HC Deb 22 January 1918 vol 101 cc796-7

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Lady Angela Forbes at the beginning of the War established a canteen at Etaples; that she has since that date laboured unremittingly for the benefit of British soldiers in France; and that she has recently received orders to close her canteen; whether the military authorities make any charges against Lady Angela Forbes; and, if so, whether she will be given an opportunity of being heard in her own defence?


Lady Angela Forbes established a canteen at Etaples at the beginning of the War, and did useful work. Complaints were made from various sources, and the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief decided that it was inadvisable that she should continue her work there. This decision has been upheld by the Army Council.


Is my hon. Friend aware that on 11th October the Secretary of State for War gave a promise in writing to Lady Angela Forbes that she should be heard in her own defence? Is he aware that this opportunity has not been given to her; that she has been given no opportunity of hearing the evidence against her, of giving evidence herself, or of calling witnesses on her own behalf; and what is the explanation that the promise of the Secretary of Stat3 has not been carried out?


From the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the House might be led to assume that Lady Angela Forbes was promised a Court of Inquiry which has not been granted even to soldiers. The Secretary of State promised no such thing. He said that she would be heard in her own defence As a matter of fact, Lady Angela Forbes had an opportunity of being heard in her own defence in the sense in which the Secretary of State meant. She had an interview, on the Secretary of State's instructions, with the Adjutant-General in France, when certain complaints, not formulated into charges, were made against her. She had then the opportunity of stating her defence, if she wished to do so.


Arising out of that reply, is my lion. Friend aware that this interview—if it was considered to be an investigation—was an absolute farce, and a traversty of justice; that no evidence was produced against Lady Angela Forbes, that she was not asked what was her defence, and that she has had no opportunity up till now of stating her own case?


As I have pointed out, she had the opportunity of saying what she had to say in her own defence. The Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief asked the Adjutant-General to make all inquiries and a thorough investigation. It was after this investigation that the interview promised to Lady Angela Forbes took place. It was only after he was satisfied that that investigation had been held that the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief made up his mind—and the Army Council subsequently agreed with him—that Lady Angela Forbes should no longer continue in her work.


As to these complaints—


Order, order!


Sir C. Nicholson.


May we assume that there have been no complaints from soldiers themselves as to the conduct of this canteen?


Not necessarily. If my hon. Friend presses me, there are other complaints.