§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have to announce to the House that I have not selected the reasoned amendment on the Order Paper.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Waddington)
In view of the debate on 12 December last year, I am sure the House would not wish me to go through the sequence of events which has led to the introduction of this Bill. But let me just remind the House of the central finding of the war crimes inquiry. This was that, on the basis of the inquiries it had undertaken, there was reason to suspect that, among the vast majority of worthy and entirely blameless individuals from eastern Europe who settled in this country at the end of the second world war, there were some who had committed the most dreadful of crimes but who, on the basis of the law as it stands today, cannot be called to account for their actions.
The inquiry therefore recommended that the law be changed to enable the courts in this country to try offences of murder and manslaughter committed as war crimes in Germany or German-occupied territory during the period of the second world war.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
The Home Secretary has used the words "Germany or German-occupied territory". Does he agree that there is room here for some anxiety? He will remember that, during the war, occupying powers changed. For instance, at a particular time, certain territory was occupied by the Soviets. It may have been German territory, but, as it was occupied by the Soviets, technically it is completely outside the jurisdiction of this Bill.
§ Mr. Waddington
My hon. Friend and all other hon. Members will have an opportunity to debate that matter at length. The point is that we are implementing the recommendations of the Hetherington-Chalmers report. I do not think that many hon. Members would wish us to take any more jurisdiction than is necessary to meet the mischief that is identified in the report. That is the short answer to my hon. Friend's point.
The inquiry made a number of related evidential and procedural recommendations concerning the holding of trials. During the debate that took place here on 12 December, a wide range of views were expressed by right hon. and hon. Members, who recognised well that the decisions we are being asked to take not only touch on the liberty and rights of people who fled to Britain to escape tyranny and enjoy liberty, but raise important wider issues. Some asked whether it was really desirable for us now to try to examine events which took place so long ago. Others stressed the impossibility of our ever forgetting the horrors of the war, and therefore of our being able to re-bury the evidence of atrocities which we are told has now come to light. But at the end of the day the House—after, I know much conscience searching—gave a decisive vote in favour of legislation.
890 Since then, the Government have been considering carefully what form such legislation might take. In particular, we have looked closely at the evidential and procedural recommendations made by the inquiry. to decide to what extent they should be implemented.
We recognized that among those—both in this House and in another place—who disagreed with the inquiry's conclusions, there were many who did so out of the conviction that implementing those conclusions would involve establishing a special procedural or evidential regime for war crimes trials alone, and felt that it would be wrong to do so. Indeed, among those who spoke in favour of the principle of extending the jurisdiction of the courts, there were some who at the same time expressed strong doubts about the case for implementing the inquiry's other recommendations. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) was among their number.
In those circumstances, I am glad to tell the House that, as I see it, only one of the inquiry's ancillary recommendations would, if accepted, break new ground—that is, the suggestion that documentary evidence from foreign archives should be admissible in evidence if the source of the evidence was authenticated by the archivist.
To implement that recommendation would certainly involve new legislation, and I do not think it would be right, for war crimes cases alone, to take that step—and we do not propose to do so. All the other proposals of the inquiry either require no change to our existing law or are consistent with steps that Parliament has already approved in other contexts. It may be helpful if I describe them in turn.
First, the inquiry recommended that witnesses in war crimes trials—who may be elderly people living abroad, possibly in indifferent health—should be able to give evidence through a live television link. Parliament has already accepted that principle. Legislative provision for live television evidence already exists for trials for other offences in England and Wales under the terms of section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. That provision was included in the 1988 Act principally for use in serious and complex fraud trials, but it would not be sensible to limit its application to that area alone and to exclude its application in the most serious of all types of case—those involving the taking of human life. We therefore intend to bring section 32 into effect in respect of murder, manslaughter, and serious and complex fraud. But section 32 does not apply to Scotland, and to extend the power to Scotland an amendment has been tabled in another place to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.
Secondly, the inquiry recommended that it should be made possible for evidence to be used in war crimes trials to be taken on commission in the country where witnesses are living, and that video recordings of evidence taken in that way, or in response to a letter of request issued by a court in this country to an overseas authority, should be admissible. There is, however, no need to legislate to achieve that effect. As the House will be aware, section 29 of the Criminal Justice Act 1998 provides for the issue of letters of request direct to an authority exercising jurisdiction outside the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
Is my right hon. and learned Friend saying that aged people in countries far removed from the United Kingdom can be 891 interviewed on video, and that those videos can be brought back to this country; that such witnesses need not go anywhere near the court of law that is to deliberate on the matter; and that such evidence will be entirely admissible?
§ Mr. Waddington
It is certainly the case that we took powers in the 1988 Act for the issue of letters of request, and there is no doubt that under our existing law it is possible, as a result of the issue of such letters of request, for evidence to be taken abroad, subject to numerous safeguards for the accused, such as the ability to cross-examine the witness. That is the present law and we are breaking no new ground by taking the view that it should be extended to war crimes trials.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm—as it is in his departmental handout—that he is hoping to break new ground for Scotland? All that he has just said applies to England and Wales, and as I understand it, the law is being amended for this specific purpose to cover Scotland.
§ Mr. Waddington
I started off by dealing with section 32 of the 1988 Act. Undoubtedly it is the case that, as far as live television is concerned, section 32 does not apply to Scotland. We have already tabled an amendment in another place to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill to bring Scottish law in line with our own.
I was careful in the use of my words earlier on. I did not suggest that some legislative changes were not to be made. I made it plain that in no way are we breaking with precedent or breaking new ground. All the powers certainly already exist in one of the jurisdictions.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the proposed amendments to the law for Scotland will be confined only to war crimes?
§ Mr. Waddington
No, I do not think that for one moment. The amendment to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill will apply to serious and complex fraud trials. We are concerned to bring the law in Scotland in line with the law which already exists in England.
At that stage, I was dealing with the question of live television evidence by video link. I then went on to deal with the separate situation in which evidence can be taken abroad, as a result of letters of request, and that evidence can be admissible in a court of law in this country. That power already exists under section 29 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
The statutory provision is now being broadened in one small respect—the context of general mutual assistance between jurisdictions, in clause 3 of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Bill, which is now before Parliament. My understanding is that the broadening there merely amounts to the possibility of letters of request being issued before proceedings are commenced, at the investigatory stage, rather than after an arrest has been made.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the procedures that he has mentioned, which already apply to some extent in this 892 country, will not provide an opportunity for the defendant to cross-examine any witnesses in Russia, because the defendant will not be allowed to go there?
§ Mr. Waddington
If one considers the safeguards in the 1988 Act—in sections 23 to 28—one sees that there is not the slightest doubt that the evidence would not be admitted if there was no opportunity for the representatives of the accused person to cross-examine the witness in question.
No further action is needed on video recordings as far as England and Wales are concerned, because part II of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides for the admissibility of documentary evidence, which for that purpose can include video recorded evidence subject to specific safeguards. That power arises because of paragraph 5 of the second schedule to the 1988 Act, coupled with section 10 of the Civil Evidence Act 1968. In this area, too, there is therefore no question of inviting Parliament to sanction a new departure, purely with war crimes trials in mind.
As to Scotland, it is unclear whether documentary evidence of this kind can be admitted in Scottish law. There are two views on it. It is obviously right that this lack of clarity should be removed. That will again be achieved by amendments to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.
Third, the inquiry noted that section 23 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 already provides that a statement made by a person in a document shall be admissible as evidence of any fact of which direct oral evidence would be admissible if the person were dead. However, the Act goes on to say that such a statement is not to be admitted in evidence if the court is of the opinion that in the interests of justice it ought not to be.
The court is required in reaching a conclusion to have regard, inter alia, to any risk, having regard in particular to whether it is likely to be possible to controvert the statement that its admission or exclusion will result in unfairness to the accused. The inquiry concluded that, in view of those strict criteria, it was very questionable whether a court would rule the statement of a dead witness of sufficient substance to be admissible. However, in spite of that, it did not make any recommendation for amending legislation; nor do we propose any such legislation to the House.
§ Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I am not a lawyer, so if I am mistaken I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will tell me, but he seems to imply that this special Bill means that there will be no change whatsoever in English law and in existing procedures. If so, why is he going forward with the Bill?
§ Mr. Waddington
My hon. Friend will recognise that the key proposal in the Bill is that jurisdiction should be conferred on the British courts to try here people who are alleged to have committed war crimes during the 1939–45 war who would not otherwise be triable because they were not British citizens at the time that the alleged offences were committed. I am dealing with consequential proposals made by the Hetherington-Chalmers committee, which a number of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members were worried about when the matter last came before the House. I am merely, I hope, assuaging the fears of some right hon. and hon. Members by pointing out how minimal need be the consequential changes.
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)
Does my right hon. and learned Friend not recognise that many Conservative Members are concerned that the law is being changed in order to bring to trial a small number of people and that juries are bound to infer that, if the law of the land is being changed by Parliament, these men must be guilty?
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for the clear way in which he is setting out the consequential matters that would arise within the law if we were to bring a certain group of people within the jurisdiction of the British courts. Why did the Government decide not to include all war crimes, including those that took place within Japanese territory? If we are considering crimes that were committed in previous wars, why do we not take powers so that we shall be able to take action against war criminals in any future wars who come to this country to settle?
§ Mr. Waddington
On my hon. Friend's last point, we do not have to take powers. We have those powers as a result of an Act that was passed by the House in 1957. The answer to my hon. Friend's first point is that I know of no allegation that there is anybody resident in this country who during the 1939–45 war was guilty of a war crime in the war against Japan.
Today we are discussing whether we should implement proposals made by the Hetherington-Chalmers inquiry as a result of evidence which they discovered and what was put before them which tends to show that there are now people in Britain who were not blameless during the 1939–45 war, who were guilty of the most terrible war crimes and who were not British citizens at the time those crimes were committed and therefore cannot be tried here under our present law.
We do not propose that any changes should be made in our law as to the possible admission of a statement by a person who has since died. We are content that it should be left to the trial judge to decide whether the statutory criteria are met, whether the evidence should be admitted. If such evidence were admitted in a war crimes trial, the weight attached to it would still be a matter for the jury.
The inquiry did not say that there was some doubt whether, in Scotland, the recorded statement of a person now dead, made before any proceedings had been commenced, would be admissible, and suggested legislation to clarify the matter. My understanding, however, is that such a statement would be admissible, and the Government do not intend to carry out the inquiry's suggestion.
That leaves but one recommendation made by the inquiry—other, of course, than the basic recommendation to confer jurisdiction on our courts—to be dealt with; the House will see that the schedule provides for the use in war crimes trials of the procedure for transfer to the Crown court without committal proceedings, which is already available in serious fraud cases.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon North)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the previous section, can he say, on a practical rather than a legal point, whether there has been any change in the situation since Hetherington made his inquiries before producing his report? At that time, events in the Baltic states had not developed in the way that they 894 have now, and the Soviet Union was clearly ready to facilitate evidence and witnesses being brought forward from that part of the world. Events have now changed; have they changed sufficiently for there to be any doubt as to whether witnesses and evidence might now be available?
§ Mr. Waddington
That is an extremely valid point, but when one looks at the Hetherington-Chalmers report, one has it forced upon one that the people who are suspected of those crimes do not all come from the Baltic states. A large number of them are said to have come from Byelorussia or from the Ukraine, so even if there were speedy progress towards democracy in the Baltic states and the setting up of a system of justice in which we could have complete confidence, it would not meet the case, because we would still be faced with the terrible problem of whether we could extradite, or deport to Russia proper, people suspected of those crimes.
The procedure for bypassing committal proceedings was introduced for serious fraud cases because of the complexity of such cases, and the House will appreciate that it will be available only for war crime trials which are of similar complexity, because my right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has to be satisfied that there is complexity before the procedure can be invoked.
If right hon. and hon. Members analyse the contents of that very involved schedule, they will see that paragraph 1(1)(b) makes it quite plain that the procedure of bypassing could not be invoked unless my right hon. and learned Friend was of the opinion that he was dealing with a case of complexity. The wording of the schedule follows that in sections 4 to 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 and makes it possible for a defendant to apply to the Crown court to have the case against him dismissed before it comes to trial on the basis that there is insufficient evidence on which to base a conviction.
In the debate on 12 December, the House was clearly and strongly supportive of the view that we should take action. Since then, we have attempted to devise a package of measures to ensure that any trials that may take place here will be fair to the defendant and that the procedures followed are fully in keeping with the traditions of British justice. I hope that the House will agree that we have succeeded in those aims.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
My right hon. and learned Friend gave a ringing justification for what he sees as the new legal process described in the Bill. Why did he not discuss that with the then Attorney-General, my noble and learned Friend Lord Shawcross—the chief prosecuting officer at the time and one of the most eminent lawyers of the day—who would have been able to offer my right hon. and learned Friend advice diametrically opposed to the advice that he has just given the House?
§ Mr. Waddington
I have the greatest respect for the noble Lord, but the Government must make these difficult decisions. They cannot shovel responsibility on to anyone else or say, "We are not brave enough to make the decision; we shall make it only if we are backed up by a noble Lord in the other place." We must take decisions, and I think that we have taken the correct one.
§ Mr. Archer
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman believe that the proposed procedure is much fairer to the defence than the existing alternative procedure of a voluntary Bill?
§ Mr. Waddington
I agree entirely with the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
Some have urged us to make no procedural changes, but this is an important point—I am sure that, when the House voted in favour in December, it was not just making a fine gesture with no substance. It was not willing the ends while at the same time making it clear that it had no intention of willing the means. It would be pretty contemptible if we were to grant jurisdiction to the courts but at the same time refuse to take any steps that would make the bringing of prosecutions against individuals, in respect of whom there is evidence, a realistic possibility.
Some opponents of the Bill say that, after so long a gap in time, when memories must have faded, it is impossible to guarantee a fair trial. I cannot agree. What could be more proper than that we should leave these matters to the independent prosecuting authorities to decide whether to bring charges, and to the good sense of British judges and juries to determine whether it would be safe to convict on the evidence presented in any individual case?
I believe that the House would expect me to add a few words about how we envisage that the process of investigation and prosecution will be pursued, if the Bill is passed. In Scotland, the initial work of investigation and the responsibility for any subsequent prosecutions will be the responsibility of the Crown Office. In England and Wales, the general responsibility for investigation of crime lies with the police, while the conduct of prosecutions is for the Crown prosecution service.
With that in mind, we plan to establish a central policing unit to pick up and to continue the investigatory work begun by the inquiry. It will be operationally responsible to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and in the first instance it will consist of nine police officers and their supporting staff. Obviously, as its work develops, it may be necessary at a later stage to review its size.
The task of investigating alleged war crimes is without precedent in the work of the police, and the Government accept that the performance of this task should be funded entirely by central Government. I must make it quite clear, however, that that does not mean that the work of the unit will in any way be subject to central Government direction. It will be subject only to the operational control of the Commissioner, and it will carry out its investigations in the same way as investigations are carried out by the police into any other criminal activities.
The work of the police investigation unit will need to be conducted in close liaison with the Crown prosecution service, which will in due course take over responsibility if the stage is reached at which prosecutions are brought. There will also be a need for those conducting both investigations and prosecutions to be able to call on the expert assistance of historians and linguists.
§ Sir Anthony Buck (Colchester, North)
Could my right hon. and learned Friend give us a little more information about who will head up the unit, what his background will be, what rank the unit will have——
§ Mr. Waddington
I have made the position on funding clear. We accept that it must be the responsibility of 896 Government. My hon. and learned Friend will see that there is a clause in the Bill which deals with that matter. There will be a money resolution consequential upon it. I cannot say more than that the team will be responsible to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)
The Home Secretary mentioned clause 2, which refers to the amount of money to be provided. My point is probably a matter for the Committee, but the Home Secretary said the Government intended to set up a unit which will be operationally under the control of the Commissioner. Could we, perhaps not today but certainly by the Committee stage, have more information about the unit, which after all will be decided by the Commissioner, not by us? Will it have contact with a similar unit in Australia? The unit will be different. It is not enough to leave it to the police, even though it is their job. We should know more about it. Could we have more information in Committee?
§ Mr. Waddington
The right hon. Gentleman has a good point. I shall give him all the information that I can, but I should make one point absolutely plain. We have concluded that it would not be right to proceed with these matters unless and until the Bill receives Royal Assent. We do not believe that it would be proper in the particular circumstances of this case to take the view after Second Reading that we can go ahead with setting up the unit. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Sir A. Buck) and other right hon. and hon. Members will have ample time to advise us on what sort of unit it should be, how it should operate and how it might liaise with other units overseas.
In the debate on 12 December, I offered my personal view on these matters. I said then, and I say again, that nobody would have chosen to address these issues so long after the event. It is so long since the war, and the instinctive wish of most of us is to get on with our lives in peace and not to rake over the past, let alone the pasts of men who have lived peacefully in this country since before many hon. Members were even born; but sometimes one is brought face to face with facts that cannot be buried, with deeds so terrible that they cannot be forgotten, and as long as one of those responsible survives, the world will cry out for justice.
In nothing that I have said have I shown any lack of respect for those who do not believe we should legislate—quite the contrary. But the vote in December showed clearly that the House wanted the Government to legislate. That is why we have acted and why the Bill is before the House today. I cannot say whether the outcome of the Bill's passage will be prosecutions, trials and convictions. Such matters will be the responsibility of the police, the prosecuting authorities, and, ultimately, the courts. I just feel that we must do our duty to the memory of those who suffered and that this is just one way in which we can carry out that duty.
§ 4.3 pm
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
Tonight my right hon. and hon. Friends will vote according to their conscience, for each of us is required to make judgments about the merits of the Bill, which, in my view, raises fundamental moral principles. Because of that, it would be impertinent of me even to offer advice about how votes are cast tonight. I understand that the 897 Government have a duty to do exactly that, but only the Government are placed in the position of believing it necessary to make a recommendation. I do no more than to describe the conclusion to which I have come and the way in which I have reached it.
My difficulty in coming to a firm conclusion is my second reason for not presuming to give advice—even now my doubts remain. When we debated the principle of war crime prosecutions in December I marvelled, and I marvel still, at the certainty with which hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the argument held the position that they then took up. For me, it remains a matter of doubt and it is a subject about which I come to a conclusion on balance, even then with great reluctance.
My fundamental view on this subject was best expressed by Sir Winston Churchill, speaking in the House on 28 October 1948, when he proposedto draw the sponge across the crimes and horrors of the past—hard as that may be—and look, for the sake of all our salvation, towards the future."—[Official Report, 28 October 1948; Vol. 457, c. 256.]Today, the horrors and crimes of the past have been put back on the parliamentary agenda by the Hetherington-Chalmers report, the debate in the House in December and the Bill before us. Whether that was wise or desirable is now of academic interest. We must decide the issue before us—to prosecute or not to prosecute—and we must decide it against the background of an assumption that war criminals took refuge in this country. That assumption was clear from the Home Secretary's speech, but without it, we would not be debating or contemplating such a Bill. In my view it is a highly dangerous assumption, but it is the assumption—or should I say conclusion?—of the Hetherington-Chalmers report.
The report, which paved the way for the Bill, refers to 10 named alleged war criminals whose names were supplied to it by the Wiesenthal centre. Scottish Television screened a programme that named names, and the final paragraph of the Hetherington-Chalmers report referred to the age of known suspects. There is no doubt that we are considering this Bill against the background of the assumption that the people are here and that some people believe that they know who they are.
The legislation is undoubtedly aimed at known suspects. I should have much preferred the Government to introduce more general legislation, ideally in the terms of the 1949 Geneva convention, which would have made it clear that any war criminals from any war, in any sector, in any continent, at any time, who might come to Great Britain and hide here would be covered by the full powers of that Bill. The Government have rejected that option, and we are left with what amounts to the Hetherington-Chalmers principle, if not all the Hetherington-Chalmers methods of pursuing the prosecutions that their report proposed.
Against that background I thought it right to ask myself two questions. First, is it right, in any circumstance, to proceed with prosecutions for offences committed almost 50 years ago? Secondly, if the notion of prosecution is acceptable, is the method by which the prosecutions are to proceed consistent with the rules of law and the principles of our judicial systems? I say "systems" because of the likelihood of prosecutions in England and Scotland. That is a special problem to which I shall return in a moment and one to which the Home Secretary did less than justice.
898 The crimes to which the Bill relates are described by the Hetherington-Chalmers report asso monstrous that they cannot be condoned'.I do not believe that there is a single hon. Member who would argue with that definition. As the debate continues, some will say that equally monstrous crimes have been committed more recently in south-east Asia and elsewhere. I have no system of values that enables me to say whether the crimes that we are discussing worse than those. They are all so monstrous as to be almost beyond our comprehension. It is important not to be too specific about them until there are prosecutions and convictions, if that happens. We have to hypothesise about their nature and how they might apply to individuals who come before the British courts. They seem to be so monstrous that however we envisage and hypothesise them they could not be subject to any statute of limitations.
It would be absurd for us to say that, as people have escaped punishment for half a century for crimes of such enormity, time itself absolves them from any judicial action now and in future. Therefore, the simple passage of time is not an argument for voting against the Bill and certainly does not dissuade me from supporting it. I understand the point about looking at evidence after such a period, and shall return to that. If it is possible to proceed, and the principle is accepted despite the passage of time, it is necessary to consider why we might wish to proceed with prosecution, possible conviction and eventual punishment.
Such an action has five main purposes: the deterrence of other potential criminals, the reformation of those guilty of crime, the protection of society against the repetition of the offences, retribution and a demonstration of the revulsion that society feels towards the crime and those who committed it. Only one of the five purposes can be fulfilled by the Bill.
If we had meant to deter all war crimes, the Government would have chosen, and the House supported, a general rather than a specific Bill. I suspect that the mentality of those who behaved as it is alleged some men now taking refuge in Britain behaved would not be susceptible to the pressures that come from rational considerations such as deterrence.
§ Mr. Hattersley
Exactly; that is why I would have preferred the Government to introduce a Bill that would deny haven in this part of the world to any war criminals.
§ Mr. Waddington
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not lose sight of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957. The account given by the right hon. Gentleman was not particularly good, because from 1957 all war crimes were triable in this country, whatever the nationality of those concerned.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I said in the debate on 12 December that the Geneva decision of 1957 legitimised the basic proposal that the Government put before us. I held that view then, and still do now.
I do not believe that deterrence is the justification for the Bill. Were that the case, we would want a Bill that applied automatically and, by its declaratory effects. deterred any war criminal who might think, rightly or 899 wrongly, that he or she could take refuge here. The Bill has to meet special circumstances and, by definition, cannnot be seen as a deterrent.
It canot be argued that conviction and imprisonment are likely to rehabilitate the offenders, prepare them to live useful lives and send them back improved into the community. Clearly, we are not locking them away to ensure that they do not repeat their offences. Those three justifications do not bear a moment's examination. Retribution is far too near vengeance to be a good reason for introducing the Bill.
Therefore, we are left with one possible justification: the demonstration of our abiding revulsion at the conscious and premeditated slaughter of the people whom it is suspected were slaughtered and its relationship to a policy of calculated genocide against the whole Jewish race. After some doubt and difficulty I came to the conclusion that this single justification—the demonstration of revulsion—was enough to warrant support for the principle of prosecution.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)
My right hon. Friend will be aware that there are groups of people in this country and elsewhere who deny that the holocaust took place. They are trying to repeat history now. If there are people who have committed or been convicted of such crimes, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that this and future generations be made aware of the monstrosity of their crimes.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I agree and disagree with my right hon. Friend simultaneously. I doubt whether we should want to legislate if it were done simply to make a point to the strange groups of reprehensible and, I suspect, psychotically disturbed people to whom my right hon. Friend refers. However, there is a wider problem that requires us to demonstrate our revulsion at the acts that undoubtedly took place. Jews all over the world are again expressing genuine fears about renewed outbreaks of anti-semitism in some places in Europe—indeed, in the very places in which it is alleged that some of these crimes took place. It would be disastrous if today we gave the slightest impression that we have forgotten what happened 50 years ago. So I come to the firm conclusion that, on the principle, we should proceed.
For me, at least, supporting the principle of prosecution was the easiest part of today's decision. My difficulty concerned how the prosecutions are to be carried out. I ruled out almost without question the choice of deporting suspects to the Soviet Union, for, despite the near-miraculous progress that has been made towards democracy in that country and in the Baltic republics, and the improvements in civil liberties, it seems to me that the words of the Hetherington-Chalmers report are still true: the system of justice there is not comparable with that in this country and we should not be guilty of deporting British citizens—citizens by nationality and registration, but nevertheless citizens—to such a system. In any event I could not support the deportation of those accused of murder to a state that still retains capital punishment. I therefore concluded that, if the men are to be tried, they must be tried here, convenient an option though it would 900 be simply to ship them somewhere else and allow the process to go on, for better or for worse, in a different judicial system.
