HC Deb 28 March 1945 vol 409 cc1395-6W
Mr. McGovern

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that on Monday, 5th February, 1945, two police constables called at the house of Mr. Alfred Stewart, 250, East Wellington Street, Parkhead, Glasgow, to arrest him as a deserter from the Royal Navy, that they marched him to the police box, thence by Black Maria to the Eastern police station, where he was detained for over two hours; that a large crowd saw him being arrested as a deserter; that he was discharged from the Royal Navy on 15th January, 1941, as medically unfit; and what steps he intends to take to ensure that such a mistake shall not again take place.

Mr. Alexander

The reports which I have received do not accord with the facts alleged in the hon. Member's Question. The reports do disclose, however, that an unfortunate mistake was made by the naval authorities at Devonport, which I very much regret, in that Mr. Stewart was confused with a rating also living in Glasgow, and who had the same surname, a Christian name also commencing with the letter A and a similar, though not of course identical, official number.

On 24th February, 1945, the naval authorities at Devonport requested the Dumbarton police by telegram to arrest one A[...] Stewart who was wanted as a deserter and whose official number and address in Glasgow were correctly given. Owing to the confusion which had unfortunately occurred, Mr. Alfred Stewart's address was wrongly associated with this rating, and since it was not known at which address the wanted man might be located, a further telegram was also sent to the Glasgow police stating the correct name and number of this rating, but giving the address 250, East Wellington Street, Parkhead, Glasgow. In consequence of this second telegram the Glasgow police called on Mr. Alfred Stewart on 25th February, when he produced a discharge certificate dated 15th January, 1943. This information was given to the naval authorities at Devonport, but, owing to the mistake which had occurred, they thought that this information referred to the rating who was wanted as a deserter and who had been marked as such on his records on 15th February, 1945. The naval authorities at Devonport therefore requested the naval authorities at Glasgow to verify the validity of the papers produced by Mr. Stewart. The latter authorities accordingly communicated with the police who on 27th February, 1945—not 5th February—again went to Mr. Stewart's house. Mr. Stewart voluntarily accompanied the police to a police box and on the way they passed only two persons and no crowd assembled. He was then conveyed in a police van to the Eastern Police Office, where he remained until the arrival of the Master-at-Arms who, on examining his papers, immediately informed the police that they were in order. Mr. Stewart then left the Police Office after having been there in all for fifty minutes. As soon as the naval authorities at Devonport were informed that Mr. Alfred Stewart's discharge papers were in order, the instructions which they had given to the Glasgow police were cancelled. I want to make it quite clear that there is no question of Mr. Alfred Stewart having been an absentee—he was in fact discharged medically unfit from the Royal Navy on 15th January, 1943, and I much regret the unfortunate mistake which occurred and the inconvenience which he was caused.