§ 34. Mr. Emrys Hughes
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence in view of the indiscriminate suffering caused by the napalm jellied petrol bomb, if he will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the use of this weapon by British troops.
§ 35. Mr. J. Grimond
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence what information he has as to the military value of the napalm bomb; and how far its use has been successfully restricted to military targets.
§ Mr. Birch
On the general question of Government policy, I would refer hon. Members to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 12th May.
The napalm bomb is a tactical weapon which can be directed accurately at a limited target. It has been used in Korea principally against enemy storage and supply areas, and also against tanks, transport and troop concentrations.
§ Mr. Hughes
Is the Minister aware that I did not receive a reply from the Foreign Secretary but only the usual prefabricated burst of righteous indignation which he produces when he is in difficulties? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the napalm bomb has been used indiscriminately on villages, burning up women and children and everything within a radius of two miles, and is it not true to say that we are burning people alive and calling it collective security?
§ Mr. Birch
I think the hon. Gentleman is misinformed. A lot of these reports in the Press are greatly exaggerated. The point about the napalm bomb is that it is normally dropped from a height of 1426 less than 100 feet. It is wholly ineffective if dropped from a great height, and it is not effective against towns and villages. It is a tactical weapon. It may well be true that civilians have been killed by it, but that is not the intention, and it is, in fact, a more discriminatory weapon than ordinary high explosive.
§ Mr. Hughes
But are not these so-called misleading Press reports based on official communiqués from the military authorities? Is the hon. Gentleman asking us to believe that the military communiqués are not to be relied upon?
§ Mr. Grimond
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that while it is admitted that any weapon must cause considerable suffering, his statement that this bomb is used on tactical targets will give a certain amount of relief? Will he try to ensure that, as far as lies in our power, this policy will be continued and that it is made as widely known as possible, because there has been a widespread belief that the bomb was broadcast and that considerable unnecessary suffering was caused to civilians?