§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
I wish to raise to-day the question of the prevention of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) from visiting Northern Ireland on what he considered to be one of his Parliamentary duties. This prohibition raises a most important question, concerning not just the hon. Member for Shettleston, but every Member of this House of Commons, and, outside this House, those citizens whom we here represent. I do not intend to attempt in any way to deal with the personal position of the hon. Member for Shettleston in this question. He and his friends would probably resent it if I did. He and his party have always been quite capable of speaking for themselves and making their own case in this House, and, therefore, the aspect of the case with which I wish to deal is the more general one and the manner in which it affects Members of this House of Commons generally and the public outside.
1704 Two main issues seem to arise. The first is the right of the Home Office to prevent a Member of Parliament from going where he pleases in the United Kingdom on his Parliamentary duties, and the second is the refusal to allow a Member of this House to inquire into detention under Regulation 18B. As regards the first point, it does not appear that the answers that were given by the Under-Secretary of State the other day have made that position very clear. He appears quite definitely to have claimed the right on behalf of the Home Office to prohibit, and, where they thought necessary, to prevent Members of Parliament from visiting certain parts of the British Isles in pursuit of what they themselves regarded as their Parliamentary duties. On the other hand, side by side with that, he gave certain explanations as to the manner in which permission could be obtained, and when I put these explanations in conjunction with the fact that a great many Members of Parliament have no difficulty whatever in going to Northern Ireland for various causes, the restriction outside the Home Office, at any rate up to the present, seems to be something of a farce. I gather that if you liked to go to one of the Departments of State and said you wished to visit Northern Ireland, say, to study health, or possibly to study the defences, I presume you would get permission. I do not know exactly on what basis those Members who did go obtained permission, but it does not seem to be very difficult to obtain, because you can also go for domestic affairs. All that makes it the more serious that a Member of Parliament should be prevented from going there by the Home Office if he considered that his duty as a Member of Parliament justified and necessitated such a visit.
The second point, the question of detention under Regulation I8B, is to a large extent bound up with the first one, and on that I must quote a question put by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the Answer to it:Do I understand the position to be that the Home Secretary imprisons a British citizen and then refuses to permit a Member of this House to investigate whether that imprisonment is legitimate or not?
§ MR. PEAKE
If we were to permit the hon. Member for Shettleston to travel for this purpose, we should have to be equally prepared to allow any members of the general public to do so.
[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th Oct., 1941; col. 1250; vol. 374.]I cannot believe that the Under-Secretary in saying that was quite accurate. He cannot be accurately stating the views of the Home Office. It does not seem to me to be possible. There obviously is a great deal of difference in a Member of Parliament carrying out his functions as a Member of Parliament demanding a permit for such a purpose. I would add that although I personally cannot see that any Member of Parliament can have either the same necessity, the same justification or the same right, at the same time there are members of the public who could make a good claim. Take, for instance, the correspondent of a newspaper. I would like to ask the Home Secretary whether, if a newspaper desired to send its correspondent to make inquiries concerning a case of detention in which perhaps they believed a mistake had occurred, that newspaper would be prevented.
If we take the case of Northern Ireland, suppose a newspaper already had a correspondent in Northern Ireland who made these inquiries. Would that correspondent be prevented from conveying his information to the paper, and would the paper be prevented from using it? I take it that it will be admitted that newspapers have no prior rights over Members of Parliament. Are we to assume that if a man is arrested and detained under Regulation 18B and held without trial, he is then to be deprived both of the protection of the House of Commons and the protection of the Press? These are matters which certainly require to be cleared up before this Debate closes.
The aggressor nations, when they prepared for this war, adopted what they believed to be the most efficient form of government for their aggression. In other words, they adopted Fascist forms of government. Since we have been at war and on the defensive we have been compelled to adopt much of the Fascist machine for the purposes of defence. There have, however, been two main differences. First, we still maintain the importance of using this machinery with humanity and fair play, and, secondly, 1706 we maintain the importance of still upholding and using our Parliamentary institutions. The Prime Minister himself— whom I am indeed glad to see in his place to-day—has stated in this House that he believes Parliament can make a contribution towards winning this war. We share that faith, and I think we share it mainly because we are justified in believing that a country which can work its Parliamentary institutions as we can, and which act as a cushion between the drastic Regulations which have to be passed by the State and the ordinary citizen, can give greater personal effort and will have greater staying power than any country which is governed by tyranny, as are the aggressor nations. For that and other reasons we believe that our prospects of winning this war are improved by maintaining our Parliamentary traditions.
