§ Sir ELLIS HUME-WILLIAMS
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, when the conduct of a soldier is about to be examined by a Court of inquiry and he is summoned to attend, no notification is given him beforehand of the nature of the charge, no legal assistance is allowed to him, evidence is taken, but the rules of evidence are ignored, and finally a report is made as the result of which he may be called upon if an officer to resign his commission; and will he consider the question of taking steps so that these so-called Courts should cease to exist?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I would refer my hon. and learned Friend to the answer given to his question of the 4th April and also to the Rule of Procedure 9 (b), where a charge is defined as meaning "an accusation contained in a charge sheet that a person amenable to military law has been guilty of an offence." Courts of inquiry cannot, therefore, be concerned in the investigation of "charges." When a Court of inquiry is assembled under the conditions laid down in paragraph 666 of the 2062W King's Regulations and Rule of Procedure 124, it may be required to give an opinion on any point, but when the inquiry affects the character or military reputation of an officer or soldier, full opportunity must be afforded to the officer or soldier of being present throughout the inquiry and of making any statement or giving any evidence he may wish to make or give and also of cross-examining any witness whose evidence in his opinion affects his character or military reputation, and of producing any witnesses in defence of his character or military reputation. It is only when required to do so that a Court of inquiry gives an opinion or renders a report. The conditions under which an officer may be called upon to resign his commission will be found in Article 527 of the Royal Warrant, which expressly lays down that an officer who has not been guilty of misconduct may be called upon to resign his commission should the circumstances of the case in the opinion of the Army Council require it. There is no foundation for the suggestion that Courts of inquiry investigate "charges." I regret that I cannot entertain my hon. and learned Friend's proposal to dispense with the system, which, as stated in paragraph 666 of the King's Regulations, is designed to assist superior authority in arriving at a correct conclusion on any subject on which it may be expedient for them to be thoroughly informed.