§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War who is responsible for the preparation and authenticity of the summary of the evidence given before the War Commission which has been supplied to the Press; whether such summaries have been revised by the witnesses; whether the evidence already given will be laid before Parliament at once, and when the taking of evidence by the Commission will be concluded.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
668 I assume that the secretary of the Commission is the person responsible for the preparation and authenticity of the summary of the evidence. I do not know if the summaries have been revised by the witnesses. No report has been forwarded to the Government, and it may be assumed, therefore, that no Papers will be laid till the inquiry is concluded. I am not in a position to state when the inquiry will be concluded.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
I wish to know whether, in accordance with invariable practice, the right hon. Gentleman has communicated to the Commission and to its secretary the fact that this question was going to be asked in the House of Commons, and what answer they had asked the right hon. Gentleman to give to it.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am not aware that there is any precedent for Government laying such questions before the Royal Commission. If that is the case, I will certainly lay it before the Commission, but I think in that case the Question should be addressed to the First Lord of the Treasury. I have no authority over the Commission, nor had I any authority in the appointment of it.
*SIR HENRY FOWLER
I beg to give notice that I will repeat the Question to the First Lord, and I hope we shall get such an answer as is due to the House.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he can explain on what grounds the conclusion was arrived at that the proceedings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the late war should be wholly secret, having regard to the fact of his statement in the House of Commons on the 12th June, 1902,† that the question as to whether the Commission was to be an open or a secret inquiry was a question for careful consideration, and that in all probability some parts of the inquiry would be conducted in private.
§ MR. BRODRICK
When questioned on the subject of the inquiry I could only give my opinion as to the probable course which would be adopted. I have no doubt† See (4) Debates, cix, 499.669 the Royal Commission gave the matter careful consideration, but their decision was entirely a question for themselves, and the Government was in no way concerned in it.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
But when the right hon. Gentleman said that the question whether the proceedings should be wholly secret was under consideration, did he mean under the consideration of the Government or of the Commission?
§ MR. BRODRICK
The Government can only appoint the Commission, which has itself to decide the course of procedure.