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King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery

Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 12 July 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for War if he will carry out an investigation into the circumstances in which a horse from the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, was beaten on the instructions of an officer, on Thursday evening, 22nd June, 1961; and if he will make a statement.

I share the concern which is, I know, widely felt about these distressing allegations. I caused an investigation to be made, and I have now been able to study the report which has been made to me.

However, as the House will know, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is also holding an inquiry. I much welcome this, and have instructed that every assistance should be given the Society in it.

This inquiry has not yet been concluded, and my hon. Friend will therefore understand that I do not wish to influence its course by making any statement yet about the report I have received.

While accepting those remarks and thanking my right hon. Friend for them, may I also ask him to give an undertaking that he will issue notice to all units that employ horses that any brutality of any description against any horse owned by the War Office will not be tolerated, and that if any animal shows itself to be temperamentally unsuited to training, that animal will be disposed of and not ill-treated.

I hope that my hon. Friend will not press me to give such an undertaking.

I have explained to the House that I regard this matter as sub judice and that is the only reason why, at this stage, I am not publishing the report that was made to me. Perhaps sub judice is too strong an expression. I know that the House wants to have all the facts about this case. As an independent inquiry is being held by an organisation which, I am sure, is held in high esteem by all hon. Members, I do not propose to make public the report that was made to me. But I shall certainly wish to take an opportunity of expressing publicly the soldier's side of this distressing affair. So far we have heard only the accusations, but I am sure that even those who are most shocked will realise that there are two sides to this case.

The request I was making has nothing to do with the present case but is designed to ensure that there is no possibility of any such happening in the future. It has no relation whatever to the case which my right hon. Friend has said is sub judice.

I appreciate my hon. Friend's view and I will look into the matter, but I am not persuaded that there is any need for such an instruction.