HL Deb 05 July 1900 vol 85 cc595-6

Before the House adjourns I wish to ask the Secretary for War whether he can inform the House what has been decided as to the Committee which is to inquire into the question of medical appliances during the war in South Africa and the complaints of alleged negligence as to the treatment of the sick and wounded, especially those suffering from enteric fever, and what is likely to be the nature of the Committee which the Government have undertaken to appoint.


The Committee or Commission—I am not quite sure which it will be—will be presided over by Lord Justice Romer, and I am sure I only have to mention his name in order to satisfy your Lordships that the inquiry will be conducted in a thoroughly judicial and dispassionate tone and spirit. With Lord Justice Romer we propose to associate two others. We think that to do its work with efficiency this body should be a small one. One of the two other gentlemen will represent the medical and the other the surgical profession. For the selection of a representative of the medical profession we determined to refer to the Royal College of Physicians, and we addressed ourselves to the distinguished gentleman who presides over that body, Dr. Church, and invoked his assistance. We asked him either to move the college to recommend a representative, or, if he was prepared to do so, to place his own services at our disposal. I am happy to say that he has chosen the latter alternative, and I do not think a more fortunate selection could be made. With regard to the surgeons, we should, in ordinary circumstances, have addressed ourselves in the same way to the Royal College of Surgeons. But your Lordships, or those of you who have paid attention to the question, are no doubt aware that the name of the distinguished President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Sir William MacCormac, has figured conspicuously in this controversy, and we felt it was hardly fair to ask him to recommend a representative of his college. We have selected a gentleman whose name is probably known to many of your Lordships, Professor Cunningham, Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in Dublin-University. He is a man of most distinguished reputation. He holds degrees of the University of Edinburgh, at which he has held high office, and he now occupies a high office in the University of Dublin. These are the three members of the Committee. The reference (I am quoting from memory) runs in those words:—"To report as to the arrangements for the care and treatment of the sick and wounded during the campaign in South Africa." My lords, I will only add to what I have already said that I have sometimes seen it stated that it was our intention to appoint a Departmental Committee. No such intention was ever entertained; as far as I am aware, by any member of Her Majesty's Government.

House adjourned at Twenty-five minutes before Seven of the clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Four of the clock.