§ 17. Mr. William Shepherd
asked the Secretary of State for War who gave the orders for the collective punishment from which arose the incidents at Catterick Camp resulting in one non-commissioned officer and six privates receiving periods of detention.
§ Mr. Head
No order can be given for collective punishment. Powers of summary punishment for minor offences are reserved to commanding officers or any officer to whom they have been delegated. Before any punishment can be awarded, every offender must be charged individually before an officer and an award of confinement to barracks cannot exceed 14 days at any one time. In this case, the non-commissioned officer concerned made an improper threat in order to intimidate the men concerned.
§ Mr. Shepherd
As it is clear that very often junior N.C.Os. in training units tend to exceed their authority—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and that the only real safeguard is to have better officers, will my right hon. Friend say what steps he is taking to improve the quality of officers in these regiments?
§ Mr. Head
In this case, which was at Catterick, there has been something of a shortage of officers in the Royal Corp of Signals, but I think that this is improving. With regard to what non-commissioned officers threaten, it has been known for them to threaten to boil men alive, but it never happens, and I do not think that it ever will.