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Private H A Daker

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for War if he will order an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Private Herbert Albert Daker after he was ordered back to his unit by an Army doctor.

No, Sir. A board of inquiry has already been held to investigate the circumstances of this man's tragic death. I have studied its report and am satisfied that all the facts concerning the death of Private Daker were fully established and that there was no neglect of duty on the part of the medical officers or the unit to which Private Daker's death could be attributed.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this man, although feeling very ill indeed, returned to his unit because his wife's allowance book had been requested by the authorities? Can the hon. Gentleman explain how it was that the Army doctor ordered this man to return although he saw him for only five minutes or less without proper examination, and how it was that he was charged with being absent without leave for a period for which he had a certificate from his own doctor? In view of these unsatisfactory details, would it not be better for the Army to have an independent inquiry?

Private Daker returned on the 16th of the month to Dover with a clean bill of health from his own doctor, whom he had seen. On his return he was fit to resume normal military life, including having to answer the charge which resulted ultimately in the award of detention. The administrative mistakes about which my right hon. Friend has been in correspondence with the hon. Member, although doubly unfortunate in view of the sequel, had no bearing, I can assure the hon. Member and the House, on the illness of Private Daker and its tragic outcome.

Yes, but can the hon. Gentleman explain why the Army doctor who went to see him in his own home spent only five minutes or less and did not give him a proper examination? Did the regimental doctor examine the man when he was returned back?

There is this difference, I think the House will appreciate, in the functions of an Army and a civilian doctor. It was the duty of the Army doctor to form a view on whether the man was fit to travel, to return to his unit, where he would still have been under medical supervision. When that doctor saw him he was up and about, and he gave it as his opinion that he was fit to travel. The civilian doctor in this case said that he thought that the man was fit for work, that is, fit to return to normal duty. Those were the different bases for making the diagnosis.