I know that to prosecute requires retrospective change, not in the law—I would not support that, and nor would the House—but in the jurisdiction of the courts. That, too, I am prepared to support. As I understand the Hetherington-Chalmers report, had the individuals who may have committed these crimes been British citizens when the alleged offences were committed, they would have been triable in British courts irrespective of where the offences had been committed. Had they remained in their country of birth, I have no doubt that they would have been tried very soon after the war concluded.
There may be some forms of prosecution from which a change of nationality provides exemption, but I cannot believe that the crimes with which this Bill deals are such that they could be reasonably put in that category. I am not suggesting for a moment that the change in jurisdiction is merely a technicality. I am suggesting and admitting that it is a big step, but it is a change which, in these circumstances, is wholly justified.
I turn, almost finally, to the rules of evidence that will apply to trials under the Bill. The proposal of transfer to Crown courts without committal proceedings in schedule 1(1) seems sensible and right. I have no reservation about that, but four other changes proposed in the Hetherington-Chalmers report need closer examination. The first was the inadmissibility of evidence from people who are now dead. The Government rule that any changes in that area are unnecessary, so that is no cause for complaint. The second was the authentication of archives without oral testimony, and the Government rule changes in that area undesirable.
Since those two proposals have been dropped as unnecessary or undesirable, we can conveniently forget about them. As the Home Secretary was kind enough to recall and remind the House, it was on this point that I had my greatest difficulty three months ago. I still retain the gravest reservations about the two innovations to Scottish law which by definition are being proposed. I also retain the gravest reservations about the way in which they are to be introduced. I shall deal with them briefly but individually.
Live television evidence from abroad is to be made admissible in Scottish courts. Scottish lawyers in the House will say whether Scottish law reformers have been clamouring for that change for the past five years. I understand that Scottish courts and those in England believe that the extension of television evidence in trials involving children is necessary and desirable. However, the Home Secretary is being disingenuous if he suggests that this change in Scottish law is for any reason other than to facilitate prosecutions under the Bill.
§ Mr. Hattersley
Someone says, "Why not?" I would be wrong to be deterred by a comment which I did not fully hear and do not fully understand. Let me make it clear, if that thought is in anybody's mind, that I am concerned about changes in law designed to help specific convictions because, however trivial or marginal they are, they set a highly undesirable precedent.
The Hetherington-Chalmers report proposed that evidence taken on commission abroad and video recordings made abroad, unless on letters of request, 901 should become admissible as evidence in Scotland. In its handout the Home Office says that these changes are to be made to clarify Scottish law. Scottish lawyers in the House will correct me if I am wrong, but I searched in vain for any demand for that clarification until the Hetherington-Chalmers report was produced. There is no doubt that the proposals were introduced to meet the needs of the Bill and to faciliate prosecutions under the Bill.
Those changes will be made, but not in the Bill. That seems a rather devious way to proceed, although not in the sense of being disguised from anybody; the Home Secretary could not have been more frank about the matter. We all know that one problem that the Government will find with the Bill in the House of Lords will be the changes in the rules of evidence. This manages to introduce the principle while letting the rules of evidence tag on Christmas-tree fashion, as American legislators would say, to a quite different Bill. They are to be attached to a Bill now going through the House of Lords. That Bill is notable for proposing changes in the licensing laws and the laws on divorce and the rights of Scottish solicitors to have audience in minor courts. To introduce these as well is a wholly undesirable step. I wish that the Home Secretary had not taken that step and I wish that he would drop these proposals.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I fully agree with what the right hon. Gentleman says about Scotland. His view about the Government's attitude is considerably fortified by the total absence not only of a Scottish Minister or a Scottish Law Officer, but of any Scottish Conservative Member.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I give way to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer).
§ Mr. Archer
I understood the Home Secretary to say that the proposed amendments were not confined to war crimes. Whatever the Government's motives—obviously I am not privy to them—the time to debate them is when the relevant Bill comes before the House. I am wholly in favour of introducing them across the board whatever the motives. We can debate them when the time comes.
§ Mr. Hattersley
My right hon. and learned Friend is right that the time to debate these measures is when the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill comes before the House, but I should be remiss in my duty if I did not remind him and the House that these proposals were originally an inherent part of the Bill. They have been removed from it, and the Home Secretary was kind an generous enough to say that this was because of reservations about the changes. They have now been tagged on to a different Bill.
The existence of these proposals, connected with a different Bill, do not justify our voting against this Bill today, but I would be wrong not to say that the Government were mistaken to remove them from this Bill and try to bring them in—if I dare describe the other place in this way—through the back door, in a different measure. As I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend would wish, we shall oppose those changes when they come before us.
The Home Secretary said that these changes will apply to a category of offences, but the important point is that the changes would not have been brought in at all had it 902 not been for this Bill. I become worried when changes, no matter how wide in their application, are brought in with a narrow purpose in mind. That is how the Government are proceeding. It would have been far better had these changes been dropped altogether. When they are proposed, we shall resist them. I believe that the other place will fight strongly against the changes when it discovers that they are related to this Bill. I have no doubt that the Bill is inherently better without these measures. In terms of the speech that I made on 12 December, the Bill is redeemed without them.
As there are no changes in law other than the one point on the committal procedures, and as I believe in principle that it is right to proceed, I shall vote in favour of the Bill as a demonstration of our abiding revulsion at the crimes to which it relates. I shall vote in favour, worried about the way that the prurient part of our press will treat the trials that may follow and conscious that pre-trial publicity, the age of the potential defendants and the antiquity of the evidence may make prosecution impossible. Above all, I shall vote in favour in the hope that, this final step having been taken, we can put the horrors to which the Bill relates behind us once and for all.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you had any intimation that the Government wish the Committee stage of the Bill to be taken on the Floor of the House? If not, would you be prepared to take a manuscript amendment to that effect at 10 o'clock?
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I was never called to the Bar. Although I had some dinners and paid my subscription to the Inner Temple, Hitler interfered with the process. So I must leave it to hon. and learned Members on both sides of the House to deal with the complicated question whether fair trials would be possible, and with all the complicated rules of evidence.
I was deeply moved by the remarkable letter that Lord Shawcross wrote to The Times last Saturday. He explained, as one of the great protagonists of war crime trials, how, by 1948, the House was sickened by the continuing process and, with the agreement of both parties, came to the conclusion that a sponge must be drawn across the list and that we should no longer be responsible for instigating war crime trials in Germany, which at that time we still governed.
Because the allied powers were governing Germany, the war crime tribunals took place. Normally, it would have been left to the defeated country to try its own people, but, together with the Americans, the Russians and the French, we were governing Germany, so we had no choice except to find our own method to deal with those who had committed appalling outrages.
§ Mr. Rees
On 12 December, the Home Secretary gave a different version of the events to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. He said:the decision was made not to proceed with war crimes trials in the British-occupied zone. We are not talking about that. No decision was ever made by a British Government that there should be an end to all war crimes trials, least of all that903there should be an exemption from prosecution for all time for people resident in this country."—[Official Report, 12 December 1989: Vol. 163 c. 889.]The right hon. and learned Gentleman told us that the decision was taken in the British zone and not here. The matter should be clarified, because it is extremely important in terms of the way in which hon. Members vote this evening.
§ Mr. Amery
The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Lord Shawcross was the Attorney-General at the time and the question of prosecution rested with him as much as, if not more than, with the Home Secretary. It is true that, in deciding not to prosecute any further in the British zone, and therefore, presumably, Britain itself, we left it open to other countries—France, Israel and others—to pursue their own prosecutions in defence of their citizens who had suffered. That was legitimate, and that pursuit of prosecutions continues.
When it was alleged that President Waldheim might have taken part in the shooting of British prisoners, we instituted an inquiry immediately. The result was negative. That seemed to be perfectly all right.
§ Mr. Amery
We must have regard to the background. Nothing can excuse the outrages committed by the individuals to whom the Hetherington report points. We do not know who they were, but we must remember what happened in the Ukraine and the Baltic states, and in the past few months those events have become much clearer. Young people in the Baltic states were brought up to believe that Communism was the anti-Christ. In the Ukraine there were fierce fights at the time of the Bolshevik revolution and thereafter. Appalling atrocities were committed by those who served the Nazis and by those who served the Soviet Union.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has referred to the 1957 legislation, but I am not sure what its validity is. It seems that it was designed to catch crimes committed after the relevant clause was introduced. Appalling things were done by the Soviet forces in the Baltic states when they took them over from Hitler and then when they recovered them. These matters must be in our minds, and we are much aware of them because of recent events.
I join the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) in being concerned about the selectivity of the Bill. It appears to apply only to crimes committed in German-occupied territory or in Germany. There were, however, many appalling atrocities committed during or before German occupation, and later, in other parts of the world, before 1957.
§ Mr. Archer
I do not dissent from the right hon. Gentleman's proposition that appalling crimes were committed in Russian-occupied territory, but is there any reason to think that any of the perpetrators are living in this country?
§ Mr. Amery
I suspect that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, or his predecessor, were quite ignorant four or five years ago whether anyone was living in Britain who could be indicted. There may be someone 904 in that position, and I would not be surprised if there is more than one. I do not know whether the 1957 legislation would necessarily catch them. Crimes of the greatest enormity have been committed in eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China. That can be said also of Uganda and of Argentina, where the dirty war was fought. Who can say that no one responsible for such crimes has arrived in this country, become a resident here and acquired British nationality after five years?
I do not know where this process will stop. What we are debating is what might be called unfinished business at the war crimes trials, which we decided in this place to stop in 1948. Do we want to inherit endless vendettas over what has happened in other countries?
§ Mr. Waddington
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but he is repeating the error that he committed a short time ago. There was no decision by the House to stop war crimes trials. All that was decided was that there should be no more war crimes trials in the British zone in occupied Germany.
§ Mr. Amery
The fact that we decided not to pursue those crimes in occupied Germany makes it seem pretty peculiar that we should try to restart 45 years later the unfinished business of that period. Where would all that stop? Are we to import into Britain arguments about crimes that may or may not have been committed in other countries? It is not clear whether the 1957 decisions would cover all them. There may be people from Cambodia, or even China, who would qualify as British citizens—[Interruption.] They might become British citizens; why not?
I belong to the diminishing band of hon. Members who fought in the last war, and I think that most of us tend to be more tolerant than others about the things that were done in that war. I was associated—although I hope in no sense guilty—with resistance movements that perpetrated many appalling actions; the massacre of the Chetniks by Tito's forces is only one case in point. Are we going to revive all that? That happened while the war was virtually still in progres.
There is the question of how far obeying orders is a defence. The other day, a distinguished former hon. Member, Mr. Nigel Nicholson, told of the horrors that he experienced when he was under orders to push people back—Chetniks and Russians—to certain death.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
I find it difficult to understand how the right hon. Gentleman can refer to the wholesale slaughter of people who were playing no part in the war as actions committed as part of that war. Is he really saying that Auschwitz was part of the last war? Was it not, rather, the action of a misguided, criminal and demented political regime?
§ Mr. Amery
I made two points. I talked about the people who were sent back to certain death from Carinthia, including women and children, and were killed on the spot to avoid any evidence. No one could say that they were active participants. I also referred to obeying orders as a defence. It is a questionable area.
I spent much of the war connected with eastern Europe, where atrocities were committed by both sides—by the Ustashi, by Tito's people, and, I dare say, by the Chetniks. I had great fears recently: I never dreamed that I would see 905 the liberation of eastern Europe, but it has happened, so far without the return to the retribution and violence that I had feared and almost expected.
The other day I was in Romania and was received by President Iliescu who, surprisingly, began our conversation by apologising for the fact that Ceausescu and his wife had been executed without a proper trial. It is almost miraculous that the communist system is being dismantled without lynching or murder. At this juncture, when Baltic states and the Ukraine are in our minds and front-page news, I ask myself whether we would be wise to reopen old wounds and to proceed with this legislation. I think not.
I am no lawyer, but I want to end by quoting these words of Lord Shawcross:In my own opinion, as a once mere practising lawyer, the prosecutions which are contemplated by the Bill now before Parliament would violate the basic principles of British justice and law.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I have always been a strong advocate of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, no matter how many years after the atrocities were carried out. I was delighted when, a few years ago, Barbie was put on a plane to France. Having tabled questions about him, I was glad that he was about to be tried. It was not argued that, because of his advanced age, or because of the number of years since the atrocities had been committed in wartime occupied France, he should not be tried. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
I am one of those who actively campaigned in this House for Rauff, one of the most notorious SS killers, then living in Chile, to be deported to West Germany. Before the gas ovens were brought into use, Rauff was responsible for the system of mass killing whereby men, women and children were put into vans that were then filled with exhaust fumes. As was made clear in a report in The Daily Telegraph, Rauff was living in Chile under his own name, which was even apparently listed in the telephone directory. I took the view with others that this notorious killer should certainly be brought to justice, and I am glad that there was a campaign to that end.
During the last year of Rauff's life in Chile, the spotlight was turned on him. A British television crew went out to make a film for "World in Action". A number of campaigners against Nazi atrocities demonstrated outside his house. Should the view have been taken that, because he was a very elderly man in ill health, soon to die, he should be left in peace for the last months of his life? My view, of course, was that he should never have been allowed to live in freedom and that he should have been brought to justice after the war.
One of my criticisms of the position adopted after the war is that the pledge given by the British Government and other allied Governments that all those held responsible for Nazi crimes against humanity would be brought to justice was never really implemented after the first year or so. I am old enough to remember reports of the Nuremberg proceedings. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr Amery) agrees that it was absolutely right that all the Nazi leaders who survived should be brought to justice. Indeed, I considered some of the Nuremberg sentences to have been too lenient. 906 That, of course, is a personal view—I may be wrong. Perhaps it was better that death sentences should not have been passed in a number of cases.
What I find very disturbing—and what was disturbing at the time—is that, once the Nuremberg trials were over and a few more proceedings had taken place, the cold war started, and by 1949–50 there was no longer enthusiasm for such trials, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware. Many of the people who had carried out monstrous crimes and atrocities during the Nazi era were allowed to go scot free. Only as a result of public opinion since the 1960s has the Federal Republic of Germany initiated proceedings against people alleged to be Nazi war criminals. We all know that such proceedings have always been highly unpopular in West Germany.
I am certainly critical of many aspects of Israeli Government policy, but I believe that the Israeli kidnapping of Eichmann was perfectly justified. If the alternative had been that Eichmann might, like Rauff, go free for the rest of his life, the Israeli action was correct. I also happen to believe—although I may be in a minority here—that the Israeli decision that Eichmann, having been found guilty of some of the worst crimes ever committed, should be sentenced to death, even though Israel does not otherwise have the death penalty, was right. I am pleased that he was hanged—and I say so as someone who has constantly argued against the death penalty and who, rather than change his mind, would be prepared to lose his seat in this House. This shows that, in respect of such cases, one cannot be totally consistent. There are exceptions, and I believe that the Eichmaan case was such an exception.
I accept, however, that in the case of the alleged war criminals with whom this Bill is intended to deal, matters are not so clear-cut. There is the question whether it is appropriate that legislation should be introduced at all. A number of right hon. and hon. Members take the perfectly legitimate view—I may not agree with it, but it is perfectly legitimate—that no action should be taken. I do not for one moment accept that those who argue against this Bill are in the same category as the person who, in a letter in The Daily Telegraph today, argues that such Nazi atrocities never took place. I accept that right hon. and hon. Members who oppose the Bill do not in any way doubt that such atrocities did occur and that those who argue otherwise are acting as apologists for the Nazi regime.
§ Mr. Cormack
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that many of us who have grave reservations about the Bill oppose it for a variety of reasons? One of the reasons is our fear that it will fan the flames of anti-semitism.
§ Mr. Winnick
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) dealt with that matter the last time this subject was debated. The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) is consistent in his opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-semitism. I disagree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West on a number of issues, but I think that he was absolutely right that those who want to be anti-semitic do not need any encouragement.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
It is very important that we try to educate people not to look at this as a racist issue. From my own experience, I concede that the Jewish people suffered far more severely than did those 907 of any other race, but I have an abiding memory. As a serving Royal Air Force man, I was sent to escort an RAF medical team to Belsen 24 hours after it had been liberated. I am still haunted by the sight of a Roman Catholic priest attempting to celebrate communion mass at a makeshift altar. I was struck by his peculiar behaviour. With one hand he was holding the elements, and with the other he was clinging to the altar—he dared not let go. On closer examination, I saw two of his fellow clergymen lying dead at his feet. They had died the previous day. I think that the matter should be put into context.
§ Mr. Winnick
The right hon. Gentleman's intervention is very useful and positive. It is perfectly true that, while the Jews were the main victims of the Nazis, there were many other victims who were far from being Jewish. Indeed, Nazi victims were of many nationalities. We are dealing with the question of Nazi war criminals, but anyone who has read about Nazi Germany knows that many politicians—communists, socialists, others on the left, and some conservatives—who certainly were not Jewish were put to death in the concentration camps and other places which were in existence almost from the very moment that Hitler took power in 1933.
I accept that, in all the cicumstances, it probably would not be right to invoke deportation, but, in so far as vetting procedures took place, some of the people whose presence is the reason for the introduction of this Bill clearly lied to get into the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, for all the reasons that were put forward by the Home Secretary, I do not accept that it would be appropriate to invoke deportation procedures. Most, if not all, of the people concerned had lived here for many years before any allegations of atrocities against them arose. Perhaps that is an argument, for what it is worth, for no action being taken.
Hon. Members have asked about the suspects' age and possible ill health, and whether any prosecutions would be brought. Australia has passed similar legislation, but from my reading of the report, I understand that no war crimes charges have yet been brought in that country.
§ Mr. Winnick
My right hon. and learned Friend says that charges have been brought in Australia; that must have been done since the publication of the report.
If, because of a defendant's ill health, lawyers believe that he should not be brought to court, the judge could make a decision accordingly. In my view, it would be perfectly right for him to do so.
§ Mr. Gorst
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we now have information that was not available during the 40 years since the crimes were committed, and that had such evidence been available before, it would have been incumbent upon us to do something? It is only in recent months that sufficient evidence has become available.
§ Mr. Winnick
I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman, and I shall deal with his point when I conclude.
I accept that, if judicial proceedings are brought against people who are very elderly or in ill health, there could be, if not anti-semitism—I dealt with that earlier—a certain 908 amount of misplaced sympathy which would be counterproductive. We shall have to take that possibility on board when deciding how to vote tonight.
I accept that there are arguments for not proceeding with the Bill. I hope that I have made clear that the matter is not as clear-cut as the arguments concerning Nuremberg, Eichmann or Rauff. However, there are also strong arguments for carrying the Bill into law.
In weighing up the pros and cons of the Bill, we should not overlook the allegations of deliberate and systematic mass murder of civilians. It is not good enough for the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion to argue that crimes were committed on both sides. There was a difference between the two sides, and no one knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman, who has a very distinguished war record and who is well aware of some of the activities that were undertaken.
In that respect, the right hon. Gentleman is like the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), a former leader of the Conservative party, who I understand will be speaking and voting against the Bill, and whose own war record is beyond question. Those two right hon. Gentlemen know better than almost anyone else the difference between the two sides—between the side that was responsible for the aggression in the first place and for committing the most terrible atrocities, and the side that took up arms against fascism and the rest.
At the same time, no one would argue that the resistance in occupied Europe has a spotless record. Under the circumstances, it is unlikely to do so. However, it was Nazi policy almost since the beginning of the war—[HON. MEMBERS: "Before the war."]—and even before the war, to exterminate Jews and others. That was certainly Nazi policy following the conference early in January 1942, when it was decided not simply to punish Jews and others—not that they deserved any punishment, of course—but physically to liquidate them from the face of the earth.
The policy of the Nazis was of systematic and deliberate mass murder. They showed no mercy to men, women or children. Atrocities occurred on an almost daily basis in parts of the Soviet Union that were occupied by the Nazis. I do not want to invoke unnecessary emotion, but mothers with their babies in their arms pleaded with SS killers at least to spare their babies. They were shown no such mercy. Those are the sort of crimes with which the Bill seeks to deal, and we cannot get away from them. We cannot say simply, "It was unfortunate, but war is war, and sometimes crimes were comitted." The crimes committed by the Nazis were of a completely different character, and that was recognised at Nuremberg.
After the most exhaustive inquiries, the report on which the Bill is based reached a conclusion, on the evidence available, in respect of three people who came to the United Kingdom after the second world war and took out British citizenship. It states in paragraph 9.10 that the evidence available shows thatthere would be a realistic prospect of conviction for murder.How can we say now that we have no interest in bringing those three prosecutions? If the evidence had not come to light, if there had not been public pressure, and if the report had not been produced, we might be able to say that many years have elapsed, many changes have occurred in Europe, and it is too late to start dealing with those responsible for war crimes who now live in the United Kingdom.
909 However, the matter is before us, and we must make a decision one way or the other. In view of the evidence, we have no alternative but to pass the Bill into legislation. If that is done, as always it will be up to the judicial authorities—fortunately, not this House—to decide whether charges should be brought against the individuals concerned.
In enacting such legislation, we would be following in the footsteps of other democracies, such as Canada, Australia and the United States. I always thought that America had a pretty sorry record in respect of war criminals, showing little interest once Nuremburg was over. Far too many people were allowed to enter the United States who clearly were involved in mass murder and other crimes. However, in the past five years or so—rather late in the day, but better late than never—the United States has begun to act properly and has invoked the kind of deportation procedures which, as I have already explained, I would not like to be introduced in this country. Nevertheless, America has taken action. We should act, too, but in a different way—like Canada and Australia.
This is a very sorry business. It is not the kind of issue that many right hon. and hon. Members like to be brought before the House, but every one of us must make a decision, on a free vote. For all the reasons that I have given, I believe that it is right and proper to carry the Second Reading, to examine the matter in detail in Committee and to allow the legislation to pass accordingly.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
Over the past three years, since the Simon Wiesenthal Centre first interested itself in the possibility of pursuing alleged war criminals in Britain, I have done my best to oppose the very idea and, in this House and elsewhere, to make the case against the purpose of the Bill.
I have done so not because I have any connection with any particular factor in the controversy. I myself served in the Royal Air Force during the war, and I am not unaware of the scale of the atrocities that were committed. I accept that fearful atrocities were committed by all sides. What the Jews called the holocaust certainly occurred, and it affected millions of people—but millions of others were also affected. The criminals were not restricted to the so-called Nazis but existed on al] sides, including the allied side.
One can accept all that and still say that the purpose of the Bill is wrong, for two reasons. In principle, we ought not to delve back into history, to revive the grim, terrible, cruel stories of the last war, in which many, many people suffered.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I was too young to fight in the war, but I am not too young to realise that the crimes in question were unique in their enormity. They were not committed in the heat of battle. No one denies that things happen on the battlefield which honourable people would, in the coolness of afterthought, regret. We are talking of something that started in the late 1930s—a holocaust. I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to read Martin Gilbert's book on the holocaust.
It is not a matter of saying, "We all did naughty things." I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. 910 Stanbrook) not to belittle the carnage of the holocaust by saying that we all did things that we regret. It is not a matter of regret but of record that a great evil took place for which no one responsible should ever be forgiven—however old, however ancient, or however decrepit they may be.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
My hon. Friend's age and experience do not encompass all the terrible things that have happened in the past 50 years. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said, it is not for us to distinguish between the scale of the terror inflicted in any sector of the war or in any region. Of course, the justification given is that the crimes that we are discussing were particularly horrible, but we are not merely dealing with a particular set of atrocities. We should be considering, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) attempted to say, all the frightfulness against mankind and all crimes against humanity.
Therefore, if we are to deal with the principle properly, there should be jurisdiction in this country to try all such crimes wherever and whenever they were committed, by anyone who comes within the jurisdiction of——
§ Sir Bernard Braine
In his earlier remarks, my hon. Friend referred to crimes being committed by both sides, and he blurred the distinction between those and the crimes which are the subject of the Hetherington-Chalmers report, with which the Bill is concerned, which were crimes of great enormity. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark), I am old enough to know what went on, and to remember that members of the armed forces were horrified at the intelligence that was reaching us about the appalling crimes which were being committed, not merely in the concentration camps or during the holocaust, but against men, women and children—unarmed, defenceless civilians—all over German-occupied Europe. Before he goes any further, will he make a clear distinction between what happens in the heat of battle and the calculated, diabolical cruelty which characterised the enemy against whom we were fighting?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
Calculated and diabolical cruelty has been inflicted on other people. I am not here to distinguish any particular period of time or part of the world—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Will hon. Gentlemen allow me to make my speech?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I do not propose to give way.
We are talking about that principle, so the question is whether we would achieve any good by reviving jurisdiction in British courts after nearly 50 years to try alleged war criminals.
911 I suggest that, in view of the present state of world affairs, when peace and co-operation are watchwords, we should not be reviving thoughts of hatred, cruelty and revenge. That is what we shall be doing by instituting crimes under the Bill.
