§ Mr. HENRY TERRELL
As a question of Privilege, I should like, Mr. Speaker, to call your attention to a circular I received this morning—as I believe did every Member of the House—which I submit is a gross infringement of the privileges of this House. The circular is issued by a body calling itself the Protestant Alliance, and is in the following terms:—
§ "MR. ASQUITH'S ACCESSION DECLARATION BILL, 1910.
§ "Dear Sir,
§ "The committee of the Protestant Alliance hereby notify the present Members of the House of Commons, that any Member recording his vote in favour of Mr. Asquith's 'Accession Declaration Bill, 1910,' on Wednesday, July 27th, or in any way seeking to alter the existing Accession Declaration, such action will be met by the sternest opposition on the part of the Protestant Alliance.
§ "It has been publicly stated that the Government intends to rush the said Bill through Parliament at all costs; such procedure is a disgrace to a party which poses and professes to represent the voice of the people, and hon. Members will yet learn to their cost that such action will be repudiated by the nation.2124
§ "The voice of the people has never been appealed to on this question, and the committee of the Protestant Alliance submit that such appeal ought to have been made. It is nothing less than an open breach of faith with the electorate and the nation.
§ "Members of either party who support this Bill to destroy the Protestant Constitution, will be strenously opposed at the next election.
§ "Signed on behalf of the Protestant Alliance,
§ "H. FOWLER,
§ I submit, with great deference, that to threaten the Members of this House as to the way in which they should exercise their discretion in voting for or against any particular Bill which is about to come before the House is a breach of the privileges of this House. Threatening them particularly by an irresponsible body of persons, who may or may not be electors, increases the gravity of the offence. If Members of this House are to be circularised in this way by any association or body of persons, they will cease to be representative of the people, and will merely be dummies put up to answer the whip of those associations or bodies who are unable to exercise the ordinary electoral influence at a General Election. I submit it is an insult to this House to issue a circular of this kind, directly threatening Members.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have not had an opportunity of seeing the document before. The hon. and learned Member only came to me a few moments ago when my time was fully occupied, but I listened as carefully as I could while he read the circular. The worst expression which I detected in it was "sternest opposition." I am afraid it would be pressing the privileges of this House a great deal too far to say that any body of electors who threatened a Member or Members with the "sternest opposition" was guilty of a breach of the privileges of this House. Each party lives on stern opposition to the other, and each in turn would excommunicate the other party if a threat of stern opposition was a breach of privilege. I think the hon. and learned Member is seeking to press the privileges of the House too far, and has not made a primâ facie case.
§ Several other Members took and subscribed the Oath.