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Personal Case

Volume 523: debated on Monday 1 February 1954

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asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance why, in view of the independent and responsible medical opinion submitted to him in support of the application by Mr. Aaron Barnes, of Blackburn, for an increased war pension in respect of the amputation of his second leg, he has failed to give this applicant the benefit of the reasonable doubt which exists in his case.

The consensus of expert medical opinion leaves no room for reasonable doubt that the amputation of Mr. Barnes' right leg in 1953 was not connected with the loss of the left leg in 1917. I have fully explained the position to the hon. Member, both orally and in writing, and, much as I sympathise with Mr. Barnes, I regret that his pension cannot be increased.

:Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this consensus of medical opinion which he has quoted does not include that of an independent specialist of high repute, whose report I have sent him and who expresses the view that the degeneration of Mr. Barnes' right leg might have been associated with the fact that his left leg was amputated as a result of the First World War? Is it not intolerable that an ex-Service man minus both legs should now be getting only a 60 per cent pension?

:As the hon. Lady knows, I have gone into this case very carefully indeed. I have read the reports of the two medical men whose opinions she sent me, and they are very indefinite; they just indicate that it is worth making a claim.

During the last seven years, we have heard of only two cases in which it was claimed that arterio-sclerosis arose in a sound limb as a result of wearing an artificial limb. One of these cases, exactly similar to that of Mr. Barnes, was referred to two independent medical experts, both of whom confirmed the wealth of medical opinion which we have in the Ministry of these cases, to the effect that the wearing of an artificial limb would not cause, aggravate or precipitate the onset of arterio-sclerosis in the sound limb, that the incidence of arterio-sclerosis is certainly no greater among amputees than among civilians who have no wounds at all, and that the average age for the appearance of this disability is 50, whereas Mr. Barnes is 61. I am giving the hon. Lady this reply rather fully, because it is of the greatest interest and concern to amputees all over the country.

:Does not the length of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's reply reveal the guilt that is on his conscience? Is it not a fact that as long as there is any reputable independent medical opinion prepared to say that there is reasonable doubt in a pensioner's case, under the terms of the Royal Warrant the applicant ought to be given the benefit?

:These cases are always distressing, but in this particular case we have a great consensus of medical opinion at all our limb fitting ceintres and at Roehampton Hospital. I have checked the consensus of opinion with the opinion of our doctors in the Ministry. Mr. Barnes is getting £4 17s. a week from the Ministry, and we will help him in any way we possibly can.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall raise this matter later.