HC Deb 31 May 1927 vol 207 cc214-6

By your leave, Mr. Speaker, and the leave of the House, I desire to make a personal explanation. Last Wednesday night, the 25th May, in the course of Debate in this House, I read a statement from a constituent of mine, which was challenged by the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). The report appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT, Column 2,144. It has since come to my knowledge that in one respect, in the matter of date, that statement was incorrect. It says that until 1915 the man paid 1s. 8d. a month to the National Union of Railwaymen, and then applied for exemption from the payment of the political levy. I am now informed that he paid 1s. 8d. a month until 1925, and it was not until that year, 1923, that he applied for exemption. I take this opportunity of making the correction, and I tender my apologies to the House for having, inadvertently, made the error.


When this matter was raised the hon. and gallant Member said "He"— that is, the individual in question, claimed exemption from the political levy, and presumably obtained it, but nevertheless he pays his trade union exactly the same sum as those who have not obtained political exemption."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th May, 1927; col. 2144, Vol. 206.] I immediately rose and said that I had never heard of the case, that I knew nothing about it, and that I would make inquiries. I asked for the name and, most unfortunately and regrettably, someone on the other side, whom I shall not name, shouted, "I hope he will not be victimised." That was resented on this side, because I genuinely intended to inquire. The next day, I sent a telegram and a letter to Newton Abbot, and I now find that the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member is not only inaccurate, but I have here the man's card. He did not join the union until 1917, and he is shown as having been expelled from the union through arrears of contribution. The same day, I wrote to the Chief Registrar. The House knows that not only is the Chief Registrar the only man who can deal with a matter of this kind, but the Conservative party have issued a statement saying that everyone should apply to the Chief Registrar. I have a letter from the Registrar which says: In reply to your letter of the 26th inst., I am directed to say that there is no trace of any complaint whatever having been made to me by the man in question, Henry Powell. Those, briefly, are the facts. The case quoted by the hon. and gallant Member, which he has now corrected, has been restated and requoted by other hon. Members in various parts of the country. In addition, this remarkable fact emerges, that although the Act of 1914 provides that once a man agrees to pay his contribution to the political levy, from the day that he claims his exemption, obviously, the Act provides that that only operates on the 1st January. That is not the period in this case. The case quoted by the hon. and gallant Member is one of which the Registrar knows nothing.


On a point of Order. I made a personal statement, correcting one error. I do not know whether it is in order for the right hon. Member to make other corrections. As far as my information goes, I certainly say that some of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman are not correct. I do not know whether I shall be in order in replying on his statements, or whether he is in order in making them at a time when I had made a personal statement.


I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going rather beyond the necessities of the occasion, but it was rather difficult for me, on a technical matter of this kind, to know what is really relevant and what is not. Certainly, a debate on the question cannot be allowed at the present time.