§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I desire to seek your Ruling, Sir, and also guidance for the House, upon an incident that occurred on Tuesday during the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. The right hon. Gentleman then read certain quotations from the society columns of some newspapers which I submit to you, raise general questions in which the House requires the guidance of the Chair. I see no need to re-read the passage in question as it is, no doubt, familiar to most Members of the House. The specific point on which I wish to draw your attention and to secure your Ruling is how far a Member, or a Minister, is justified in these Debates in referring to private persons outside this House and 'in coupling the name of a lady with a Member of the House and introducing that matter in debate? I cannot consider that the matter can be outside the realms of strict order, because it is quite possible that, if this kind of allusion and reference became common in the House, it would lead upon occasion to extremely disorderly episodes in our proceedings which would be regretted by all, and, therefore, I would ask you to give us your guidance upon the matter as a point of Order, and, quite apart from order, I would ask you whether the practice and tradition of the House have not, for instance, rendered all reference to conversations in the Lobbies or the Smoking Rooms unsuitable to our Debates and, in the view of all parties, whether a similar convention should not be adopted to protect private individuals from annoyance in this respect?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
In reply to the question which the right hon. Gentleman has put to me, in the first place I think it would have been better, if exception was taken to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his speech on Tuesday, that the question should have been raised at that time and not so long afterwards as to-day. It is a rather dangerous precedent to establish fox incidents which 585 may have occurred in debate some days ago to be raised as points of order after some time has elapsed. It is better to deal with them at the time. I am sure, in a matter of this kind, the House will realise that my duty in the conduct of debate is, to the best of my ability, to ensure that debate is conducted with decorum and that the Privileges of the House are thoroughly safeguarded; also that within the rules of order, Members are entitled to freedom of speech and to express their views as they think fit. Beyond that I must leave it entirely to Members themselves to appreciate their responsibility in this matter.
As regards the actual quotation which was read by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to which the right hon. Gentleman takes exception, I have no Ruling to give, because certainly no actual point of Order arises. If I say anything on the question, it can but be taken as my own opinion as to what should and what should not be done in the House. I think it would be better if no reference were made to incidents in the private lives of Members of the House, because I do not think any of us is so perfect that we can afford to accuse others either directly or by insinuation. As regards the other question that arises, it appears to me that references by name to incidents in the private life of Members outside the House is not desirable.
§ Mr. P. SNOWDEN
If I may be permitted to say so, I entirely agree with the concluding part of your observations. I think, as a general rule, it is very undesirable that references should be made in this House to people outside, but we all know, as a matter of fact, that that general rule finds a good many particular exceptions. In regard to the incident out of which the right hon. Gentleman's question has arisen, may I be permitted to remind the House of the circumstances that gave rise to my remarks? I was dealing with statements that had been made by the right bon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) about the export of capital and the lack of saving which result from the increase a direct taxation. In very general terms, and without any personal reference to anyone, I pointed out one form of the export of capital and quoted an observation of a certain newspaper about the spectacle that Victoria Station 586 afforded a day or two after Easter of Britishers who had come back to this country with their pockets empty. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Tory Whip threw an observation across the Floor, which was heard by the whole House, mentioning the name of an hon. colleague of mine, and I said, "If he were there he was not alone," and it will be within the recollection of the House that that observation was followed by loud and prolonged cheers from the other side of the House, evidently conveying some insinuation or innuendo, and it was not till after that incident that I read the extract.
May I be permitted to say this further. When my attention was directed to newspaper references this morning to this incident, and a construction had been placed upon what I read which was far from my mind, I wrote at once to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead, and I may perhaps be permitted to read my letter:I was astounded to see the enclosed items in the 'Daily Mail' and the Daily 'News' this morning. It would have been grossly improper for me to have made, even by the vaguest implication, any insinuation of the kind that seems to be suggested, and I hope it is unnecessary for me to say that nothing was further from my mind. If it had for a moment occurred to me that such a suggestion could be made, I should not have thought of reading the extract from the 'Daily Express.' In any case, as I said in the House, I should not have done so had it not been for Eyres Monsell's interjection about one of my colleagues.I will only add this. Members who were listening at the time will remember that the Debate at that stage had become somewhat heated, and what I did I did unpremeditatedly, and in the circumstances that I have explained, and I can only repeat the observation that I made at the beginning of my remarks, that, as a general principle, I think it is highly improper that the names of outsiders should be introduced unless absolutely necessary in our Debates. I want further to say that if what I did caused any pain at all to any persons concerned, I am deeply sorry.