HL Deb 16 March 1949 vol 161 cc429-47

5.13 p.m.

THE MARQUESS OF READING rose to call attention to the Report of the Army and Air Force Courts-Martial Committee (Cmd. 7608); and to move for Papers. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I feel it is necessary to apologise to your Lordships for taking up so much of this afternoon's proceedings. It happened that a not unimportant Motion on courts-martial which I had put on the Order Paper on a previous date had to be carried over till to-day as the only other suitable date. However, in the circumstances, which have risen since the earlier date, I think I can deal with the Motion quite shortly.

It has been obvious for some years that the Service authorities have been somewhat concerned at the existing procedure in regard to courts-martial; and shortly before the war, as your Lordships may remember, a Committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Oliver to inquire into the general position, and it was charged at the same time to consider whether there should be an appeal to a civil court of appeal from a court-martial in regard to conviction. Owing to the outbreak of war it was never possible to implement the recommendations of that Committee, and shortly after the end of the war, and in order to have the benefit of the experience which had been gained of the system during the war, a further Committee was appointed, this time under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Lewis, with enlarged terms of reference. It was charged not only to make a general inquiry into procedure and to consider whether there should be an appeal to a civil court, as had been the case with the Oliver Committee, but also to inquire whether there should be an appeal to any court of appeal of any kind, and whether that appeal should be on conviction or on sentence.

The Lewis Committee reported in April, 1948, and it was to the main recommendations of that Committee that I had intended, when I put my Motion down, to draw your Lordships' attention—partly, I confess, because I had the temerity not by any means to agree with all those recommendations—and to advance certain reasons why I was inclined to differ. I now understand, however, that the situation is that, no matter at what length I may expound my views on the subject of the recommendations of the Lewis Committee, and however many other noble Lords may take the opportunity of adding their views, all we shall get from the Government is a formal statement that, in circumstances which they have themselves created in the last three weeks, they regard the matter as being now sub judice, and therefore not one on which they are disposed to express any opinion. I should like my understanding of that position to be confirmed by the noble Viscount, the First Lord of the Admiralty, so that I may direct my course according to his answer.


My Lords, as is generally known by your Lordships, during the course of the last month a Committee has been appointed, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Pilcher, to consider the question of the application of discipline in the Royal Navy and to take into consideration the recommendations of the Lewis Committee. As the major recommendations of the Lewis Committee have not yet been accepted by the Services, those matters could not, I think, be dealt with by me this afternoon. I certainly should regard them as sub judice, as the noble Marquess has rightly said.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount for giving me that assurance. It is what I understood the position to be. That being so, I shall not waste your Lordships' time in discussing the recommendations, but I shall take up just a few minutes in discussing the circumstances in which it is impossible to discuss the recommendations, because I think they need a little careful consideration.

The Lewis Committee was appointed, as I said, in November, 1946—about two and a half years ago. It extended only to the Army and the Air Force; the Admiralty was carefully excluded. It may be that the Admiralty felt that they were not going to participate in anything so inquisitive or obnoxious as an Inquiry of that kind. But whatever the reasons may have been, they were not included in the terms of reference of the Lewis Committee, nor was a separate or parallel Committee set up at the same time to inquire into the question whether any, and if so what, alterations in the Naval Discipline Act were required to keep step with recommendations that might be made in regard to the other Services. That Committee, having been appointed in November, 1946, reported to the Government in April, 1948, very nearly a year ago. The Departments concerned then apparently took the Report into a corner and brooded upon it, and indeed they have remained broody ever since, except that they put into operation by administrative action certain recommendations in regard to alterations in the position of the Judge Advocate-General, now called the Chief Judge Martial, and in regard to procedure for giving in open court the verdict of guilty and the sentence at the end of a court-martial, instead of delaying it for confirmation and so forth.

