland and passed fit for military service, and, as he has only the sight of one eye and the other eye is affected and he has been for some time under treatment by a specialist for his eyes, he will inquire into the circumstances under which this young man was passed fit for military service?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

Mr. Thomas Robinson was examined by the medical board at Sunderland on 13th June and passed as Grade I. This is the correct grading in view of the board's report, which does not bear out the suggestion in the question as to the state of his eyesight. In view, however, of the hon. Member's statement I am arranging for the man to have a further opportunity of appearing before the board.

Photo of Mr George Griffiths Mr George Griffiths , Hemsworth

Is it not a fact that "the Ayes have it" up to now?

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Minister of Labour whether the medical examination of militiamen conformed to the same standard applied to recruits and conscripts during the Great War; if not, in what respect it differed; and whether fuller information could be made available respecting the nature and scope of the medical examination?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

The medical examination of militiamen is conducted on a system differing from that applied during the last War and I am not, therefore, in a position to make a comparison between them. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the replies given to the hon. Members for East Bradford (Mr. Hepworth) and North Islington (Dr. H. Guest) on 13th and 20th June, respectively.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether the present medical examination is more or less severe than the one carried out during the last War?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

It is much more detailed. Hon. Members who served last time will know that during the War the examination was conducted by one medical man as a rule. In this case, there are four medical men working under a chairman.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Is it not true that the length of the examination is only four or five minutes, and in those circumstances, could there really have been a very thorough examination of the militiamen?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I suggest that I arrange for the hon. Member to attend at one of the medical boards and see for himself.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

To allay very genuine anxiety, would it be possible for the Minister to publish the instructions which he gave to the doctors carrying out the examination?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I will look into that, but I cannot agree that there is any widespread anxiety. There is, on the other hand, a general feeling that the boards are conducted in a most admirable way.

Photo of Mr Campbell Stephen Mr Campbell Stephen , Glasgow Camlachie

How can the Minister say the boards are conducted in a most admirable way when a man with one eye has been passed in Grade II?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

In pre-War days, I knew a Devonshire soldier with only one eye, who was an expert Bisley shot, and who came well within the first half-dozen. [Interruption.] Nelson had only one eye.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Minister of Labour how many militiamen with only one eye have been accepted for training and how many rejected; whether all militiamen were tested for colour-blindness and in what grade those affected have been placed; how many were found to be deaf and the number accepted and rejected, respectively, for training; whether militiamen have been, or will be, examined for defective teeth; and whether militiamen will be fitted with artificial dentures where necessary and without charge?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I regret that it is not practicable at the present stage to analyse the results of the medical examinations so as to furnish statistics of particular physical defects but I will consider what can be done when the examinations are complete. Militiamen with only one eye may, in certain circumstances, be placed in Grade II if the other eye is sound. Men with defects of hearing may be placed in Grades I-IV according to their condition. The men examined are not tested for colour-blindness. The examination includes a scrutiny of the teeth, and militiamen reporting for training will be fitted with artificial dentures, where this is considered essential, and without charge.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

May I take it that at a very early date after the examinations have been completed we shall have these detailed records in order that we may have a very good insight into the medical condition of an important section of the community and also in order that we may avoid the impression that prevails in some quarters that under any circumstances the men have got to be inside the Armed Forces.?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

That impression is entirely false. I should have thought that every Member of the House and everybody outside would be proud of the fact that our social legislation within the last thirty years has given us these great results.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Minister of Labour whether he has any figures available, or will secure them, respecting the health of militiamen drawn from the Special Areas and from districts of acute poverty; whether the medical officers examining militiamen sought for evidence of malnutrition; and, if so, the numbers and percentages so affected?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

It will be possible to secure statistics showing the grading of men examined at any one of the 149 medical boards some of which will sit in the areas referred to. The boards are directed to seek for certain specified physical defects, and some of these may be due either to malnutrition or to other causes. The results of the examinations will not, therefore, yield direct evidence as to cases of malnutrition but the very low figures for Grade IV are evidence of the generally satisfactory condition of the age group concerned.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these questions have not been put down with the idea of making party capital but simply in order to get information on a very important subject; and is he also aware that hon. Members on this side of the House are, at least, as much concerned about these men as hon. Members opposite?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I understand that, and it is for that reason that I have given these detailed answers which are so satisfactory.

Photo of Mr Cecil Poole Mr Cecil Poole , Lichfield

Can the Minister explain how it is possible for a man who failed to pass the medical examination for the Territorial Army, to be successful within four weeks in passing the medical examination for the Militia?

Photo of Mr Ernest Brown Mr Ernest Brown , Leith

I should like to have the particulars of that case.