I do not believe that we advance the cause of humanity one iota by passing a Bill of this kind. I know that many hon. Members do not agree with me, that they are satisfied that the principle justifies the attempt but the practice—the second side of the equation—is more impelling to me than the principle behind the argument. The first of the acts which constituted war crimes covered by the Bill occurred in 1941, which means that, next year, 50 years will have passed since it was committed.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
No, I am sorry.
It is that interval of 50 years and its implications which must not be disregarded when we discuss whether we should institute war crimes trials twice. The 50-year interval affects the whole concept, especially the detailed preparation and prosecution of the crimes. We have been told that all that is necessary is to extend the jurisdiction of British courts. That means that this is retrospective criminal legislation, and it is selective criminal legislation. It bears all the hallmarks of what British lawyers would normally regard with contempt. We are changing the law to enable prosecutions to take place.
I acknowledge what my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said about the slight adjustments that the Government propose compared with the Hetherington inquiry report, which may enable some people to accept that a fair trial could be provided. However, with my small legal experience—I have defended and prosecuted murderers and I have appeared in many extradition cases for both requested and requesting countries—I believe that there is no possibility of the individuals affected by the Bill being given a fair trial or having the slightest opportunity of one. [Interruption.] When one considers that the whole apparatus of British law is being adjusted to enable the prosecution of three elderly men who are resident in this country, one of whom is sick and is unlikely to stand trial, then we must admit that we are predetermining the verdict.
Consider the changes to be made to the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which was passed when the powers-that-be were considering the possibility of instituting war crimes trials under legislation which would shortly be brought before the House. Those changes will target the luckless individuals who will be brought to court under the legislation. Taking evidence on commission in Europe ignores the fact that in practise the defendant will not be able to cross-examine witnesses; the witness will not be seen and will not give oral testimony before a jury in London, but that evidence will be relied upon.
I listened to what my right hon. and learned Friend said about receiving evidence from persons who are now abroad. I am glad that this will not be the subject of new legislation. He says that it will rest upon the existing rules, under which the evidence of a person who has died may not be received unless the judge is satisfied that there is no danger of an injustice being committed. It is not for us to 912 leave that to the judges. After 50 years, we ought to be taking that decision. Are we legislating for justice or are we legislating for a possibility of injustice? I do not have to make a case for anything but the possibility of injustice because everyone knows that there is a great possibility of injustice as a result of the admission of that kind of evidence.
§ Mr. Cormack
Does my hon. Friend accept, as I do, that if these people are guilty of such terrible crimes, there is an ultimate justice from which they cannot escape?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
Yes. When this matter was previously considered, I ventured to make that point.
The accused persons—they are not guilty persons, as many people say; they are, under our law, innocent persons—will be threatened with a charge under the Bill when it becomes an Act. They are elderly people who will eventually have to face their maker. God reserves His judgment for those who have committed crimes during their lifetime, whatever we in this place or whatever the British courts may wish to do to them.
The practical difficulty that will arise out of trials instituted under the Bill, if it becomes an Act, is that these offences were committed 1,000 or 2,000 miles away in wartime conditions, by and among the people whose language and customs were quite different from our own. It would be very difficult to translate all that in such a way as to enable a British jury to decide dispassionately the question of guilt or innocence. The defendants will not have the opportunity to travel to Russia to gather evidence on their behalf.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
They will not be allowed to travel freely in Russia. Anyone who imagines that they would be allowed to do so——
§ Mr. Carlile
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it proper for an hon. Member to misrepresent the contents of a Bill that is before the House which makes it absolutely clear that legal aid will be available to all defendants?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
The hon. and learned Gentleman will be seeking later to catch my eye. I am sure that he can make that point during his speech, if he is successful.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I am sorry that a member of the legal profession should use such a bogus point of order to interrupt another hon. Member. We all know that in practice, it would not be possible either for the defendants' concerned or for anyone representing them to travel freely in Russia to do the sort of things that the Hetherington inquiry did, at great expense. It had teams of investigators and the KGB to assist it.
Anyone who is considering applying the normal principles of British law to a crime applies them to contemporary events. The chances of obtaining evidence—of witnesses being summoned, of their speaking English—are slim, and all the rules of law and procedure that 913 apply to comparatively recent events will not apply to any of these cases. They will be dealing with offences that were committed nearly 50 years ago.
The language—it may be Russian, or other languages—will have to be translated. Interpreters will be needed. All the other apparatus of the law that would normally be applied without complaint from anyone to the conduct of trials in this country will not be applied equally and justly in cases of this kind.
The 50-year gap is decisive. Witnesses will be elderly. Generally speaking, the memories of witnesses fade quickly. I have often heard people say, "Ah yes, I remember him," but in practice it does not work out that way. In practice, the passage of nearly 50 years will make it almost impossible to identify a defendant—or a witness, even.
That is part of the difficulty that the Government and any intended prosecution will have to face. The Government are starting a process that will bring with it nothing but misery and humiliation and that will be distorted by the popular press. We shall all be heartily sick of the matter, even before any trial takes place. In the meantime, decisions connected with the case may be taken that will result in it not being brought to court in any event. The millions of pounds that will have been spent on the investigation, that ought much more profitably and properly to be spent on other heads of expenditure, will be wasted. I reiterate that I believe that the Bill legislates for injustice. We ought to reject it.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
I thank the Home Secretary for the great thought that he and his predecessor have given to the issue. I am sure that the whole House wishes to join me in those thanks, in particular for the careful consultations that have taken place with all those who are concerned with these matters.
I did not seek the opportunity to speak in the December debate on the principles of the Hetherington-Chalmers report, but since then I have detected a weakening in the resolve of certain right hon. and hon. Members, who may feel that the "fine gesture" that the House made in December, as it was described earlier by the Home Secretary, was enough to make the House's view clear. I believe that it was not enough and that we should vote for the Bill tonight and make it part of our law.
May I at this stage do something, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which I believe to be proper, having regard to my position in the debate, and that is to declare what I am sure is an unregisterable interest in the matter? Two of my grandparents, two of my uncles, an aunt and many cousins—some of them extremely close to me in blood—were murdered in Poland during the last war. They were murdered as a result of precisely the war crimes that we have in mind. Just so that hon. Members understand that I am not talking about the ordinary incidents of war on one side or the other, may I say a few words about what those people were?
They were all innocent. One uncle—my mother's brother—was a young doctor who was seized because he was out in the street at night taking messages. An aunt was a teacher of history in a secondary school in a rural area, in a town of about the same significance as Llanfair Caereinion in my Montgomery constituency. My grandfather was the postmaster in a small Polish town. His 914 principal interests in life included such aggressive pursuits as classical Greek and the Latin historians. He was a studious, amiable and harmless man of learning, who never committed an aggressive act in his life. He had political views and opinions, but on the whole he was careful to keep them to himself.
Those three people were among those who died, completely innocently, for going about their ordinary business. I have in my possession, in my mother's home, correspondence from some of them. In some cases, it simple peters out. In one case that I have not mentioned, the correspondence consists of an alleged death certificate from Auschwitz which the family knows to be inconsistent with the evidence of when she died. They could not even tell the truth about how and when she died.
We are talking in this debate about criminal cruelty on a scale which, at the time, was so unimaginable that it is my belief that, even now, there are people in this country, perhaps even including hon. Members, who cannot comprehend the scale of what occurred.
One word which we have not yet heard in the debate, that we usually hear in other debates on criminal justice policy, is the word "victim". I should like to say something on behalf of the victims of those crimes, not on behalf of those who died, but on behalf of those who are still living. My own mother, who lives in this country, in very good health, I am pleased to say, looks back on those events with objective eye, but with a recollection that would surprise the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and others.
This year, my mother will go to Poland for the first time in 45 years. She will bring herself to go to Poland following my father's death—he was never willing for her to go there—with me and with my sister who was born in Poland. She wishes to revisit some of the places which she knew as a child; but she will go with a heavy heart. She wishes to see those places again in her lifetime, but she will go against strains of memory as clear as crystal, and that will make it a difficult experience for her.
She and others can give evidence that would shame in quality some of the evidence given, say, last week in courts of law throughout Britain. She has described to me how, when she was fighting in the Warsaw uprising, on a Warsaw street she was stopped by two soldiers and she heard them discussing, in German, which she understood, but which they did not know she understood, whether she should be killed because she had an attractive leather bag. The Ukranian soldier wished to murder her, but the German soldier thought that it would be wrong to murder her, so she was spared by the German soldier, who told her never to walk alone in a street in that city again.
She remembers that event as though it happened yesterday. She remembers what was in the bag, she remembers a description of the people who spoke to her, and the words that were used, even though they were spoken in a language that was not her own. My mother escaped from a ghetto in Lwow, now in the Uklraine. She escaped hidden in a haycart. She remembers the details, and has described them to me, of how she came to escape, who helped her, the circumstances in which they helped her, the details and even the weather on the day she escaped.
I cannot begin to understand how the hon. Member for Orpington can allege that people's memories of such events can be compared with the memory of some minor traffic accident.
§ Mr. Carlile
Well, that was the effect of the hon. Gentleman's allegation.
There are people, some of whom I know, who suffered far worse privations than my mother ever suffered and whose recollections of what happened to them is as clear as it could be. They can give evidence of what happened. Some of them can give that evidence in English, some in other languages, but I do not understand what difference language makes in the modern world with the availability of simultaneous translation systems, which almost all Members of Parliament will have experienced at international conferences. Some of us have experienced such translation systems in central and eastern Europe, and know that they work very well.
Those people are not afraid to be cross-examined. They wish to have their recollection put to the test, and nothing proposed by the Home Secretary seeks to deprive anyone of the right to put their recollection to the test. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken of provisions which would ensure that a fair test of those memories is carried out.
Although it may be difficult for some hon. Members to understand, those people do not have revenge in their hearts. They are not looking for retribution, because revenge and retribution cannot be delivered for crimes, such as those. They are seeking that there should be a small measure of justice for them as the victims. They are not interested in the sentence that will be passed. Contrary to some of the lurid publicity there has been, they do not want to create a new species of geriatric madhouse for those who committed those terrible crimes. The sentence does not matter to them, but, as victims of horrendous crimes, they have the same justifiable interest in seeing justice being done as the victims of any other crime, whether it was committed today, 10 years ago, 20 years ago or 50 years ago.
I can do no better than remind the House of the words of Primo Levi, the great historian of what occurred. He wrote:You who live secureIn your warm houses,Who return at evening to findHot food and friendly faces:Consider whether this is a man,Who labours in the mudWho knows no peaceWho fights for a crust of breadWho dies at a yes or a no.Consider whether this is a woman,Without hair or nameWith no more strength to rememberEyes empty and womb coldAs a frog in winter.Consider that this has been:I commend these words to you.Engrave them on your heartsWhen you are in your house, when you walk on your way,When you go to bed, when you rise.Repeat them to your children.If we in the House and in this country are to look the world in the face and to say to our own children, "This must never happen again," surely we must be prepared to do justice to the victims.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)
There can be few who have not been moved by the quiet eloquence of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) 916 speaking straight from the heart with the added anguish of family loss. He has gone right to the heart of what the Bill is about. Until he spoke, I began to wonder whether those who had contributed to the debate so far really knew what the Bill was about. It was necessary for the hon. and learned Gentleman to speak as he did, not merely for himself and for the victims, but for the House.
It is quite true that very few people in Britain, particularly younger people, have any idea whatever of what happened. They may have seen pictures, may have heard stories, may have seen war films, but those of us who went through the war and had contact with the countries in which those atrocities took place can never forget the wickedness of what happened.
I went to war in 1939—this was true of most of my generation—believing that we were embarking on a crusade against evil forces, but had not the faintest idea just how evil they were until the revelations after the war. What happened still beggars description. I remember heading a parliamentary delegation to Poland. One of the dignitaries whom I sought to meet was Bishop Dombrowski, the Catholic Church's link with the communist Government. We had a frank talk and I recall him telling me that the casualties Poland had suffered fighting two cruel enemies were greater in proportion to population than those of any other belligerent. One third of the Polish clergy were murdered—not in concentration camps, but just murdered, by the Nazis or the Russians. Roughly one third of Poland's professional classes disappeared as a result of what happened. Warsaw was burned down twice in the war. Even now, the sufferings of the people are not fully understood in this country or elsewhere in Europe.
I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on the speed with which he has produced the Bill and on the clarity with which he explained its provisions. He correctly reflected the overwhelming vote that the House registered on 12 December.
I readily acknowledge, particularly following the speech made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, that each hon. Member must take a personal stand on this matter. I shall not legislate for others but shall speak for myself. That said, there is no doubt in my mind that it is right to proceed with the Bill. Let us start with its authors—two highly experienced prosecutors whose careers had been geared to examining the worth of evidence.
They did not lightly apply their minds to the task. They were accustomed to applying a strict test of evidence before recommending it for prosecution—that there would be a greater than 50 per cent. chance of conviction. On that basis alone, they found sufficient evidence of murder and manslaughter, not against a vast army but certainly against a number of persons.
They reported that the detailed investigations disclosedhorrific instances of mass murdernot the occasional killing as result of a bit of looting, but mass murder. Some hon. Members will know precisely what that means. They concluded:The crimes are so monstrous that they cannot be condoned; their prosecution could act as a deterrent in future wars. To take no action would taint the United Kingdom with the slur of being a haven for war criminals.Some hon. Members who have spoken seem to have forgotten that we are considering not the generality of war 917 criminals who have survived since the war but those who, by one means or another, have been accorded the privilege of British citizenship. I find it unacceptable that persons who committed such crimes should have obtained British citizenship without searching inquiry and should have found a safe haven in this country. British citizenship is a high privilege. It should never have been granted to criminals, and it would not have been had we discovered it at the time.
Other democratic countries where Nazi murderers have found a hiding place—the United States, Canada and Australia—have already acted. We are not pioneers in this, because we are following the examples set by other democratic countries that have just as high a regard for fairness and justice as we have. Indeed, their legal systems stem from ours. It is high time, then, that we followed their example.
I have thought long and hard on this issue, and two considerations have weighed on me. First, it was argued in the previous debate and again today that old people forget. I have memories of the war, particularly of one atrocity. I have a vivid memory of every person concerned. When something shocking takes place, one does not forget. I shall give the House an illustration. Kitty Hart, a survivor of Auschwitz, told an international conference on war crimes held in London last October—the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) the former Home Secretary, and some other hon. Members heard her—If a person has absolute power of life and death over you—even for an instant—that face will be etched on your mind for ever. You cannot possibly forget it, even if you try.She gave her evidence last year in the High Court of Wuppertal, West Germany, at the trial of Gottfried Weise.
Weise was an SS officer at Auschwitz. His nickname was William Tell, because he used to shoot tin cans off the heads of prisoners. He was blind in one eye and his actions usually led to the death of his victim, often a child. At the end of the trial, the judge was impressed by the accuracy of the evidence given. In winding up, he remarked that those who had spoken were calm and without emotion and Weise was convicted on their evidence. I place little credence, therefore, in the argument about memories fading when they involve crimes of this enormity.
My second consideration is that we are not dealing with killing in the heat of battle. War veterans—there are still a few of us in the House—know that the battlefield brings out the worst and the best in men—appalling savagery and sublime heroism. This Bill, on the other hand, deals with those who committed the cold-blooded, premeditated and carefully planned murder of unarmed men, women and children.
In a previous debate, I described how, in 1942, the senior echelons of the Nazi leadership held a secret, high-level conference at Wannsee. The purpose of their meeting was to improve their methods of getting rid of unwanted people. The use of carbon monoxide gas was not fast enough; it was too costly and laborious. I gave an account of how it was decided to replace such a method by constructing gas chambers in which vast numbers of men, women and children could be clone to death in a few minutes. Once the door was shut and the Zyklon B released, they all died within three or four minutes. One of the witnesses at the Auschwitz trial said:We knew when they were dead because the screaming stopped.918 As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) said earlier, such methods had nothing to do with the heat of battle. Whole village communities from one end of Europe to the other were rounded up at places such as Oradour in France and Lidice in Czechoslovakia and forced into a church or a large building. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) will remember what happened to British soldiers at La Paradis in France. They were doused with petrol and burned to death or simply machine-gunned. It happened all over Europe. The victims had nothing to do with waging war. That was the treatment meted out by the strong and cruel on the defenceless and weak. Those are the sort of crimes that we are dealing with and which the Hetherington and Chalmers team investigated.
May I quote one particular case? It is that of Bogdan Kosiy, who was tried in the United States in September 1981. That was quite a long time after the war, as the House will agree. Kosiy was tried for his participation in the murder of unarmed civilians in the Ukraine and of children in particular. Allan Ryan junior, a former director of the Department of Justice office of special investigation created to investigate and prosecute Nazi war criminals in the United States, tells us in his book "Quiet Neighbours":Our case was strong … but it was particularly poignant because several of the witnesses clearly recalled that Kosiy had made Jewish children his special victims. Maria Ilikovska, a 68 year old Ukrainian housewife, saw Kosiy kill a twelve year old boy who had been hiding in the town after the rest of the Jews had been deported. 'I watched the scene, how Kosiy took out his gun and shot the boy in the back of his neck,' she testified. Pressed on her identification, she grew indignant. 'I am absolutely certain,' she said. 'I am an old woman and I am telling the truth.'Four witnesses told of watching in fear as Kosiy snatched three year old Monica Singer, daughter of the Jewish towm doctor, from her home and dragged her to the Police station. The child understood too early, what was to happen. She cried out to her mother, who had followed, pleading for her release. 'Mother, he is going to shoot me … I want to live.' Kosiy took out his pistol and her mother turned away, unable to watch. Anton Vatseb, his eyes fixed in horror on the unfolding scene, told what happened next. Kosiy stood the child against the wall. 'Then he stepped back around ten steps and then he shot.' Vatseb paused, 'As far as I remember, he shot twice.'That was just one incident brought before a court in a civilised country. It is but one incident out of tens of thousands reported since the end of the second world war.
Does anyone in his right senses believe that, if such criminals by some trick of circumstance came here after the war, were admitted to this country and obtained British citizenship, we should now say, even if there is incontrovertible evidence, "Oh no, leave him alone. It all happened a long time ago. Let us forgive and forget."
I do not make a plea for revenge: I agree with what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said a few moments ago. I am thinking of future generations, of our honour and of what should be done in circumstances where such a preson has obtained British citizenship. I am thinking of too many people still living who will never forget. I suggest that we have a duty to generations yet unborn to make it plain that such crimes can never really be forgiven. Certainly, they can never be forgotten, and those who committed them should never have acquired British citizenship or be allowed again to breathe British air.
§ Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I am grateful to have the opportunity to follow the Father of the House. When we consider the history of the second world war or, indeed, any period in which carnage took place, it should be easy for civilised people to stand back in judgment and say that some things are right and some things are wrong. The Bill is right because of what was wrong during the second world war. I am extremely grateful to the Home Secretary for the way in which he has acted on the matter and brought the Bill to the House at an early stage. In the normal course of events, it would have taken a great deal longer to do so. The Hetherington-Chalmers inquiry recommended that, if legislation were to be enacted, it should be done quickly, for obvious reasons.
The Bill is not on a Jewish issue, and it is wholly wrong for people to put it across that way. We have heard speeches and, indeed, clear evidence that that is not the case. I may have gone a little too far, but nevertheless I stand by it, when I described the Bill as it was published—which is not the way in which I expected it would be published—to one of my constituents as a technical adjustment of nationality law. The kernel of the Bill is to put people who are resident in this country and have rights of abode here—some British citizens and some not—on the same footing as everyone born here. To that extent, it is a technical adjustment of nationality law.
I shall not go into the matters raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) but other legislation does not deal exclusively with war crimes. In my view it would have been wrong to put other matters in this Bill. The Bill would have had to be drafted differently and its long title and scope would have had to be different. The matter is being dealt with in the right way.
The House must place firmly and clearly on the record, today of all days, that the Bill is not anti-German by any stretch of the imagination. One reads things in print, but one must be careful not to give credence to the shorthand used in headlines by the popular press. That would be wholly wrong.
I met people when I hitch-hiked round Germany and more recently in the autumn when I met people here on the Terrace, who were amazed that Britain had never enacted any war crimes legislation. It occurred to me as the Father of the House was speaking that we are not pioneers but laggards in such legislation. When one sees the roll call in chapter 7 of the Hetherington report of other democratic countries that have enacted legislation, such as the two Germanies, Poland, Holland, France, Belgium, Israel, the United States, Canada and Australia, one realises that we are laggards in coming to the matter now.
I can speak only from second-hand experience about people's memories—for obvious reasons, given my age. In the past four or five years, I have heard three or four people, all elderly men, describe to me what happened to them on 28 May 1940. The events were as clear to them when they spoke to me as they were on the day on which they occurred. They happened at the village of Wormhoudt near Dunkirk. The men told me exactly what I heard Kitty Hart say at the conference chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) in autumn last year. They said that, if someone virtually orders one to be put to death, one hears 920 and sees the actions. One tends to remember. Their stories are the same and they can tell us who was in what field, in what barn and at what hour on the afternoon of 28 May 1940.
I accept without equivocation that the people who might be called as witnesses will have clear memories and, from my experience of talking to survivors, they are more than willing to tell their side of the story to officialdom to get justice for the people who did not come back or for those who were injured. There is no fear among those people about telling their side of the story and being subjected to cross-examination.
From our debate in December it was clear that, after the war, public opinion was moulded to look to the future rather than to the past. It was fairly easy to do that in one respect, because no one envisaged that we would allow alleged war criminals to come to the United Kingdom. That notion never crossed my mind, and I am sure it never crossed anyone else's. The moulding of public opinion was also made easier because of the restrictive secrecy legislation that we operate. Many of the files that relate to the second world war are closed for 75 years, and the normal 30-year rule does not apply. It will be 2021 before most of those files are accessible to historians. I do not understand the reason for that. I am told that it is to save embarrassment, but I do not understand to whom embarrassment would be caused.
The Hetherington-Chalmers report is an astonishingly concise survey of an important part of our history. Members of my generation who were born in 1941, or just after, just missed national service. When we were at school, history was more about ancient Rome and ancient Greece than our civil war or events that had just taken place. The war was not treated as history, nor as a current affairs subject. Our education in the 1950s and the early 1960s was bound to be different from the education received by those who fought in the war or the civilians who were hurt by its atrocities.
Unless specific events had occurred to make people stand back and think about them, it would never have crossed anyone's mind that for 50 years Britain may have become, unwittingly, a safe haven for alleged war criminals. I am grateful that the dust cover on that part of our history has been removed. It is clear that alleged war criminals gained entry into our country and, given that they were freely admitted, it is clear that they must have told lies about their background.
Anyone who reads the Hetherington-Chalmers report will be struck that our procedures did not work in the aftermath of war and bureaucratic nightmare that existed in Britain in the late 1940s. That chaos was mirrored across Europe, East and West. In the late 1940s, millions of people moved round Europe and new identities were assumed. How could we be absolutely certain that everyone to whom we gave haven was bona fide and not caught up the criminality of war, as described in the Hetherington-Chalmers report?
In the December debate the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), for whom I have great respect, thought that the House had been forced into action because of pressures from California. That remark saddened me because, frankly, it does not matter from where that pressure came. If the list of names and allegations had been available in the 1950s, 1960s or the 1970s they should have been acted upon. If someone had held up a list of alleged war 921 criminals to whom we had given safe haven and demanded action, I am convinced that any Home Secretary and any House of Commons would have addressed the matter.
Those allegations were never made specific until the mid-1980s. We do not need to apologise for our action. I do not believe that this Bill is retrospective in any way. No one charged as a result of the Bill, which changes the law on nationality, will be charged for any offence that was not a crime on the day it was committed.
The Hetherington-Chalmers report also mentions trials conducted in other countries where the defence advanced was that the person had been acting on a superior's orders. Superior orders are not a defence and can never be held as such.
Chapter 7 of the Hetherington-Chalmers report lists what other countries have done in relation to this matter. East Germany and West Germany are, of course, dealt with separately and paragraph 7.18 makes it clear that there are a good many documents held in East Germany to which access has never been available. It is clear, however, as the new country emerges that those documents will be available. The new German nation will be different from the German nation that we have known since the second world war.
The Bill's principal purpose is important, but it is also important that the House should send a signal round the world—not just to those who may have thought that they had a safe haven here. If we enact this legislation it will send a signal to the new German Government, its new authorities and the new bureaucratic system that is bound to emerge from the welding of those two countries. The signal will be clear—we are not prepared to go easy on alleged war criminals once allegations have been made and a prima facie case has been assembled.
If we make it clear that we are not prepared to go easy, I cannot see how the new German Government can continue to follow the example of the West German Government who, appeared to go easy in the case of Wilhelm Mohnke. He is probably the most senior alleged war criminal whose whereabouts are known today. Others may yet be discovered, but he is still in the telephone directory.
