HC Deb 19 July 1916 vol 84 cc992-3

asked what steps are being taken to see that men who resist orders on conscientious grounds are not in future to be treated with such brutal and illegal violence as has been used on various occasions in the past but are to be brought immediately before a court-martial, with a view to coming under the provisions of the new scheme?


Sections 37 and 40 of the Army Act provide penalties for the striking or ill-treatment of a soldier. I cannot accept the hon. Member's generalisation as a correct description of what has happened, but I can, of course, assure him that, where there is good ground, the Sections of the Army Act mentioned will be put into force. On the second part of the question I would refer him to Section 45 of the Army Act, and to the note appended thereto on page 421 of the Manual of Military Law. The provisions for ensuring that no undue delay takes place before a man is brought to trial are sufficient.


asked whether Lance-Corporal Barker, of the 17th battalion Cheshire Regiment, against whom disciplinary action was ordered to be taken in consequence of the undue force which he was found to have used towards conscientious objectors at Prees Heath Camp, has recently been promoted to the rank of corporal?


Lance-Corporal Barker is now Private Barker. He had been appointed an unpaid acting corporal prior to the receipt of instructions that disciplinary action was to be taken against him for exceeding his duty when in charge of conscientious objectors.


Will the War Office have an inquiry made into this man's state of mind, seeing it is quite evident from his letters to Members of Parliament that such a step is necessary?


If there is any reason to think that his mind is affected inquiry will be made.


asked whether the provision contained in the Local Government Board Regulations, R. 85, Part III, paragraph (2), is still in force under which a case may be reheard by a tribunal with the consent of the Army Council after the man has joined the Colours; and whether in the case of a man who is in custody for disobedience to orders on conscientious grounds, the Army Council have power to grant him a temporary re-lease for the purpose of such rehearing?


The provision to which the hon. Member refers in the first part of his question is still in force. With respect to the second part of the question, the case put by the hon. Member would seem to come within the arrangement out-lined by the Prime Minister, on the 29th June last, and, if so, the question of permission for a rehearing before the tribunal would not arise.


asked when the scheme recently outlined by the Prime Minister for dealing with conscientious objectors in the Army will be brought into operation; and whether all those men who are now serving sentences for disobedience to orders on conscientious grounds will have the opportunity of being brought under the new scheme?


The scheme is being brought into force. The cases of all conscientious objectors who have been sentenced to imprisonment, and of all who are undergoing detention, will be inquired into.


Do I understand that the men whose sentences are now about to expire will not necessarily be sent back into the Army, and are they to go through the whole thing again merely because there is delay?


Will they be sent to Germany?


I am not really very well posted in the details of these arrangements, and perhaps the hon. Member will kindly give me notice.