There were certain very important recommendations of the Lewis Committee upon which one might have thought the Government, in the intervening period of almost a year, would have come to some conclusion. Perhaps the Committee's most important recommendation, if I may put it in a summary form, was that a special court of appeal should be set up to which appeals could lie on points of law in cases of conviction—not on sentence, only on conviction. The second recommendation was that a civilian legal functionary, to be known as a Judge Martial, should preside at all general courts-martial, and that a slightly subordinate functionary, to be known as an Assistant Edge Martial, should preside at all district courts-martial in cases where difficulty of law was likely to arise. The third and very contentious recommendation was that a finding by a court, either of acquittal or of conviction, must be unanimous.

Those recommendations of very substantial importance have been in the hands of the Government for nearly a year, although it was only in January of this year, apparently, that they broke surface sufficiently to publish the Report. What had been going on in the intervening eight months nobody except the Departments concerned knows; but from that moment to this, except upon those two points to which I have referred, which were dealt with by administrative action, no indication of policy of any kind has emanated from the Government. They have never indicated whether they propose to accept or to reject one or all of those extremely important recommendations. If those recommendations, which were designed for the benefit of the Service man and for making courts-martial fairer to him, have that effect and achieve that object, surely the Government must have made up their minds within this long period of time whether or not the serving soldier or airman is to be given the benefit of those recommendations. If he is to be given the benefit of them, surely it was not necessary to wait a year before coming to the conclusion that he ought to have those advantages, and have them promptly. If the Government have decided that the recommendations do not constitute this benefit, what has stopped them at any moment during the past year from saying so?

It seems to me that there were three courses open to the Government, if they wished to deal with the matter of the three Services altogether; they were courses of decreasing merit, and the Government took none of them. They could have appointed a parallel Committee, at the time when the Lewis Committee was appointed, to deal with naval discipline, or indeed could have extended the terms of the Lewis Committee to comprehend the Naval Discipline Act. They did not do that. By their failure to do something of that kind, the time between November, 1946, when the Committee were appointed, and April, 1948, when they reported, was lost for this purpose. In April, 1948, the Government had the Report of the Lewis Committee and knew that they had made far-reaching and novel recommendations. They knew equally that they did not apply to the Navy. It was open to them at that moment to say: "Well, we have now received these important recommendations and we think that the other Service, which has not hitherto been included, ought now to be brought in, so that we may see whether those advantages, if they be so, should be extended to them." But they did not say that.

The Government had a third opportunity in January of this year, when they published the Report, to say: "Well, we will now give an opportunity by setting up a naval committee." It was not until the end of February—when I suppose it became somewhat important, and they were being pressed as to whether or not they proposed to show their hand in some way as to their views upon the Lewis Committee's recommendations—that they suddenly seemed to have had the bright inspiration that, by at last appointing a Committee to look into the Naval Discipline Act, they might still mercifully delay the uncongenial task of making up their minds upon the Lewis Committee's Report. Whereupon this Committee were finally appointed. Now the view is taken that nothing can happen, that lips are sealed, that no expres sion of opinion must filter through from any member of the Government as to the merits or demerits of the recommendations of the Lewis Committee until such time, in the elastically-removed future, as the Pilcher Committee may in turn have come to their conclusions.

It is a rather strange situation. It is one to which attention has already been drawn in another place. I am bound to say that I hope the gyrations of the Minister of Defence, in his endeavour to extricate himself from the attentions, not only of the Opposition but of his own followers, in explaining the situation which had been created by this most curious procedure, will not be emulated by the noble Viscount who is to reply to-day. I am sure he would find them both painful and embarrassing. As I say, in view of the attitude which has been adopted by the Government, it is now a waste of time to discuss at this stage the actual recommendations. However, I invite the noble Viscount who is to reply to give us some more cogent and convincing explanation than has yet been vouchsafed as to this curious procedure. We all recognise that the relationship between the Government and the Fabian Society is affectionate and intimate, but Fabian tactics carried to these lengths require a good deal more explanation than they have yet received. I beg to move for Papers.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself, not for the first time, in full agreement with the noble Marquess who has just spoken. I feel that he has set a difficult task to the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, in asking for an explanation of this delay because, having been connected with this matter for some time, I am certain that there is no credible explanation whatever. As your Lordships may know, I was a member of the Lewis Committee. In fact, I think I was the only member of your Lordships' House upon that Committee. I signed the Report without reservation. Therefore, for my part, I do not wish to comment upon the recommendations. But I do want to say something on the way this matter has been handled.