§ Mr. Winnick
I agree with what my hon. Friend said about those Germans whom my hon. Friend had met who did not understand why prosecutions were not undertaken against alleged Nazi war criminals. It is also important to appreciate that the first victims of the Nazis were Germans—we should never forget that. Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be useful if the German Government showed good will by taking action? Much evidence has been produced about that German general to prove undoubtedly—my hon. Friend knows far better than anyone else in the House—that he was responsible for the massacre o British soldiers.
§ Mr. Rooker
I agree with my hon. Friend, but the case against that general is not just a matter for the United Kingdom.
If we are not prepared to bring to justice those who live in the United Kingdom, with the protection of British citizenship, and against whom a prima facie case exists, how can we expect the German authorities to do likewise? Mohnke was clearly responsible for the order that no prisoners be taken at Wormhoudt in 1940. There are 922 eye-witness accounts that he was responsible for the orders that led to the killing—the murder—of unarmed Canadian and American prisoners of war in 1944 and 1945.
The United Kingdom Government have already made their files on Mohnke accessible to the German authorities. It is about time that the Canadian and United States Governments did the same. We are talking about an ex-general, who was Hitler's last personal general, and whose last task for Hitler was to be in charge of the bunker in the final days. We are not talking about a low-level Nazi soldier, but a full-blooded diehard and committed Nazi SS general who was with Hitler from the early 1930s. Everywhere he went, the death of unarmed people followed, not in the heat of battle but outside it. It is amazing that the United Kingdom, United States and Canadian Governments have not taken up the matter collectively with the German authorities. The United Kingdom is the last of the allied powers to take action to prevent the United Kingdom from being a shelter for war criminals.
If the new Germany country does not want to be accused of being the only place in which a diehard ex-Nazi can live in peace, it will have to take action. I hope that the Bill will send the people of that country a signal, as it will to those in the rest of the world. The Bill is indeed a signal.
I conclude by wishing the staff and officers of the investigating authorities well. They are not being set an easy task, and it will be expensive, but one cannot argue about pounds, shillings and pence in relation to such an issue. In the normal change of public expenditure, we are talking about the fifth decimal point that would be lost when the final column was added up. We are talking about justice.
I reiterate the final sentence in the book on the Mohnke issue, "Hitler's Last General". It quotes the words of Simon Weisenthal:When history looks back, I want people to know that Nazis were not able to kill 11 million people and get away with it.
§ 6.2 pm
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)
When we first debated this matter I voted against the proposal that there should be legislation. I have listened carefully to this debate and have heard nothing to make me change my mind. Therefore, I shall vote against the Bill tonight. Almost everything I have heard has reinforced my convictions. One factor to do so is the passion and emotion with which some right hon. and hon Members have spoken. That will be characteristic of the process in this country if the Bill becomes law.
Why were those statements made in 1948 to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary referred? Lord Shawcross set out the minutes of the Labour Government. Whether the House decided or not, the Labour Government decided that no more trials would take place.
§ Mr. Heath
I prefer to accept Lord Shawcross's decision and quotations from papers rather than the hon. and learned Gentleman. Mr. Churchill made the statement from the Opposition Benches. We have been going through the process of war crimes trials, the publicity 923 involved and the effect on the country. I went to the Nuremberg war crimes trials and listened to those conducting them. That is firmly in my mind.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) made an interesting remark when he said that we were, at that time, looking to the future, and so we were. That was why the Labour Government, Mr. Churchill and the Opposition agreed to call a stop to it. They were looking to the future. We should look to the future. While listening to hon. Members on both sides of the House, I have been impressed by how many of them, speaking with passion, say, "Of course, we have no experience of the war or the events leading up to it. We were not even born at the end of the war." I know from many people who have written to me since the last debate that there is undoubtedly a difference between those who went through those experiences and those to whom it is something quite new.
During the 1930s, Jewish refugees came to a camp close to my home. We knew all about that. The personal experience of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) was moving, as was the passionate speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). We have known about and experienced many of these things.
The sister regiment in my brigade was told to take over a concentration camp. We heard about the experience from them. My regiment's recce party was the first into Antwerp and we went to a concentration camp on the way to Antwerp. Those things can never, and will never, be forgotten. The Jewish experiences will never be forgotten; they are part of history. There may be one or two maniacs who say that they never occurred, but who takes any notice of them? No one does so for a moment.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary wisely said that we were confronted with a choice. We could say that the past was the past. He took the advice, prematurely, of the hon. Member for Perry Barr that we should look to the future. My right hon. and learned Friend said that the other choice was to put the Bill on the statute book as a sign that we shall not condone such things. In that, I believe that the Government have come to entirely the wrong conclusion. Nobody will believe that Britain will condone such things. Defeat in the war showed that we would not condone them and the Nuremberg war trials, in all their fulness, after the war and for the first time in history, showed that we would never condone them.
§ Mr. Gorst
Is it not correct that youthful people caught up in terrifying events are quick to look to the future? In the past few days I have talked to a Romanian who was purportedly in front of a firing squad during the troubles in eastern Europe. He wants to look to the future. Do we not have a responsibility as we get older to think also of the lessons which must be learned from the experiences of our youthful years?
§ Mr. Heath
If I interpret him aright, I think that my hon. Friend is endeavouring to be complimentary. I agree that when one is young one looks to the future, but with age and experience one can learn from the past in looking to the future. I agree that we should do that.
It is said that we must teach people not to carry out war crimes. At Nuremberg, we carried that through and 924 defeated the people in war who had carried out the war crimes. That has not stopped the orgy of war crimes that has occurred since. It has not stopped them in south-east Asia or anywhere else. When people are in such positions of power and are determined to extend their power, they descend to committing war crimes and do not look to history. We have been unable to influence that or to do anything about it afterwards.
I shall consider the major point of the proposals of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary: this is retroactive legislation. If it were not, it would not be required. I am not happy about all the other points that he made. He has disowned two of the proposals put forward in the Hetherington report. Let us remember that the report did not take account of the wider issues of which the House should take account, but dealt specifically with legal points, and understandably so. Many of the points about which we have learned today have related to legal matters.
I am not happy about evidence being given on videos or television in a foreign language with the defendant being unable to be on the spot, with his counsel examining him and defending him. Perhaps we have to accept that as part of our normal legal process, but it does not appeal to me as a means of ensuring justice.
The basic point is that this is retroactive legislation, and this situation does not justify it. I am astonished that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends support the idea so readily. I remember a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1950–51 trying to backdate a measure by a fortnight. There were riots among my party; Members said that such an act was intolerable. Now we are trying to backdate legislation by 50 years, and I cannot believe for a moment that that is justified. We will not be tarnished by the allegation that we have done nothing about war crimes; we shall be tarnished by the idea that we can change our legislation 50 years later, so that anyone who comes to this country and enjoys its privileges will be liable to be affected by retroactive legislation going back 50 years. That is the crucial point——
§ Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that a loophole in the law discriminates against people who were born in this country? If they were born in this country and were British passport holders when they committed a crime overseas, they could be prosecuted at any time; retroactive legislation is not needed for them. All this proposal intends to do is to put foreigners who came to this country after they committed their crimes on the same footing as British subjects who were born here.
§ Mr. Heath
I realise that, but this retroactive legislation is in no way justified by the reason that my hon. Friend gives. It is proposed, for instance, that large numbers of people should come here from Hong Kong. Many have come from Uganda and from other countries. All of them could be affected by retroactive legislation passed in this Parliament, in a way of which they were unaware when they came here. They can be made liable to prosecution by any future Parliament or Government——
§ Mr. Rooker
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Uganda. Ugandan citizens who came to this country in recent years and who are alleged to have been responsible 925 for committing war crimes are already covered by the 1957 legislation. There is no question of bringing in new legislation to cover them.
§ Mr. Heath
The point that I am trying to make is that, once we legislate retroactively in one sphere, there is no guarantee that a future Government, backed by a large majority, will not do so in another. That is the crucial point which it is so difficult to bring home to the House. We have never tolerated retroactive legislation in any sphere; we have always fought it. If we give way in this sphere which arouses so much passion and emotion, everyone will realise that the British Parliament is prepared to pass retrospective legislation in others.
That is the main reason why I am still strongly opposed to the Bill, but I want to touch on its consequences. Four people were specified in the report and it is now said that one of them is dead. What chance of a fair trial have the other three, given that the committee has already said that there is a good chance of convicting them? Is this how we want our judicial system to be handled?
We have heard today about the special body that is to be set up to investigate the other cases. That cannot be kept quiet. As soon as investigations start, the press will know about them and the gutter press will run the story on the front pages—and everywhere else. In the past 10 years, the police have developed one of the best public relations systems in the country. No incident at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning, or on the tube going home, is not immediately reported on television and radio and in the press. That is what will happen to these people.
We have heard today also about some people's remarkable memories. Some people do indeed have them, but those of us who deal with other memories know how fallible they are, particularly those of people who write memoirs. I cannot accept the idealistic tone of some of the comments that we have heard about the perfect retention that some people may have in these trials—some may, but most do not.
These will he show trials. Many people will rejoice about that. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery spoke most movingly about his friends not wanting heavy punishment or retribution, let alone revenge. They may not want that, but the people who will follow these trials in the gutter press will want it, and that will be immensely damaging to this country. Demands for revenge appeal to the lowest instincts in people——
§ Mr. Waddington
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend realises that the retrospective legislation to which he takes such exception seems to be expressly allowed for in article 7 of the European convention on human rights, to which we acceded in 1950. The convention specifically states:No one should be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed.But article 7.2 goes on to say explicitly:This Article shall not prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which at the time when it was committed, was criminal according to the general principles of law recognised by civilised nations.The whole argument advanced by Hetherington is that it is incontrovertible that, if these people committed the crimes alleged against them, they must have known that what they doing was criminal and must certainly have known that what they were doing was criminal according 926 to the general principles of law recognised by civilised nations. Was the European convention right or wrong to allow for the very retrospective legislation to which my right hon. Friend objects so strongly?
§ Mr. Heath
I am objecting to the fact that it is not part of our judicial process or system, and the Home Secretary cannot deny that. If it were part of it, we should not be here debating the Bill. The Home Secretary is trying to introduce the idea to our judicial and legislative systems. Whether these people must have known is a side issue of no consequence. Many of them were brought here by British authorities and could not have known our systern of law, let alone foreseen the 1957 Act——
§ Mr. Waddington
I know that my right hon. Friend is not trying to mislead the House, but he misunderstands what I am saying. I am not arguing that those people knew when they came here that they might be subject to British jurisdiction. I am saying that they knew perfectly well that they were commiting crimes under the laws of every, civilised nation.
§ Mr. Heath
Even that is debatable—[HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] I am sorry, but we come here to the perennial argument about people who receive orders, a position in which I found myself during the war, as did many of my colleagues and friends. When they believed that they were given orders which they subsequently carried out, they could say that they were not aware that they were breaking the laws of any civilised legal system.
If the Government press on with this Bill, they will be gravely mistaken. I do not envy the position of the Attorney-General when he comes to deal with individual cases under the Bill. Once the process starts, the public will quickly revert to the position of 1948. When the people concerned become known and inquiries are made, the Attorney-General will be pressed by people asking him why he has not brought any action. He will have to say that he does not believe that action is justifiable—if that is his view—in a given case. Then we shall hear exactly the same passionate remarks about what happened leading up to and during the second world war. I do not envy him his position for one moment.
The right action for us to take would have been to adhere to the 1948 decisions. We should have said that we had taken our action, it was known worldwide and it was effective. The Jewish people will never allow what happened to be forgotten for a moment, so that is not a concern of the House either. Our concern is how the people of this country will be affected once this process starts. It will be infinitely damaging, and at a time when eastern Europe and the rest of Europe are looking to the future, we shall find ourselves going back into the past.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) is, of course, always listened to in the House with great respect, but I was a little puzzled when he said that he was troubled by the passion of some of the contributions made to the debate. I would be more troubled if we could discuss these events and remain totally clinical and unmoved.
The case for the Bill is simple and can be stated totally without passion. Certain people, most of whom are United Kingdom citizens and all of whom have been residing among us for a long time, are alleged to have committed 927 terrible crimes. The Bill makes provision for the evidence against them to be properly investigated by a court of law, as would be the case if you, Mr. Speaker, or I were subject to the same allegations. That is the case for the Bill.
There is no need to discuss the various justifications for the criminal law. I am reluctant to embark on a discussion about the reason why the criminal law should be enforced in this case. Of course it should be enforced, and it is for those who oppose the Bill to establish why that should not be done. The debate centres on their objections.
As I understand them, they have four objections. First, it is said that the Bill is selective, that it does not deal with all the enormities that human beings have committed and does not include the enormities committed outside German-occupied territories before 1957. I have some sympathy with that objection, which at least troubled my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).
I have been arguing for many years for an international criminal law which is enforced in international courts. That is not my invention. It was being discussed in the United Nations in 1947, and at that time people thought that it was about to come into existence. But I pay tribute to the Home Secretary for the speed with which he responded to a widespread and deeply felt call for action, and I can understand why he did not embark on so wide a principle. He is seeking to deal not with a potential problem but with one that is with us here and now. If he had sought to legislate more widely, he might have been criticised. It is a harsh fate for him to be criticised because he is less ambitious in the Bill, although I would have welcomed wider legislation.
The second objection advanced is that all this happened a long time ago and that events so long ago are better forgotten. That was one of the objections of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup.
§ Mr. Archer
I am sorry if I misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman. He seems to be saying that they should not be forgotten but that, having remembered them, we should not act in accordance with them. I accept the distinction, but I am not persuaded by it.
It would be a strange doctrine to say that someone who committed a crime and who remained undetected for a long time should not only enjoy the freedom and prosperity to which he had not been entitled during that time, but should have the whole slate wiped clean. It would be like saying that if, after some years, the people who perpetrated the outrage at the Royal Marines base in Deal were discovered, we should declare, "It is all a long time ago; let us forget about it." Those who are closest to the events would certainly find some difficulty in understanding that doctrine.
The third objection, as I understand it, is that the law is being changed retrospectively. That was the burden of the argument advanced by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. It has been suggested that a lawyer is better qualified to pronounce upon these matters than someone who has not had a legal training. I do not agree 928 with that at all, and to that extent I go along with the right hon. Gentleman. The objection to retrospection is that it can be unfair. If it is not unfair, there is no objection to it, and lawyers have no monopoly in deciding what is and what is not unfair. Of course it would be unfair of us to allow someone to do something that appeared to be acceptable and innocuous at the time and then afterwards to say, "We have changed our minds. What he has done will now be made punishable."
That would be unfair, but who will argue that the actions which we are discussing appeared at the time to be acceptable and innocuous? It is not even true to say that the people we are discussing thought that they were acting on orders. They entered enthusiastically on a course of action which they were in a position to implement. They were wicked to a spine-chilling degree and must have known that their crimes were wicked. They were unlawful under the legal system of every civilised country, including the countries where they took place. They were unlawful under international law and contrary to the military manuals in use by the German army at the time. No one is inventing a new crime, the punishment for which would be retrospective.
Of course, without this legislation, the courts of England and Scotland would not have jurisdiction to try these people, even though they are United Kingdom citizens and have been residing among us for a long time. The alternative to the legislation would be to extradite them to the countries where these events took place. But I have not heard them or any objector to the Bill arguing for that solution. It is being said, not that it is unfair for them to be tried in the United Kingdom rather than somewhere else, but that we should wash our hands of the whole matter. That is not an objection based on retrospection; it is an invitation to walk away from the whole thing.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the key to the retrospection issue is to be found in the long title to the Bill, which says that the Bill's purpose is to confer jurisdiction on United Kindom courts in respect of certain crimes? It does not seek to impose criminal penalties for certain conduct which has not hitherto attracted them. Moreover, it would confer jurisdiction not immediately or retrospectively but in the future, at such time as the Bill takes effect. In other words, it gives substantial notice.
§ Mr. Archer
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his intervention, and I wholly agree with him. The burden of my submission is that no one in his right mind would suggest that this was unfair, and unfairness is the basis of any objection to retrospection.
The fourth objection is based on the alleged reasons why the accused people cannot be given a fair trial. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup suggests that, because the Hetherington-Chalmers report mentioned three specific people and said that there was reason, as its authors understood it, for implementing prosecutions in those cases, those people could not be given a fair trial. In every criminal case the prosecuting authorities say that, in their view, there is good reason to implement a prosecution. The right hon. Gentleman's argument proves too much because it entails that we should abolish the whole of our criminal law system. If I thought that the 929 people about whom we are talking could not be given a fair trial, I would be among those opposing the Bill, and I hope that no hon. Member would doubt that.
§ Mr. Archer
I could not have put it better; I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am a little troubled that some of them may extradite themselves but not necessarily to countries where there is jurisdiction to try them. That would have been a sensible way to deal with it in the absence of the Bill. They should he sent back to where they can be tried.
§ Mr. Allason
Is it not pretty unlikely that people will extradite themselves, as the only other country left in the civilised world where these individuals can go to obtain safe haven is Syria?
§ Mr. Archer
I could not improve on the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I fear that that is true.
I have had a little experience in our criminal courts, both as a recorder and as a magistrate. I do not think so ill of our criminal courts and our jurors as to believe that there cannot be, or will not be, a fair trial in such cases. No system can guarantee that there will never be a miscarriage of justice—there have been some in recent times—but that was where the court was deliberately misled by someone falsifying the evidence. There is no reason to think that that will happen in this case. The conclusion of that argument is that, as no legal system can guarantee that it is proof against any deception, no one should be tried for anything.
Only two specific reasons are suggested as to why the fairness of these trials should be in question. The first is that the potential defendants are old. That will be a consideration for the prosecuting authorities to take into account. If someone is too ill or too old to understand the nature of the offences charged against him and to give proper instructions for his defence, then the trial will not, and should not, proceed. The prosecuting authorities are there specifically to direct their minds to just such questions, and the purpose of the Bill is to empower them to consider such questions. In the absence of the Bill, no one will have power to consider them.
This point is equally true of witnesses. If it transpires that no witness is capable of giving evidence, so no evidence is available, then, unhappy though it may be, the accused person will go free because the prosecution will not be capable of being proceeded with. But we should not be too patronising about this. I know many people in their early or mid-70s who would be outraged if one suggested that, because of their age, they were incapable of understanding what is alleged against them or of explaining what they have to say about it. These matters must be considered in each and every case.
The second reason for anxiety about a fair trial in these cases is that Sir Thomas Hetherington and Mr. Chalmers made suggestions to facilitate the taking of evidence abroad. In the last debate on this subject, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook expressed disquiet about changing the law of evidence for one category of case. That principle does not shock me. It has been done 930 for a number of categories of case—for example, for fraud cases. The two proposals in the Hetherington-Chalmers report seem eminently sensible for all criminal proceedings—not to facilitate a prosecution, but to get at the facts, and that may operate in favour of the defence.
But that is now academic. Those two proposals are not in the Bill. Whether they should be introduced in respect of all criminal proceedings or of criminal proceedings in Scotland is something that we may debate at some other time. The only proposal in the Bill is a procedural proposal to avoid the necessity of elderly people making two long journeys instead of one and giving evidence twice instead of once. That could have been achieved by making use of the existing procedure of a voluntary bill.
I am glad that the Home Secretary has provided a procedure that will be much fairer to the defence than a voluntary bill. If that change were introduced right across the board, we would not have to complain so frequently about voluntary bills. This principle enables the judge to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to place the accused on trial. It is for the judge to consider whether the interests of justice require that a particular witness should give evidence orally, and should he decide that, then so be it. It is difficult to understand how that system can be thought to operate unfairly.
We need to take the greatest care to ensure that no injustice is done. We need to do that in very criminal trial, and as these are allegations of such vile and wicked crimes, it is particularly important that there should be a fair trial. But seeing that justice is done includes ensuring that the truth emerges, and that is not achieved by walking away from the problem. Sir Thomas Hetherington and Mr. Chalmers were not indifferent to the need for a fair trial. Some time ago, I was speaking to someone from another country—a distinguished lawyer—who said how fortunate we are to have two such individuals who could produce such a report and produce it so quickly.
The reputation of this country for justice will not be enhanced by shrugging our shoulders, or by displaying an absence of passion. If the Bill does not proceed, we shall be alone, as the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) said, among countries where the problem has arisen, certainly outside south America and the middle east, in saying that we would be content to be a safe house for war criminals. We would be administering a deep hurt to those who, like the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), are either themselves among the victims or closely related to victims. And we would be false to justice itself.
§ Sir John Wheeler (Westminster, North)
It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), and I agree with all that he said. I found the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary most persuasive and compelling, in his outline of what the issue is about. Her Majesty's Government had no alternative but to introduce the Bill in the light of what happened in December when, by 348 votes against 123, the House voted in favour of the principle of legislation.
The Bill sets out precisely and concisely what we intend to achieve. It says:The purpose of the Bill is to confer upon United Kingdom courts jurisdiction over offences of homicide committed as war crimes in Germany or German-occupied territory during the period of the Second World War.931 The effect of the Bill, should the House agree to it, is that the criminal law would apply to those persons now resident in the United Kingdom who were not British citizens at the time of the alleged offences.
Clause 1 is the substance of the issue. I do not intend to repeat many of the arguments, some of which are emotional and some of which are legal in their basis, in favour of the Bill. Those of us who have been here throughout the debate have heard them all. The Bill effects no great change in the criminal law of the United Kingdom. It effects merely one change—the change that permits a case to be brought before the criminal courts of England and Wales and of Scotland against individuals who were not citizens of the United Kingdom at the material time of the commission of the crime alleged against them.
To do nothing is not an option for the House. Three years ago, information came to our notice—it was not previously available in the public domain—which alleged that the most monstrous crimes had been committed. To say now that they took place 50 years ago and that they do not really matter is not an acceptable option for us.
I seek to answer those who have properly referred to the decision of 1948 not to continue with war crimes trials. We should hark back to the political climate of that time. We and our allies had serious doubt whether peace would continue to be maintained in Europe. It was in the interests of all to conclude the trials for political reasons—and not only for the reasons that Lord Shawcross has advanced to the press in recent times, valid though they were, no doubt, at the time.
The evidence that we have before us as a result of the publication of the Hetherington-Chalmers report is such that we now believe that we harbour in our country those against whom grave and serious allegations have been made. It behoves us to ensure that the criminal jurisdiction, through its normal process and procedures, should have the opportunity to consider the allegations, if that is the right course of action proposed by the Law Officers in their independence. It is for those reasons that I shall vote in favour of the Bill this evening.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I do not wish to misrepresent the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), but I think that he said that many of those who are emotional about the matters raised by the Bill were not involved in the war. He said something like that, and told us that he had received letters about the issues which we are now debating. He talked also about those who acted under orders.
I do not wish to overlard the point, but my father died in the first world war. No one in my family ever gloried in war. I was brought up in that tradition. I suggest that it is only a few who glory in war. It is with that background that I have always taken my children, when we have been on the continent, to see the Commonwealth war graves. I have told them that Germans and others who were our enemies lie in the same cemeteries.
For myself—I was in the middle east and Italy, not in France—I have had a look at north-east France. I was touched to see Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand holding hands on the battlefield. The French and the 932 Germans killed more of each other over a period of years than most of the rest of us. I have visited the cemetaries at Caen. I stood with the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) at the anniversary of D-day at the beach where he went ashore in June 1944.
A man came to see me last week who was not in very good shape. He had been on the Lancastria when 2,000 died at St. Nazaire, or in that area, when it was escaping from Dunkirk and taking the long route home. I have visited practically every Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Italy, where I happened to be.
I have asked myself—I was not there—about the 120,000 who died in Dresden. A war crime? There are those who say that it was not a war crime because it was done under orders. I have read the questioning that took place—I had ministerial responsibility for the Royal Air Force after the war—about whether the bombing of Germany did what it was intended to do.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup will know that the argument was advanced in defence circles in the 1960s that things would have been better if we had had a larger army. It was asserted that we would not have been so weak in Europe when the land battle was fought. I do not wish to be involved in that argument. The fact is that 55,000 of our young men—they were of my age group—lie dead in Europe. I think of them now, when all the talk is about Berlin. They were in groups of eight, and all that is left of them is the bit around their necks. They were set aflame above Berlin. The part that we played in the battle of Berlin is sometimes fogotten.
When a discussion takes place about war crimes, all old soldiers, airmen and sailors say almost instinctively to one another, if not overtly "We were all involved in that, and it was all a war crime." All war is a crime. The next war, which happily seems to be further away from us now, might be fought with nuclear weapons. When I had ministerial responsibility for the Air Force, it was much in my mind that we had aircraft equipped to deliver nuclear weapons that were targeted on Warsaw and Budapest, for example, just as their weapons were targeted on us.
We are not talking about war crimes in the sense in which the term is understood by many old soldiers, airmen and sailors. Everyone who has been involved in modern war knows in his heart of hearts that millions of people lie in north-east France and that the Russians lost 30 million dead in two world wars. We are not talking about that. Paragraph 1.12 of the Hetherington-Chalmers report says that we should consider the terms "war crime" and "war criminal". It states:Most of what are termed "war crimes" in the Second World War were committed far from the front line and have little to do with the actual waging of war.We are not talking about normal methods of war under orders.
