§ Mr. Sutcliffe
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the procedures relating to courts martial. 
§ Dr. Reid
[holding answer 14 November 1997]: A series of reforms to the court-martial system were included in the Armed Forces Act 1996 and came into effect on 1 April 1997. The reforms were wide ranging and affected the pre-trial, trial and post-trial stages of the court martial system. The purpose of these reforms was to reinforce the independence of the court-martial, principally by reducing the apparent influence of the chain of command, whilst preserving its necessary involvement.
The reforms meet the European Court's concerns about the shortcomings of the system. The ECHR has recognised our actions, notingwith satisfaction that the UK authorities had made changes to the court-martial system with a view to ensuring the observance of their Conventional commitments".
Although we are not taking any further steps at present to improve the procedures, we are aware that we cannot afford to be complacent. The system is kept under review and will, of course, be looked at as part of the process of preparing for the next quinquennial Armed Forces Bill.68W
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the current average waiting time for independent appeals following courts martial in the(a) Army, (b) Navy and (c) Royal Air Force. 
§ Dr. Reid
[holding answer 14 November 1997]: I regret that I am unable to provide the information precisely in the format requested. However, in the last twelve months 32 applications for an appeal to be heard have been submitted to the Court-Martial Appeal Court. Of these, six have been heard within an average period of six months each. The remainder are still awaiting a hearing date. The information by single-Service is as follows:
Date of petition to CMAC Hearing date Army October 1996 June 1997 November 1996 December 1996 January 1997 not known February 1997 not known March 1997 not known March 1997 not known May 1997 not known June 1997 not known July 1997 not known July 1997 not known July 1997 November 1997 August 1997 not known August 1997 not known September 1997 not known September 1997 not known October 1997 not known October 1997 not known October 1997 not known October 1997 not known November 1997 not known Royal Navy November 1996 December 1997 June 1997 not known July 1997 not known Royal Air Force November 1996 April 1997 January 1997 not known February 1997 not known March 1997 not known March 1997 not known April 1997 not known May 1997 October 1997 June 1997 not known August 1997 not known
The dates for hearings are provided by the independent Court-Martial Appeal Court which is part of the Lord Chancellor's Department.