The Lewis Committee were appointed at the time in response to an urgent request which originated in another place. I myself was rung up or the long-distance telephone to Germany, where I was at the time, because it was thought urgent to find out whether the people who were wanted to serve on the Committee could be called together at short notice. When we met together on the Committee (I think I can say this without breaking any confidence) it was apparent at once that unless the Navy was brought in it was possible that the whole of the work of the Lewis Committee would be completely frustrated. I will explain why. I believe it is generally recognised that this question of appeal, which by their terms of reference the Lewis Committee were particularly invited to consider, had a new significance to what it had in the days of the Oliver Committee, because of the decision to continue National Service in peace time.

For example, supposing that it was desired to give a National Service man a right of appeal against conviction for striking a sergeant, in the same way that that man in civil life has a right of appeal against conviction for striking a policeman, surely a similar right ought to apply equally to all three Services. Perhaps I ought to make a reservation here, to say that I am now speaking entirely for myself, and that some of my noble and gallant friends who have served in the Royal Navy might not entirely agree with me. But I take the view that, apart from the differences inevitable in the position of a seaman on board ship or an airman in the air, there ought to be no difference in the conditions of discipline. They should be the same say, for a sailor in the naval barracks in Portsmouth and for a soldier in the Clarence Barracks across the road.

However that may be, it was clear to a number of the Committee that politically the conditions were the same—that if the Government wanted to deal with one class of National Service man and give him the right of appeal, they should have dealt with all classes. Therefore, as I say, it was clear to us that unless the Navy was dealt with at the same time, either by the Lewis Committee or by the Pilcher Committee, it was possible that all our work would be delayed, if not completely pigeonholed. And that is exactly what has happened. In the view of noble Lords on these Benches, one of the reasons why that has happened is that, not for the first time, the Minister of Defence has failed to exercise his clear functions in this matter.

I know quite well that when the Lewis Committee were appointed the Ministry of Defence had not yet been formed, but it was formed soon afterwards. Here was an administrative problem such as was envisaged in the original White Paper dealing with the constitution of the Ministry of Defence—a problem which, as the noble Marquess explained so clearly, stood out plainly as something which would have to be tackled sooner or later. However, nothing was done. We reported in April 1948. For two reasons it need not have taken the Service Departments (the War Office and the Air Ministry) long to make up their minds. In the first place, a great many of our recommendations had already been dealt with by the Oliver Committee; and, therefore, certainly in the War Office, consideration had been given at intervals to those problems. In the second place, high officials at the War Office and Air Ministry had given evidence before the Lewis Committee a long time before the Report was written. So they had ample opportunity to consider those matters, which they knew would be dealt with in the Lewis Report, although admittedly they did not know what the recommendations were to be. So there was no excuse, when, nearly a year later, the original skeleton came out of the cupboard, the skeleton of the sailor, the Pilcher Committee were appointed.

Now we come to another "nigger in the woodpile." The Pilcher Committee have not been appointed with the same terms of reference as the Lewis Committee. The terms of reference of the Pilcher Committee, are: To consider whether any changes are desirable in the administration of justice under the court-martial system based on the Naval Discipline Act. There is no mention of two points in the terms of reference of the Lewis Committee to which that Committee were specifically invited to address themselves—namely, the right of appeal and the powers of courts-martial. When the Pilcher Committee report, therefore, we may find that we are back in the same position as before—namely, that the Pilcher Committee have not specifically reported on those two issues. And unless they do so, it will not be possible, I think, to go ahead with the recommendations of the Lewis Committee. Therefore, I am asking the noble Viscount opposite whether he can give an assurance not merely that there will be no delay in producing the Report of the Pilcher Committee but also that that Committee will in fact address themselves to those two points which, as the noble Marquess said, are the main points of the Lewis Committee Report still outstanding.

