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Soldiers' Death, Detention Camp (Court Of Inquiry)

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 30 June 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for War what measures he intends to take to prevent a recurrence of the Army treatment which resulted in the recent death of Rifleman Clayton in the Gillingham detention camp; and whether consideration will be given by way of pension or grant to the dependants of the deceased soldier?

As my right hon. Friend promised in answering several Questions on this distressing case on 18th May, a military court of inquiry will now be held into the circumstances of this case and will deal fully with all the issues raised. Any question of an award to dependants will be considered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions.

Does the Secretary of State himself really appreciate that the country has been profoundly disturbed by the revelations in this case and that nothing short of some drastic measures will satisfy public opinion?

I can certainly answer the first part of the question in the affirmative. As regards the other part, I can assure the House that this court of inquiry will have the fullest possible terms of reference in regard to this particular case. It is hoped that it will commence its sittings in the next few days.

My hon. and learned Friend said that all the circumstances will be taken into consideration; will those circumstances include a general consideration of the medical arrangements?

Certainly, Sir. I said that there would be the fullest possible terms of reference in regard to this particular case.

Will the inquiry include other detention camps and the recommendations of the jury with regard to them?

This court of inquiry will consider only the situation in relation to this particular camp.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that these cases are becoming far too frequent and that there is a general feeling that there ought to be an inquiry into all the detention camps and adequate medical staffs so that this sort of thing will not occur again?

If my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to cases of violence, his statement is not correct. During the last 18 months there have been four cases reported and convictions in two of them.

Is not my hon. and learned Friend aware that this is not the only fatal case in such circumstances, and does he not think that the time has come when there might well be, in order to satisfy public opinion, a full inquiry into the conduct of all detention camps?

I am not aware that there are other cases where death has resulted from violence in detention camps.

Have the Army Council considered the statement made by the Judge and jury in this case?

Certainly it has been brought to the notice of the military authorities, but nothing can be done until the court of inquiry has sat, received evidence and made its report.