§ Mr. Amery
The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is a difference between what happens in the heat of battle and events at other times at other places. Some of us are anxious about the Bill's selectivity. Horrible things were done well behind the lines by the KGB, or whatever it was called in those days. The Bill deliberately does not cover those acts. Is it appropriate to be selective in the sense of having unfinished business with the anti-Nazi war crimes trials? Should we have a broader Bill, or no Bill at all?
§ Mr. Rees
The report provides figures for the atrocities carried out by the Soviet forces in 1940–41 in the very area of eastern Europe that we have been talking about in terms of the Nazi war crimes. I see no difference between the actions of the Nazis and those of the Soviet forces. As I understand it, if anyone who participated in the Soviet war crimes is living in Britain, he will be subject to this proposed legislation.
§ Mr. Rees
If such a person has come here, settled here and become a British citizen, he will be covered by the Bill. There is a technical consideration. The Bill refers to German-occupied territory. If there is a time factor, that should be put right in the Bill. If it was not German territory at the time——
§ Mr. Rees
—we should consider the matter. As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between German territory and German-occupied territory.
The genocide that the Bill is designed to deal with is different from the war crimes against humanity in which so many of us have been involved over the years. That is the context in which the Bill has been drawn. It is not drawn in the context—one that many of us would consider to be nonsense—of the sort of war that we have managed to become involved in over the years in Europe, in which millions have been killed.
I am grateful to the Government for drawing up the legislation, and for listening during the debate—and in many cases after it—to our views on what should be in it. As I have gone round the country talking about this matter, I have repeatedly emphasised that, if I had committed such a crime, I could be brought before the courts, but if my next-door neighbour had come here and stayed, even if he had not become a British citizen, he would be exempt from being brought before the courts.
There is a responsibility in becoming a citizen. It has been said that people may want to leave the country; although that point does not meet the major issue of the commission of crimes, it illustrates the observation made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker)—that the Bill is nationality or citizenship legislation, rather than war crimes legislation. The Bill does not create a new crime, but says that people who were not here at the time, but have come here to live, are subject to the law in the same way that the rest of us are.
I am glad that the Government have dealt only with committal proceedings in the second part of the Bill. If I had been Home Secretary, I would have thought carefully about the long title of the Bill, about making it a grandiose Bill and about widening it. If there is a case for the Scots to argue in their Committee about what they want to do with certain aspects of their law, it should be considered in the breadth of Scottish law and not in the narrowness of the Bill. I congratulate the Government on deciding to act in this way.
We decided to support the legislation in a take-note debate in December, and it is the legislation that we must consider. The House has decided on principle, and it has the chance to decide on principle again. However, the detail of the Bill is important: the various clauses, the police unit that will investigate the Bill and the way in 934 which the courts will work. I do not want people to be found guilty, or indeed not guilty, if the procedures of the court do not stand up to British justice.
I have spoken to a number of lawyers in recent weeks, and I listened to the debate in another place, which tended to be legal in tone. The lawyers have told me that they do not wish to prostitute the British courts. Along with others, I have been involved with the case of the Guildford Four; I wish that there had been the same concern about that case as is being projected on to these future cases. I do not like it.
I still involve myself in Irish affairs, and concerns are expressed to me about the courts. If those in another place consider the procedures of the courts, I hope that they do not consider them only in that context of the Bill; there is a wider concern. It has been suggested to me that the handling of the case of the Guildford Four was not the fault of the courts but that of the police and the evidence that was presented. That is not the way that I have thought about the British courts, or the reasons why I ended detention in Northern Ireland and said that people had to go through the courts.
A court is not just a place that sits to listen: it has to make value judgments about the nature of the evidence. I hope that that will be done in the few cases that will come forward under the Bill. I trust the courts, and I believe that the Government's amendments will make the handling of court cases that much better. I support the Bill in principle, as I did before. I think that the Government have set about dealing with war crimes, as defined in the legislation, in the right way.
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)
It is with some trepidation that I follow the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), as I was born four years to the day after the surrender of the Germans in 1945, and have no memories of the last war.
There are two reasons why I wish to take part in the debate. First, for many years I taught that period of history to children in our schools, and also as a lecturer at a further education college. Secondly, I am concerned about what the Bill will do to the British legal system.
Last year, I visited Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany to see for myself the remains of that ghastly place. One can still see the watchtowers, the barbed wire and the killing camp in its entirety. I also visited Belsen, which was razed to the ground after the war. Belsen creates a far greater fear than Dachau, where some of the buildings are still standing. One enters Belsen and sees the mounds in the mist and among the trees. Standing in that killing field, one realises that it is the final resting place of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
I went on to Nuremberg, where I visited the court and the court room where Goering and the other Nazi leaders were tried in 1946. I saw the place where justice was finally brought to the people who had meted out so much crime and inhumanity to their fellow man. Having said that, I nevertheless have grave concerns about the Bill.
We are proposing to take before the British courts two or three aged men to be tried for crimes that took place 45 to 50 years ago. We are singling out specific individuals. The right hon. Member for Morely and Leeds, South asked whether the Bill applied only to the Germans, and 935 to German-occupied territories. It does: if he reads the terms of reference of the Hetherington-Chalmers report, he will see that page 3 paragraph 1.12 says:Our terms of reference require us to consider 'murder, manslaughter and genocide committed in Germany or in territories occupied by German forces'.That has been reproduced on the front of the Bill.
My first objection is that we know that similar crimes took place in Russian-occupied Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. We know that the same atrocities took place before the Germans came, while they were there and after they had left. Surely it is wrong for us to single out one period of time, under one occupation, for special mention in the Bill, when there must be people alive who have committed the same atrocities under another regime whose members will not be prosecuted.
§ Mr. Rees
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but all the allegations relate to German-occupied territory. If, before the Committee stage, anyone can show that people living in Britain committed such crimes in the Soviet-occupied areas, after the Soviet-Nazi pact, I am sure that arrangements could be made to amend the legislation.
§ Mr. Bennett
I wish that that were true.
I take the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in this debate and that of 12 December: the research has not taken place. The manhunt has been selective, and has dealt only with certain crimes in certain places.
My second objection is this. We cannot base our law on one inquiry on one set of incidents. If we are to bring forward a Bill to prosecute war criminals, it must be on the generality of war criminals and not on specific cases of specific individuals. I share the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup: we cannot allow the House to go down the road of retroactive legislation. That would be a dangerous precedent, which the House has always set itself against.
As a young Conservative just beginning my political career in 1964, I experienced the row about the Burmah Oil case. It was suggested that there should have been retrospective legislation. However grave the accusations may be, we cannot now bring in a law to deal with people who were not British citizens for actions that were not under British jurisdiction in a foreign country some 50 years ago, and make that the excuse for retrospective legislation.
I want to deal next with the question whether these people would get a fair trial. I intervened in the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department—unfortunately, he was diverted by a second intervention—to ask what jury would be able to give a fair trial to an individual brought before it as a result of specific legislation. If Parliament has spent between £7 million and £9 million, and if 35 police officers have been specially employed, there must be something of an onus on the jury to find the defendant guilty. The whole weight of the British parliamentary system will have been brought down on him before trial. In these circumstances, it is not right to say that he will get the fair trial to which every defendant is entitled.
There is also very grave doubt about the question of evidence—in particular, the documents that will be produced. We all know that, over the last 40 or 50 years, 936 the Russians have forged documents for their own purposes in propaganda warfare. It may be that the Russian Government have now changed their tune, but the fact that so many documents have been produced will make it very difficult to determine which are genuine and which are forgeries.
§ Mr. Rooker
Like one or two other hon. Members, I listened to the chief investigators of the Canadian, Australian and American Governments at the conference in London at the end of last year. Those people, who have been at the receiving end of evidence supplied by the Soviet authorities, had never—not once—in the course of their inquiries come across a forged or faked document. All the documents having been tested rigorously in every possible way, there was not a single example of the Russian authorities' having put forged documents up for consideration.
§ Mr. Cormack
Does one not have just a few questions to ask when one considers the attitude that, until very recently, the Russians adopted to the Katyn massacre?
§ Mr. Bennett
My hon. Friend makes a very valid point. There have been many years of misrepresentation about that massacre. Only recently have we been getting the truth about what happened in that Polish wood in 1940.
I want to turn now to the question of identification. I pray in aid the very good debate in another place on 4 December. In that debate, virtually the whole of judicial opinion and the balance of argument was opposed to the introduction of legislation. In column 627 of the Official Report, Lord Walston is reported as having said:However, against that, there are other arguments. Surely it is"——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. It is not in order for a Member to quote the Official Report of anyone but a Minister in another place. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to paraphrase the noble Lord's remarks.
§ Mr. Bennett
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As a fairly new Member, I was unaware of that rule. I shall summarise the noble Lord's remarks. He said that, after 50 years, it must be very difficult for any witness to bring forward, from the back of his memory, proper identification of people who in that 50 years will have changed, possibly beyond recognition. That point must be borne in mind when we consider what trials will take place in this country.
I come now to the question of defence. In the debate to which I have just referred, Lord Hailsham made very clear the problems that the defence will face in trying to bring forward evidence. The defendant will be denied the opportunity to go to the USSR or to the Baltic states, to interview people, to consult the official records, to find the evidence. All these facilities will be available to the prosecuting authorities, but will be denied to the defence, which will therefore be placed in a very difficult position. That matter has not been taken properly into account in considering whether these people will get a proper trial.
§ Mr. Archer
The hon. Gentleman has made the very definite assertion that the defence will not be able to go to 937 the Soviet Union and make these searches. Would he like to give a reason for saying so? what he says is certainly contrary to the views stated by Hetherington-Chalmers.
§ Mr. Bennett
I refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the speech of Lord Hailsham—column 631 of the House of Lords Official Report. I am not allowed to quote the noble Lord's remarks, but suffice it to say that he demolished to his own satisfaction—and, as a former Lord Chancellor, he is worth listening to—the argument that it would be possible for the defendant in such a trial to obtain the evidence that would be available to the prosecution.
§ Mr. William Powell (Corby)
I think that we may assume that any defendant would be on legal aid. Can my hon. Friend confirm that, to enable a legally aided defendant to make inquiries of the sort to which he is referring, it would be necessary not only to change the regulations on legal aid but almost certainly to introduce primary legislation? There is no such power at the moment.
§ Mr. Bennett
I am afraid that, as I am not a lawyer, I am not able to confirm or deny what my hon. Friend says. I believe that he is a lawyer, and I suspect that he would not have asked the question if he had not known the answer already.
On the question of what would happen should a trial take place, concern has already been expressed about the impact that it would have on public opinion. I believe that it would not be in the interests of British justice or of the good name of our courts if three elderly men were put on trial—with all the difficulties that they would have in producing evidence, the problems of identification, the time that had elapsed, and the cost of the prosecution. I do not believe that the British public would feel that that was a good use of judicial resources or of the time of the police. It would bring the courts into disrepute.
I want to finish with two quotes. One is from remarks of Lord Shawcross, who has already been quoted in this debate. I refer not to his letter in The Times of last Saturday but to his letter to The Times of 29 July 1989:I cannot believe that a revival of all these sad and terrible matters by sensational trials of a small handful of aged men, which will take years to conduct and which will start with an assumption of guilt, will help to promote understanding and friendship between the different peoples of the world, will help to eliminate the evil of anti-Semitism or—still less—enhance the respect for British justice.Lord Shawcross was not only Attorney-General in the Labour Government of 1945–50 but also chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. We ought to remember also the words of Sir Winston Churchill when, as Mr. Churchill, in a speech in Zurich on 19 September 1946, he said:There must be an end to retribution. We must turn our backs upon the horrors of the past, and we must look to the future.The men at whom this legislation is directed are near to death. I suggest that we leave it to God to deal with them.
§ 7.8 pm
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)
This is our second time round the course of the debate on alleged war crimes. In December 1989, the House gave its response to the Hetherington-Chalmers report, and the Home Secretary has now come to the House with a Bill that is not retrospective. I am surprised at the number of hon. 938 Members who have sought to defend preconceived notions about its being wrong that this Bill should be retrospective. The title of the Bill exposes the fallacy of their case. In December, I dealt with two aspects of alleged war crimes—morality and retrospectivity—and the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) left the Chamber, as, indeed, he is now doing. I see that he is returning. That is kind of him. He will not learn anything original, but I hope that he will realise that I am trying to be objective about this subject, as he was.
An interesting thing about this debate is that there is right in all the arguments. Hon. Members have spoken with sincerity. In December, I said that we should put emotion and feelings of that kind behind us, and that we should not seek retribution. I draw a comparison between the judgments that we make when we are young and those that we make when we are older, with the benefit of experience. There should be no unreasonable criticism of any right hon. or hon. Member's contribution to this debate—certainly not that of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, whose work in Europe and in this House have been outstanding.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
How can one put emotion and retribution behind one in the case of crimes that are unique in their enormity? Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should put aside emotion and ignore the fact that millions of people died in gas ovens, or were shot and thrown into pits at Minsk in Russia, and in other places? If we are not concerned with retribution and with the emotion that those evil crimes arouse, why are we having this debate? Either we are introducing a unique measure to deal with unique crimes, or we are not.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
The hon. Gentleman makes a legitimate point. I am not suggesting that emotion and anger do not exist, but that they should be put aside in making judgments on securing a fair trial. That objective will not be achieved if anger and emotion, rather than reason, lie behind the creation of the legislation. Reason must predominate, and that is the test.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) shares the beliefs of most right hon. and hon. Members who visited, and certainly of anyone who experienced, Belsen, who witnessed the dreadful consequences of the invasion at Dieppe, who fought in the north African campaigns and in Italy, or who remembers the dreadful outcome of the Salerno affair. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman shares the views of those who saw what Dunkirk really meant and the feelings of us all when VE day arrived. Yes, they all raised emotions, because we were fighting a war not for territory but for freedom and liberty.
As to the time scale, is there any example in law of a time scale on criminality? There is not. We must set that aspect aside, because if we can establish criminality, there is no justification for attaching a time scale to it. In our debate last December, I said that I was sorry that Sir Anthony Blunt had been exposed only because the Government should have dealt with him earlier and not covered him up for so long. The courts will take the defendant's age into account in any trial, so it is not for this House to decide a time scale on criminality. The Bill makes it clear that it is not retrospective at all. The full title states that its purpose is toconfer jurisdiction on United Kingdom courts in respect of certain grave violations of the laws and customs of war".939 Anyone who has given service to this country knows that in the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th century—particularly following the first world war—a series of conventions and treaties was formulated, setting out specific customs and laws of war, to which we were signatories. In addition, the European convention on human rights makes it clear that no one can be charged with a criminal offence that was not an offence at the time that it was committed—excepting that article 7.2 of the convention makes it clear that a person shall be tried and punished for offences that existed in accordance with international law. We are also a signatory to that article.
In case any doubt remains on the question of retrospectivity, I quote that article:This Article shall not prejudice the trial and punishment of any person for any act or omission which for the time when it was committed, was a criminal offence according to the general principles of law recognised by civilised nations.The Hetherington report shows that, there is a special distinction to be drawn between that and the conventional caveat of non-criminality, where an offence did not occur in law when it was committed. Article 7.2 allows nations later to take jurisdiction over acts which, at the time of their commission, were regarded already as being criminal by international standards.
It has been established that, in accordance with the laws and customs of war to which we have been signatories for more than 100 years, and in accordance with the European convention on human rights, to which we are also a signatory, the Bill will merely put in place a provision that is already accepted in international jurisprudence.
The question arises why it is necessary to establish new paraphernalia to pursue just a few war criminals. Since when did this House decide to enact any law on the basis of the possible number of convictions that it would allow? Since when did any Minister say, "We shall pass a law to make it an offence to do so and so, but not if someone argues that only two or three people might commit that offence"? In terms of time scale, international jurisprudence, existing law, the customs of war, and the numerical justification for law-making, the Home Secretary appears to have produced a wise, short and reasonable Bill that has regard to the argument made by those seeking such legislation—that they want action to be taken only in cases where there is evidence of a war crime.
I concluded my contribution to last December's debate by saying that it is not the business of this House to anticipate the action of the courts. Our function is to fulfil the legislative requirement that will allow the courts to function. I would not be too worried if the courts decided not to imprison or pursue a war criminal for reasons of age. I would be happy to see the mere exposure of such a person.
Hon. Members have been talking about the future. Since the last war we have been living with a fallacy—that we have had peace in Europe for 40 years because of the atom bomb. We have been lulled into thinking that there will be no more wars. Some people say that the time has come when we do not need the atom bomb. They say that we are more civilised and that, because of the new feelings and drives towards unity, co-operation and harmonisation in Europe—as the hon. Member for Old Bexley and 940 Sidcup said—there is unlikely to be another war. How foolish. There have been more wars in the world since the second world war than at any time before it.
It is a sickening experience to witness international bodies such as the United Nations standing aside and all the paraphernalia of conventions being put aside for political reasons—expediencey and aquiescence—while murder has taken place in the rest of the world. Who lifted a finger to help Cambodia and to stop that happening again? Who worried too much about Vietnam? Who is worried about the misery in the Philippines? Some states, for political reasons, will not even provide aid to the thousands of hungry and pathetic women and children in Ethiopia. Who says that it will not happen again?
Our legislation must provide for the future. I agree with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup that we must look to the future. One cannot be certain of getting rid of the horrifying consequences of criminality, torture, murder and genocide if those who are prepared to carry out such acts know that Great Britain will be a haven for them. We must make it abundantly clear, in the Bill, that we respond to the growing international library of jurisprudence and to all the good sense in the laws and customs of war. We must make it clear that we are not just being retrospective but that our legislation is responding to conventions and treaties. We must ensure that no crime committed against international jurisprudence can escape justice by default in Britain.
In 50 years' time, people may say that it was a good thing that Britain woke up and got into line with America, Australia, Germany and even East Germany. Those countries have put into their legislation the provisions that we are seeking in the Bill. The likelihood is that there will be another maniac. There are always the Idi Amins of this world. There is the beast in Iraq, who is not fit to walk in a pigsty, but is often drinking cocktails with other politicians. We should not be concerned about political expediency while the people whom we represent are at risk. Therefore, we must put something that our children will say is wise into our legislation.
If another dictator arises, if the jackboot is allowed to march again, and if there are other concentration camps with other kinds of brutality, the people who perpetrate such crimes should know that they will not get away with using Britain as a haven.
At present we are prepared to take a British subject to court, if the evidence shows that he committed a war crime, but not an alien, who has perhaps got British nationality by questionable means—as some of the evidence shows—and who might live in the same street. We are prepared to take to court the person who is our true kith and kin but not the other, an alien who has managed to become a naturalised British citizen. The treatment of those two people cannot be fair. More than three people may be convicted because of the Bill and, whatever their age, if they are found to have falsified information to get British naturalisation papers they should be sent back whence they came.
We are trying to comply with good sense and good reason in international law. The war is still very much on our minds and if we cannot understand war and its consequences we will never fully understand peace. Our language is built on opposites to enable us to understand the meaning of the words that we use—such as war and peace, night and day, long and short. Those words have a meaning only if they have an opposite. The consequences 941 of war are horrific. They are more dangerous today than before the second world war, as the whole world could now be obliterated without much effort—it needs only one maniac.
If we can understand war, we shall have a better understanding of how we can promote peace. As a part of that process we must make it abundantly clear that people who brutalise others or commit offences against human dignity will be prosecuted.
§ Mr. William Powell (Corby)
One week before I was born, the then Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a statement to the House to the effect that it would no longer be Government policy to seek the extradition of people on British soil or in British-occupied territories for trial here or in other countries. At the time he had all-party support for that. It was decided that we should, to use Sir Winston Churchill's words, draw the sponge over war crimes trials. That was a deliberate, calculated and almost universally approved decision.
The Under-Secretary of State at the time was the Member of Parliament for Norfolk, South. He is now Lord Mayhew. He made a speech about this in the other place when the matter was debated in December. He made it plain that he was aware at the time that thousands of people, possibly tens of thousands of people, who had come to this country from Yugoslavia and all over eastern Europe had not been adequately screened and that a deliberate decision had been made not to investigate and screen them further but to draw the sponge over them.
For the next 41 years, that policy stood: that people who had come unscreened to this country would not be investigated and that all those old matters would not be reopened. We have to ask ourselves in this debate, as in the earlier debate, whether that decision should be revoked. Lord Mayhew said that that should be done only if the 1948 decision were grossly wrong.
We have to ask ourselves a fundamental political question: should we reopen what was deliberately closed in 1948? I approach that question with the same degree of doubt as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) approached it in his speech. There are many arguments on both sides of the question. We should be well advised to pay attention to what is said on both sides.
I have read many times every word that was said in the debates in the other place and in this place, and I have come to the view that we should not reopen the decision that was made in July 1948. Are the circumstances surrounding that decision so grossly wrong as to justify us, all these decades later, changing our minds? I do not believe that they are.
I have the honour and privilege to represent many hundreds of people who were born behind what used to be called the iron curtain, rapidly disappearing. The largest number come from Latvia, a country forgotten for decades but now re-emerging in newspapers and on television and radio. I know many of the people who came to this country from Latvia in the years immediately after the second world war. Some of them made their way on foot from Latvia across northern Europe, from the Baltic across the Carpathians and by way of Feluccas through the Greek islands to north Africa where they joined Her Majesty's 942 forces in the Eighth Army and fought with distinction with the British forces in both north Africa and Italy.
Others had even more extraordinary experiences. They became slaves—there is no other description for it—for the Nazis. In due course, they fell into allied and British hands. Awful things were done in those years. No hon. Member, or anyone who lives in Europe, can forget what happened. The Latvians feel threatened by some of the publicity that is swirling around this matter.
§ Mr. Powell
My hon. Friend asks why. The popular press in particular has identified groups and individuals as people who were involved in war crimes. However, there is no evidence for that. Not one of those people is named in the report. However, Latvians are undoubtedly being identified as having been involved in war crimes. One of my constituents has been so identified, but I understand that his name does not appear in the report.
§ Mr. Powell
No. I want my hon. Friend to listen for just a moment.
People who have made an important contribution to this country since the second world war feel that they are threatened. That may seem irrational. However, certain immigrants feel threatened by the publicity that is swirling around them. We know that is true of the Bangladeshis and the Jews——
§ Mr. Powell
My hon. Friend must please contain himself. All being well, he will have an opportunity to make a contribution in his own way. I am surprised that he has adopted such an attitude. He was the Conservative party's parliamentary candidate for part of my constituency in the 1979 general election. He is as aware as I am of the Latvian community in the constituency.
I have a duty to draw the attention of the House to the fact that hundreds of my constituents have said to me again and again that the ugly, slanderous reports that have appeared in the newspapers in this country are deeply offensive to them.
§ Mr. Powell
My hon. Friend knows that that is an utterly unworthy answer. These people are of modest means and outlook. They do not have the resources to take on the giants of Fleet street who are prepared to say almost anything to sell newspapers.
I have a duty on behalf of my constituents to say that some of the publicity has been offensive and wrong and without any foundation. Therefore, the atmosphere in which future trials may take place will not be calm and deliberate. Sensationalism will take its place.
I spent some years appearing before British juries—with only, I have to confess, modest success. I do not doubt, though, the ability of an English jury—I use that description deliberately, in deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes)—to reach a fair result. If the Bill becomes law, what worries me is that, if old men are brought to court, they may be acquitted because the evidence to convict them will not hold up in court. What could be a greater travesty of 943 British justice than for people who may have been involved in the early 1940s in unspeakable crimes to be brought before English courts and then acquitted because of the depressing quality of the evidence?
I respect what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) had to say. He spoke with conviction and with a flavour that did not only him but also his family justice. Nevertheless, he knows, as I know, that when people give evidence in court they can be utterly certain about the identification that they make; nothing can shake their conviction about the accuracy of their memory, but they are, nevertheless, wrong.
The House is normally concerned with the dangers of evidence about identification. This matter is normally discussed in that context. A witness who is correct is better than any number of witnesses who are incorrect, but no hon. Member has the right to forget, just because we are discussing unspeakable and unforgettable past crimes, the real dangers that arise when witnesses appear to be certain, are convinced that they are right but nevertheless are wrong.
§ Mr. Carlile
As he would expect, I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the dangers of acting on identification evidence alone. However, does he not accept that in most of the cases which are likely to be brought before the courts there will be plenty of documentary evidence in the archives to show that the people charged were present and participated in the actions in which they are alleged to have taken part? Does he agree, therefore, that there is likely to be very little issue about identification in those cases?
§ Mr. Powell
Most interventions in the House are not very helpful, but the hon. and learned Gentleman has brought me to my next point. His intervention enables me to say that I accept that the evidence likely to be placed before the courts is unlikely to be confined to the evidence of identification.
