When in opposition, most Labour MPs voted in support of pardoning the 306 British soldiers who were executed in World War 1.

A year after coming to power, however, Labour ruled the idea out, but this stance has been reversed since Des Browne became the Defence Secretary.

The following is from a letter from David Cameron’s office to a campaigner on the issue:

"We are making no commitment about how we would vote on the forthcoming
amendment to the Armed Forces Bill regarding the pardons. In particular, we will
want to look at how the legislation will impact on the crime of desertion today.

We also believe this should not be seen as a green light for a
re-examination of every wrong ever done in history … what matters far more is
righting the wrongs of the present, and this brings into focus the overstretch
in our army today and the continuing inadequacy of mental-health care for our

The Scotland on Sunday seems to make too much hay out of these statements, and quotes some angry campaigners and relatives who have clearly interpreted them as "appearing to whip Tory MPs into line". It would certainly be an unusually hard-headed line for Cameron to take on an issue, and interesting to see what justifications he would give for not making it a vote of concience.

The Shot at Dawn campaign does have some shocking stories about why some soldiers were executed, but it is surely reasonable to first assess the impact, if any, of posthumous pardons on the Army’s unique disciplinary and command structures.

Deputy Editor

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