HC Deb 30 July 1940 vol 363 cc1165-6
Captain Shaw

(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he has considered the Motion standing on the Order Paper relating to the detention of the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay), and whether the Government will refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges?

[That this House is of opinion that the circumstances of the detention of the honourable and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern should be referred to the Committee of Privileges for their examination and report.]

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The Government are prepared to move to refer the question of the arrest and detention of the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern, to the Committee of Privileges for examination in relation to the Privileges of this House. The necessary Motion will be tabled tomorrow.

Mr. Thurtle

Will the Prime Minister give the House an assurance that, apart from any breach of the Privileges of this House, the hon. and gallant Member will not be treated, in relation to the law, any differently from any other citizen?

The Prime Minister

The Committee of Privileges will deal only with the question of Privilege.

Mr. Garro Jones

While not attributing any bias to those members of the Government who sit on the Committee of Privileges, is the Prime Minister aware that the Committee is constituted of a proportionate number of members not members of the Government? Therefore, will it be proposed to amend the constitution of that Committee in any respect?

The Prime Minister

I see no warrant in the situation for the House not to repose its confidence in the fair dealing of its Committee of Privileges.

Mr. Mathers

May I ask whether the consideration which is given to this matter will take into account the position of the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member and the fact that at present it is disfranchised?

The Prime Minister

This Question deals only with Privilege.

Mr. Denman

Does the answer imply that the report of the Advisory Committee will not be put before the Committee of Privileges?

The Prime Minister

I think we must see how the Committee of Privileges addresses itself to the task.

Sir Stanley Reed

Will the Prime Minister take into account the fact that many constituencies are disfranchised, not because their representatives have been engaged in subversive activities, but because their Members are engaged in active service for the country?

Mr. Maxton

Will the Committee of Privileges in the examination of this case have the right to the full evidence which is in the hands of the Home Office?

The Prime Minister

The Committee must conduct its own affairs and be responsible to the House for discharging its duties thoroughly. I cannot see any reason why confidential matters affecting public interests should not be laid before the Committee for the purpose of enabling them to form their own opinion.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Is the Prime Minister not aware that the Committee have the right to send for persons and papers in the execution of their office?