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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 October 2006, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Lords back WWI pardons proposal
Private Harry Farr
Private Harry Farr was among those executed
A government move to pardon more than 300 soldiers who were shot for military offences during World War I has been backed by the House of Lords.

The group pardon, which was announced in August, was approved without a vote as part of the Armed Forces Bill. It will also have to be approved by MPs.

Defence minister Lord Drayson said he hoped it would bring "closure" to the families of the executed soldiers.

But Tory Lord Tebbit said some of those getting pardons would not deserve them.

It is thought 306 British soldiers were shot for cowardice, desertion or other offences during the 1914-1918 war.

I don't believe it is open to us to reverse decisions taken legally at that time, according to a law passed by Parliament and expressing the public will of the time
Lord Ashdown

Lord Drayson said: "Having reviewed the situation again, we should, we believe, act now to remove the dishonour that still taints the memory of these servicemen and is still felt all too heavily by their families today.

He added: "We are not aiming to rewrite history. We cannot change what happened in the past but are aiming to address the memory of the men who were executed and the feelings of the surviving family members, by finally removing the stigma."

Expressing reservations about "revisionism of what happened in history", former Cabinet member Lord Tebbit said his father and uncle, who fought in the war, would have had reservations about exercising "any form of pardon for those who had deserted their post or fallen asleep when they were on duty, thereby imperilling their colleagues".

Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon - himself a former soldier - said the move would relieve the suffering of the soldiers' relatives but that it was not a "wise" thing to do.

He added: "I don't believe it is open to us to reverse decisions taken legally at that time, according to a law passed by Parliament and expressing the public will of the time."




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