That question was addressed directly in a letter that appeared in The Times last Saturday. Below the letter by Lord Shawcross, which has already been mentioned and which was definitive in its terms, was a letter from Sir Frederick Lawton. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows as well as I do that there has been no more distinguished judge in criminal cases than Lord Justice Lawton. He identified the difficulties that would face a judge in summing up fairly so as to give a jury an accurate and fair opportunity of assessing the quality of the evidence before it. What Sir Frederick Lawton had to say should not be brushed aside as of no consequence, as clearly judges would have to face a real difficulty in those circumstances. I hope that the House will not overlook that dimension, which so far has not received much attention.
The speech in the other place which I consider particularly important was made by the Lord Bishop of St. Albans. He spoke, as a bishop and a Churchman with experience of Israel, having taught at the Hebrew university, of his reactions to the proposals before the House. Having concluded that it would be wrong to proceed, as did virtually everyone in the other place—not only the lawyers, but virtually everyone—he then relied upon something which is of personal importance to me, and, I imagine, to a number of right hon. and hon. 944 Members. In due course we will all face the ultimate judge of all our actions. It may well be that our criminal justice system will be imperfect for those people who survive and those who did not and for the 42 years between a decision to stop prosecutions and a decision that we may be making to reopen this can of worms. Nevertheless, we will all have to face the ultimate day of judgment, and that judgment will be a great deal more terrible than we earthly men can inflict on their fellow human beings.
§ Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)
I should like to re-focus on what the Bill is all about. Like the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), I declare a personal interest. My father came to Britain as a war refugee in 1940 from his native Holland. In 1945 he returned to Amsterdam to trace his family. Hon. Members can imagine his hurt when he found that, of the descendants of his grandparents and their families, no fewer than 36 men, women and children were torn from their homes, loaded on to trains and transported to the east, never to return.
However, one cousin managed to survive and his case is relevant to the debate. He was two years old and his mother was expecting another child. Mother and child were afflicted by an ailment which took them into hospital where the baby was born. The Germans came for all three. One nurse, on being asked for the little boy, was quick-witted enough to hand over the corpse of another young boy, thus saving my cousin's life. The little boy spent the rest of the war with the nurse's family who were woodcutters in the Dutch countryside, and survived to become an architect and the father of a young family.
During my lifetime I have been conscious of my father's great hurt, which he took to his grave. Hon. Members can imagine the shame which I felt when it recently became clear that some of those murderers have long found sanctuary in Britain, free from prosecution because they were not British when they committed the crime.
The survivors, their families and the world look to Britain as a country where justice prevails. It would be to our shame if the situation that we are discussing today were to continue.
The House is being asked to allow those people to be subject to British justice in the same way as all other British residents. Through the Bill we shall ensure that our jurisdiction covers their cases. I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to vote for the Bill, uphold Britain's reputation and let justice be done.
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)
I listened with some interest to the words of the hon. Member for Corby (Mr. Powell) who spoke about the Latvians. There are not many Latvians in my constituency, as far as I know, but there are a considerable number of Ukrainians, who came over after the war to work in the coal mines in south Lancashire. Their land was also overrun during the second world war. Allegations have been made against Ukrainian prison guards and some cases have been proved in countries throughout Europe. However, that does not mean that the Ukrainians in my constituency say to me that there should not be justice for the sins of the past; on the contrary. I took the trouble to find out as I knew that this debate was forthcoming.
945 I declare an interest as a practising barrister, and like any lawyer I have looked at the Bill, questioned the fact that it is retrospective and wondered whether there is a better way. I have also looked at the justice that lies behind the Bill.
One can have reservations, and I shall come to those in a moment, but the real question is what is just, not purely in English terms, but in European terms and in terms of humanity. What are we talking about? Relatives of mine were among the first soldiers into Belsen and other concentration camps. The scenes they described to me years later have left me cold ever since. The concept that women and children could be squeezed into a cattle truck, transported across Europe without food and sanitation, bundled out, stripped off and gassed to death is abhorrent. Surely anybody who participated in that bestiality needs to be brought to justice.
My predecessor but one, Lord Shawcross, has changed his view since 1948 when he prosecuted the Nuremberg trials. I say openly that he is wrong. What was a crime in the 1940s is still a crime today. Time does not diminish criminality. Perhaps it is a slur upon us that people have not been brought to justice through the passage of time. Perhaps that is where we were wrong and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) said, perhaps the time has come for us to bring ourselves into line with other nations and other systems. That is not a large step to take, but it is a proper one.
I said earlier that I have two reservations. First, I am concerned about identification evidence. The history of our legal system has taught us time and again that identification is a treacherous area; mistakes have been made. We all know that a month after an event someone can make a mistaken identification, and one suspects that 50 years later there will be real and grave risks. I understand that up to 75 cases may come before the courts, but identification may not be the major criterion.
When identification is at issue in a trial we should be careful how it is carried out. We should perhaps give some thought to instituting a system—it may serve us later in cases of another nature—that ensures that we are extremely careful in the identification process. It could be the subject of a preliminary voir dire before the main trial begins. The majority of cases are well documented, so I suspect that identification will not be a problem.
I hope that the Bill will get on to the statute book, because criminality and bestiality are not confined to between 1939 and 1945. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool said only too ably, it exists in the far east, in the middle east and throughout the world. Perhaps one day tyrants will learn that cruelty does not pay because the rest of the family of nations is only too ready to bring them to justice.
The second question raised in my mind is that as we look at the changing face of Europe—politically, it has changed in the past 12 months—we should begin to consider our extradition treaties with other European countries. One of the problems with war criminals has been that we have not had extradition treaties with certain countries. Thus "refugees"—escapees would probably be a better way of describing them—have been able to avoid justice. They were able to lie and cheat their way into not only Britain but other countries. We should consider the extradition treaties that we have, or do not have, with 946 countries that we called part of the eastern bloc, because I suspect that before too long they will be part of the European bloc.
I said that I would not speak for long because the issue is extremely simple. Either one believes in justice and that it is timeless or one does not. I believe in justice and that it is timeless and that the Bill should receive the support of the House.
§ Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)
If there was one remarkable feature of last December's debate on the Hetherington report, which I remind the House concluded with an overwhelming majority in favour of legislation along the lines of the Bill, it was that hon. Members on both sides of the argument drew on their personal experiences. I shall never forget the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), in which she recalled the experiences of her late father, Ness Edwards, or the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), whose family were victims of the Nazi holocaust.
I cannot follow that theme because, by the grace of God, my forebears left Europe long before Hitler for the United States. If I cannot make that personal contribution, I can perhaps speak on behalf of those who could if they had the privilege of being a Member of the House.
My constituency, like many others, comprises people of all faiths and backgrounds, but among those who live in it are a substantial number of the Manchester Jewish community. Like many others, they have been the victims of what we have been discussing. Some members of that community came to Britain before the gates closed in 1939. As small children, they were sent here by their parents, who knew what would happen to them. They never saw their parents, friends or homes again. A precious few, by a miracle, survived the camps and made their way to Britain after the war.
I know those people not only as constituents but as clients when I practised as a solicitor in Manchester before becoming a Member. I said to them, "You urged me to vote for the Hetherington report, which I did, and you urged me to vote for the Bill, which I will, but I must tell you that some Members of Parliament say that you want these measures because of a desire for revenge." Without exception, they said, "Even if that were our motivation, the Bill and the prosecutions that may follow will never avenge the loss of our parents, friends or homes and the loss of the innocence and peace of childhood."
What motivates those people to urge me to vote for the Bill? It is not revenge or the need for retribution but the need for justice. Justice means many things to many people and I shall not try to define it, but it is not allowing a group of people who lied and deceived the authorities to obtain residence and British citizenship, and who may have committed the foulest and most awful crimes, to escape being brought before the courts merely because of the jurisdictional quirk that because they were not born here they cannot stand trial, while I and the majority of hon. Members could stand trial. To allow that to happen is not justice, however and whoever defines it.
I shall deal briefly with two of the principal arguments against the Bill. The first, and we have heard it from both sides, is that the evidence given in a trial would be too old 947 or too blurred by the passage of time—the phrase used in the other place was "old men forget"—for any prosecution to be brought or any verdict to be given. That is not a matter for Members of Parliament. Whether a prosecution is brought, whether the evidence behind it is sufficient, whether the accused is fit to plead and whether public policy dictates prosecution are decisions for the prosecuting authorities. Whether there is a conviction and whether the evidence can sustain a conviction is a matter for the judge and jury of the court.
It would be a bleak day for the country and for the House if ever Members of Parliament decided who should be prosecuted or, worse, who should be guilty and who innocent. The House has a duty to determine the law. Others have a duty to put it into practice.
On the historic nature of the evidence, I remind the House that a few months ago Lord Aldington brought an action for defamation in the civil courts. He was awarded the largest amount of damages for a libel case—£1.5 million—in the history of the English and, for all I know, the Scottish courts. I shall not go into the facts of that case. Suffice it to say that it revolved around events that occurred immediately after the second world war, just 43 years ago.
A similar period has elapsed since the matters that we are discussing took place. As far as I am aware, no one in that trial suggested that the events took place too long ago. Presumably the jury included men and women who were not even born wher the events took place. No one suggested that it was too long ago for the courts to come to a proper decision. It has never been part of English law, either in criminal or civil matters, that there is a time bar on bringing cases or prosecutions.
Another argument against action on the lines proposed by the Bill is that we should let sleeping dogs lie. I mentioned earlier that I came from Lancashire. A horrendous crime took place 24 years ago on the Pennines. By dint of good police work the people who committed the moors murders were arrested, brought to trial and convicted. Until this very day they are still in custody. If, instead of being caught, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady had escaped the net and had not been discovered until, say, 24, 34 or 44 years after the crime was committed, no Government whatever their colour would have dared come before the House or the country and suggest that there should be no prosecution and that we should let sleeping dogs lie.
§ Mr. Bermingham
I entirely endorse the hon. Gentleman's proposition. In a recent case that came before the courts—I cannot remember in which part of England—the body of a wife was found in a lake and the husband was prosecuted for her murder 10, 15 or 20 years after the event. Time has never been a bar.
§ Mr. Sumberg
I entirely agree. Time has never been and never will be a bar.
In putting the let-sleeping-dogs-lie argument against the Bill, some say, "We know about the holocaust. We know what went on and we condemn the horrors. It was a time that was ghastly and awful. We know that racism, prejudice and intolerance can, if unchecked, lead to Auschwitz, Treblinka and Belsen." One of the most distressing by-products of recent events in eastern Europe, 948 of the rebirth of freedom and the re-creation of democratic life and speech, has been well reported by the press and in the House on other occasions. Since that rebirth of freedom there has re-emerged some of the historic anti-semitism that may have been the basis for what took place 50 years ago.
As democratic politicians, and because Britain was the beacon of hope throughout the war years as the nation that fought Nazi Germany from beginning to end, we have a duty to make it absolutely clear to the new democracies, which we welcome——
§ Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)
We are not discussing anti-semitism. We are discussing retrospective prosecution, in which extradition would be available. It is not because of the nature or the race of the victim that prosecutions should be brought. Surely my hon. Friend is not saying that. I have just returned from Auschwitz, where I saw young French Jews throwing stones through the window of a Christian church. We are discussing whether it is right to change the law of England and the law of evidence in Scotland to take revenge against people or convict people, regardless of their race. It is their crime that matters.
§ Mr. Sumberg
My hon. and learned Friend may not have heard the early part of my speech when I dealt with the legal aspects. I was simply saying that there is a wider context. As politicians and parliamentarians we have a duty to make it clear to the emerging European democracies that such behaviour will not do. If we did not agree to the Bill we should send the wrong signal to the Europe of today and of tomorrow and we should undoubtedly give the wrong epitaph to the Europe of yesterday.
§ 8.7 pm
§ Mr. Michael Irvine (Ipswich)
Of one thing we can all be sure: hon. Members are united in revulsion at the terrible deeds that were committed in eastern Europe during the second world war.
§ Mr. Irvine
That is another issue, which I shall deal with later.
Terrible deeds were committed. I can say with complete confidence that the House is united in its revulsion. The scale of the deeds and crimes committed, and of the suffering of those who were oppressed and the barbarity of the oppressors were terrible. Such matters stir the emotions of us all. It is at this point that we must be cautious. It is precisely when our emotions are stirred and our sensibilities affronted, and we are seized by the feeling that there must be retribution, that emotion takes over and justice is diminished. It is precisely now that the greatest vigilance is necessary to make sure that justice is defended.
§ Mr. Irvine
No. I wish to press on.
Although the suggestion has been challenged during the debate, we should make no mistake about the fact that this is retrospective legislation. When the crimes were committed in the years between 1938 and 1945, they were not triable in our courts. They are not triable now. We need the legislation in the Bill to make them so triable. That is retrospective legislation. Retrospective legislation 949 is always a dangerous enterprise when it relates to civil issues—for exanple, taxation—but it is even more dangerous when it relates to criminal law and when a person's liberty is involved.
The fact that legislation is retrospective is not my greatest concern, as there are other, more serious and fundamental, objections to it. The key issue in most war crime trials will be identification. It is likely that it will be proved beyond any question of doubt that the crimes under scrutiny were committed, but by whom? Were they committed by the man in the dock? The issue of identity will be at the heart of that question.
Identity is a dangerous area of criminal law at all times when it is used in evidence. Even when the crime is comparatively recent and the person giving evidence saw the person in question in circumstances reasonably favourable to identification, with every year that passes the greater is the risk that the evidence of identity is wrong. After three to six years, the evidence of identification becomes unlikely, after 45 years it is wholly unreliable, if not impossible.
In a powerful and moving speech, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) gave examples of how such dreadful crimes had touched members of his family. He told us about members of his family who had managed to survive, who were, on occasions, assaulted or otherwise abused by soldiers. He said that those occasions had been burnt into their minds and that they could remember vividly the look of the soldiers involved.
The problem is that the people in the dock will not be anything like those same soldiers. In the past 45 years, their faces, their bearing, possibly their very characters and attitudes, will have changed immeasurably. It will be virtually impossible to identify them.
§ Mr. Allason
This point has been covered by the Hetherington-Chalmers report. The cases studied in that report have no doubts attached to them in terms of individual identification. There is documentary evidence and testimony from the individuals themselves about where they were, what they were doing and to which einsatzgruppe they belonged. All that is beyond doubt.
§ Mr. Irvine
My hon. Friend's intervention worries me, as it suggests that he, for one, has already jumped the fence and is certain of the nature of the defence. We do not know the nature of that defence until people give evidence in the witness box and the case is presented. It is dangerous to presume that identity will not be an issue—it is overwhelmingly likely that it will be.
That the dreadful crimes were committed will not be at issue, but the question will be whether the individual in the dock was present and what was his precise part in the events. Identity will be at the heart of those cases, but evidence of identification after 45 years or more is a dangerous thing to rely upon.
In chapter 9.44 of their report, Hetherington and Chalmers acknowledged that the difficulties facing the prosecution are not to be under-estimated. They can say that again. Those difficulties are manifest in the report, which records the problems encountered in tracing suspects and witnesses and the problems in relation to the documentation and other evidence. The authors of that report had great support from a skilled team of former Metropolitan police officers and help from a range of specialists. They also enjoyed the co-operation of the 950 Soviet authorities. Despite that help and back-up, they still encountered all manner of difficulties in tracing and identifying suspects and witnesses. Well may they say that the difficulties of the prosecution should not be under-estimated.
If the prosecution faces difficulties, they will be nothing to those faced by the defence. I greatly doubt that the defence will have available to it anything like the skilled back-up team available to Hetherington and Chalmers. All the defendants will probably receive legal aid, and they will be subject to the restrictions imposed upon them by that aid.
I have no doubt that the authorities will be as generous as they can in the particular circumstances, but the defence in those cases will not have the resources available to the prosecution. The defence will encounter many more difficulties than the prosecution in preparing its case. I forecast that it is likely to receive much less co-operation from the Soviet authorities. It is less likely that people will be willing to come forward to give evidence on behalf of the defence, especially if they live in the Soviet Union. The defence will be at a disadvantage compared to the prosecution.
Another worrying aspect is the provision in the Bill of a procedure for transfer to the Crown court without committal proceedings. Every lawyer who has practised in the criminal courts knows very well that the skilful use of committal proceedings by the defence can be extremely helpful to it—and furthermore, helpful to the cause of justice. The committal proceedings allow a defendant to test the strength of the evidence against him, to assess the demeanour and credibility of witnesses for the prosecution and to probe, elucidate and tie down the evidence. Those proceedings are especially useful in bringing out errors of recollection.
Apart from that, those proceedings afford the examining magistrate an opportunity to throw out a case at an early stage if, in their view, the evidence is too weak to be satisfactory. Let us make no mistake: the absence of committal proceedings will make things easy for the prosecution and overcome some of the difficulties which stand in its way. Conversely, that absence will make a difficult task more difficult for the defence.
The Bill poses great dangers. Many people feel so strongly that something must be done because of the horrendous nature of the crimes and because of the emotion that understandably wells up.
§ Sir Nicholas Fairbairn
We want to be extremely careful about this matter, assuming, as I do, that those who might be accused in Scotland are Lithuanians who were invited by the Germans to murder Russians who had just murdered their families. That is a rather different emotional pattern. Are we certain that there are no people residing in this country who were among those who executed 14,000 Polish officers at Katyn? Are we certain, and are we passing the Bill against them? I do not think that we are, but we should be if we are to be even-handed.
§ Mr. Irvine
I acknowledge the validity of that point. I fear that the Bill is, to a great extent, charged by emotion, which can be the enemy of justice. My fundamental objection to it is my certainty that it will be impossible now for anyone accused under the legislation to have a fair trial. The idea behind the Bill is fundamentally and profoundly mistaken.
§ Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)
I am grateful for this opportunity to correct an injustice. Many people, including me, were profoundly sceptical and cynical about the Government's intentions. My colleagues who served on the all-party parliamentary war crimes group were worried when the Government announced that there was to be a committee to look at the allegations made by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. It is good "Yes Minister" material to refer difficult problems to a committee and, invariably, it amounts to shelving the matter.
I discussed the issue with Tony Hetherington, and originally he admitted that he was profoundly sceptical about the undertaking, but after he started looking into the problem he became absolutely convinced that legislation was required. He had a distinguished legal background, looked at the problem dispassionately, perhaps even with an element of scepticism and, with his colleagues, came to the conclusion encapsulated in the report. It says nothing about three elderly men. I believe that about 70 people may be caught up in the legislation that we are contemplating.
The legislation will merely close a loophole which has existed in the law and which has been exploited consistently by people not born in this country who have committed crimes overseas. It should be remembered that, if a British subject had committed such a crime while overseas, he would be liable for prosecution for murder in this country. There would be no statute of limitations. He would continue, for the rest of his life, to be vulnerable and susceptible to prosecution.
However, that is not the case with somebody who was born overseas, committed an appalling crime overseas, came to this country and subsequently acquired British nationality, perhaps by deception. Thereafter, he could not be prosecuted for a crime committed while he was a foreign subject. That anomaly is shared by just one other country. Damascus and the United Kingdom are the only two places which offer a safe haven for war criminals so that they can live openly and have their names and addresses in telephone directories.
This leads me neatly to the issue of the "problem" and the "solution". There were three possibilities for the Government. First, they could allow those people who had been identified by overseas authorities to be extradited. That option was wholly unacceptable to the Government and I accept that, rightly, they were not prepared to send people to face perhaps the death penalty or uncertain justice in another country.
The second option, which was looked at in considerable detail by the all-party parliamentary war crimes group, was deportation. Those involved had come to this country, probably lied about their background and acquired their naturalisation papers by deception. Might it not be possible, as invariably happens in the United States, to have a judicial review so that the individuals could be stripped of their citizenship and deported to whatever country was prepared to take them? That would be a boost for Syrian airlines but nobody else.
I am disappointed that my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Mr. Powell) has left the Chamber. He did not allow any interventions and spoke about a constituency that I know well because I was a parliamentary candidate there during the 1979 general election. He alleged—I thought it 952 rich coming from a lawyer—that there was a community in his constituency that felt vulnerable to the legislation. I find that hard to believe.
My hon. Friend the Member for Corby alleged that there were Latvians in the Corby constituency who were utterly opposed to any delving into the past, had been identified by the newspapers and felt that their goods had been rubbished. There is a civil remedy for that; it is called the law of defamation. As has already been said, record damages were awarded in a recent libel action.
Out of the last 35 libel actions in this country, 33 have been won by the plaintiff. Those are cases which actually reached the court; the figure takes no account of the dozens of other cases which never get to court because the newspapers settle out of court. I wish that my hon. Friend were here so that I could remind him that those damages are tax-free and quite attractive. If a lawyer such as he were prepared to offer his services free, I am sure that they would be gratefully accepted by Latvians in his constituency.
There is an element of retrospection in the legislation. I realise that it must have caused lawyers great worry, but it must be accepted that the people who committed those appalling atrocities were not committing crimes which existed only in British law. When they committed those crimes, they were well aware that they were breaking the law. They were breaking the laws of civilisation, the laws laid down in the Wehrmacht military handbook and every kind of law. There should be no pretence that those individuals are suddenly being caught by entrapping, retrospective legislation, deliberately designed to catch people who were, at the time, unaware that they were breaking the law.
One alternative might be to let sleeping dogs lie. There is a certain amount to be said for that option. We have heard about opening old wounds, and the Pandora's boxes which might well reveal some people's pretty ugly pasts. I accept part of that argument, but there is a corollary. What is the time limit on murder? If one is a successful murderer and gets away with it for 10, 20 or 30 years, what is the time limit? The answer must be that there can never be a time limit for murder.
I turn now to the quality of evidence. Based on the criterion that made Tony Hetherington such a respected Director of Public Prosecutions—the strong likelihood of obtaining a conviction based on evidence—Mr. Hetherington is quite satisfied, according to the report, that convictions can be obtained. So the grave difficulties of identification that have preoccupied speakers this afternoon will not exist.
There may well be problems about obtaining evidence in some of the eastern countries, particularly in Latvia and Estonia. However, we originally urged the Government to take action more than a year ago when conditions were quite different in eastern Europe, and some of us who were used to disinformation and black propaganda were a little worried about some of the documentary evidence that might emanate from the east. But as every week goes by—in Lithuania, as every day goes by—the chances of obtaining such documentary evidence and of ensuring its authenticity become much more satisfactory.
Why did these people—especially the Ukrainians—come to this country? I have done a certain amount of research into this, and I assure the House that they did not come here seeking a safe haven. Quite a number of them came at the invitation of the British Government and of 953 British intelligence. They went up to RAF Crail, then the language centre operated by most of the services. RAF Crail has now closed and its operations have been transferred to Bodmin. The Ukrainians went to Crail, and I have obtained evidence from people who served there and were taught Russian by people who openly boasted about the atrocities that they had committed against Jews in Baltic countries during the war. Those boasts were known to British national service men going into the Intelligence Corps and they must have been known to the British Government in subsequent years.
Of course, there was insufficient screening of people coming to this country, but the Government have conveniently tended to overlook the motives of these people. They were brought here because they knew Russian and very few people in the immediate post-war period possessed that skill——
§ Sir Alan Glyn
Does my hon. Friend agree that some of the people who came here were brought over deliberately on a sort of free passport on condition that they provided information, or a language, or something, in exchange for their liberty?
§ Mr. Allason
My hon. Friend has it in one: he is absolutely correct.
When the police team that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary discussed earlier undertakes its research, it must have access to all documents relating to the suspects, including all documents that are closed off in the Public Record Office. That is not a new plea, but it is an important one.
It was a cause of great embarrassment two years ago that the British Government flatly refused to disclose the contents of the Klaus Barbie file held by the Foreign Office. I went to see the Minister concerned. She said, "Listen, dear boy, this is very grown-up stuff. The Klaus Barbie file is full of terribly sensitive material. It discloses intelligence methodology and techniques, and it could still be significant today." I said, "Hold on a minute, Minister. Do you understand who was head of the British secret intelligence service anti-Soviet section in 1946 when Klaus Barbie was in British hands?" She thought about that for a moment, being reluctant to admit that SIS had ever existed. I asked her who we were trying to keep these matters a secret from—Kim Philby? The Soviets had known all about them for years; only the great British taxpayer was not allowed to know.
Worse, I brought a certain book to her attention. The United States Government suffered a similar trauma in 1983, when they were appalled to discover, or rather the US Attorney-General was appalled to discover, that Klaus Barbie had been employed by American intelligence. One can adopt either of two attitudes to that. The Americans said that they regretted the facts and were embarrassed by it and would reveal all the documentation by putting it in the public domain. The British Government's attitude was that the affair was terribly secret despite being 40 years old. They said that it might involve intelligence techniques and decided not to say anything about it.
I lent the Minister my book, "Klaus Barbie and the United States Government: The Report, with documentary appendix, to the Attorney-General of the United States" by Allan A. Ryan, Jr. It is a large book, running to 541 pages, of which only 81 are the report itself. The remaining pages are fascinating, however. They comprise 954 authentic documents from American intelligence tiles, in the form of genuine reproductions. Many of them concern the time in 1946 when Barbie was in the hands of the British intelligence.
