HC Deb 21 September 1948 vol 456 cc690-2
42. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for War whether a decision has yet been reached regarding the position of the Judge Advocate General and the organisation of his Department.

Mr. Shinwell

Yes, Sir. The interim recommendations on this point of the Lewis Committee on Army and Air Force Courts Martial, announced by my predecessor on 24th June 1947, which endorsed similar recommendations of the Oliver Committee of 1938 have now been approved. It has been decided that the Judge Advocate General shall, in future, be appointed on the recommendation of, and be responsible to, the Lord Chancellor, instead of the Secretaries of State for War and Air, though the responsibility for acting or not acting on the Judge Advocate General's advice in particular cases will remain with the Secretary of State concerned.

The Judge Advocate General's Department will be reconstituted so as to separate the functions of pre-trial advice and of prosecution from functions of a judicial character. The former functions will cease to be the responsibility of the Judge Advocate General, and will be transferred to directorates in the Departments of the Secretaries of State for War and Air. The Judge Advocate General will also cease to be responsible for the collection of evidence against, and the prosecution of, war criminals. These duties in so far as they still continue will be carried out in the directorate of the War Office to which the Judge Advocate General's existing military department is being transferred. These reorganisations will take effect from 1st October next.

With permission I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the main functions to be performed in future by the Judge Advocate General.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

In view of that answer, can the right hon. Gentleman say when the report of the Lewis Committee will be published?

Mr. Shinwell

The matters to which I have referred relate to the interim recommendations. It is not yet possible to say when the full report can be published.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Does my right hon. Friend's reply mean that, in future. only officers with some legal qualifications and experience will be employed in this particular branch of the War Office?

Mr. Shinwell

So far as I know, that has always been the case.

Major Legge-Bourke

Now that the right hon. Gentleman has decided to implement the recommendations, could those recommendations themselves be published?

Mr. Shinwell

The final report is not yet available for publication, but when it is, I will certainly consider its publication.

Following is the statement:

The main functions of the Judge Advocate General will be:— the superintendence of the administration of military and air force law in the Army and Royal Air Force, respectively, including the provision of deputies and legal staffs with the principle Army and Air Force Commands abroad; the provision and appointment of Judge Advocates at trials by courts martial and military courts held in the United Kingdom and abroad; the review of the proceedings of courts martial and of military courts held pursuant to Royal Warrant (Prisoners of War and War Criminals), including the tendering of legal advice on confirmation or review or on petition; in the event of it being necessary to quash the proceedings, the making of recommendations to the appropriate Secretary of State or Commander-in-Chief with this object; the custody of the proceedings of all courts martial and military courts as aforesaid; assistance to each Secretary of State in the formulation of any advice it may be necessary to give to the Sovereign regarding the proceedings of courts martial and of military courts for the trial of prisoners of war; and further, in his capacity as legal adviser to the Secretaries of State for War and Air, advice to them on general legal questions affecting the Army and Royal Air Force as may be required.