I want to say a word or two about the Home Secretary. I may have appeared on this matter to have badgered him at Question Time and, in fact, on any possible occasion. I have always had the greatest admiration for the administrative and Parliamentary abilities of the right hon. Gentleman. I have to-day, but I think he has added to his great burden somewhat unnecessariliy in administering some of these Regulations, and not altogether with advantage to the State. I also believe—and this applies to many persons who attain prominence—that he is a man of strong prejudices, and I doubt whether he has been wise in taking as much responsibility as he has taken personally for the administration of some of these Regulations.
As other Members wish to take part in the Debate, I will be brief. This House has given under special circumstances, and in time of crisis, most exceptional powers to the Government. The Prime Minister has rather emphasised the fact, in reply to questions in this House, that these powers have been specially given. This House has most willingly, without quibble and without delay, given to the Prime Minister any powers which he has regarded as being necessary for assisting in the winning of this war. But I think that this House gave them feeling sure that these were emergency powers and that they were only to be used in so far as it was absolutely necessary against Fascists and traitors. Powers of that kind, given in 1707 such circumstances, should not in any way be treated as normal provisions of the law.
There appears to me to be a definite distinction between claiming Parliamentary privilege additional to the Statute laws and customs and claiming for public purposes exemptions from emergency Regulations, and this distinction has undoubtedly been more than once recognised and provided for by this House in its past history. The more you restrict the liberty of the private citizen, the more imperative it is that the liberties of Parliament should be completely preserved.
§ Sir Hugh O'Neill (Antrim)
I would like to say a word or two on this question, which was so ably raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery). I do not speak in any way in my capacity as the Member representing an Ulster constituency. I do not think that is the point, but I would like to say a few words as an old Member of this House and one who feels keenly about the rights, Privileges and powers of Members of the House of Commons. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said the other day, in answer to a Question dealing with the refusal of an exit permit to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) that it was not right or proper that Members of Parliament should be treated in any different manner from members, of the public. But on this question of permits to and from Northern Ireland Members of Parliament are already treated differently from members of the general public. For instance, we Members who represent Ulster constituencies are allowed to travel freely between Northern Ireland and London. I believe that the Regulations governing the issue of these permits provide that the permits can always be granted in the case of a journey which is being performed on any point of national importance. I do not know how far it is a question of national importance for a Member of Parliament to desire to travel to Northern Ireland in order to investigate the case of a person who is detained under Regulation I8B. I should have thought it was a question of national importance for Members of Parliament to exercise their rights, and privileges in that way. I think the Regulations also provide that people travelling on ordinary essential business can be allowed to travel freely. 1708 Surely, it could not be said that it was not the essential business of a Member of Parliament to desire to travel to Northern Ireland in order to take up a question of this kind. It seems to me that the only consideration which ought to weigh with the Home Secretary would be if he thought that the Member of Parliament concerned was himself likely to do something prejudicial to the national security. If that were so, probably he could be arrested, and obviously, if that were so, the permit could be properly refused. But I cannot see how it can be refused in the case of a Member of Parliament desiring to go to any part of the United Kingdom, and, after all, Northern Ireland is in the United Kingdom, and it is within the direct sphere of the House and directly under the control of the House of Commons. Speaking as an old Member of this House, I cannot help feeling that the Home Secretary has made a mistake and that it would be wise to allow the permit to be issued.