These documents have been released by the United States but are apparently too secret to be released here. If the Government are determined to allow the Bill to go through and to give full powers to the police officers who will investigate these appalling crimes, it is right that they should be allowed to see all the closed files in the Public Record Office.
I should like to prove the case that these papers exist. Several facsimile documents in the United States Attorney-General report are specifically about the employment of German war criminals by the British Government. One of them, dated 23 June 1947, refers to British special interrogation report number 55, DIC CCG (BE), which stands for the control commission for Germany, British element. Its subject is Operation Dry Martini, and the person involved on that occasion was a war criminal called Kurt Burkhausen.
There is also a reference in the Barbie evaluation, which was declassified in July 1983. It states:I spoke to Barbie at length as to his activities during Selection Board and immediately thereafter, to include his arrest by the British.That is dated 22 November 1948. In the following year we find the following:Upon interrogation of Barbie it was discovered that he was very closely tied in with Selection Board personalities; that he had been arrested by the British and had escaped; and that he had made overtures to the British to work for them as an informant through one of the Selection Board personalities by the name of Dr. Hoffmann.That is further proof of the material that lies in Foreign Office files and relates to a convicted war criminal about whom the British Government are not prepared to disclose information.
From a French document we learn:Lavoie became aware that British intelligence was looking for information on Barbie because they were concerned that Barbie might be organising an effort to `eliminate' Germans who spied for the British.These documents exist in the Foreign Office and they must be made available to the police who are to pursue the allegations. We know from Hetherington and Chalmers that there are substantial allegations against about 70 people. It is vital that the police inquiry should not be hamstrung in any way.
It is marvellous that in the United States there is such a healthy attitude to documents generated by Governments. They take the view that the public have the right to read any document prepared by a publicly paid official unless an independent federal judge can be persuaded by the Government that disclosure is likely to put somebody's life at risk. In Britain we have quite the reverse attitude. We seem to take the view that nothing can be disclosed at any time because civil servants should not be held accountable or subject to ridicule and certainly would not be able to give unbiased advice to Ministers in the frank and candid way that they do if they thought that it would be publicly revealed afterwards.
The material is all in files. We have heard much in the debate about the difficulties that face the prosecuting authorities. I believe that there will be only a minimum of obstacles in the way. We propose to close a loophole that actively discriminates against British passport holders. There is no question of hounding old men, and we are 955 closing a loophole that has made Britain an embarrassment. When one goes to a war crimes conference here or overseas and listens to what the Australians, the Americans and Canadians have done, it is embarrassing to know that we have put off taking action for so long. I urge the House to vote in favour of the Bill.
§ Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
After more than five hours of debate, I will neither titillate nor weary the House with revelations about spies and spying. Like other hon. Members, I served throughout the last war, and I saw some horrors and heard about more. I listened with great feeling to the remarkable accounts by some hon. Members whose families were brutally treated by the Germans and others during the war. Those accounts were very moving.
The question that we have to address is whether we should give the Bill a Second Reading. I studied the matter carefully last December and took part in the debate at that time. I have thought about it since and have not changed my mind. It would not be wise, in the best interests of this country or anybody else, or good for the future, to give this rather special Bill a Second Reading. I agreed with the speech by my hon. Friend the Members for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), the powerful speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), and the practical speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Irvine), who spoke as a practising lawyer about the difficulties that we all know must occur if the Bill goes through.
I am thought to be a hard man. I believe in capital punishment for murder, and I think that the punishment should fit the crime. The crimes that we are considering in this debate are certainly horrendous and were on a colossal scale quite different from ordinary crime. But again and again, I ask myself whether we are right after nearly 50 years to bring forward special legislation for a special category of people.
That legislation will be retrospective and new and quite different from anything in our legal history. The Bill came before us rather sooner than I had expected. As the Government have put it in with so many other Bills, they must attach great importance to it. We have, of course, far too many Bills anyway and we could have done without this one.
Although the words in the Bill sound bland, they propose a change in our legal procedures and that raises all kinds of questions. Why has the matter suddenly come before us after more than 40 years? What have Governments of both parties been doing on this subject for the past 40 years? Why have other war crimes been allowed to go unpunished? What is the point of the Bill? If we are suddenly to devise a change in our legal procedures, it should concern only matters of the highest importance touching the constitution and our whole system of law. Why is there this particular and somewhat narrow basis for such a fundamental change?
I ask again, what is the point of the Bill? We cannot execute or flog the people whom we find guilty. The only punishment we can find for them is imprisonment. We have heard about four alleged war criminals. One has died and one is ill. If anyone is sentenced to a long term of 956 imprisonment at that age, how many years will he serve? Of course, there is always the chance that they can flee the country.
The whole matter smacks of special pleading. We know that great wrong was done in the last war. Captured British soldiers and airmen were sometimes shot in cold blood, and since 1948 no attempt has been made to find and try the culprits. Why have these few alleged criminals that we are discussing been singled out for special treatment at this late stage?
Almost everyone has spoke about the severe practical difficulties of trying these people. The normal rules of evidence will be waived. Many of us look with great suspicion at evidence produced by the Soviet Union, but those committed for trial will not be able to go there. They cannot get hold of witnesses.
There were powerful speeches in the other place against the Bill: the speakers included Lord Hailsham and many of our judges. Another speaker was Lord Shawcross, who knows more about this matter than anybody else, and who has recently written another powerful letter to The Times. No one admires the British jury system more than I do, but do we really believe that these trials will be the same as other trials before a British jury? They will be luridly covered in the media, and in the gutter press. Good heavens—we shall read about nothing else for weeks beforehand.
Of course I respect the deep feelings of Jews and others whose families suffered so dreadfully in the last war, but the Bills smacks more of revenge than justice. Jews believe in God, as do we Christians, and we both believe that God may punish. Should we humans now devise a new and special means of bringing to trial and punishing a small number of people in a special category?
When I last spoke on this subject I said:To put many great wrongs right, should we commit another wrong?"—[Official Report, 12 December 1989; Vol. 163, c. 911.]To change the laws of England would be wrong. I have no criticism whatever of those who hold views that are different from mine, and the majority of hon. Members are of that mind. I hope that they will be indulgent to me. When history comes to be written, it will judge these proposals as wrong. I fear that we are sowing dragon's teeth and that we shall regret it bitterly as time goes on.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)
We humans—the phrase used by the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes)—can only administer human justice, and that is what we lawyers try to do. The argument that we can leave the punishment of murderers to some higher being would not find great appeal at the Old Bailey or anywhere else where we to seek to bring to justice those against whom there is adequate evidence of personal involvement in major crime.
We deal with this matter according to our own form of justice. It is not perfect, but it has evolved in a way of which we in this land can be proud, a way in which it is rarely administered in other lands. For that reason, the Government have decided that, whatever the evidence against these alleged war criminals, they should be tried here and not deported to the Soviet Union.
I have reservations about that decision. I have felt all along that it would not necessarily be wrong for people to be tried in the land where, if it be correct that they have 957 carried out these murders, the victims were to be found. I have even more sympathy with my view now that the scene in eastern Europe has changed. However, it has been decided that that must be avoided, and it can be avoided only through implementation of legislation to allow those who are living here to be tried here, according to our rules of justice.
I have listened throughout almost all the debate, and with great respect, to those who are against the legislation. I feel that they sometimes forget that we are talking about people who are living in this country. We have no evidence, and I doubt whether there will be evidence, of people who, for example, were involved as Japanese soldiers in the murder of people on the railway in Burma.
I know one hon. Member who voted against the principle behind the Bill the last time we debated it because he said that he could not see why Nazi war criminals should be prosecuted when Japanese war criminals had got off scot free. I have some sympathy for that point of view—I do not believe that the Duke of Edinburgh should have gone to the funeral of Emperor Hirohito—but as far as we know, no Japanese war criminals live in this country. The Bill deals only with people who are living here.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge is wrong to talk about three people. I fear that he has not read the Hetherington report. He has it in his hand, but that does not mean that he has read it. Perhaps he might like to settle down and look at page 106, where he will find the answer to the point that he raised, which would otherwise be valid. It is not, because he is wrong on his facts. It says:Consideration should be given by prosecuting authorities to prosecuting in three cases in which there appears to us to be a realistic prospect of conviction on the evidence already available.That is what the hon. Gentleman was referring to.
The report continues:This action should be taken at the earliest opportunity as some preparations for prosecution could precede the enactment of any legislation.The Home Secretary has said that he wishes to wait until after the legislation is though before setting up the investigating authority, and I understand that. However, for reasons that I shall give a little later, it will not have quite the weight that it might otherwise have done.
I emphasise that these independent inquirers are not members of the all-party parliamentary war crimes group. They are not members of Her Majesty's Government or of the Opposition Front Bench. These are independent, eminent, distinguished lawyers; more than that, they are people whose training and experience lies in assessing evidence on prosecution. They are a former Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales and his Scottish equivalent.
Sir Thomas Hetherington and William Chalmers are outstanding people and they have said in public since their inquiry that they went into it with some doubt and hesitation and some feeling that it could lead nowhere. They have come out to talk not merely about three people.
I draw the attention of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge to the bottom of page 106, where they say:Further investigation should be undertaken in three cases in which we have carried out detailed investigations, but are not yet satisfied with the available evidence … Investigation should also be carried out in 75 cases of allegations which were not being investigated in detail … Investigations should958continue to attempt to trace the 46 suspects remaining untraced … All these investigations should commence as soon as possible".We are dealing not with three, six or even 75 people. We are dealing with over 120 people living in this country who, on the evidence of independent investigators given their jobs by the Government, are people against whom there is massive evidence.
It is not for the House to decide whether that evidence is sufficient in weight, substance or quality to warrant putting people on trial. That is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions. That is a matter for the successor or successors of those who produced the report. They will weigh that evidence, and if they believe that justice cannot be done, these people will not be tried. It is not for the House to make that decision.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge spoke about old people. I was a war crimes investigator in Germany. We knew that some of these people had committed offences. Some of them admitted to it. At that time, they were aged anywhere between 18 and 60, and the young ones are still not old. I doubt whether they are any older than the venerable and distinguished knight of the shires, the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen. Nobody would dream of suggesting that he is not fit to stand trial in the unlikely event of there being powerful evidence of his having committed anything other than a political offence. If he can stand trial, why should these other people not stand trial?
I shall now deal with some other fairly venerable people—Lord Shawcross and Lord Mayhew. Why are they so keen to stop this Bill going through? The reason is perfectly plain. They were both members of the Government who, in 1948, decided not to proceed with further war crimes trials. They are engaged, as I suppose must of us would be, if we had made such a horrendous mistake, in trying to justify themselves. It is unlikely that they would say, "We got it wrong." Not all politicians are prepared to admit fault readily and swiftly. These gentlemen have not admitted it and will not admit it. They were wrong when they stopped the prosecutions and they remain wrong now. They will not admit that they were, or are, in error—far from it.
Lord Shawcross has produced yet another letter to The Times. It was headedProspect of Nazi War crimes trials From Lord Shawcross QC.Part of the letter reads:By 1947–48 all political parties had concluded that the prosecution of war crimes should be brought to an end.I have read the papers of that time, not least because my distinguished father, Barnett Janner, was then a Member of the House. I thought it extremely unlikely that he would have maintained silence in the face of such a decision by the House.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten)
You are like him.
§ Mr. Janner
I would like to be like him. As said in a recent play, we inherit madness from our children and distinction from our forebears.
I could not believe that my father would have sat through a debate on the conclusion of war crimes trials without having denounced the idea as monsstrous, and I can tell the House that there was no such debate. The House did not make such a decision. As far as I can see, 959 the House did not come to a decision on the prosecution of the sort of people whom I, as a war crimes investigator, was chasing.
There has been talk about manhunts. It is always a manhunt or a witch hunt if someone does not like that which is proposed and a search to bring criminals to justice if someone likes the idea. We were seeking justice. I have in mind the sort of people that we were after at the end of the second world war. We had evidence of their involvement in concentration camp killings. I became a sergeant because I found a man whom it was wished to charge with having killed British prisoners of war who escaped from stalag luft 3—the great escape. He hanged himself the following day. It was the first time that I had seen a dead body. That is something that we do not forget, and I still remember his face well.
These people were criminals; they were murderers. They did not become any the less criminals or murderers because they managed to sneak into this country. The hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Sir A. Glyn) intervened and said, in effect, "Surely it is not suggested that these people could have been let into the country because they had information." Come on! There is a book——
§ Sir Alan Glyn
Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I asked whether it was correct that some of these people may well have been let into the country with the connivance of the Government because they had information that was useful.
§ Mr. Janner
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. We are on the same side. I am deeply surprised—and overjoyed, apart from being obliged. I look forward to seeing the hon. Gentleman in the No Lobby tonight. If he recognises that that is what it was about, all the rest flows.
Why were these people allowed into the country? In a statement, Lord Mayhew vigorously denied that it had anything to do with the Government of the day—alas, a Labour Government—not caring. If they cared, why did they not check on people? Either they did not care and they let them in uncaring or they cared and they messed it up. Either way, these people came in.
As a 19-year-old war crimes investigator, I remember the day when I was called into the chief's office. The captain said to me, "They are packing us in." He did not understand why that was happening, and nor did I. I asked him what he made of it and he replied, "It is the cold war. They are really only interested in who will be in on our side against the Russians. That is why they want to bury what has happened in the past along with the corpses of the people whose murderers we are hunting." I remember well that the name of the head of my section was Priestley. He got out of Dachau in a coffin. He reckoned that he was taken out in it immediately before it was used for the corpse. That was before the war.
We are talking of war crimes that do not come within the normal meaning of the term. I have listened to those who have talked about the way in which people behave in wars, but we must remember that we are concerned with acts that had nothing to do with war, which involved the killing of those who had no connection with it—neither they nor their parents, families or anyone else.
960 The war crimes trials were stopped; that was wrong. It was post ergo propter hoc, as we lawyers call it. There was attempted justification by Lords Shawcross and Mayhew and others. I endured their debate. I listened as Lord after Lord said that we should not legislate for change.
I do not understand what a legislative assembly is for if it is not to legislate for change. We are not seeking to create a new crime, because the crime was already established. The problem was that some people could not be charged with it, because they did not come within the jurisdiction of our courts. That is the only real change. British citizens could always have been charged with the offence. The Government allowed those who were not British citizens to escape, but why should they be better off because they later became British citizens or residents? Why should they be better off than those who were British citizens at the time?
Some of their Lordships say, "We cannot accept the Bill because it is retrospective legislation." It is not retrospection of the sort denounced by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). Retrospective legislation involves the creation of new crimes. The Bill provides, in effect, that an old crime, which has always been subject to the jurisdiction of the courts and which has always been a crime to humanity, will apply to those who were not previously subject to it. Even the most doughty opponents of the Bill have not suggested that anything but heinous offences have been committed. No one has suggested that we have thought up a new offence; murder goes back to pre-biblical days. Tonight, I hope that we are ensuring that it comes home to roost, and that we understand what happened and who did it.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said that only a lunatic would deny the truth of what had happened, but that immediately puts the seal of lunacy on one alleged historian called David Irving, who, in today's Daily Telegraph, has a two-column letter headedLaying the Myth of Nazi 'factories of death'.".If that is lunacy, The Daily Telegraph should be ashamed of itself for publishing it. If that is the type of propaganda that is acceptable to a great British newspaper, we must watch out for others who engage in what is called revisionism in the anti-fascist world.
Many of us can testify to what happened. I listened with emotion to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), who spoke today, as I did to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) in our previous debate. That was the only occasion on which I have sat in the House and cried: I will never forget her speech.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes) said that we should not build on emotion. As I have said before, it is an emotional subject. Human beings react to their own emotions, and human beings who care react because they have learned something from the past.
A noble Lord told me the other day that he had had an argument with one of his mates, who had said that he lived in the past. My friend said that he did not, but that he remembered the past and learned from it. There is all the difference in the world between living in the past and learning from it. If the House passes the Bill, it will show that it has learned from a past so horrendous, horrific and awful that we must never let it happen again.
My motivation has nothing to do with revenge, but a great deal to do with trying to prod the memories of the 961 young. I wish that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup was here, because I interrupted him when he referred to a new generation having grown up, who understandably take a different view from the old soldiers. I thought that a bit offensive to some of the old soldiers sitting alongside me. I suppose that I am a bridge between the wartime soldier and the non-soldier, as I was a national service man. Working as a war crimes investigator, I thought that that was a pretty poor vision of what older people think. My mail bag—I am sure this applies to all hon. Members—comes from both the old and the young, who are nearly all concerned—whatever their views on the Bill—that such crimes should never recur.
The war crimes trials stopped; why should there be a 40-year break? That is a fair question. I will tell the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge the answer: it is because we do not have the evidence—it was buried and nobody had it. I remember well the day that the Simon Wiesenthal Centre emerged, in Los Angeles or San Francisco, with a list of 70 war criminals who were living in the United Kingdom. I objected strongly to that: I thought that they should have been more courteous, and brought the list across the Atlantic and presented it to the then Home Secretary. Although there may not be 70 people, there may be three and they may well be monsters. The centre had the evidence made available to it by the back door, because there is a conspiracy to keep that type of evidence away, as the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge said.
Only now is it opening up, even in the rest of Europe—that has been the problem. I wonder how many hon. Members saw the account of the new documents that have been made available in the new Europe. The case died in 1948—killed off by Lord Shawcross, Lord Mayhew and others, without any debate, without any outcry, without my dad even being able to denounce them. I was sacked—made redundant—and that was the end of my military career.
Now we have the problem of how to bring people to justice. It is here that the situation gets really interesting. We are not starting from scratch. My reason for not making any protest at the Home Secretary's decision not to start investigations in a big way until the Bill has been passed is twofold. First, I congratulate the Government on the speed with which this legislation was brought forward. It is admirable that, despite the fact that much legislation had to be dealt with, the Bill was introduced so quickly. Secondly, in Australia, Canada and the United States, investigations of this sort have been going on for a long time. People in those countries are very skilled in this field.
A short time ago I went to Australia and was shown round the unit that investigates war crimes, which is run by a very doughty QC. I was asked, "Did you lose anybody?" I replied "Yes." I was asked where the people I had lost had come from, and replied that it was Lithuania. I was asked how my family had died, and I said, "To the best of my knowledge, they were put into a synagogue, locked up and set alight." I was then told, "You know, we have a number of cases like that. What was the name of the town?" When I said that the town was Plungyan, the response was, "Wait."
Off the gentleman went, and he came back with a sheet containing the names of towns in Russian, Lithuanian and Yiddish. It included a town called, I think, Plonyas, of which the Yiddish translation was Plungyan. I said, "Fine. Can you find what happened to my family, please?" I was 962 shown a file about how the Jews at Plungyan had been killed by local people, not by German soldiers. One right hon. Gentleman said today that it was the German soldiers who had saved his mother. My family had been killed. by local people such as those with whom we are dealing today.
I found a family name that I recognised. It was only a little story, but it told—and I have the papers—how a man whose name was Rudaizky, a cripple, was forced to climb up and down a tree until he died from exhaustion. Why was I able to find out in Australia what had happened to a family in Lithuania? Because the Australians have 40 people working on this matter. They are not just ordinary people, but include historians and support staff who understand the very difficult and complex nature of the evidence.
I hope that Ministers will assure us that they will go to Australia, Canada and the United States and cull whatever they can from the evidence that the people in those countries have gathered, and from their methods. I can assure the Government that they will receive full co-operation. We met the Australian team when they were here for a conference. All the units in those countries regard it as a matter of great importance that Nazi war criminals, people against whom there is powerful evidence of involvement in war crimes—in killing—should be brought to justice. They regard it as a national matter. It is not, in the ordinary sense, a Jewish matter.
Equally, of course, Jewish people are very keenly concerned about it, as is to be expected. It is a matter that concerns all sorts of local people in all parts of the Soviet Union, whether or not they are going to be free. It concerns dissenters, trade unionists, Catholics, gipsies arid gays. It concerns anyone who wanted to be different at a time when that meant the gas chamber.
I pay tribute to my colleagues on the all-party war crimes committee—not least its distinguished chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees). If it had not been for their devotion arid for my right hon. Friend's leadership, I do not suppose that the Bill would be before the House.
This is not a party matter, but one of the few issues dealt with by this House that has nothing to do with party politics. We have been working at it for three years, and I have never known anyone to make a party political point. It is an issue about which neither party can be terribly proud of the past—least of all my own. I do not believe that it could be anything but an all-party matter.
Nor would the principle behind the Bill have received the enormous support that it did last December if it were anything but an all-party measure. When the other place casts its beady eye and rasping tongue over the Bill, it should bear in mind that last December this elected House gave a motion to introduce such a Bill a majority of 3:1. A substantial majority of Conservative and Labour Members, as well as right hon. and hon. Members of other parties, support that motion. I am sure that their Lordships will think carefully before seeking in any way to interfere with the Bill, and that they will not do so. Their Lordships will no doubt speak their minds, as they are entitled to do. They may support or denounce the Bill, but I do not believe that they would be so constitutionally unrealistic or so wrong as to interfere with it.
We may sometimes forget the Bill itself, which is one of the shortest that the House has ever considered. Its sole 963 purpose is to bring within the jurisdiction of our courts people who were not citizens of, or resident in, the United Kingdom at the time that alleged offences were committed.
The Bill makes minimum changes to the law. It has been argued that it seeks to change all the rules of evidence just to nail down a few war criminals, but that is not so. The changes relating to committal proceedings will only put in place provisions that already apply in cases of major fraud. It would have been wicked not to introduce such a measure in a Bill, because otherwise it would be argued that people were being unnecessarily dragged twice from the other side of the world when they were old or ill, and that the accused could not make their case properly.
The Bill has a weight far in excess of its two pages. It provides Parliament with an opportunity this decade to pay a tribute to former Members of Parliament who fought in the war, and to those whose memories are long and clear. I hope that the Bill will enjoy the massive support that was given to the motion from which it originated, and that it will enjoy a 3:1 majority in precisely the same way that its principle did—even if some right hon. and hon. Members are canvassing elsewhere and others have to travel down from Scotland. The Bill is a very important Bill indeed.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Some hon. Members have argued that I did not take part in the second world war, which is true, and that many of us are here only because of that war. It is argued also that the Bill serves only to rake up the embers of the past. It does that, but we are also remembering what happened in that age to some people. Some hon. Members say that we should think to the future, but one cannot do that without thinking also of the past. One cannot think of the future without considering the past.
In the build-up to Nazi Germany, crimes were committed which, as was said at Goering's trial at Nuremberg, were unique in their enormity. Some hon. Members have tried to say that some of the crimes committed by the Russians were almost as bad. Were they? Between 25 million and 30 million Russians died because of the military adventures of Nazi Germany. Of course some of the things that took place were evil, but I urge anyone who errs on the side of saying, "Let the dead bury their dead," and, "Let the past think only of the past," to read Martin Gilbert's classic book on the holocaust.
It was not only Jews who went to their deaths, into the "crashing doors of hell", as the evil was described in a classic poem about Warsaw. Not only Jews died in the holocaust of Nazism, but Catholics and people who disagreed with one man's evil genius and with his cohorts—whether they were chicken farmers like Himmler or admirals like Doenitz, who were willing to say, "Why not support him, he seems to be winning." One of the great dangers in any age is when people say that they will follow a leader because he seems to be successful. Nearly all the evils of mankind have been caused through that. People followed Attila the Hun, the Roman emperors and great military leaders such as Napoleon. Evil men have strutted round this world, but no evil man has ever stood astride more of the world than Adolf Hitler.
964 If for no other reason, I support the Bill because the men who committed war crimes—they know who they are even if we do not—should be unhappy for as long as they live. They should never have a moment's peace. If the Bill makes one of them fear justice knocking on the door, as they caused hundreds of thousands of people to fear tyranny knocking on the door, that is good. Perhaps the Bill will not mean that some of those evil men will face justice in the end, but they will fear justice and so they should. They will suffer, as millions suffered 50 years ago because they were Jews or Catholics or because they did not agree with the Government who were in power, or because they were deformed in one way or another.
Parliament must believe that however long we have to pursue evil and injustice and no matter how old a person is or what age they live in, we are right to do so. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said that we should think of the future and of uniting Germany, but we should think of the families in Poland and Hungary that have suffered for all those years. The House should make it clear that this country cares about the injustice that has been suffered. Therefore, I shall vote for the Bill—not for the sentiment of the future bur for the suffering of the past.
§ Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)
I have no difficulty with the principle underlying the Bill. The charges laid against these people are serious and must be answered by them. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook). These crimes are almost beyond comprehension. They cannot and should not be forgotten.
