HC Deb 16 February 1948 vol 447 cc811-2
18. Mr. Foster

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what arrangements have been made for taking evidence required in English courts, on commission or otherwise, in the British zone in Germany; in other parts of Germany; and in Austria.

Mr. McNeil

As the answer is necessarily long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The provision of machinery for taking evidence required in English courts on commission in the British zone of Germany is at present under consideration. There are, however, British Consuls General at Berlin and Hamburg before whom affidavits can be sworn or the signatures of German Notaries Public authenticated before whom affidavits have already been sworn. Such affidavits, however, are not statements on oath made before a court and will not, therefore, necessarily be accepted by courts of the United Kingdom. It has not yet been possible to make arrangements for Germany as a whole in this matter.

As regards Austria, arrangement has been made with the Austrian Ministry of Justice for a request for evidence required in courts in the United Kingdom to be passed from the Legal Division of the Allied Commission for Austria (British Element) to the Ministry of Justice and thence to the District Court in which the witness resides. A judge of the district court will summon the witness and obtain his evidence which will be forwarded to the United Kingdom by the Legal Division. Arrangements can be made, if desired, for an Austrian attorney, acting for either of the parties, to attend the hearing at the Austrian District Court and cross-examine the witness.

The possibility is being considered of reviving the British-Austrian Reciprocal Legal Aid Agreement of 31st March, 1931. This agreement provided for the obtaining of evidence in Austria required by a British court in two alternative ways, either:

  1. (a) Under Article 7 a British consular official requested the Ministry of Justice to arrange for evidence to be taken by an Austrian Court, or
  2. (b)Under Article 8 a British court appointed a commissioner who was usually a British diplomat or consular official or Austrian to take evidence on commission.