§ 8. Mr. Hale
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the duties of the commandants, medical officers and chaplains of detention camps; how often a prisoner is medically examined; how often a commandant is required to see the prisoners; and how it came about that the results 446 of maltreatment constantly applied at the Wahnerheide Royal Air Force detention camp were never observed by these officers.
The duties of these officers are laid down in the Rules for Military Detention Barracks and Military Prisons, which have been applied to Air Force establishments. Each prisoner is medically examined on arrival. Afterwards any man can report sick when the medical officer makes his daily visit. The commandant sees each prisoner as soon as possible after arrival, and he visits the whole of the establishment at least once in every 24 hours. The only visible sign of injury at Wahnerheide was explained away by the man himself.
§ Mr. Hale
Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that while everyone appreciates the very prompt action he took in the matter, the information which he has given seems to disclose widespread cruelty which must have produced results, and, one would have thought, must have been known to the officers in the camp if they were doing their duty? Will the hon. Gentleman further understand that when we were "old sweats" we all held the view that there was a mysterious dispensation which protected everybody above the rank of sergeant from the slings and arrows of misfortune?
We have been into the matter very carefully. During the court-martial proceedings, the prisoners had every opportunity to give evidence against anybody they wished, and there is no evidence whatever that the officers were in any way involved in ill-treatment.
Punishments for an offence against the rules of the establishment can be imposed by the commandant or another officer to whom the commandant has delegated power. More serious 447 offences are dealt with by a board of visitors. Details of all charges preferred and the punishments awarded are entered in a register. A senior non-commissioned officer is always present when prisoners are being drilled.
§ Mr. Hale
Does the Under-Secretary not think that, in view of the public anxiety which has long existed about conditions in the detention camps, whether justified or not, the appointment of an independent inspectorate corresponding to that of Her Majesty's prisons would be very useful and would improve the Services?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have recently had a court of inquiry, which went very carefully into the administration of the unit, and it recommended certain changes which we have now adopted. I do not think we should have any more difficulty.
§ 10. Mr. Hale
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air how far it is the custom at Royal Air Force detention units to ask a released prisoner to sign a note to the effect that he has no complaints to make of his treatment whilst in camp; how many were asked to sign at Wahnerheide during the 12 months to the most recent convenient date; how many refused; and what is the normal consequence of a refusal.
This practice is not customary at Royal Air Force detention units, and it has now been discontinued at Wahnerheide. All the 180 airmen released from Wahnerheide during the 12 months ending 31st May, 1954, signed the form in question. No disciplinary action would have been taken if any of them had refused to sign.