HC Deb 03 July 1924 vol 175 cc1490-2
33 and 34. Mr. LANSBURY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air (1) whether he can give the House the total number of casualties suffered by the British Air Force during bombing operations carried on in Iraq or elsewhere during the past five months, and the total casualties suffered by the people living in the various places against which these operations have taken place;

(2) on how many occasions during the past five months has the Air Force been engaged in Iraq or other places bombing undefended villages or townships; and whether any notice, and, if any, what length of notice, is given to the civilian population—women, children, and men—to withdraw before the bombing commences?


Bombs have been dropped on five occasions in Iraq during the period referred to, and in all cases except one not less than two days' warning was given to enable the inhabitants to withdraw. The objectives selected were the encampments and grazing grounds of the offending tribes. The case where no warning was given was one of an attack by tribes on native police, in which one police officer and three police were killed. In this period there have been no casualties to the Royal Air Force in Iraq during bombing operations. As regards casualties inflicted by the operations, none have been reported to Air Headquarters. My hon. Friend will realise that in areas where violence is habitual, Air action, however regrettable the necessity for it, in many cases checks at an early stage disturbances which would otherwise cause great loss of life. In this connection, I may mention that a frontier tribe, of the same type as those which the hon. Member has, apparently, in mind, recently killed 146 men and 127 women and children during a single raid into Iraq territory, in the course of which all the male prisoners and wounded, both men and boys, were put to death.


Is it not a fact that the particulars of the case last mentioned by the hon. Gentleman happened hundreds of miles away from any district that has been bombarded during the last five months?

Captain BRASS

What has that to do with the question?


What has it to do with the bombing of other villages?


The offending tribe escaped back over the borders before operations could be taken by us against them, but it is also the fact that this kind of raid, with its consequent loss of life, has been almost entirely abolished by the measures taken by the Air Force.


Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that that is no answer to my question, namely, whether the outrages he has mentioned did not take place hundreds of miles away from any district that has been bombarded during the past five months, and will his Department print a White Paper giving the full particulars of why and where bombing has taken place, together with the fact—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech!"]—together with the fact that no one but the airman concerned is ever present to know whether any of the inhabitants have been killed? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] You behave. [Interruption.] You are not going to shout me down!


What did the late Secretary of State for the Home Department—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"].


Hon. Members should leave it to me to keep order. Perhaps the fact that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) remained standing drew attention away from the Chair. Mr. Lansbury, the next question.


I understand that the hon. Gentleman purported to answer them both at the same time.