HC Deb 19 December 1962 vol 669 cc1244-5
5. Mr. S. Silverman

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether his attention has been drawn to the forthcoming trial, on 29th November in the Special High Court for Administrative Affairs in West Berlin, on the application of the Government of the German Federal Republic, in which the Government seeks a declaration of that Court that the Association of Victims of Nazism is an illegal association; if he is aware that these proceedings are a violation of the Bonn Conventions, and that the Federal Republic has no legal right under those Conventions to set up courts involving criminal jurisdiction, or any other courts, in West Berlin; by what authority this Court has been set up; what jurisdiction it has claimed to exercise; what action is being taken by Her Majesty's Government as party to the Conventions; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Silverman

May I draw attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the date on the second line, 29th November, was relevant when I put the Question in first as the procedures referred to began on that date and are still continuing?

Mr. P. Thomas

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) on 28th November. The Federal Administrative Court was established by a Federal law of 23rd September, 1952, with its seat in Berlin. The allies raised no objection to this. The court has no criminal jurisdiction. It functions in a dual capacity, for Federal matters and West Berlin matters. It is empowered to hear appeals from the Administrative Courts and to serve as a court of first and last instance in certain administrative disputes and administrative matters of importance. Any ruling by the court in the case referred to in the Question would apply solely to the Federal Republic and not to West Berlin.

Mr. Silverman

I am grateful to the Minister for a much fuller reply than the one that he gave to my hon. Friend on a previous occasion. Will not he reconsider this matter? When he says that the court has no criminal jurisdiction, does he not realise that if the Federal Government were to get the declaration they ask for, continued membership in this association would be a criminal offence? Would he explain in what way, and by what right, the German Federal Government have jurisdiction in West Berlin which is not part of the Federal Republic at all? On general grounds, would he not consider whether it would not be worth while for Her Majesty's Government to make representations to our Federal German allies about the undesirability of treating the membership in an association of this kind as though it were a criminal or penal affair? Does he not realise that it would be very difficult in Germany to form an association of Nazi victims which did not include any Communists?

Mr. Thomas

As to the last matter, I would suggest that the West German Government by bringing an application before the Administrative Court are showing a respect for legal process. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that certain States would be able to proscribe an organisation. In fact, the East German régime has specifically dissolved the V.V.N. The West Berlin Senate could, in fact—it has the powers—dissolve the organisation. The Federal Republic are bringing the matter before the Administrative Court. This court is in West Berlin for the reasons I gave in my Answer. Berlin and the Federal Republic follow common practice on a broad range of administrative, commercial and financial matters and it is convenient that organs such as the Federal Administrative Court, the Federal Cartel Office, the Federal Insurance Control Office and the Federal Banking Control Office should sit in Berlin.

Mr. Silverman

Owing to the wholly unsatisfactory nature of the reply and its lack of responsibility, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

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