HC Deb 21 March 1960 vol 620 cc30-2
45. Mr. Lipton

asked the Prime Minister if he will move to appoint a Select Committee to investigate and report on the use and value of experiments in brainwashing and nerve gases.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. I do not think this would be appropriate.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a certain amount of public disquiet about the subject of brain-washing and nerve gases? Are we not entitled to know to what extent members of the public services, either civilian or Service men, are being trained in or subjected to these processes at the present time? Are we to allow the scientists to do whatever they like without the public knowing what they are up to?

Mr. Butler

There is no question of allowing the scientists to do whatever they like. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave specific answers to questions on this subject on 17th March. I have nothing to add.

Mr. Bowles

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister may not have had in mind what I said the day before he answered those questions? How much will the right hon. Gentleman bet that I am wrong in the information I gave then?

Mr. Butler

There are a great many different sporting events in the offing. I would not like to take any bet with the hon. Gentleman about the virtue or accuracy of his own remarks. If he would care to repeat them to me afterwards, I will assess them in my own way.

Mr. Speaker

I do not wish to anticipate any debate on accommodation, but the Chamber is not the right place for such a transaction.

Mr. Lipton

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the Prime Minister's reply the other day bore no reference at all to the questions which I have put, namely, the extent to which people in the Services, either civilian or Service men, are now being trained in or subjected to brain-washing or nerve gases? Will he apply his mind to that aspect of the matter?

Mr. Butler

The British Services do not employ these practices and techniques of brain-washing. Therefore, there is really nothing I can add to the replies given by the Prime Minister.

Mr. S. Silverman

If the information the Prime Minister gave to the House is correct, is it not most important that this should be established in such a way as to remove any possible cause for public anxiety on the subject? Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are sufficient claims now being made by people in this country that they themselves were subjected to practices of this kind in this country during the war to justify the appointment of some kind of committee of inquiry or some kind of investigation to ascertain whether what the Prime Minister told us—which. I have no doubt, was told to us in perfectly good faith—was based on accurate information?

Mr. Butler

My right hon. Friend has considered the point which the hon. Gentleman makes, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for realising that my right hon. Friend spoke with absolute sincerity in giving his opinion. But there is nothing since that date which would cause him to change his mind and concede the type of inquiry for which the Question asks. Moreover, we have further examined the letter received by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War from Professor Kennedy, and it again appears from examination of that letter that what he said, to use his own words, has been "grossly distorted and exaggerated".

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister has not specifically dealt with the point made by Professor Kennedy in his speech, in which he has rejected the Observer's offer to correct any inaccuracies, and in which Professor Kennedy said that the techniques were developed in Britain and used by some body unspecified, whose name he could not give for security reasons? As the Prime Minister has not answered these two points, does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is still disquiet among public opinion in this country about this matter?

Mr. Butler

I can only quote what Professor Kennedy himself said on 8th March. He said: 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.

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