§ Mr. DIXEY
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the statement made by the defending solicitor and reported in to-day's Press at the inquest proceedings of William Cooper, deceased, at Keynsham, as to the exhumation of the body of the same being made without notice to the defence; and whether his Department were responsible for the exhumation order and, if so, what action he proposes to take in the matter?
It was quite unnecessary to give notice of the exhumation to the solicitor in question, and my right hon. Friend does not propose to take any action in the matter.
According to my information, no such notice is ever given in these cases, and I think it is obvious from the questions that some secrecy must be observed.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
What authority has the hon. Gentleman for stating that no action of this kind has been taken hitherto? Is he not aware that the 1541 practice in most cases has been to give notice to the defence that it is going to happen, and why is it that a Labour Government—[Interruption.] This is a serious matter, and I want to ask why this departure has been made from the practice? It is a serious matter in which a man's life may be concerned, and I want to ask the hon. Member if he will make further inquiries, and give the defence of this man at least the same chance as he gives the Crown authorities.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Is it not a fact that if exhumation takes place before any arrest is made, then no notice is given to anybody? It is done secretly. If, on the other hand, an arrest has been made, and the arrested person has actually employed a solicitor to defend him, is it not his inalienable right to receive every form of information needed for his defence?
I will go into this matter, and give consideration to the points raised by my right hon Friend.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Is it not in order for me to move the Adjournment of the House on this question? If I can get from the hon. Gentleman a guarantee that he is going into this question at once, and will take definite steps, I do not want to interrupt the business of the House, but I do think that his answers are not sufficient in view of the importance of the question.
May I say that this question was put into my hands only about a quarter past two o'clock to-day, and that I have had very little time to inquire into the subject. I will, however, go into the matter at once.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
If the hon. Gentleman only received notice of this question at a quarter past two o'clock, why did he give such an authoritative statement?
§ Captain RAMAGE
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that although the solicitor for the defence was not informed, a doctor representing the defence was present at the exhumation?