HC Deb 19 February 1951 vol 484 cc886-8
52. Mr. A. Edward Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent there is joint consideration between the High Commissioners in Western Germany on questions of mutual interest such as the release of war criminals; and with whom the power of decision resides.

Mr. Younger

It was agreed at the end of the war that apart from the major war criminals, who were tried under quadripartite auspices, war criminals should be tried by the Allied authorities of the different zones. It follows that questions regarding the review and modification of sentences imposed by United Kingdom, United States and French courts are not dealt with on a basis of joint consideration, but are the individual responsibility of the respective national authorities as represented by their High Commissioners. I should add that in the case of the United Kingdom zone, where responsibility in regard to war criminals has hitherto lain with the United Kingdom High Commissioner, the position, as my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, stated on 12th February, is at present under consideration.

Mr. Davies

Is not there a danger of differing practices leading to misunderstandings, and have not recent examples shown that some of the releases have been, I should have thought, unacceptable to many people in the world, who have no control over them?

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the sentences under review are judicial sentences, and that one has to be very careful about the manner in which they are reviewed. There has been a certain exchange of information between the High Commissioners about their intention to review and the general principles they propose to apply.

Mr. Boothby

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that more active steps should be taken to bring to a conclusion the quiet but sustained civil war going on between the British and American High Commissioners in Germany?

Mr. Younger

I entirely deny the implication in the last supplementary question.

Mr. Paget

Will His Majesty's Government consult with Dr. Adenauer's Government on this question, which seems to me to be an important thing to bring about?

Mr. Younger

It is essentially a matter for consideration between the Allies.

Sir H. Williams

On a point of order. The answer just given refers to this as a matter for consideration, Sir. When I sought to ask a Question on this matter the other day I was refused, on the grounds that there was no responsibility. Apparently, the hon. Gentleman is now accepting responsibility.

Mr. Younger

I said that it was a matter for consideration by the Allies, but not that all aspects should necessarily be a matter of consultation between them.

Mr. Janner

In view of the grave matters of principle involved here, will my hon. Friend take steps to bring any further recommendations of remissions of sentences before the United Nations organisation so that at least human rights may be considered?

Mr. Younger

I do not think this is a matter which, prima facie, it would be appropriate to bring before the United Nations organisation.