HC Deb 31 May 1949 vol 465 cc1894-5
15. Mr. Stokes

asked the Secretary of State for War what steps have been taken to provide Field-Marshal von Manstein with competent British counsel for his forthcoming trial; and when does he expect the trial will commence.

Mr. Shinwell

The answer to the first part of the Question is none so far as I am concerned. This officer has engaged very competent German counsel with previous experience of war crimes trials, and as regards assistance of British counsel or currency to pay them, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 1st February last to a similar Question by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and to the further reply given to the same hon. and learned Member on 7th February by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

As regards the last part of the Question, the full charges with supporting evidence were served on Field-Marshal von Manstein on 24th May, and his counsel must be allowed a reasonable time to prepare their defence. Until I know how long they will require, I cannot say exactly when the trial is likely to begin.

Mr. Stokes

Does my right hon. Friend's answer to the first part of the Question mean that currency will become available, if it is required, for British counsel; secondly, can he assure the House that whatever time, within reason, is asked for by the defending counsel will be allowed before the trial takes place?

Mr. Shinwell

On the subject of currency, I am afraid that I cannot change the form of my reply, but on the second part of the supplementary question I think I can meet my hon. Friend.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Will the court be reminded that this officer has already suffered four years imprisonment in regard to this crime?

Mr. Shinwell

Yes, but we must bear in mind that if the allegations can be sustained—I repeat, if they can be sustained—many other people suffered.

Mr. Nigel Birch

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the witnesses upon whose depositions these charges are framed have already been hanged?

Mr. Shinwell

I am afraid that I could not answer that question offhand.