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Volume 41: debated on Monday 14 June 1920

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My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government—

  • 1. Was the substance of the Resolution or Despatch of the Government of India on the Report. of the Hunter Committee telegraphed to the Secretary of State, and was the original draft in any way altered to meet his wishes.
  • 2. Will the important evidence of Sir Michael O'Dwyer, Mr. Thompson, Chief Secretary to the Punjab Government, General Hudson, Adjutant-General in India, and Major Sir Umar Hayat Khan be made public, and does His Majesty's Government approve the quotation in the Minority Report of selected passages from Sir M. O'Dwyer's evidence when the context has not been made available for the information of Parliament.
  • 3. With reference to the Karachi troop train incident, what progress has been made with regard to the fresh Court of Inquiry offered to and accepted by Colonel Macnamara, A.D.M.S., Karachi Brigade, in September, 1919, and for the setting up of which the Secretary of State has promised his assistance.
  • My Lords, the answer to the first Question is this: Arising out of the consideration of the whole case by the Cabinet Committee there was telegraphic correspondence between the Secretary of State and the Government of India which resulted in certain modifications of the original drafts of the two Despatches issued.

    In reply to Question No. 2 I have to say that it is always desirable to treat as confidential evidence given in camera, and the Government of India are strongly opposed to the publication of the evidence of the witnesses mentioned, for reasons which the Secretary of State regards as conclusive. I have no doubt that the noble Lord has noticed that portions of the evidence of Sir Michael O'Dwyer were quoted in both the Majority and Minority Reports. The conduct of the Committee is obviously a matter for the Chairman, and I, therefore, do not propose to express any opinion.

    My answer to the third Question of the noble Lord is that Colonel Macnamara has asked for the attendance at the Court of Inquiry of certain officers who are now residing in England, and who have retired or been demobilised. Some of the main witnesses are on medical grounds unable to go out to India again; others are unwilling to go for various reasons. The Secretary of State has no power to compel their attendance. He is, however, advised that their evidence can be taken on commission in this country, should the Court of Inquiry think necessary. Colonel Macnamara has been informed of this, but he persists in demanding that the witnesses he requires should be actually present at the Inquiry, and declines to go out to India unless this can be arranged. This has caused delay, and if Colonel Macnamara maintains his present attitude the offer of a further Inquiry will lapse of itself.