HC Deb 27 February 1922 vol 151 cc32-4

asked (1) the Prime Minister whether the committee of lawyers which was appointed by the Supreme Council to report on the trials of German war prisoners at Leipzig has now made its Report; whether that Report finds that certain of those war criminals have been acquitted who ought to have been condemned, and that even in cases where the accused have been found guilty the penalty inflicted has, not been adequate; whether the Report unanimously recommends that, in accordance with the Treaty, Germany should be required to deliver up the accused to the Powers concerned; whether the Report will be forthwith presented to Parliament; and what steps are being taken in pursuance of that Report;

(2) asked the Attorney General whether his attention has been called to the fact that Lieutenant Boldt and Lieutenant Ditmar, who were sentenced in July last by the Leipzig court to four years' imprisonment for their action in connection with the sinking of at least two of the boats containing survivors from the British hospital ship "Llandovery Castle," torpedoed and sunk by the Germans, have escaped from prison; whether the British Government have made any inquiries of the German Government as to the circumstances under which these criminals escaped; and whether they have since been rearrested?

The ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir Gordon He- wart)

I have been asked to reply. As to question 38, I must refer my hon. and learned Friend to the answer I gave to a similar question put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich on the 20th day of this month. As to question 126, the answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As to the second part, the British Government has addressed inquiries and a strong protest to the German Government, who have given assurances that they have taken every possible step to secure the re-arrest of these officers, but up to the present no information has been received that they have been re-arrested.


In view of the fact that I never did put a similar question to Question No. 38, will my right hon. Friend tell me what the answer was?


My hon. Friend must not have heard me correctly. I said a similar question was put to me by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall). It appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Does the Government intend to confine their action to protest?


I am not in a position to answer that question. As the right hon. Baronet is, I think, aware, this matter is in the hands of the Supreme Council to whom a Report has been addressed.


Was not the Report to which reference is made in Question No. 38 partially published abroad, and will the right hon. Gentleman see that, representations are made to the Supreme Council to allow this Report to be published fully in this country?


I understand that in some French newspapers there appeared paragraphs which purported to give the substance of this Report. It is not for mo to say how far, if at all, these paragraphs were accurate. At any rate, I am not at liberty to publish the Report, nor do I think it is any part of my functions to address to the Supreme Council such a request as has been mentioned. No doubt the matter will be considered by those whose duty it is to consider it.

Major M. WOOD

Does the right hon. Gentleman think the Report of these lawyers is inconsistent with the Report made by the Solicitor-General to this House when he came from Leipzig, and can he explain how it comes that the British representatives signed this Report?


No, Sir, I cannot imagine that the report of a committee of jurists was inconsistent with the advice given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General.


What is the motive of the Supreme Council for concealing this Report?


I must not accept the word "concealment." I do not know what the motive for their conduct is.