§ 13. Mr. Leslie Huckfield
asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will now review the procedure for informing relatives about, and making funeral arrangements for, soldiers killed either in action or on manoeuvres abroad.
§ Mr. Blaker
I see no need at present to review these procedures. On the whole, I believe that they are made with a care and consideration which is much appreciated by relatives.
§ Mr. Huckfield
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with the procedure followed in the case of my late constituent, Signalman Johnson, of Keresley, near Coventry, whose parents were told in a perfunctory telegram that he had been killed in Germany? They were told to ring an Army telephone number. When they did, they were told that that office knew nothing about it. Their son's body was dumped in Coventry with about as much ceremony as one would expect to be given to a sack of potatoes. Two months later, his parents still know nothing about the exact circumstances in which he was 609 killed. Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with this sort of procedure?
§ Mr. Blaker
The hon. Gentleman has rather overstated his case, I think. The solicitor acting for the father of Private Johnson has reported that the family appreciated the sympathy and personal kindness of those who had to deal with them on behalf of the Army.
The hon. Gentleman has referred to a telegram. That is the normal method by which families are informed in these very regrettable circumstances. The squadron commander wrote to Mr. Johnson immediately offering the assistance of the unit should he decide on a military funeral in Germany.
The point raised in the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question is a different matter. I am personally inquiring into the circumstances and Mr. Johnson's desire to attend an inquiry. I hope to write to him in a short time.
§ Mr. Loveridge
Is my hon. Friend aware that the next-of-kin of those killed in civil accidents arising out of manoeuvres are denied rights that they would have had if the persons killed had been in the Civil Service? Will my hon. Friend seek with his colleagues, therefore, to amend Section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947?
§ Mr. Concannon
Will the hon. Gentleman now look into the possibility of adopting the policy of bringing back to this country all those Service men and members of their families who are killed or who die while on overseas service? I cannot see why we should not do this, especially when one considers the expense that the American authorities go to in Vietnam to ensure that this is done.
§ Mr. Blaker
I shall look closely into this matter. My information is that a body can be sent to wherever the next of kin wishes. If I am wrong about that, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman.