HC Deb 06 November 1945 vol 415 cc1079-80
46. Mr. Maxton

asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the granting of an amnesty to all Servicemen serving sentences of imprisonment, penal servitude or detention for offences committed during their war service.

The Prime Minister

I have given further consideration to this point, but regret that I am unable to add anything to the reply I gave on 10th October to a question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aston (Major Wyatt), in which I said that under existing instructions all sentences awarded by courts-martial are reviewed automatically at periods of not more than six months by a superior military authority. At each review such superior military authority has power to remit, suspend or commute the sentence of the court.

Mr. Maxton

May I take it that that is routine? I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether, apart from an amnesty, he will consider some general act of clemency which could be operated by these boards in the various Services, or in some other way, maybe, under the Royal Prerogative by the right hon. Gentleman recommending His Majesty along those lines?

Commander Marsden

Before the Prime Minister replies, may I ask him to look into this matter himself? Will he consider, for example, an amnesty to certain men who would never, in the first instance, have been charged under the civil criminal code of this country, though they may have committed Service offences?

The Prime Minister

That, of course, is a special case. What I am being asked for here is a general amnesty, and I am not of the opinion that it is the best way of dealing with these cases. I think the right way is constant and careful review of these cases. Not all the facts are the same. It is no use sweeping the whole lot away as if they were all exactly the same.

Mr. Thurtle

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that many of these offenders are cases of nervous affection, and will he see that they are looked upon with compassion?

The Prime Minister

Very great care has been taken throughout this war, and we have had experts in these matters to look at these cases which are cases rather for the psychiatrist or psychologist, and not for military punishment. They are looked into very carefully. If the hon. Member has any special cases for the attention of the Service Ministers, I hope he will bring them to their notice, but, in dealing with the general points, I am not prepared to accept the proposition that a general amnesty would be fair.

Mr. Eden

Is it not a fact that throughout the war these cases were dealt with on their merits and were under constant review, and is it not much better to adhere to that practice, which is much fairer to the men themselves?

Mr. Maxton

The war is over.