HC Deb 04 July 1950 vol 477 c228
23. Mr. Low

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is satisfied that the personal responsibility of sentries is clearly understood by all ranks.

Mr. M. Stewart

Yes, Sir. The duty of a sentry is to carry out his orders. It is important to ensure that the orders are clear, appropriate and lawful, and, as my right hon. Friend said in his statement on Wednesday last, the attention of all commanders-in-chief is being called to this.

Mr. Low

In view of the wide publicity given to a mistaken account of the proceedings in connection with the court-martial of Private Linsell, is the hon. Gentleman not satisfied that something special ought to be done now to bring the attention of officers and other ranks to the exact position?

Mr. Stewart

I think it was made clear in my right hon. Friend's statement on Wednesday last that he was taking steps to that end. Commanders-in-chief will be aware of the terms of my right hon. Friend's statement. Perhaps I ought to add that, in the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred, the contention of the prosecution was that the orders had not been complied with rather than that there was any question of the legality of the orders.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that soldiers also realise that it is their duty not to obey any order which is manifestly unlawful?

Mr. Stewart

It is possible to imagine cases—it has been done in textbooks—where orders are given which are manifestly unlawful. There, the position is as described by my hon. Friend; but I do not think that any very useful purpose is served by pursuing these rather hypothetical questions.