MR. KEIR-HARDIE (West Ham, S.)
I beg to ask the Solicitor General whether his attention has been called to an article in The Pall Mall Gazette of 5th June, in which the Postmaster General is alleged to have won the seat by means of bribery; and whether, in the interests of purity of election, he will cause the charges therein made to be fully investigated?
§ MR. ASQUITH
answered the question in the absence of the Solicitor General. He said: Parliament has provided a special procedure for the investigation of all matters relating to the conduct of elections. I understand that some months after the General Election an application to the Court was made by the defeated candidate, Mr. Finch-Hatton, based on allegations similar to those contained in the newspaper referred to, to re-open the Petition in East Nottingham, and that the Court made an order that, subject to notice being served on the sitting Member, the time for payment of the deposit should be enlarged. I understand that no such notice was served, and no 330 further action was taken. In these circumstances, I do not think that anything has occurred which calls upon the Public Prosecutor to take action in the matter.
§ MR. SEXTON
May I ask whether the appearance of an article in a newspaper is sufficient justification for a Member of the House putting a question in this form. Does it entitle him to make a charge in this form against a Member of the Government or any hon. Member of the House?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Questions are repeatedly put from statements which appear in newspapers. The hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, actuated by honourable motives in putting the question; and I cannot say that the question itself is out of Order, as the statement has appeared in print.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY) Louth, N.
Seeing that there is a legal way of dealing with these matters and resort was not had to it, is a Member of this House entitled to put, in the form of a question, any charge a newspaper may make? I would urge that he is not.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Of course, with that I entirely agree. But, the statement having been made in the newspaper, it is competent to the hon. Gentleman to put a question with reference to it. But it is quite irregular to re-open a question which has practically been settled.
§ MR. DARLING (Deptford)
Is it not perfectly open to the right hon. Gentleman to take proceedings in the same way as others of Her Majesty's subjects?
May I ask the Postmaster General whether he will indict the newspaper in question for a breach of Privilege?