HC Deb 23 July 1940 vol 363 cc611-3
75. Captain W. T. Shaw

asked the Home Secretary whether he is now in a position to make a report to the House on the case of the hon. and gallant Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Captain Ramsay)?

Mr. Stokes

On a point of Order. In view of the fact that this Question concerns an hon. and gallant Member of this House, is he not entitled to be here, to hear the Home Secretary's statement and to make a reply?

Mr. Speaker

There is no Question before the House. There is merely a Question for the Home Secretary, to which he is to make a reply.

Sir J. Anderson

Yes, Sir. I have received the report of the Advisory Committee. The committee recommend that the detention of the hon. and gallant Member should continue. I have given very careful consideration to their report and recommendation, and have decided to give directions for the hon. and gallant Member's continued detention.

Captain Shaw

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider that decision, in view of what the Prime Minister said in answer to a previous Question?

Sir J. Anderson

I can only repeat that my decision was taken after the most careful consideration.

Mr. Denman

Could not that report be laid before the House?

Sir J. Anderson

No, Sir.

Mr. Maxton

Does that answer necessarily mean that the detention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman must continue to be in Brixton Gaol, or might other methods of detention be considered?

Sir J. Anderson

That will certainly be considered.

Captain Graham

Was the hon. and gallant Member given facilities for having legal advice?

Sir J. Anderson

The hon. and gallant Member has been treated in exactly the same way as others who are in the same position.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is the Home Secretary in a position to lay before the House this report, which is evidently of such a character that action has been taken such as I have never heard of before? The House knows that I do not approve of any of the actions of this man, but I think it is most unjust that he should be shut up in gaol under these conditions.

Mr. A, Bevan

Are we to understand that the reply of the Home Secretary means that the liberty of any Member of this House is now at the disposal of the Home Secretary, acting on the advice of a private tribunal, whose findings are not put before the House?

Mr. Edmund Harvey

Could this report be laid before the Committee of Privileges, which could consider it in confidence on behalf of the House?

Sir J. Anderson

I am of opinion that it would not be in the public interest to lay the report. As regards the Committee of Privileges, that is not a matter for me.

Mr. Bevan

Can I have an answer to my question? On a point of Order. This is a very grave matter, affecting the safety of every Member of this House. There is no attempt on the part of any of us to defend anything that the hon. and gallant Member has done, but surely what the Home Secretary has now informed the House amounts to this, that the freedom and safety of all of us are now at his personal disposal, on the recommendation of a committee sitting in private, whose recommendations we do not know about, and on evidence that we have not heard?

Sir J. Anderson

I think the House will realise that, as Home Secretary, I have a public duty to discharge, and that I discharge it to the best of my ability, in accordance with the best advice available to me, and in accordance with the terms of the Regulation which was made, and which the House had an opportunity of debating.

Major Milner

Without in any way reflecting upon the Home Secretary or his action, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how this matter can be brought within the cognisance and control of the House?

Mr. Speaker

This is not a question of Privilege, and it goes back a considerable time. When it was first raised any Member of the House could have raised the question of Privilege, and that was not done. When I read a letter from the hon. and gallant Member concerned, again the question of Privilege could have been raised. Now that is past and gone, and hon. Members cannot raise it any more. The House loses the opportunity.

Mr. G. Strauss

May I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that on a previous occasion when this matter was raised I raised this very point of Privilege, and asked whether the report, when it became available, would be submitted to the Committee of Privileges, so that that committee, on behalf of the House, might consider the matter? I did raise it at that time.

Mr. Speaker

This report is not before the House. If a Motion is put down, the House can consider it.

Major Milner

May not that action be taken now if the House so desires?

Mr. Speaker

No, it must be done by giving notice of a Motion.

Mr. Thurtle

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the House desires him to take as his paramount consideration the national safety?

Captain Shaw

Is it the fact that the hon. and gallant Member was not allowed to be represented before the Advisory Committee?

Sir J. Anderson

In reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I have previously explained the position with regard to legal representation, and the hon. and gallant Member whose case is involved here appeared personally before the Committee, but was not legally represented. It would have been within the power of the Advisory Committee to have granted him legal representation.

Captain Shaw

Is it the case that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was not granted ordinary legal facilities, and that the right hon. Gentleman said, in replying to a Supplementary Question, that he believed he would be?

Mr. Mathers

Will consideration be given to the fact that the hon. and gallant Member's constituency is disfranchised at the present time, and is any action contemplated in that regard?

Mr. Speaker

That is another question.