asked the Secretary of State for War why he has refused to give reasons for the rejection by the Army Council of the petition against his conviction by court-martial lodged by Mr. R. E. Sutherby, formerly an officer of the Indian Army; and whether he will now give such reasons.
My hon. Friend refused to comply with the hon. Member's request to give point by point the reasons for the rejection by the Army Council of this petition. The general reason why the petition failed is that it disclosed no legal grounds for interference with the conviction.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the old policy of not giving detailed reasons no longer applies since this House has disapproved of that policy by setting up court-martial appeal procedure where reasons will be given? Does he not think he should adopt that principle and give specific reasons?
I should not have thought that followed. After all, the setting up of an appeal court, which I welcome very much indeed, will not interfere at all with the right of petition.
Would my right hon. Friend explain what are the reasons of policy which make it undesirable for the reviewing officer to give his reasons for either rejecting or admitting a petition in circumstances in which a petition is the only available right of appeal, and where to give reasons would only be equivalent to a judgment admitting or rejecting an appeal in a court of criminal appeal?
That again is a different point. My hon. Friend has in mind confirmation. This is a question of petition at a much later date.
I had not only confirmation in mind. What I had in mind was that this right of petition acts as a very valuable substitute for the non-available right of appeal, and the reasons for accepting or rejecting it are in many cases equivalent to a judgment in a court of appeal. Therefore, what are the reasons of policy which make it undesirable to give them?
I should have thought that that applied much more to the question of confirmation, and would be met by the setting up of an appeal court rather than by a petition.