HC Deb 08 March 1948 vol 448 cc798-800
75. Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

asked the Secretary of State for War on what grounds Frank E. Edmunds, until recently a serving Army officer under military government jurisdiction in Germany, was allowed to travel to that country.

The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Michael Stewart)

Captain Frank E. Edmunds was recalled to military duty from release in order to stand trial in Germany, together with another officer on charges arising from allegations of the ill-treatment of persons held in the Detailed Interrogation Centre, Bad Nenndorf. After his recall and return to Germany, he was allowed to return to this country on compassionate leave, to attend to the business he had set up between the time he was released from military duty and his recall. This leave was due to expire on 28th February, and his trial in Germany had been fixed for 2nd March. In view of a recent High Court decision concerning the jurisdiction of courts-martial in relation to officers released from military duty, the case against him was dropped. His solicitors were at once informed, but it was too late to stop him from returning to Germany in the normal way as an officer at the end of his compassionate leave.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Can my hon. Friend say whether this man, who has endeavoured to whitewash himself for the offences he is alleged to have committed in Germany, will be brought to book, and will at any rate be made to develop some sense of responsibility? In my view, he has behaved disgracefully.

Mr. Blackburn

On a point of Order. Is it in Order, Mr. Speaker, when a man has not been charged, for an inference to be made against him that he is guilty of a charge?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) is entitled to say so if he thinks the officer was wrong. A Member is not forbidden to criticise actions, and the hon. Member was criticising this officer through the Minister.

Mr. Stewart

I was about to say that I could not agree with my hon. Friend, and that I could not express any opinion on this matter, since the officer has not been brought to trial.

Mr. Bellenger

Can no action whatever be taken against officers and other ranks—against whom a prima facie case has been made out—so that they can be tried somewhere or other?

Mr. Stewart

That is another question; the full implications of the High Court judgment are now being studied.