HC Deb 08 August 1889 vol 339 cc798-9

I desire to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland a question of which I have given him private notice—namely, whether he still adheres to his previous statements that the health of Mr. Conybeare, M.P., has not been affected by his imprisonment, and especially that his eyesight has not been injured by confinement in a whitewashed cell. I hold in my hand a letter from Mr. Conybeare, complaining of injury to his eyes, which I should be pleased to read to the House.


I stated that, as far as my information went, and I still state, there is no reason for any fear with regard to the hon. Gentleman's health. I have no knowledge of the communication to which the hon. Gentleman opposite refers.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give directions to the prison authorities in Ireland to give up the absurd practice—condemned by everyone who has any knowledge of the subject—of whitewashing the cells, and to adopt some neutral colour?


This is a very serious matter, affecting not only Members of this House but human beings. Will the House allow me to read Mr. Conybeare's letter? He says: "Mr. Balfour's reply to your question on Tuesday aptly illustrates the value of official replies."


Order, order! Any controversial matter should not be introduced. The hon. Member should only read such portions of the letter as refer to the health of the hon. Member for Camborne.


The letter goes on to state that on the previous Wednesday my hon. Friend complained to Sir Hervey Bruce, one of the Visiting Justices. He says:— If the Prisons Board have no evidence of the condition of my eyesight, it is simply because they have never taken the trouble to inquire. The doctor here, so far as I know, has never been asked; at any rate, he has never asked me about my eyes. As a matter of fact, I protest against the whitewashed cell, as I have protested ever since I came here. My general health also is bad, and I am nearly crippled. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Visiting Justice forwarded a Report, and where is that report now; and do the Government know, as a fact, whether Mr. Conybeare's eyesight is impaired or not?


Would it not be worth while—if only to satisfy the anxiety of the hon. Member's constituents—for the right hon. Gentleman to have a proper Medical Report of the health of the hon. Member for Camborne, and lay it before the House?


The Medical Officer of the prison, a most competent man, has daily opportunities of seeing the hon. Member. It is his business to report to the Prisons Board should there be anything in the gaol injurious to the hon. Gentleman's health. Nay, he has ample power, without going to the Board at all, to see that such changes are made in the treatment of the hon. Member as would prevent any injurious consequences. Of course, I shall be glad to make further inquiry, but under these circumstances I think there is no reason for any anxiety.