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Special Diets Advisory Committee (Decision)

Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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asked the Minister of Food for what reasons his Department over-ruled the recommendation of her family doctor that Mrs. Ward, 93, Turnpike Lane, N.8, shoud receive extra meat and butter by substituting milk which, in her case, was actually harmful; why this decision was taken without consultation with her medical attendant; why two months' delay took place between the issue of the certificate and its refusal by the divisional food office; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent a recurrence of such a delay with its possible harmful effects.

This case was considered twice during the two months by the Special Diets Advisory Committee, on different certificates from the family doctor, but she was unable to produce any reasons for the suggestion that the usual allowance of milk would be harmful' or that there were any special reasons for an allowance of butter and meat for this particular patient. In these circumstances, I am unable to overrule the decision of the eminent medical authorities of the Special Diets Advisory Committee.

Is the Minister denying that his Department did, in fact, overrule the recommendations of the family doctor, and did take two months before they actually gave a decision?

Yes, Sir, in the sense that my Department did it apart from the advice of the Special Diets Advisory Committee. They, of course, made the decision and the recommendation on which we acted. But they did not take two months to do it. During the two months mentioned, they twice considered recommendations from the family doctor, but these eminent medical specialists were unable to agree with her.

Did the eminent medical specialists, on whom the right hon. Gentleman relies, ever see the patient?

No, Sir, they asked the family doctor to provide reasons why this case should be treated differently from the rules laid down for cases of this condition. In their opinion, the family doctor was unable to produce any prima facie evidence why it should be treated differently.

Is not this the second occasion on which this particular Committee has bungled—the first being that on which a man died—and should not their operations be closely watched?

I distinctly resent that imputation. How does the noble Lord suppose that he can judge whether this Committee has bungled or not?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if he were to give way in the slightest degree on this matter, 30 to 40 per cent. of the people who claim to be sick would all be producing certificates in order to get extra rations, when the whole thing would become fantastic?

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to certain rules which bind the Special Diets Advisory Committee; will he say what those rules are, and who makes them?

If the hon. Member will look up the answer I gave on Wednesday, 22nd January last, he will see a very full statement as to exactly what these rules are, that there is a right of appeal from these rules to the Special Diets Advisory Committee, and the members and composition, together with their qualifications, of that Committee.

Has the Minister made any inquiry as to whether this lady was benefited or injured by the treatment of his Committee?

The Committee did not treat the lady; the Committee made her a special allowance of milk and fats, and no doubt she benefited by that allowance.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I feel compelled to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.