HC Deb 15 June 1954 vol 528 cc1717-8
17. Captain Kerby

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence the purpose of the combined Army-Royal Air Force exercise, operation "Liontrek," held in the Fife area of Scottish Command on 14th-15th May; and if he will consider bringing into being again the Special Operations Executive.

18. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence if he is aware of the public concern over the experiences to which Service men who took part in the Royal Air Force exercise in Fife on 14th and 15th May were subjected; what was the purpose of such an exercise involving cruelty; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)

The object of exercise "Liontrek" and of many similar exercises is to train Service men in evading capture, in escaping after capture, and in conduct during captivity. No cruelty was involved. It is not considered that there is any need for a special operations executive under present conditions.

Captain Kerby

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. May I ask how many of the 164 parachutists dropped in this operation actually reached their objectives?

Mr. Birch

I understand that over 100 of them were captured.

Mr. Fernyhough

When in his reply the hon. Gentleman said that there was no cruelty involved, does he mean to say that bleeding shins are not cruelty—and bruised wrists and all the other evidence available in the newspaper? [Interruption. ] If, of course, the hon. Gentleman is going to deny what the newspapers say, can we take that as a further example of the unreliability of capitalist newspapers?

Mr. Birch

I have gone into this case with some care, and there is no reason to suppose that there was any cruelty. I think that the newspapers were misled by the fact that the interrogators had on their side some soldiers who gave some very fine histrionic performances indicating that they were being tortured.