§ Motion made and Question proposed— "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the allegation of fraud and irregularity in connection with War Office contracts during the last twelve months; that the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, 494 and records; that five be the quorum' that Colonel Denny, Captain Donelan' Mr. Elliot, Mr. Firbank, Mr. Houston, Mr. Howell, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Herbert Lewis, Colonel Lockwood, Mr. Loyd, Mr. McKenna, Mr. Patrick O'Brien, Mr. Paulton, Major Rasch, and Sir Robert Reid be members of the Committee.'—(Sir William Walrond.)
§ MR. McKENNA (Monmouthshire, N.) moved to amend the motion by substituting the words, "any circumstances of fraud or irregularity" for "the allegations of fraud and irregularity." He thought the words of the motion would confine the Committee to the allegations which had been made in that House, and would prevent them from inquiring into circumstances of fraud unconnected with allegations previously made. He pointed out that if the Amendment which he proposed were accepted it would not put that limit upon the inquiry which at present there appeared to be in the motion of the right hon. Gentleman. If the Government saw their way to accept the alteration the words would run: "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon any allegations of fraud and irregularity," etc. He hoped the alteration would be accepted.
To leave out the words 'the allegations,' in order to insert the words 'any circumstances, instead thereof."—(Mr. McKenna.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'the allegations' stand part of the Question."
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY, Buteshire)
pointed out that it was obviously a question of drafting. The words suggested by the hon. Member seemed to him to prejudge the question and to assume that it was an undoubted fact already that there was fraud and irregularity. He could not see that any harm was done by leaving the motion as it stood. The Government desired to give every satisfaction to hon. Members. He recognised that the hon. Member had only the same object in view as the Government, but at the same time he could not help thinking that the words of the motion were conceived in a more judicial spirit than those of the Amendment.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said he supposed the House might understand that there was no intention on the part of the Government to confine the Committee to the particular cases which had been named in the House, but that they would have the power to take a reasonable amount of evidence upon circumstances of suspicion which might have come to the knowledge of the Committee. Although not strictly in order, he might, to save time, ask whether it was the intention of the Government to accept no alteration in the time limit of twelve months. He mentioned this because it might be found necessary to go further back than the twelve months mentioned in the motion.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
My own view is that there should be no limitations as regards the allegations, but to prevent a roving inquiry it was found convenient to have a time limit such as that in the motion. If anything came out in the course of the inquiry suggesting that a farther, a more far-reaching, investigation, going further back than the twelve months, was expedient, or if there was the least justification for it, the Government would never resist it. The Government has no desire to place any limit whatever on the Committee as regards what has occurred within the twelve months.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said there was just one word that might be altered, and that was the word "the." "The allegations" would give rise to the presumption that allegations had already been made. He suggested that the word "the" should be omitted and the word "any" inserted in its place.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not think there is any difference of meaning between the two words, but I have no objection to the omission of the word "the."
§ The Amendment was agreed to.496
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
thought the expression "last twelve months" imposed a rigid limitation on the Committee, but he assumed that what the Government said was that, if there seemed reason to go back for a short time before the twelve months, there would be no objection to extend the terms of reference.
§ Ordered, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and report upon allegations of fraud and irregularity in connection with War Office Contracts during the last twelve months.
§ Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.
§ Ordered, That Five be the quorum.
§ Committee nominated of:—Colonel: Denny, Captain Donelan, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Firbank, Mr. Houston, Mr. Howell, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Herbert Lewis, Colonel Lockwood, Mr. Loyd, Mr. M'Kenna, Mr. Patrick O'Brien, Mr. Paulton, Major Rasch, and Sir Robert Reid.—(Sir William Walrond.)