HC Deb 09 July 1946 vol 425 cc213-5
21. Mr. Peter Freeman

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that, following disciplinary action of pack drill recently, a soldier of 19 years of age of the 4th Borderers, Indian Division, was taken to hospital and died later without recovering consciousness; whether such punishment has now been stopped in this regiment; and whether it is his intention to prohibit it throughout the Indian Army as has been done in the British Army.

Mr. Lawson

I understand that the Question relates to an incident which occurred in Burma. I have cabled to A.L.F.S.E.A. for a report and will write to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Freeman

If my right hon. Friend receives any additional information will he give the full facts to the House, in view of the facts that the record on the death certificate was "spinal malaria," that this young man was accepted as A1 in the Indian Army, and that immediately after this punishment he did not recover consciousness?

Mr. Lawson

My hon. Friend can put down another Question if he likes, and I can take steps to make this matter as public as possible. The fact is that pack drill was abolished in the British Army in 1930. Whether it is operating in India or not I cannot tell. That is the fact. I will give the answer on this case as soon as possible.

Mr. Freeman

Will my right hon. Friend see that pack drill is prevented from now onwards, while this inquiry is being made?

Mr. Lawson

The attention of the command has been drawn to the matter by my hon. Friend's Question.

Mr. Berry

Will my right hon. Friend look into this matter, in view of the irregularities of punishment that are being revealed in connection with the Burma Command?

Major Bruce

If my right hon. Friend finds that his instructions have been disobeyed, will he ensure that the sternest possible disciplinary action is taken?

41. Mr. Hale

asked the Secretary of State for War when the junior Member for Oldham may expect a reply to his letter of 30th May, 1946, with reference to the death of 14255729 C. H. Devey.

Mr. Ballenger

A reply is being sent to my hon. Friend today. The delay is much regretted; it was necessary to carry out a careful investigation in the command concerned.

Mr. Hale

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in that reply there is a mere repetition of statements made some months ago? Is he further aware that an impartial inquiry should not be conducted by going to the same people and asking them what they said on a previous occasion?

44. Colonel Wigg

asked the Secretary of State for War why Major J. J. B. Dutfield, R.E.M.E., has not been released with his age and service group

Mr. Bellenger

Major Dutfield who has legal qualifications is serving with the M.E.F. legal section where the establishment is 14 officers. There are at present only six officers there; one of these is in hospital and two more are due for release, being already deferred for three months. Major Dutfield's group is due for release between 3rd and 14th July. If he is released it will not be possible for the Legal Aid Section to deal with the applications for assistance, the value of which is still very considerable. No replacement for Major Dutfield is available at present, and it is essential if the M.E.F. legal aid section is to continue operating, that his release be deferred for a period not exceeding three months.

Colonel Wigg

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Deputy Adjutant-General, M.E.F., has informed Major Duffield that he is being deferred not because he has legal qualifications but because he is serving in R.E.M.E.?

Mr. Bellenger

That, of course, conflicts with the statement that I have made in my answer. I have no reason to believe that the information I have is inaccurate, but I will certainly look into the question again.

Colonel Wigg

Is the hon. Gentleman also aware that this officer was given two decisions, so that I am in a position to contradict him whichever answer he gave?