HC Deb 14 July 1938 vol 338 cc1525-7
Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

Information has come into my possession which would appear to be inconsistent with that upon which the Committee of Privileges founded their report. May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, as to how the doubts raised thereby can be cleared up?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member informs me that he is in possession of information which is inconsistent with the information that was in the hands of the Committee of Privileges when they made their report. Anything of that nature raises a question of extreme importance. It will be remembered that the House has agreed to the report, so that it is very difficult to reopen the question. I do not know, without further consideration, whether there are any precedents for a situation such as this in which we find ourselves, and I think the House will agree with me in wishing that I should thoroughly look up the whole matter and see whether there are any precedents on which I could form a judgment. I think the House will be willing to grant me time before I give a Ruling on so important a matter. I should be prepared to give it to-morrow, or, perhaps better still, on Monday, when I should have further time for consideration. I should be prepared to give a considered decision on this matter either to-morrow or on Monday.

Hon. Members


Mr. Churchill

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you will be prepared to receive information from other Members besides my hon. and gallant Friend? I, speaking as a member of the Committee of Privileges, have come to the conclusion that our decision was taken upon a misleading presentation of the facts, and that the new facts alter the incidence of the breach of Privilege. In view of that, it seems that the censure has alighted upon persons who are completely innocent of any action and took no part in the incidents complained of. In consequence of that, may I ask whether you would be prepared to receive other representations?

Mr. Speaker

Naturally, I shall be glad to have all the information I can get from any quarter, so that I may be able to give my Ruling on the whole subject.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage

In view of what you have said, Mr. Speaker, I shall be very glad to bring before you such evidence as I have.

Mr. Buchanan

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you have properly asked for time to consider this matter, but that you will give a Ruling on Monday. Members will want on Monday to be able to understand your Ruling, but how will it be possible for us to understand your Ruling unless we know what the matter is about? I would ask you whether, when you give your Ruling on Monday, the House may have some kind of knowledge of what the question is? Would it not be better if now, without your giving a Ruling, we were told what evidence this is, so that, without prejudging the evidence, at least the House of Commons might know the evidence on which your Ruling will be given?

Mr. Mander

In view of the fact that, when this matter was originally raised here, the short facts were stated publicly to the House, is it not only reasonable that the short facts now should be again stated to the House by the hon. and gallant Member?

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

I understood, and I think some other Members understood, that the Ruling which you propose to give on Monday will be as to whether or not this question can be reopened. If that be the only point, it seems to me that we cannot discuss any matters connected with the question, if it is to be reopened, until it is decided whether it is to be reopened or not.

Mr. Greenwood

May I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker—and I think that this would meet with the approval of Members in all quarters of the House—that, having been confronted with a difficult and very grave problem, you should be given what you yourself regard as ample time before you make any further statement to the House, after which the procedure of the House can then be decided?

Mr. Thurtle

May we take it, Mr. Speaker, as this is a very extraordinary procedure, that you have satisfied yourself that the nature of the information is of such importance that you are justified in taking this extraordinary step?

Mr. Speaker

I have not taken any step. I have merely told the House that I shall be glad to consider the matter and answer any questions after having considered it. That is as far as I have gone. The request put to me was that I might give guidance as to how the doubts that have been raised are to be cleared up. That is as far as we have gone. I propose to give a Ruling as to whether there is any way of clearing them up.

Mr. Thorne

I take it for granted that this information will not leak out between now and Monday?

Mr. Speaker

Do I take it that the House is agreed?

Hon. Members