§ The Court held by the Commissioner for the purposes of the inquiry shall be a Court of Record, and the Commissioner for the purposes aforesaid shall have all such powers, rights, and privileges as are vested in His Majesty's High Court of Justice in Ireland or in any judge thereof, on the occasion of any action save as respects judgment, execution, or costs, and in addition shall have power, if he thinks fit, to enforce the attendance of any person who, in the opinion of the Commissioner, should be examined as a witness, and to examine such person on oath, and the procedure shall be such as may be prescribed by the Commissioner.
I beg to move, at the end, to add(2) No claim of privilege shall be made to or allowed by the Commissioner in respect of any Report made to the Prisons Board or any books or documents relating to the treatment or punishment of the said prisoners.873 This is a matter which affects the credit of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am moving it because I want to get the Report which Major Henry Owen Lewis made to the Government, and which was before him when he made his speech denying that these prisoners were handcuffed going to Mass, I want to know, Is that Report to be withheld from Mr. Justice Dodd? Major Henry Owen Lewis is the son of an old Member of this House—I think a Conservative Member. He is a major in the Army and a prison official. When this affidavit was made by Mr. Kenny stating that the prisoners were handcuffed going to Mass, Major Henry Owen Lewis was sent down to Belfast to report on the credibility of that and other statements in the affidavit. The prisoners have informed me—and in this matter I should like to make it clear to the House that one of the reasons why I interfere in this matter is this: you gave my nephew five months in this gaol after his brother had offered his life for you in Flanders. That was his reward. He was one of the men whom you handcuffed going to Mass, whom you handcuffed going to Confession, and whom you handcuffed twice going to Communion. The fact that his brother was killed in Flanders did not save him from those indignities. Yet I am told that I am rising in this House to attack officials who cannot be here. The right hon. Gentleman got up in this House with Major Henry Owen Lewis's Report before him and he stated that no such incident had taken place. I am now moving an Amendment to provide that privilege shall not be claimed for this Report. The right hon. Gentleman ought to be in his position the first man to be anxious for its publication, for it will either support him in saying that the story was false, and that Major Henry Owen Lewis denied it and reported that no such thing took place, or it will not. If it does, he at least will have some better chance of having the statements accepted generally by this House and by the people; but if, on the other hand, Major Henry Owen Lewis's Report sets out that the prisoners were handcuffed going to Mass and were handcuffed at Confession to prevent them making the Sign of the Cross, and were handcuffed going to Holy Communion on two occasions, then what will become of the position of the right hon. Gentleman as a man of credibility or as chargeant and author of the suggestion of the German plot. I therefore 874 move this Amendment in order to detect whether the word of the Chief Secretary can be always accepted as absolutely accurate in every respect. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman, at all events as regards this Amendment, will cordially accept it in order that Major Henry Owen Lewis's report may be given to the world.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I have no intention of accepting this Amendment. Mr. Justice Dodd will preside over a Court of Record where he will have all the powers of investigation vested in the High Court. It will be in every sense a judicial Court and a Court of justice, and I am not going to hamper him in his discretion in any way whatever. With regard to the statement made by the hon. and learned Member, this Bill is setting up a Court, with a judge presiding over it, to try the question as to the truth of the assertions he has made. Therefore, I do not propose to take up the time of the House in discussing whether or not those allegations are true or false. That is what the judge will decide.
The right hon. Gentleman will not ride off so easily as he supposes. He knows very well that at the Ashe inquest the Prisons Board claimed privilege for these Reports, and that privilege was allowed by the coroner. He therefore knows that, of course, he will instruct the Prisons Board to claim privilege for Major Henry Owen Lewis's Report. He knows also that it is the invariable practice of judges in Ireland to grant privilege when claimed by a public department. When the Crown come forward and pledge their oath, as they do invariably, that it would not be in the public interest that a particular document should be given, the judge always allows that statement to prevail. Therefore, Major Henry Owen Lewis's Report will not see the light of day, and therefore I will not have the opportunity of proving from a public document that the Chief Secretary for Ireland knew, when he suggested perjury in Kenny's case, that the allegation as to the prisoners being handcuffed was absolutely accurate, and that his statement was a little perhaps inaccurate. I am moving the Amendment for this object. I want it to stand on record as having moved it, because the right hon. Gentleman, with a lack of imagination, perhaps not for the first time shown by holders of his office, does not seem to be aware that what is going on and has gone 875 on in Russia for the last six months, or five months at all events, has been largely due to what has been going on in Ireland. Your prisoners have suffered there, I believe, to a great extent. The Irish Chief Secretary is responsible for their torture. Of course he does not see it, but perhaps it will interest him to know that the Russian Ambassador whom they recently put into Brixton Gaol and deported in the end out of London and out of England, spent a very long time in Ireland in the county of Monaghan, and in his dossier always going out from this country was an Irish dossier of what was going on in Dublin and in Irish, gaols on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, let the Committee take notice of the fact that just as when you drop a stone in the pond and the ripple widens so your Irish policy has hit you abroad. It has hit you in German prisons; it has hit you in Russian prisons, and in this case the right hon. Gentleman is taking up the very stand which is taken up in despotic countries when prisoners have been cruelly ill-treated and when reports have been made exposing the cruelty, and he has denied the cruelty and has sup pressed the reports which would disaffirm his own statement.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.