Before I sit down, I want to make one other point about this delay—namely, that all this waiting about is having a very adverse effect on the staff of the Judge Advocate-General. At the moment, a great many of them are not on a permanent basis; others are on a permanent basis, but do not know how their careers will be affected. If for no other reasons that I have given this afternoon, I think in fairness to that staff some steps ought to be taken. If that is not done, no one should be surprised if some of the better brains, the more useful people on that staff, drift away into other employment which offers greater security and greater prospects.

My Lords, nothing would be worse than to find, if we wanted to start implementing the main recommendations of the Lewis Committee, that through the Government's own fault the men who had the experience and the knowledge to handle the new situation were no longer there. I earnestly hope that we shall receive a favourable reply from the noble Viscount opposite. I have made these points to him privately. He was good enough to give me that opportunity. I do not know what sort of Papers the noble Marquess is expecting to receive—


Blank ones!


—but I know the Papers that would content me. They are, the Report of the Pilcher Committee, very quickly, and the Government's decision on it, equally quickly.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, introduced this Motion which, after all, is a very important one, and I am not for a moment going to minimise its importance, in his characteristic manner. I regret that he feels that his style has been curbed a little through the appointment of the Pilcher Committee to examine the disciplinary system of the Royal Navy. I want to assure him that the Committee were not appointed simply to curb his style.


I am sorry, but I think I mast intervene. I never suggested that they were appointed to curb my style. I suggested that they were appointed to enable the Government to prolong the period of indecision, because it suited them so to do.


I can also assure the noble Marquess that that is not so. Of course, it takes Governments of all kinds a long time to consider very important matters. It is a long time since we had a Liberal Government in power in this country, and the noble Marquess can hardly expect a Government now to be able almost, as it were, to produce rabbits out of a hat.


No Liberal Government that I know of produced rabbits out of a hat. It was Mr. Shaw in a Labour Government who made the phrase famous.


It is the kind of procedure which possibly applies to Liberal Governments. I admit, frankly, that there has been some delay, but the recommendations of the Lewis Committee were very important recommendations, and the noble Marquess—though he did not admit it in his speech—will agree, I think, that some of them go to the very root of discipline in the three Services. In view of the fact that they do that, it was deemed necessary that very careful consideration should be given to these recommendations. I would remind your Lordships that the Lewis Committee devoted eighteen months to their task before the recommendations were made. I am not complaining that they took a very long time. It was most necessary that they should examine fully all the witnesses whom they did examine, and should consider all the information which they received in papers and letters and other communications, because the matter was of the greatest possible importance. And its importance is fully recognised by His Majesty's Government.

In relation to the naval situation, may I refer briefly to the historical side of this question? The Admiralty were not invited to participate in—indeed they were not consulted as to the appointment of—the Darling Committee which sat in 1919. Nor were they consulted with respect to the Oliver Committee which sat in 1938, or, indeed, with respect to the Lewis Committee which was appointed by the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air. I cannot quite understand the point which was made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. He said it must have been apparent immediately the Committee was set up that naval disciplinary conditions would have to be considered. I will endeavour to indicate during the course of my remarks that no great effort at all was made by the Lewis Committee to bring in naval matters.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, but surely it was not the business of the Lewis Committee to bring in the Navy. It was the business of the two Service Ministers who appointed the Committee to take steps with a view to seeing that no action should be taken until the naval position had been cleared up, and to move the Cabinet to bring in the Navy. Surely I am right in that opinion.


It has been known that Committees, and that Chairmen of Committees of such importance as the Lewis Committee, have made representations to Government Departments, and have asked that the terms of reference should be changed so that they could bring in some other body or elicit additional information. All that it was necessary to do at that time, if there was a feeling to that effect, was that the Lewis Committee should make representations that the Navy should be brought in, and I have no doubt that such representations would have been seriously considered. At no time were the authorities of the Royal Navy consulted, either in regard to the setting up of the Committee or about the terms of reference, and there was no one representing the Admiralty on either the Oliver Committee or the Lewis Committee.

