HC Deb 12 March 1889 vol 333 cc1497-8

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether a letter published in the Times newspaper of Saturday, March 9th, signed "James Barr," was written by a medical officer employed in Her Majesty's prisons; whether the writer is the person who was employed impartially to advise the Irish Government on the prison treatment of Mr. Mandeville and other prisoners connected with a political movement in Ireland; whether this letter was written with the authority and the knowledge of the Secretary of State; whether the rule against communicating to the public press by persons employed in the Civil Service on controversial matters relating to their department, which was acted upon in the case of the late Chief Commissioner of Police, applies also to medical officers in the prisons; if this letter is approved by the Secretary of State, was it by his direction that the Times newspaper was selected as the organ for its publication; and, what course does he propose to take with regard to the writer of this letter?


The letter in question was written by a medical practitioner who gives part of his time to the duties of medical officer of one of Her Majesty's prisons. It was published without the knowledge or authority of the Secretary of State. The rule against private publications on matters relating to a department by officers attached to the department has been issued to the prisons service, and applies to those portions of Dr. Barr's letter which deal with English prison administration. Dr. Barr is the person who undertook a duty outside his official employment—namely, that of inquiring into the administration of prison rules in Ireland as compared with the English prison administration. He was subjected to virulent and undeserved personal attack for his performance of his duty. I am informed that the substance of his letter to the Times had been already given in evidence by himself and Captain Stopford at Mitchelstown. I have drawn Dr. Barr's attention to the rule against publications by official persons, and have requested him to observe it in the future.


I beg to give notice that in consequence of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman I shall take the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of this House to the conduct of Dr. Barr, and his unfitness, from his bitter partizanship, to remain in the employment of the country.