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Personal Case

Volume 499: debated on Tuesday 22 April 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for War if he will review the case of 22418428 Driver Coxwell, at present engaged on his two years National Service, who has suffered two serious attacks of meningitis, and whose present condition gives cause for anxiety to his parents; and if, in view of the fact that this Service man is not fit for all duties, he will now sanction his release.

My right hon. Friend has reviewed this case. But, since he is advised that this soldier is fit for light duties in the United Kingdom, he cannot agree to his release.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that it really does seem incredible that the War Office should want to hang on to this young man? On the first occasion of his illness he had a most lucky escape. He was then left untreated, as it was considered he was drunk. He has since had a second serious attack of this disease; he is no use to the Army; his physical condition does not allow him to undertake full duties, and his own doctor says it is imperative he should come out. Why, therefore, cannot the War Office allow him to come out?

I quite understand the anxiety of the hon. Member, and of the parents of this man, owing to the grave reputation which this disease used to have. But modern conditions and treatment have greatly alleviated that. This soldier had very careful treatment both on the first and the second occasion—on the second occasion by one of the most eminent neurologists in the country. Then a medical board was held. I am in the great difficulty that if one has these eminent people called in to advise, it would be a mistake to override their opinion.

Would the hon. Gentleman say what purpose is served by retaining this man? Would he say what are his present duties and if they are of a non-military or non-regimental character? If they are, could not a civilian undertake them?

The driver is at the moment employed in driving on local journeys and is under observation by his unit doctor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Driving?"]—and it is not considered that there is any cause for anxiety. If it would help the hon. Gentleman, I will make an inquiry to see that the observation is really a thorough observation.

In view of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment.