HC Deb 07 December 1937 vol 330 cc181-2
17. Mr. MacNeill Weir

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the action of the commanding officer of the headquarter company of the 2nd Battalion, Black Watch, at present stationed at Jerusalem, in writing to Mr. Malcolm MacMillan, 55, Blytheswood Street, Glasgow, the father of John MacMillan, a boy of 17 years of age, at present serving with the regiment, asking permission to flog the boy for smoking; whether this action has his approval; and what steps he is taking in the matter?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I am sorry the hon. Member should use the word "flog," of which there can be no question. No boy may receive corporal punishment in the Army without the parent's consent.

Mr. MacNeil Weir

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the word "flog" in the Oxford Dictionary is given as meaning "to beat," and that the word used by the Commanding Officer was "beat"? Further, is he aware that this boy was within a few months of arriving at the age at which it is permitted for a boy to smoke in the Army, and that outside in civilian life a boy is allowed to smoke at 16. Does the right hon. Gentleman think the seriousness of the offence warrants this punishment?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

As to the first question of the hon. Member, if the word "beat" was used, I do not see why he changed it into the word "flog." The boy has not been subjected either to beating or flogging, or any form of corporal punishment. As regards the advantage of smoking or otherwise at 16 years of age, that is a matter of opinion, but the Army acting towards these boys in loco parentis, endeavours to bring them up in the healthiest possible way.

Mr. MacNeill Weir

This is rather a serious matter. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is the second time this officer has written to parents in Glasgow—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is now giving information.

Mr. MacNeill Weir

I beg to give notice that I shall call attention to this matter at the first opportunity.