Your Lordships might ask why this was so. It is true that in the terms of reference of the Lewis Committee there was some mention of the recommendations of the Oliver Committee. But what was the principal part of the terms of reference? I quote from them: To bring under review in the light of the experience gained in the late war and of the composition of the Army and the Royal Air Force, the recommendations of the Army and Air Force Courts-Martial Committee, 1938, with special reference to the question whether it is desirable.… They had first of all to bring into consideration the experience gained during the period of the war. Let me examine briefly what the experience of the war really was. More than 203,000 courts-martial were held in the Army and Royal Air Force during the period of the war. From September, 1944, to August, 1945, no fewer than 49,000 courts-martial took place in the Army and 3,800 in the Royal Air Force making a total for one year alone of nearly 53,000. The war had thus brought a serious problem for the Army and Air Force in this respect, and the expenditure in time and labour during the war, when all our resources were so strained, was indeed prodigious, and serious delays occurred in bringing people to trial.

The position in the Royal Navy was very different. In the whole war period there were no more than 4,000 naval courts-martial. It is true that a large number of cases were dealt with summarily, but so far as courts-martial are concerned that was the position. It must be admitted that life at sea and the general conditions of naval service are different from those of the other two Services, and the disciplinary code under the Naval Discipline Act differs from those under the Army and Air Force Acts which are almost identical. It seemed, therefore, to be a more convenient and clear-cut task to deal with those two Services, in view of their experience during the period of the war and of the criticisms which followed that experience. The criticism of naval courts-martial and, indeed, of the naval disciplinary system has been almost negligible. The Secretary of State for War of the day, when he announced, in October, 1946, the intention to set up a Committee, made it quite clear that he was dealing only with the question of the administration of justice in the Army and the Air Force. He also made it clear that questions relating to the administration of justice under Naval Law were not his concern but were a matter for the First Lord of Admiralty.

So far as the Navy is concerned, I have quoted the figures for naval courts-martial during the last war. Before the war, they amounted to no more than an average of thirty to forty annually. Therefore, so far as the Navy is concerned, there was, in fact, no problem such as that with which the other two Services were faced during the period of the war. Even had there been one, I doubt whether it would have been right or reasonable to have imposed upon the Lewis Committee the additional task of examining the equally complicated question of the naval system. Further to this point, I would like to refer to the Prime Minister's reply to a Question in October, 1946. He was asked whether the Government intended to standardise an overall court-martial procedure for the three Services. The Prime Minister referred to the Committee then being set up which, he said, would include court-martial procedure within its scope. He pointed out that the standardisation of procedure for the three Services would present many difficulties, but the closest attention would be given to the effect on the court-martial system of the recommendations of the Committee. There was no objection raised to that course of action and no criticism was levelled against the Government for not including the Royal Navy within the Committee's terms of reference.

A further opportunity was presented when the terms of reference of the Lewis Committee were announced in another place, but again there was no complaint, nor has there been any complaint since. I think it is a little unreasonable for noble Lords to come along now and say that the Navy should have been included when there was no pressure from anyone and there was no demand from the Royal Navy itself that the disciplinary system of the Navy should be brought under review. But, as it has turned out, the Lewis Committee have made fundamental recommendations which must be considered in relation to their effect on all three Services. The major issues involved are important and there are powerful arguments on both sides. I thought that The Times hit the nail on the head when their leading article, which recently commented on the Lewis Committee's report, said how easy it was to disagree in this tricky field of law applied to men under Service conditions. I think everyone will admit that it is tricky to apply some of the recommendations of the Lewis Committee under the disciplinary system in the Services. Here I would like to say that I entirely agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, on certain points which he made in regard to courts of appeal, the unanimity rule and other recommendations of the Committee.

