§ 25. Mr. Concannon
asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will look at the records of the British soldiers shot for desertion or cowardice in the First World War and have these records destroyed so as not to allow the names of these soldiers ever to be released.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith)
I have examined a sample of these records which are lodged in the Public Record Office. They are closed to the public and will remain so for so long as is necessary to spare the feelings of close relatives. In view of the historical value of the records I am not prepared to recommend their destruction.
§ Mr. Concannon
I am rather disappointed at that reply. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that according to information one can gather a large percentage of those who were executed should have been in hospital receiving treatment rather than be executed? Would it not be better to destroy the records of those who fit so much into that category?
§ Mr. Johnson Smith
I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but perhaps I may ask him to bear in mind that the present policy for handling records of this kind attempts to strike a balance between the protection of innocent individuals from unnecessary pain and the preservation of material which, after all, is part of our history and should not be suppressed for ever. I am satisfied that that approach is the right one and I think that most people would agree.
§ Mr. Concannon
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.