HC Deb 09 February 1937 vol 320 cc225-8
Mr. Shinwell

May I ask whether your attention, Mr. Speaker, has been directed to a question which was asked by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) which appeared to contain an improper reference to His Excellency the Russian Ambassador, and whether that question was in accordance with the traditions of the House? Yesterday I had the opportunity of speaking with the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire, and I informed him that I intended to raise this matter to-day. I was under the impression that he would be here, but apparently I am mistaken.

Captain Ramsay

As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire does not seem to be here, I know that he would wish me to say, is it not the fact that, seeing that the Russian Ambassador— —[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member called my attention to this matter yesterday, and I have had an opportunity of looking at the supplementary question which was put by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). The House will remember that on 5th November I gave a Ruling in this House with reference to expressions used in regard to Ambassadors in this country, and said: It would be most improper that offensive attacks should be made against the representative of a friendly Power."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1936; col. 261, Vol. 317.] In the question which the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire put, I cannot find that he made any such reference to the Ambassador. The only mistake, and it is one which I should not have made if I had heard the supplementary question yesterday, is that I should have called him to order because it did not seem to be in any way relative to the question upon the Paper.

Mr. Shinwell

Is not the reference in the question closely related to the recent trials and the alleged executions which have occurred in Russia, and does it not appear from the terms of the question that that was the meaning of the hon. Member's choice of words?

Mr. Speaker

It may have referred to something which has occurred in Russia recently, but there was no reflection on the Russian Ambassador. Reference to what takes place in another country is very often made in this House.

Mr. Thurtle

May I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that there is implicit in this question a suggestion that the Russian Ambassador will shortly be the subject of a trial for conspiracy against his own Government? I submit that the question does bear that interpretation. If that be so, may I suggest that that is a grossly improper and offensive reflection upon the present Russian Ambassador?

Mr. Speaker

Different people understand questions differently. I did not put that interpretation upon the question.

Mr. Sandys

Is it not a fact that conviction by a Russian court in no way implies any guilt?

Mr. N. Maclean

Is it not the fact that dismissal from a Government dockyard does not imply any guilt?

Mr. Speaker

That supplementary question does not seem to have any reference to the original question.

Mr. Magnay

Would not such an implication as the hon. Member for Shore-ditch (Mr. Thurtle) suggests be a compliment?

Mr. H. G. Williams

May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Six hon. Members prepared a report of a certain visit to another country. A document containing that report was sent to all Members of this honourable House by the Embassy of a foreign Government in this country. Does not that seem very undesirable having regard to our view, the view that you have expressed, that we should not make any references of an

undesirable character to a foreign country?

Mr. Speaker

I am not prepared to give a Ruling on that matter.