The constitution and terms of reference of the Pilcher Committee were announced in another place early this month, and here I would like to take the Opportunity of announcing a change in the terms of reference. Originally the Committee were asked to examine the naval court-martial system, but we have decided, after representation by the Committee, that it would be better to cover the whole field of the administration of justice in the Royal Navy, and the terms of reference have been extended accordingly. It is far better, once and for all, to cover the whole ground and to have before us the result of a full and impartial inquiry into all the aspects of the administration of justice before reaching decisions which affect the lives and welfare of members of all three Services. We have reason to believe that there will be no undue delay before the Pilcher Committe reports—it will obviously be greatly assisted by the ground already so ably covered by the Lewis Committee—and these important questions will then be decided promptly. In the event of any changes which will affect the Royal Navy, there must be consultations with the Commonwealth Governments who have adopted the Naval Discipline Act and apply naval discipline to their Navies. Mr. Justice Pilcher has informed us that if the Committee foresee rather prolonged sittings, he would be prepared at a given time, say in three or four months, to furnish an Interim Report dealing with the major recommendations of the Lewis Committee.


In their application to the Navy?


Yes, to the Navy. In the meantime, certain important recommendations of the Lewis Committee, to some of which the noble Marquess has referred, have already been implemented. I would like to refer briefly to them, to place them on record. First, the Judge Advocate General will in future be appointed on the advice of and will be responsible to the Lord Chancellor, although he will continue to advise the Secretaries of State for War and for Air. This was recommended by the Oliver Committee, because they thought it was essential to remove from the mind of the public any impression that the Judge Advocate General, whose duty it is among other things to review all court-martial convictions and to advise the Secretaries of State for Air and for War on questions of law arising out of these reviews, was in any sense a subordinate official of the War Office or the Air Ministry. There was no suggestion that the Judge Advocate General did not enjoy complete independence in the discharge of his duties, but the Committee thought it would be better to remove any possible misunderstanding on this point. The Lewis Committee came to the same conclusion and His Majesty's Government have accepted this recommendation. The Admiralty, too, will fall into line and in future the Judge Advocate of the Fleet will be responsible to the Lord Chancellor and will be appointed on his advice.

Secondly, the Judge Advocate General is now responsible only for his former judicial functions, and his former prosecution functions have been transferred to separate directorates of legal services under the Secretaries of State for War and for Air. In the Royal Navy, the Judge Advocate of the Fleet has only post-trial functions and has no department under him. He is in no way concerned with prosecutions. The acceptance of this recommendation has, therefore, brought all the Services into line. The Lewis Committee were strongly opposed to the practice of the Judge Advocate retiring with the court when the court was considering its findings after he had summed up in open court. In this, too, they supported the findings of the Oliver Committee.

His Majesty's Government have accepted this important recommendation, which the Lewis Committee put forward as an interim recommendation before they had finished their Report. At the same time, they recommended that the finding of the court, whether "Guilty" or "Not guilty," should be announced in open court as soon as it was determined. Previously, findings of "Not guilty" had been immediately announced, but not those of "Guilty." The Lewis Committee were concerned to find that the accused might not know for many weeks, until the findings were promulgated, exactly what had been found against him. The mere fact that no statement was made indicated that he had been found guilty, but on precisely what count would be left hanging over his head until the ultimate promulgation of the decision. The acceptance of this recommendation has now brought the Army and Air Force into line with the Navy on this point.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships by listing any of the other recommendations which have been accepted and are in process of being put into force by amendments to the rules of procedure, King's Regulations or administrative action. The question of delay, however, is a very important one. I think your Lordships would wish to know that we have accepted the Lewis Committee's recommendation that whenever an accused person is in close arrest an eight-day report is to be rendered, whether he is on active service or not, unless operational conditions make it impossible. This has not previously applied to active service conditions. The Admiralty will also require special reports to be rendered on the necessity for further delay when a person remains in custody for longer than eight days without a court-martial for his trial being ordered to assemble. In addition, the proposed limitation to ninety days of close arrest without court-martial has been accepted as a limitation which must not be exceeded, except on the written authority of the convening officer. This will also be applied to the Royal Navy. Both those recommendations will be given statutory authority in due course. The main proposals which have been referred to, and which I have already stated, are sub judice and I cannot enter into discussion about them now. The Pilcher Committee's discussions are well under way and, as the Committee are now meeting, I cannot comment upon the matters referred to them.

