THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government (1) 1213 how many soldiers have, since the outbreak of war in South Africa, been discharged from the Army without pensions for diseases not directly attributable to active service in the field; (2) whether, in view of the large number of men so discharged, the medical examination of recruits is carried out with sufficient care, as the discharge of so many destitute men must have a prejudicial effect on voluntary recruiting.
THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (the Earl of HARD-WICKE)
My Lords, I am perfectly willing to give the noble Earl all the information I can on the subject. He asks, in the first place, how many soldiers have, since the outbreak of war in South Africa, been discharged from the Army without pensions for diseases not directly attributable to active service in the field. During the years 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1902 the total number of men so discharged was 6,745. As to the second question, I do not think we can admit that the number I have mentioned is so large as to have a prejudicial effect on recruiting. I would point out to the noble Earl that, as a matter of fact, during the last two years we have had better recruiting than ever before, and it is only during the last few years that so many men have been discharged. Prior to the war the number of men so discharged was comparatively small; in 1899 the number was 275, and in 1900 it went up to 2,539. During the years I have mentioned the total number of recruits enlisted was 126,149, and therefore the percentage of men discharged from the Army, without pensions, for diseases not directly attributable to active service in the field, is only five per cent, which I think we may consider comparatively small.
Then the noble Earl suggests that the medical examination of recruits is not carried out with sufficient care. The Commander-in-Chief has laid down the very strictest instructions that no recruit is to be sent before the examining medical officer unless he has a reasonable chance of passing—that is to say, when he first comes forward and expresses his wish to join the Colours, the recruiting officer is supposed to satisfy himself that the man has a reasonable chance of passing the medical officer before taking 1214 him. In spite of that very strict order the number of men who are rejected prior to enlistment is over 32 per cent. If the noble Earl will refer to the report of the Inspector-General of Recruiting for this year, he will see that during the year 1902 the number of men who desired to enlist and were medically examined was 87,609 and that the number who were rejected prior to enlistment for various ailments and for want of physical development was 28,221. I think that shows that the medical examination is carried out with very great care, and that it would be difficult to improve upon the system now in force. The noble Earl further suggests that the men so discharged are in a destitute condition. I would point out that men who have been rejected for pensions, always receive a gratuity amounting to not less than £2, and that should any of them have been enlisted for over three years they receive on discharge a gratuity of £1 for each completed year or portion of a year of service up to a maximum of £12, so that in many instances the men discharged from the Colours for the causes mentioned by the noble Earl received an amount sometimes as large as £12, and never less that £2. When soldiers come before the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital, owing to injury or illness incurred on service, they are very often given pensions for six or twelve months pending further examination, but the figures I have given the noble Earl are quite apart from terminable pensions.