§ 35. Mr. Driberg
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to tie Ministry of Defence if his attention has been called to the recent death of a sea cadet in Essex, accidentally shot during rifle practice, and to the expert evidence and comments by the foreman of the jury at the inquest; to what extent pre-Service cadet units are equipped with obsolete United States firearms obtained, as in this case, under wartime lend-lease; why this particular rifle was issued to the Sea Cadet Corps without any adequate proof that it could be safely handled; and, in general, what technical tests are made, and how often, of the reliability and safety of weapons in use in pre-Service cadet units.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
From the reports I have received, it is clear that the primary cause of this unfortunate accident was a breach of range discipline. Pre-Service cadet units are equipped with various types of 22 rifle, including a number obtained from the United States under wartime lease-lend. The United States types are not any less safe than other types. In the case of the Combined Cadet Force, the Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps Units, rifles are examined about twice a year by armament experts. In the case of the Sea Cadet Corps, maintenance of the rifles is the responsibility of the local units, and they will in future be required to hold an annual certificate of serviceability.
§ Mr. Driberg
Does the hon. Gentleman say that the expert evidence given at the inquest was not accurate? His reply just now does not seem to agree at all points with that evidence.