The Bill seeks to extend the jurisdiction of the courts to try these cases. To that extent, I have no objection to, and I propose to vote for, the Bill. There is no reason why a man should escape justice simply because he was not a United Kingdom national at the time that the alleged offence was committed, or because it was committed before 1957. Deportation is out of the question. It would be wrong for us to seek to transfer the problems that we are about to face to another country, or to turn individuals over to countries in whose judicial system we have no confidence.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) referred to retrospection. He was right to do so. It is serious when Parliament decides to enact any legislation that is to any extent retrospective. It is wrong to pretend that, in so far as it affects British jurisdiction, the legislation is not retrospective. As the right hon. Gentleman said, if it was not retrospective there would be no need for the House to debate the Bill.
We are not legislating for a new offence. The complaints that have been laid against these people relate to activities that have always been considered to be a criminal offence both in this country and in the countries in which they allegedly took place. These people will not, therefore, be treated unfairly. To that extent, the legislation that we are invited to support is justified.
Throughout this long debate, most right hon. and hon. Members have said that they believe that the Bill should be given a Second Reading. I do not propose to rehearse all the arguments; it would be redundant to do so. However, Parliament has the comparatively easy job; in just three clauses it will extend the jurisdiction to try alleged war 965 crimes. The difficult job will fall upon the men and women who sit on the juries that will try these cases. They will have to decide whether these people are guilty. They will have to evaluate evidence that is almost 50 years old, perhaps without seeing the witnesses in court—just on a television screen. They will have to reach a verdict that is beyond reasonable doubt.
The difficulty with the Bill is not what it says but what it does not say. In their report, Chalmers and Hetherington anticipated that changes to the law of evidence may be necessary to secure convictions. That is very dangerous ground. If changes to the law of evidence are necessary to convict, that matter ought to be dealt with in this Bill so that it can be considered as a whole. We ought not to be invited to consider additional proposals in measures yet to come before us.
§ Mr. Cormack
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is a constitutional Bill and that for that reason it ought to be considered by a Committee of the whole House?
§ Mr. Darling
No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. Certain Bills ought to be considered by a Committee of the whole House, but whether the Bill is constitutional or not is beside the point. During my short period as a Member of Parliament I have seen one major measure taken on the Floor of the House—the Official Secrets Act 1989. It received scant attention because of the ability to exploit the fact that the Bill was being considered by a Committee of the whole House. The result was that the detailed scrutiny that would have taken place in a Standing Committee did not take place. If the hon. Gentleman wants this Bill to be scrutinised, I urge him not to pursue the course that he might be minded to follow at the conclusion of the debate.
The changes anticipated by the Government to ensure that the legislation comes into effect have been left out of the Bill. It was quite wrong of the Government to do that simply because they knew that unless they put the necessary provisions in other legislation they could not guarantee the passage of the Bill through the House. The Home Secretary claimed that the objection was that they were special rules changed only for those specific crimes. Of course they are not, but the objection is that the changes to the law of evidence in Scotland in particular would not have been made now but for the Bill.
I remind the House that the Government are proposing that a change in the law of evidence in Scotland necessary for the purposes of the Bill will be made in another Bill that addresses no fewer than seven subjects. We know that the Government are unable to produce the troops to scrutinise Scottish legislation, with the result that most of it is being parcelled into one omnibus piece of legislation which will contain subjects as diverse as charities, legal services, rights of audience, licensing, social work, prisons, divorce, trade and now a fundamental change in the law of evidence of Scotland. Changes to the law of evidence of Scotland or England should be considered on their own merits and not tacked on to an omnibus Bill to avoid having them discussed with other measures such as those that we are discussing.
The problem is that in future others will face trial charged with other crimes and will be subject to the same laws of evidence now changed to accommodate the Bill.
A number of hon. Members have expressed concern about the difficulties in the legislation. I share much of that 966 concern, but it is not enough to justify opposing the measure. However, it is worth examining some of those concerns.
The first problem is the definition of war crimes, which is quite specific. It refers to crimes committed between 1 September 1939 and 5 June 1945 on German territory and German-occupied territory. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have said that we do not know whether there are people living in Britain who might have been involved in crimes committed outside that period or outside those territories. It might have been better had the Government considered legislating to cover that eventuality so that we did not have to produce separate legislation should facts come to light tending to disclose the existence of someone who might have been guilty of war crimes comitted at another time and place.
There is also the difficulty relating to the evidence itself. I have already referred to the live video link. I understood that that provision was introduced to relieve child victims of sex offences from having to give evidence in court. I also understood that it was anticipated that in fraud cases it would be much more convenient for members of the jury and for the court to have that video facility. However, I had not anticipated that it was ever intended to cover cases involving war crimes, because identification of the accused surely is the most crucial element in any criminal trial. It is difficult at the best of times.
Anyone who has any experience in court will know how difficult it is to remind witnesses of what they might have seen a short time ago, let alone 50 years ago. I hope that judges will make it clear that video evidence should be allowed as a last resort and should not be regarded as the norm.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
The hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting that those of us who are in favour of the Bill expect court room identifications to take place. Every one of us would be vehemently opposed to court room identifications. The hon. Gentleman is talking about a problem that does not exist. As he well knows as a practising lawyer, court room identifications are practically never allowed in the courts of England and Wales, or Scotland for that matter.
§ Mr. Darling
As a practitioner in the Scottish courts, that comes as a great surprise to me. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) is quite astounded. It is almost a basic rule that, unless the witness identifies the accused, the whole Crown case collapses. That has happened. I would not wish to speak for England and Wales, but if the hon. and learned Gentleman is telling me that the question of identification will not enter into any of the trials, I find that very hard to believe.
Surely to goodness those people have to be identified as the perpetrators of the crimes. If that does not happen, I wonder what sort of trial it will be. I may stand corrected about what will happen in England and Wales, but as one of these trials will take place in Scotland, and as identification will be crucial, I should not wish it to be made by a video link.
When tackling the supposition that old men forget, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) suggested that perhaps they do not. I accept that perhaps they do not, but we must be sure that they remember who perpetrated the crimes; otherwise, we risk a grave miscarriage of justice.
967 There are also difficulties with records. In their excellent report, Chalmers and Hetherington paint a graphic picture of confusion during the war years. They also explain the deception that took place during the cold war, when documents and evidence were suspect, to say the least. I am sure that hon. Members will understand that documents that were not prepared at the time may have been put among other records for the purposes of propaganda of the cold war.
We should be wary and should appreciate the difficulties that will lie between the Crown and a successful conviction and between the defence and its preparations for the trial because of the time gap, and because of problems that would not be encountered in a normal trial in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Beaumont-Dark
I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making about justice, but does he not accept that if we do not pass the Bill evil men, however long ago they committed evil, will be able to set their hearts at rest and say "Thank God we are free, even if our victims are not"?
§ Mr. Darling
The hon. Gentleman misses the point. I made it clear that I propose to support the Second Reading of the Bill, but I caution him and other hon. Members about the trap that we so often fall into of knowing that a dreadful crime has taken place and being determined almost to see a conviction of someone at any cost. If a trial takes place, we must be aware of the pitfalls and that there is a significant chance that the wrong person will be convicted simply because he is the only person before the court.
Given the atmosphere that may surround such a trial, juries may be under much pressure to convict because of the truly horrific nature of the crimes about which they are hearing evidence. Judges will have a heavy duty to caution juries against being influenced by what they may have read or heard and not by the evidence.
I hope that the Minister of State will address himself to a problem that exists in England and Wales but not in Scotland—newspapers influencing trials in advance of and during them. There is nothing in the Bill to tackle that problem, and we have not been referred to future legislation that will do so. The Guildford, Broadwater farm and Birmingham cases rammed home to us the fact that newspapers can influence juries.
It is no use a judge telling a jury that it must disregard anything that it has read, because jurors read newspapers and are influenced by them. I hope that the Government will accept that there is a major risk of prejudice in these trials because of the nature of the subject that they cover, because of the time gap and because of newspapers' interest in making a story out of such events. It is regrettable that the Government did not address themselves to that problem, because this is not a subject for trial by newspaper.
There have already been proceedings to obtain an injunction in England and an interdict in Scotland to stop individuals being accused by the press in advance of any trial. Indeed, civil courts may review the evidence that a subsequent criminal court will be invited to consider. 968 Certainly that is the case in Scotland and it may well be the case in England. As a result of that, there could be no trial whatever.
The hon. Member for Corby (Mr. Powell) mentioned in an intervention the problems of legal aid, and the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) mentioned the difficulties that may arise with the national police unit. Those are matters which will require further scrutiny in Committee.
The Home Secretary said that central Government will meet the costs in England and Wales. Will the Minister of State say something about the costs in Scotland? The burden of investigating the crimes will fall on the local police forces, and therefore the local councils. Who will fund, for example, a case that takes place within the jurisdiction of Lothian and the Borders? Police forces could have a heavy burden placed on them which they did not otherwise anticipate. I see that inquiries have been put in hand even as I speak.
The Bill is worthy of a Second Reading. I support its principle, but we should be aware of its pitfalls. We are dealing with extremely serious matters and extremely serious charges. We should all remember that any individual is innocent until guilt is established. There has been a temptation this evening, and certainly outside the House, to talk as if those involved were guilty and it were simply a formality to put the necessary legislation on the statute book and have the trial. If we are to give courts jurisdiction to hear cases, it is essential that they are aware of the pitfalls. We, too, must do our best to ensure that juries can hear cases in such a manner that the accused are given a fair trial.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said that the trials that took place after the war were abandoned in 1948 because the world wished to look to the future. I understand why they were abandoned then. We are looking to the future. But if we are to look to the future, surely we must attend to the problems of the past.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) who I know is an advocate in Scotland. I can answer some of his questions directly. The funding for the investigations will be made available to the Crown Office. I shall certainly reflect on what he said about newspapers and trial by newspapers. I share his anxieties about that.
In the limited time that I have to reply to the debate——
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Member was not present during much of the debate and I must respond to the points made in this long debate.
I can do scant justice in the time available to Conservative and Opposition right hon. and hon. Members who spoke in favour of the Bill. Some 15 hon. Members spoke and I can refer only briefly to what they said.
The speech of the Father of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), was magisterial. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) was first to remind us that the issue was not a 969 Jewish issue but one that affected everyone who was persecuted. Then the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) managed to make a moving speech without using emotional language or altering his normal, level and measured way of addressing the House. On that I congratulate him, because, with his family history, it must be hard to exercise such self-control.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) was good enough to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on the speed with which he brought the Bill before the House. He also made an important point about citizenship on which I congratulate him. It gave me cause for thought. The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) addressed us as we would expect a distinguished former Solicitor-General to do. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler) spoke with his usual authority on this issue, in which he has a long and deep personal interest.
The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) made several points which, as he said, were issues to be discussed in Committee. He gave overall support to the Bill, which was important. The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) referred to retrospection and to the important issue that there should be no time scale during which justice will run out. I shall return to those arguments when I deal with the issues raised by my hon. Friends who are against the Bill.
There were other notable contributions from my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold), the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), my hon. Friends the Members for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) and for Torbay (Mr. Allason), and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner). My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) wound up the speeches in favour of the Bill and reminded us of the carnage that we must never forget.
In the time available I shall reply to the points of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).
§ Mr. Cormack
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the issues raised by the Bill are of such fundamental importance and the Committee stage so vital that it should be taken on the Floor of the House?
§ Mr. Patten
I do not agree with my hon. Friend. I know that he feels strongly about this issue, but the arrangement of business is a matter for agreement through the usual channels. There are conventions that normally govern legislation to be considered by a Committee of the whole House. I do not believe that this legislation falls within that category, nor do I believe that the time constraints are such that an immediate decision should be taken tonight on whether a Committee of the House is required. I cannot commend my hon. Friend's suggestion to the House and I hope that he does not feel that he must press it to a Division.
§ Mr. Cormack
Do I take it that my suggestion will be given serious amd proper consideration or is it being dismissed?
§ Mr. Patten
I have already said that tonight is not the time to decide about any issue of business management. I do not believe that this issue should be taken on the Floor of the House. Should my hon. Friend push this to a 970 Division, I am afraid that I must advise the House to vote against it. I am sorry to say that to my hon. Friend and to disagree with him on this issue.
I respect the way in which the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook weighed up the arguments in a provoking speech. He marvelled at the certainty of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the argument in coming to a decision about whether to oppose or support the Bill. I agree that some people are able to come down strongly in favour of one opinion, but the right hon. Gentleman was certain that he had an abiding revulsion that persuaded him to vote in favour of the Bill. I hope that that will carry many of his right hon. and hon. Friends through the Lobby tonight.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central asked direct questions about the Scottish provision. The provision of live television evidence was agreed by Parliament for criminal trials in England and Wales. That was done in the belief that the procedure would benefit criminal trials generally and would be perfectly fair to the accused. I believe that the Government have not hidden from making it clear to the House and to Scotland that they are seeking to bring forward changes in legislation that had been brought to our attention by the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill now passing through the House.
The decision to implement the provision now is linked to the decision already taken in earlier legislation in England and Wales. I do not believe that that affects the fairness of the position in Scotland.
§ Mr. Patten
There is little time and I must try to reply to the issues raised.
The Government have not denied the link with war crimes in their intention to legislate on television evidence and the video recording of evidence. The Government are taking the step for Scotland with the English precedent in mind, as well as for a much wider range of reasons than just war crimes. I see no injustice in that.
Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have made powerful speeches against the Bill. I shall deal with those arguments as quickly as I can under three headings. First, it was argued that what we are doing flies in the face of undertakings given by a former Attorney-General and Lord Mayhew that war crime trials would come to an end. Secondly, I shall consider the arguments about the supposed retrospective nature of the legislation. Thirdly, if we seek to go ahead with legislation for the period before 1957, it should be widened to take into account all crimes committed by whoever in whatever part of the globe, where there might be any taint or suggestion that they were war crimes or crimes against humanity. I shall try to deal with those three arguments, grouped in the way in which my right hon. and hon. Friends referred to them.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) felt that the Government of the day in 1948 had decided to discontinue war crimes trials in this country. I can rest on the statements of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary in the debate on 12 December last year and in an intervention earlier this afternoon. However, I shall add—I speak as advised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General who is here this evening—that any decision taken then to 971 continue or discontinue trials was a matter not for the Government, but for the Attorney-General of the day and the independent prosecuting authorities of which he was head. I am advised that in such matters the Attorney-General acts independently when deciding whether prosecution should take place. That remains the position today; it is a matter for the Attorney-General of the day to take those difficult decisions, and will always remain so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Mr. Powell) made an important and related speech when he said that the statement made at this Dispatch Box by the then Under-Secretary of State, Lord Mayhew, in 1948 gave a clear indication—so my hon. Friend the Member for Corby would have it—that all war crimes trials were about to stop. The statement made by Lord Mayhew did not involve British citizens or other citizens living in this country, but the cessation of trials in occupied Germany by the allies. The task of pursuing those trials moved to the German Government. They accepted the task willingly and have continued to pursue war criminals ever since.
It is important to direct the attention of the House to paragraph 9.6 of the Hetherington-Chalmers report, which states:Responsibility for war crimes trials in the British zone of occupied Europe was soon handed to the German authorities. The problem was, however, perceived as one of occupied Europe. … It cannot be argued, therefore, that the British Government took a positive decision not to prosecute war criminals in this country, or that it was intended that war criminals should find shelter here.The most important sentence is:War criminals were not given an assurance that they would not be prosecuted here, and we see nothing in the policy or practice of successive British Governments that would prevent the present Government taking whatever action it considers suitable.I have scrutinised the record most carefully and I do not dissent from that.
To borrow an idea from the hon. Member for Perry Barr, if the House passes the Bill, one British citizen will be treated like any other in respect of these crimes.
Extremely important points about retrospection were made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), my hon. Friends the Members for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) and for Ipswich (Mr. Irvine) and others. The Bill does not impose criminal penalties on conduct that was legitimate under our law when it occurred. It confers jurisdiction on our courts to try proceedings for conduct that has always been criminal under our law. It does so only from a future date when the Bill receives Royal Assent and comes into force.
§ Mr. Patten
If my hon. and learned Friend will forgive me, I do not have time to give way.
In essence, the Bill gives quite long notice that a procedural barrier to criminal proceedings for criminal conduct will be removed.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion seemed to advance a third argument; it was also implicit in what my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said. I listened carefully to his speech, because he is acknowledged as an expert in extradition law. They said that if we followed this course we should go the whole hog and make it possible to bring war crimes charges 972 against people who were alleged to have committed crimes in any country or any war. They suggested that we should not restrict them to the conflict on German of German-occupied soil.
I am afraid that they would cause a number of problems. First, we seek in the Bill to implement only the Hetherington-Chalmers recommendations, which have been carefully thought out and arrived at on advice. It would not be right to move outside such advice and widen jurisdiction in this way without careful reflection.
Secondly, we should be in some danger of allowing a genuine and obnoxious retrospection to creep in. The 1957 Act reflected the provisions of the 1949 Geneva convention, which went much further than the fourth Hague convention of 1907—the convention that is reflected in this Bill, comprising the international law that obtained at the time, not later.
I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, to whom I listened with care, and other hon. Members that we should of course consider moving to legislation to cover Japanese war criminals or war criminals from any other theatre of war who were alleged to be living here if there was evidence that any of them was living within our jurisdiction. There is no such evidence. This House legislates when there is a need to legislate: such is our duty. But we can consider these points in Committee and I look forward to the debates.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central asked whether legal aid would be available to cover trips to the Soviet Union. The answer is yes. Legal aid boards have wide discretion to make exceptional payments for the defence when necessary extra expenditure is incurred while collecting evidence—for example, travelling to the USSR, Latvia or Estonia, or to one of the other countries mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst).
§ Mr. Patten
No, if my right hon. Friend will forgive me.
We have no statute of limitations in this country and have never had one. We have always taken the view, especially on serious offences, that there is no point at which a crime can be forgotten merely because it took place a long time ago—I say that with due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes). Hon. Members who do not agree with the Bill must agree that, in that case, we should have a general statute of limitations declaring that after 10, 20 or 30 years murder becomes out of date. We can forgive or forget, but decide never to prosecute after a certain time limit. It would be a bad principle if Parliament were to decide that at some stage a crime stops being a live crime and becomes a dead one; which is not to under-estimate the serious difficulties that face us all when addressing this Bill.
The House is united in its abhorrence of these crimes. There is common ground between us and no one could suggest otherwise. It is now on the agenda and we cannot shirk our responsibilities. The war crimes inquiry found that there are people living in Britain against whom, in its opinion, there is sufficient evidence to justify prosecution. It would be wrong for us to ignore that fact.
It is not for us in this place to say that we can take it on ourselves to forgive the wrong done to others. That is why I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put, That the Bill be read a Second time:—973
§ The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 60.975
|Division No. 136]||[10.00 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Eastham, Ken|
|Alexander, Richard||Eggar, Tim|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Allason, Rupert||Fearn, Ronald|
|Allen, Graham||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Alton, David||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Amess, David||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Flynn, Paul|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Fookes, Dame Janet|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Ashby, David||Forman, Nigel|
|Atkins, Robert||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Atkinson, David||Foster, Derek|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Baldry, Tony||Franks, Cecil|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Fraser, John|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Freeman, Roger|
|Batiste, Spencer||Fyfe, Maria|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Galloway, George|
|Beckett, Margaret||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Beith, A. J.||Glyn, Dr Sir Alan|
|Bendall, Vivian||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Gordon, Mildred|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Gorst, John|
|Boateng, Paul||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Boswell, Tim||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Boyes, Roland||Grist, Ian|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Hague, William|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Hannam, John|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hardy, Peter|
|Brazier, Julian||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Bright, Graham||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Harris, David|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Burns, Simon||Hayes, Jerry|
|Butler, Chris||Haynes, Frank|
|Butterfill, John||Henderson, Doug|
|Caborn, Richard||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hind, Kenneth|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Holt, Richard|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Clelland, David||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Cohen, Harry||Ingram, Adam|
|Coleman, Donald||Jack, Michael|
|Conway, Derek||Jackson, Robert|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Janman, Tim|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Janner, Greville|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Jessel, Toby|
|Corbett, Robin||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Cousins, Jim||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Cox, Tom||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Crowther, Stan||Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)|
|Cryer, Bob||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Curry, David||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Darling, Alistair||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Knapman, Roger|
|Day, Stephen||Latham, Michael|
|Dixon, Don||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Dobson, Frank||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Leighton, Ron|
|Durant, Tony||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Litherland, Robert||Richardson, Jo|
|Livingstone, Ken||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Livsey, Richard||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Rooker, Jeff|
|Luce, Rt Hon Richard||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|McFall, John||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Maclean, David||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|McWilliam, John||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Madden, Max||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Shersby, Michael|
|Maples, John||Sillars, Jim|
|Marek, Dr John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Steen, Anthony|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Stevens, Lewis|
|Meale, Alan||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mellor, David||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Michael, Alun||Sumberg, David|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Summerson, Hugo|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Morris, M (N'hampton S)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)||Thorne, Neil|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Tracey, Richard|
|Murphy, Paul||Tredinnick, David|
|Neale, Gerrard||Trippier, David|
|Neubert, Michael||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Walden, George|
|Norris, Steve||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|O'Brien, William||Wall, Pat|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Waller, Gary|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Walley, Joan|
|Page, Richard||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Paice, James||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Patchett, Terry||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Patten, Rt Hon John||Wilshire, David|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Winnick, David|
|Pike, Peter L.||Wolfson, Mark|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Wood, Timothy|
|Portillo, Michael||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Randall, Stuart||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Redwood, John||Mr. Stephen Dorrell and Mr. Irvine Patnick.|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Adley, Robert||Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bellingham, Henry||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hayward, Robert|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Body, Sir Richard||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Irvine, Michael|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Knox, David|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||McCrindle, Robert|
|Cormack, Patrick||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Mates, Michael||Speller, Tony|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stokes, Sir John|
|Mills, Iain||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Morrison, Sir Charles||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Moss, Malcolm||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Mudd, David||Viggers, Peter|
|Nelson Anthony||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Whitney, Ray|
|Rathbone, Tim||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Robertson, George||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Wilkinson, John|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Mr. Neil Hamilton and Mr. William Powell.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Cormack.]
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 59, Noes 224.977
|Division No. 137]||[10.13 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Adley, Robert||Mills, Iain|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Allason, Rupert||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Allen, Graham||Nelson, Anthony|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Rathbone, Tim|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Richardson, Jo|
|Body, Sir Richard||Robertson, George|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Bowis, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Speed, Keith|
|Cormack, Patrick||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Cryer, Bob||Stokes, Sir John|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Irvine, Michael||Whitney, Ray|
|Knox, David||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Litherland, Robert||Wilshire, David|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Mates, Michael||Mr. Nicholas Bennett and Mr. Neil Hamilton.|
|Alexander, Richard||Beith, A. J.|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Bendall, Vivian|
|Alton, David||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Amess, David||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Arbuthnot, James||Boateng, Paul|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Boswell, Tim|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Boyes, Roland|
|Ashby, David||Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes|
|Atkins, Robert||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Baldry, Tony||Bright, Graham|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Batiste, Spencer||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Burns, Simon|
|Butler, Chris||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Butterfill, John||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Caborn, Richard||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Kilfedder, James|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Knapman, Roger|
|Chapman, Sydney||Latham, Michael|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Cohen, Harry||Livingstone, Ken|
|Conway, Derek||Livsey, Richard|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Cousins, Jim||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Cox, Tom||McFall, John|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Curry, David||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Darling, Alistair||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Day, Stephen||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Dixon, Don||Maclean, David|
|Dobson, Frank||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Malins, Humfrey|
|Durant, Tony||Mans, Keith|
|Eastham, Ken||Maples, John|
|Eggar, Tim||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Fearn, Ronald||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Mellor, David|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Flynn, Paul||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Forman, Nigel||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Foster, Derek||Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)|
|Franks, Cecil||Moss, Malcolm|
|Fraser, John||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Freeman, Roger||Neubert, Michael|
|Galloway, George||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Norris, Steve|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||O'Brien, William|
|Gordon, Mildred||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Page, Richard|
|Gorst, John||Paice, James|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Patchett, Terry|
|Grist, Ian||Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Hannam, John||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Hardy, Peter||Pike, Peter L.|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Portillo, Michael|
|Harris, David||Prescott, John|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Randall, Stuart|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Redwood, John|
|Hayes, Jerry||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Haynes, Frank||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Hayward, Robert||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Hind, Kenneth||Rooker, Jeff|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Holt, Richard||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Ingram, Adam||Shersby, Michael|
|Jack, Michael||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Jackson, Robert||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Janman, Tim||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Janner, Greville||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Jessel, Toby||Steen, Anthony|
|Stevens, Lewis||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Waller, Gary|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Walley, Joan|
|Sumberg, David||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Summerson, Hugo||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Wilkinson, John|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Winnick, David|
|Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis||Wolfson, Mark|
|Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)||Wood, Timothy|
|Thorne, Neil||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Tracey, Richard||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Waddington, Rt Hon David||Mr. Stephen Dorrell and Mr. Irvine Patnick.|
|Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).