HC Deb 25 February 1919 vol 112 cc1691-3

  1. (1) The Commissioners appointed under this Act (in this Act referred to as "the Commissioners") shall have all such powers, rights, and privileges as are vested in the High Court or in any judge thereof, on the occasion of any action, in respect of the following matters:
    1. (a) enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation, or otherwise; and
    2. (b) compelling the production of documents; and
    3. (c) punishing persons guilty of contempt;
    and a summons signed by one or more of the Commissioners may be substituted for and shall be equivalent to any formal process capable of being issued in any action for enforcing the attendance of witnesses and compelling the production of documents.
  2. (2) A warrant of committal to prison issued for the purpose of enforcing the powers conferred by this Section shall specify the prison to which the offender is to be committed, but shall not authorise the imprisonment of an offender fora period exceeding three months.
  3. (3) Persons interested in the inquiry shall not be entitled to appear before the Commissioners by counsel or solicitor unless it appears desirable to the Commissioners to allow any such appearance for special reasons.
  4. (4) The Commissioners may act notwithstanding any vacancy in their number, and three shall be a quorum.
  5. 1692
  6. (5) Every document purporting to be an Order or other instrument issued by the Commissioners may be authenticated by the signature of any one or more of the Commissioners.
  7. (6) The Commissioners shall have power to appoint committees for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting to the Commissioners on any of the matters referred to the Commissioners under this Act, and any such Committee may include, if the Commissioners think fit, persons other than Commissioners, and the Commissioners may delegate to any such Committee, for the purposes of such inquiry and report, any of the powers conferred on the Commissioners under this Act.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "matters" ["in respect of the following matters"], to insert the words the discovery, production and inspection of documents and for the purposes thereof the Commissioners shall have power to appoint and employ accountants and other experts to make such investigations and reports as the Commission shall order and. The Debate has revealed the fact that one very important matter which the Commissioners will have to deal with is the question of costs and wages, and upon no other matter has there already appeared a greater divergence of statement and of view. If this Amendment is accepted it will extend to the Commissioners greater facilities for ascertaining what those costs and wages are. I notice that in Clause 2,paragraph (2) the Commissioners will have power to compel the production of documents, but I gather that that is merely the ordinary power of compelling witnesses to produce documents. Something very much more than that is necessary. It is no use a witnessappearing and fetching a bundle of documents without the Commissioners having proper facilities for investigating them by expert accountants, and it is to give the Commissioners the power, which a litigant would have in an action at law, of investigatingthem and having them looked into by expert accountants, that I move this Amendment.


I should be very glad to accept the Amendment if my hon. and gallant Friend would change the words in this way, "discovery and production to the Commission of documents."I think the documents ought to remain under the control of the Commission. It is not a case of two parties to a lawsuit, but an inquiry to ascertain as far as possible what the facts are. I think, having regard to the very intimate nature of some of the documents it will nave to inspect and examine, it should be "discovery and production to the Commission."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: After the word "matters," insert the words the discovery and production to the Commission of documents, and for the purposes thereof the Commissioners shall have power to appoint and employ accountants and other experts to make such investigations and reports as they shall order and."—[Major Hayward.]

Clause, as amended, agreed to.