§ 48. Commander BELLAIRS
asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the departure from the custom and practice of the Navy to hold courts-martial to inquire into the losses of warships having been made in so many cases; whether he is aware that in about thirty cases where courts-martial were held they were held in secret, contrary to invariable practice, and the secrecy has deprived Parliament of much guidance and knowledge; and whether the Government will set up a Royal Commission as soon as the War is over to inquire into the whole position, and to suggest such a revision of the Navy Discipline Act as will be binding on the Admiralty, and will tend to maintain the high standards of the Navy while safeguarding Parliament's control through the publicity of proceedings of courts-martial?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My right hon. Friend has asked me to answer this question. I dealt with the contention that the custom and practice of the Navy has been recently departed from in the Debate on the Motion for Adjournment on 25th May. As regards the holding of courts-martial in secret, I would call my hon. and 514 gallant Friend's attention to King's Regulation 674, Admission to Trial, which provides that during the period of the present War, in the interests of the national safety, the public may be excluded during the whole or any part of the trial, if the court in its discretion makes an order to that effect. As regards the setting up of a Royal Commission, so far as the Admiralty is concerned, that course will not be proposed.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I beg to give notice that I will repeat the question on Monday, as I asked for a Royal Commission, and that is not the proper thing for the Admiralty to decide.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I was careful to take note of that. I said that we should not propose the setting up of a Royal Commission to the authority authorised so to do.