HC Deb 04 December 1946 vol 431 cc331-2
48. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister without Portfolio if he is aware of the widespread demand in this country for legislation authorising the suspension of sentences of penal servitude and imprisonment passed on soldiers during the recent war; that such legislation was passed by the British Parliament during the 1914–18 war; and if he will introduce such legislation on lines similar to the Army (Suspension of Sentences) Act, 1915.

The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

As the House is aware, my right hon. Friend is heavily engaged today in important discussions elsewhere and I have therefore been asked to reply. I am glad to assure my hon. and learned Friend that the provisions of the Army (Suspension of Sentences) Acts of 1915–16 were embodied in the Army Act of 1920, and that their scope was then extended. They are now contained in Section 57A of the Army and Air Force Act, and similar provisions are embodied in Section 74A in the Naval Discipline Act. The reforms introduced in 1915 and 1916 are a permanent part of Service law.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that the number of His Majesty's Forces who are now in prison, combined with those who are absentees and missing from their units, total nearly 17,000; and will he, by putting into operation either the Act to which I have referred or some other Statute, make a generous suggestion which will enable them to take their places in the Forces or in industry where they may be needed?

Mr. Noel-Baker

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War said a fortnight ago, the questions which my hon. and learned Friend has just raised are under continual review.