(by Private Notice)asked the Secretary of State for War, whether his attention has been called to the recent disaster which occurred at Saxelby, Leicestershire, when an explosion of mine fuses which were being tested before removal resulted in the death of three members of the Pioneer Corps (two of whom were under 20 years of age) and the serious injury of some 20 more; whether he is satisfied that all the personnel employed on this dangerous work were adequately trained; whether he will give instructions that in future no soldier under 20 years of age shall be employed in this type of work.
A court of inquiry has been convened and I will write to the hon. Member when I have received its report. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my deep regret to the relatives of the men who lost their lives as a result of this accident.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the boys killed in this disaster was a raw recruit with only seven weeks' service, and that when, at the inquest, the question was asked whether all were adequately trained for the job, the answer was given that all were warned of the danger; and is he further aware that the answer he has given is no answer whatsoever, and that if a young man of 18 is warned that a job is dangerous, it is tantamount to asking him to do it?
A matter of that sort would be the subject of consideration by the court of inquiry. We have considerable difficulty in these matters. First of all, these boys are operating under skilled specialists who are trained in matters of this sort, in addition to which, as 70 to 80 per cent. of the men consist of National Service intake, it is quite impossible to be stringent from the standpoint of age.