HC Deb 12 February 1917 vol 90 cc260-3
36. Mr. R. McNEILL

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reason a police raid was made on the 15th January on the editor's room at the office of the "Field" newspaper; whether any incriminating documents were discovered there; whether any charge has been or is intended to be made against the editor; and, if not, whether any apology has been made to him for the indignity thus inflicted upon him?

96. Mr. PETO

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War why Mr. J. C. Blanch is refused permission to return to his domicile in France to carry out business orders received by him from the French Government; whether the French Government have urged his immediate return; whether this gentleman is an American citizen; and whether representations have been received from the American Government on the subject of his detention in this country?

97. Captain BARNETT

asked whether it was by order of the competent military authority that a police raid was made on the 15th January, 1917, upon Sir Theodore Cook's room at the offices of the "Field" newspaper in London; whether any charge has been brought against Sir Theodore Cook under the Defence of the Realm Act or other Statute; and, if not, whether any explanation can be given to justify or excuse the procedure adopted?

98 Mr. R. McNEILL

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War (1) if it was by order of Lieutenant Somerset, of the War Office, or by whose authority, that Mr. Blanch, an American citizen, was stripped of his clothes and subjected to indignities at Southampton in October, 1916, when travelling to France with the usual passport, and bearing also a letter from the French Embassy in London specially counter signed by the Foreign Office; (2) whether a communication has been received from a member of the French Chamber of Deputies intimating that de livery of certain war material contracted for by the Government is delayed owing to the detention in this country of an expert in relation to the manufacture of the material in question; if he will say why this expert is being detained; and whether he will take immediate steps to enable him to proceed to France in order to expedite the delivery of the material; and (3) who are the members of the committee responsible for granting licences in England to correspond and trade with Allied countries as regards material of war; whether it is the policy of the Gov- ernment to refuse facilities to the Allies for the manufacture in their own country of war material which has satisfied their own tests, but which may not be considered satisfactory by English experts; and, if not, will he say why the inventor of a material which he is desired by Allied Governments to produce in their own countries and under their own supervision is being detained in this country without any charge being formulated against him or any explanation being offered of his detention?

101. Mr. BRYCE

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that by the authority and intervention of Captain Stomm, of India House, and Lieutenant Somerset, of the Licensing Department of the Intelligence Branch of the War Office, an amount of over 10,000 tons of explosives has been held up from manufacture and use by our Allies in France; and, if so, what steps he proposes to take?

109. Mr. KING

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether the office of Sir Theodore Cook, editor of the "Field," has been visited by the police or the military armed with a search warrant; for what reason has this action been taken; and whether any apology for this action will be offered for Sir Theodore Cook?

The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for WAR (Mr. Macpherson)

There is in existence a Defence of the Realm Regulation, one of the objects of which is to prevent the exploitation of processes calculated to divert good raw material from the manufacture of explosives which have passed satisfactory tests to the manufacture of those of little-or inferior value. To achieve this object dealings in certain material have been prohibited without a licence granted by the War Office, after consultation with the various Departments concerned. In no single instance has a licence supported by the properly accredited representative of one of our Allies been refused. Rigorous administration of this Regulation has facilitated the placing of contracts and the earlier delivery of supplies. It has also resulted, in so far as can be estimated, in a saving to this country alone of several millions of pounds per month.

But with regard to this particular case there are circumstances which my Noble Friend the Secretary of State considers require investigation, and it is therefore proposed to appoint a tribunal consisting of a High Court Judge, aided by a chemical expert as assessor, to inquire into all the circumstances which preceded and attended the raid upon Sir Theodore Cook's room at the office of the "Field" newspaper. An announcement will be made at an early date of the constitution of the Court and the terms of reference.


Will the Inquiry be a public Inquiry?


That will be for the Court of Inquiry to decide.


Will precautions be taken to secure that there is a power in the tribunal to summon witnesses of note, and to call for documents?


That will be considered.


Will the House of Commons have no right to decide whether it shall be an open Inquiry or not, or must it be left entirely to the Court?


I am afraid this investigation might obviously raise points which the Court should decide.


Will the decision be communicated to the House of Commons like other recent investigations?


Yes, Sir.