HC Deb 07 March 1946 vol 420 cc481-2
19. Mr. George Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is prepared to grant prisoners legal aid when accused before visiting magistrates of offences for which severe penalties can be imposed.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I am examining this proposal in the light of the discussion and vote which took place during the discussion of the Criminal Justice Bill in Committee in 1939 to see if it is possible to overcome the practical difficulties its adoption might occasion.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is it not a fact that on the occasion of inquiries into such accusations, no notes are usually taken and any report made to the Home Secretary is ex post facto, and the absence of any legal advice to the accused persons opens the door to the possibility of grave injustice being done?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. When these cases come in front of me, I have a verbatim report of what has taken place. When I have to review any punishment which is inflicted, I have that report in front of me and I take it into consideration. The Government of the day were defeated on this matter in 1939, and I have taken that into consideration. The advisory committee on the treatment of offenders, as a matter of fact, is having this matter under active consideration at the moment.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is the right hon. Gentleman taking any steps to revive the Bill in question?

Mr. Ede

That will be considered when the legislation for next year is under consideration.