HC Deb 20 November 1951 vol 494 cc197-8
3. Mr. Houghton

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has now considered the sentences passed on the young soldiers in the 1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, serving in Korea, for refusing to go on parade; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Head

I have considered the proceedings of the court martial of these soldiers who were convicted of mutiny. This is a very serious crime, particularly when committed by troops engaged on active operations. The sentences are subject to periodic review by the superior military authority. The normal review after promulgation was made on 30th September, 1951, when it was directed that the case be brought forward for further review on 3rd January, 1952. I have arranged for a copy of these proceedings to be placed in the Library of the House as soon as it can be made available.

Mr. Houghton

In reviewing the matter in January, will the Minister bear in mind that these soldiers convicted of these offences are very young boys, who undoubtedly acted in a misguided fashion but are not military criminals, are a long way from home and ask for the greatest understanding of their unhappy position?

Mr. Head

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this aspect of the case has been brought to the notice of those who will be reconsidering these sentences.

Major H. Legge-Bourke

May I ask my right hon. Friend, in view of the fact that the honour of a very famous regiment is concerned in this matter, whether he will make clear that the majority of these men were not recruited into the Northumberland Fusiliers at all, but were posted there by the higher authorities?

Mr. Head

This matter is being treated as though all the men concerned were belonging to that regiment, and I think that, under the circumstances, that is the correct way to deal with it.

Mr. A. Blenkinsop

In view of the fact that a number of hon. Members have constituents involved in this matter, and in view of the anxiety of the parents concerned, may we hope that it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to come to a fairly early decision on it?

Mr. Head

This matter will be reconsidered in January, 1952, and if any further change is made I will inform the House of it.