HC Deb 09 March 1960 vol 619 cc394-7
2. Mr. Thornton

asked the Secretary of State for War what use was made by the Army of brain-washing techniques on prisoners during the last war; if he will describe the techniques employed; and what was the last date on which they were used.

4. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has studied the technique of brainwashing, used to extract confessions, described by Dr. Alexander Kennedy in his recent lecture to the Royal Institution, details of which have been sent to him by the hon. Member for Blackburn; to what extent this technique has been used in the Army since the end of the war; and if he will make a statement.

6. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for War what instruction in brainwashing techniques is now given to Army personnel.

Mr. Soames

The Army has never made use of the techniques described by Professor Kennedy. No military organisation exists, or has existed, to carry out such a task.

Mr. Thornton

Has the Secretary of State carefully studied Professor Alexander Kennedy's discourse to the Royal Institution? If he has, he must feel that now the whole world has conclusive proof that these brain-washing techniques were used to extract confessions. Have not we in this country been led to believe that these pernicious brainwashing techniques were the monopoly of the totalitarian Powers? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the worldwide concern there will be if it is found that there is not here a difference of principle but merely of degree? Will the right hon. Gentleman consult his right hon. Friends so that a full statement on this matter, this very important principle, can be made to the House at an early date?

Mr. Soames

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that these techniques have never been used in this country and that Professor Kennedy never said they had. I have been in touch with Professor Kennedy and I have here a letter from him, extracts from which I should like to read: I have looked at the script used by me at my discourse at the Royal Institution and can give you full assurance that at no point in the script or in the discourse itself did I make any reference to Britain or to any sort of interrogation or brain-washing activities carried out there. As there were about four hundred people present it would not be difficult to obtain confirmation of this. My references to brain-washing were entirely general and no Government was referred to. My account of its principles could be deduced entirely from material already available in books and magazines. As I spent four and a half years in the Middle East during the war it is unlikely that I would know anything about secret activities in Britain. He goes on to say: I was naturally annoyed when I saw the headline in the Observer but I realised that no good is ever done by complaining about inaccuracies in newspapers, so I took no action.

Mrs. Castle

Are we to deduce from that reply that it is only the British Government that Dr. Alexander Kennedy is now exonerating from complicity in these methods? Does not the Secretary of State agree that the allegations made were of sufficient seriousness to warrant this matter being cleared up very thoroughly? Was Dr. Kennedy referring to any other allied Government, or to what was he referring?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister cannot be asked about activities for which he is not responsible.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am not concerned with what Dr. Kennedy said, or with what happened years ago? What kind of instruction is being given now? I ask that in view of the rather alarming disclosures in this morning's issue of the Daily Mail. As it is quite impossible to clear this matter up by an argy-bargy across the Floor of the House, will the Secretary of State arrange for those hon. Members who are interested in the subject to pay a visit to the depot of the Intelligence Corps, somewhere in Sussex, so that we can see for ourselves what kind of training is given there, and what is happening?

Mr. Soames

What Dr. Kennedy was talking about in his lecture, and the article in the Daily Mail to which the hon. Gentleman now refers, are entirely different matters, but I am very glad to have this opportunity of saying categorically that the sort of methods which were referred to in the Daily Mail article today have never been used by the British Army upon its prisoners, and they never will be used.

The fact remains, however, that other countries do use these methods, and there are certain troops—particularly our spearhead troops, such as the Parachute Regiment and the S.A.S.—the nature of whose job makes them more liable to capture and also places them in possession of information which would be very valuable to an enemy. It is of the greatest importance that they should be taught the sort of treatment to which they might be subjected if they were captured, as many of our troops in Korea were subjected, so that they may be able the better to withstand it.

Mr. Wigg

Is the Secretary of State aware that Dr. Kennedy had a distinguished career as a soldier, and that his reputation as a psychologist and psychiatrist is international in character; that his lecture at the Royal Institution was only scientific in character and that a great deal of it was designed to show the relationship between brain-washing techniques and the possibility of curing delirium in the aged? And if you will permit me, Mr. Speaker, I would add that if Professor Kennedy has given his assurance to the Minister, the House can accept that assurance without any hesitation whatever.

Mr. Soames

I thank the hon. Gentleman. I absolutely agree with what he says about Dr. Kennedy's lecture.

Mr. Bellenger

Although the House will, of course, accept what the right hon. Gentleman says as being said in all honesty and sincerity, has he not looked at the Daily Mail article which alleges that answers were given to the newspaper's questions by a representative of the War Office? Had he better not look at his own public relations department?

Mr. Soames

I have certainly looked at the article. Those concerned were asked specific questions about whether we gave our troops this training. The answer is, "Yes, we do"— and it is right and proper that we should.