HC Deb 15 August 1879 vol 249 cc1038-9

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If he would be good enough to state the course of procedure by which the evidence taken before a Royal Commission is reported to Her Majesty; whether, in the case of the Royal Commission to inquire into the constitution, custom, and usages of the London Stock Exchange, the Royal Commissioners, directly or indirectly, informed the Home Department that portions of the evidence of Mr. Cooper, and the entire of the evidence of the right honourable Mr. Goschen, in relation to the promotion and the subsequent winding-up of the Imperial Land Company of Marseilles, has been omitted from the minutes of evidence returned to the Home Office, in order to be laid before Her Majesty; whether the withholding of any part of the evidence is in accordance with the terms of Her Majesty's Commission nominating and appointing the said Royal Commission to inquire into the practices of the London Stock Exchange; and, whether Her Majesty's Government will direct that no such keeping back of any portion of the evidence shall take place with reference to the evidence or other proceedings before the royal Commission to inquire into the cause of Agricultural Depression?


Sir, with regard to the first part of the hon. Member's Question, the course adopted is, when evidence has been taken before a Royal Commission, everything is sent to the Home Office by the Secretary of the Commission. Of course, the evidence is submitted to Her Majesty, and afterwards presented to Parliament. As to the second paragraph, I never heard a word about it till this morning. With reference to the Question as to whether Commissions may strike out evidence in any form or shape, I may refer the hon. Member to his own experience of Committees of this House, where sometimes evidence is given and sometimes omitted. A matter of that kind, I believe, rests entirely with the Commission. For the same reason, it would be very improper for me to make any suggestion to the Chairman of the Commission on Agricultural Depression.


Perhaps, Sir, the House will permit me to offer a few words of explanation on this subject. If I had been in my place yesterday, or had Notice of the Question which was put on the Paper by the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan), I should have given such information as I could have given with reference to it. Probably, the Question ought to have been addressed, if addressed at all, to Members of the Commission, two of whom have seats in this House—namely, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Spencer Walpole) and the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. E. Yorke). I think the Question is a very fair one to ask of them. What happened was this. Some evidence was given before the Commission in which, as I learned afterwards, my name had been used, and statements made which, in my opinion, were perfectly incorrect. Upon that I caused it to be known to Members of the Commission that I thought justice required that an opportunity should be given me for controverting those statements. The evidence was then communicated to me, as it was also to others whose names had been used. I was not called to give evidence before the Commission; but I insisted upon being heard before it, in order that I might controvert the statements which appeared to me to be incorrect. I gave the facts; but my explanations occupied under an hour, and not a couple of days, as was suggested by the hon. Member's Question. After I had given those explanations the Commission decided that the evidence which I hoped and alleged I had controverted should be struck out and not reported. That was done on their responsibility. When I say that the President was a Judge of the land—Lord Penzance—and that the other Members of the Commission were Gentlemen of the highest character, I feel that the hon. Gentleman may be assured that no undue partiality was shown in the matter.