Before I conclude, I would like to take the opportunity of repeating to your Lordships the Government's appreciation of the excellent work of the Lewis Committee, which the Minister of Defence voiced in another place. The Committee were set a very arduous task. The way in which the work was done was greatly appreciated by His Majesty's Government, notwithstanding the complaints about the delay of implementing their recommendations. Legislation affecting the discipline of the Services dates back well into the last century, and the systems on which this legislation is founded are even older. Your Lordships' House had a worthy representative on the Committee, in the person of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. We know the very valuable contribution which he made to the Committee's deliberations.

When the Pilcher Committee's recommendations are received, your Lordships can be assured that the Government will give very careful consideration to them, together with those which remain outstanding from the Lewis Committee; and the views which have been expressed this afternoon by the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount will certainly be borne in mind. I can almost assure your Lordships that there will not be nine months' delay in arriving at decisions after the Interim Report is received. In spite of the drastic changes which were recommended by the Lewis Committee, I think we shall be able to bring about a certain amount of standardisation in the system of discipline that will be applied, which I am sure is the desire of your Lordships' House, of another place and of the public. If a little longer is taken, I think it is as well to be quite sure as to the next step. What we do want—and I am sure it is the wish of your Lordships—as that no effort shall be spared to give accused officers and men, so far as possible, the satisfaction of knowing that not only is justice being done but also that it appears to be done.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, I would like to thank the noble Viscount for his kind reference to the Lewis Committee and to myself. Further, I would like to ask whether I understood correctly what he said about the terms of reference of the Pilcher Committee. I understood him to say that the terms of reference had been changed. Do I understand that they have been changed from the terms of reference reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT in another place which read as follows: To consider whether any changes are desirable in the administration of justice under the court-martial system based on the Naval Discipline Act. Is that how the terms of reference now run, or have they been charged?


They have been changed to allow the Pilcher Committee to range over the whole of our summary system, as well as the court-martial system. At the same time, I would again assure the noble Viscount that the Lewis Committee's recommendations will all be examined by the Pilcher Committee in relation to the different circumstances which apply in the Royal Navy.


Will it be possible to give the new terms of reference in the OFFICIAL REPORT?


I will endeavour to have that done.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, I very much hope that the noble Viscount who has replied has convinced himself on his case, because I am sure he has not convinced anybody else. It would be a satisfaction to know that at least somebody had been convinced by the explanation he has given. He started by pointing out that the Navy is in quite a different category; that there were different considerations; that there were very few courts-martial during the war, and so forth, He then went on to point out that it was essential that implementation of all these recommendations for the Army and the Air Force should be held up, in order that they may be brought into line with the Navy, or that the Navy may be brought into line with the Army and the Air Force. He then went on to say that it was necessary to bring the three Services into line, because of the great importance of the Navy considering the far-reaching recommendations of the Lewis Committee, published in April, 1948. That is exactly the point that we have been endeavouring to make. What the noble Viscount has not begun to answer is why, when it became apparent that the recommendations of the Lewis Report were novel and far-reaching, it did not at that moment dawn upon somebody that the Navy had to be brought in and that a Committee should be appointed at that stage. Instead of that, a year has been wasted, during which the other two Services might have had the benefit of the recommendations made.


May I interrupt the noble Marquess? Has it not been shown that, in some things, the Navy has anticipated the Lewis Committee by a great many years?


I do not know that any of the three main recommendations which we have been discussing have been adopted by the Navy. Those are the particular matters with which we are dealing, and I do not think that the noble Lord's interjection has greatly advanced the discussion. He may think otherwise. That is the position as we see it—that, having had no satisfactory answer, we may at least cherish the thought that we have ventilated what is in our view a very considerable grievance, because we think the delay has been quite unjustifiable. In all the circumstances, however, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.