There is one further point which the Home Secretary may possibly make. I believe the hon. Member for Shettleston applied for a permit rot only to visit Northern Ireland, but also to visit Southern Ireland. The visit to Southern Ireland may, of course, raise rather different considerations, because Southern Ireland is not in any way within the sphere of control by this House, but I should not be prepared to say to what extent it would be right or wrong for Members of Parliament to be granted or to be refused permits to visit Southern Ireland. Clearly, Southern Ireland is in a different category, but with regard to that, I would like to make the observation that, having read these Regulations many times, so far as I can see they treat the whole of Ireland as if it was one, and that, I think, is a mistake. As far as I know, exactly the same considerations apply in the Regulations as regards a visit to Southern Ireland as to Northern Ireland. If the Home Secretary makes the point that the reason the permit was refused was that it included the request to visit Southern Ireland, then, I would ask, why are the Regulations framed to govern Ireland as a whole, both North and South, on the same principles? I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised this matter. I feel it is a very important matter affecting the rights and privileges of Members of the House of Commons, 1709 and I hope that the Home Secretary, after he has heard the Debate, may think it wise to allow the permit to be issued.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I wish to associate myself with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill), and to call the attention of the House to certain precedents in this matter. I take the view that unless there is some overwhelming consideration of public security to the contrary, it is the duty of the Home Secretary to permit a Member of Parliament to go, not only to his own constituency, but to any part of the electoral area, and indeed, to any British Dominion, and Eire is a British Dominion. I can well understand that if there is a question of secret troop concentrations or something of that kind, the Government might well refuse to allow an hon. Member to go, but no question of that sort arises at the present time.
I find that in 1918, in the course of the last war, Regulations were introduced governing the passage of persons from Ireland to this country, and as soon as the Irish Members got to know about it, they were extremely angry and raised the matter in the House as a question of Privilege as soon as they were able to do so. In the Debate that took place, Mr. Dillon, Mr. Swift McNeill, Mr. Joyce and Mr. Devlin expressed their views in vigorous terms. They pointed out that they had suddenly been required to get a passport and to have a photograph placed upon it. They refused to do so, they made representations to the Government Departments, and the question of the photograph was wiped out altogether. The words "Member of Parliament" were placed after the person's name, so that the passport had not much value, because there was no means of identification. I would point out that there was an immediate differentiation between Members of Parliament and the general public, as the general public had to have photographs. Your predecessor on that occasion, Mr. Speaker, did not permit the question of Privilege to be raised, because he held that the matter had been known at any rate to some Members of the Irish party for some weeks, and, therefore, he ruled that it was not new. I mention the matter because it does come 1710 into the story, and it aroused very strong feelings among the Irish Members at that time.
The other precedents to which I wish to refer has a more direct bearing on the matter. In Clause 4 of a draft Bill defining the Privileges of the Senate of Burma which had been prepared under the instructions of a Joint Committee appointed by the two Houses of the Burma Legislature to consider this question, the following words appeared—and if a thing is good for Burma, I should have thought that it might be good for the Parliament of Great Britain, too:Subject to the provisions of any special Act every Member shall have freedom of movement in Burma except in those areas which are not part of the territories of His Majesty and which are not included in the Second Schedule of the Government of Burma Act, 1935.A similar provision was contained in the draft Bill prepared by a Committee of the Bengal Legislative Assembly, and the words of that provision were as follow:Every member of the Assembly shall have freedom of movement to his constituency or any other place within the Province for the purpose of the discharge of his duties as a member, unless he is arrested, detained or imprisoned or otherwise dealt with on a criminal charge or in a criminal proceeding.That is a very sound and constitutional doctrine. I imagine it was based on what was assumed to be the practice in the Mother of Parliaments, and I venture to hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, after he has heard the views of the House, and desiring, as I know he will desire, to bow to the clearly expressed will of hon. Members, will see his way to withdraw the particular interpretation he has placed upon this Order and so bow to what are undoubtedly the views of the House.
§ Squadron-Leader Donner (Basingstoke)
I rise to offer a few brief observations for the consideration of the House. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that this is not a matter which merely affects the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). It is a principle which affects every Member of the House and also, I think, every Member of the House of Lords. The question raises more than one point, but all but one, I believe, are subsidiary, and I should like therefore to focus attention on the fundamental and main point which was referred to by the 1711 hon. Member who spoke last, namely, the free access to every part of the Kingdom of Members of the House. Certain organs of the Press have made intelligent anticipations and have attributed a particular view to the Home Secretary, the view that no distinction must be made between the general public and Members of this House, and I believe more than one Member of the House shares that view. I believe that the contrary is the truth. I believe that one must draw a distinction between Members of the House and the general public, if only because Members of the House have certain constitutional functions to fulfil, whereas the ordinary citizen has no such similar function. The question of Privilege has also been raised in various organs of the Press. It is a mistaken view to believe that this is a question of Privilege because we are not here dealing with Privilege in the ordinary and proper interpretation and meaning of that word. The word "Privilege," as I understand it, when applied to Members of this House, means in effect a safeguard in order to enable Members of Parliament to do their duty and to fulfil their Parliamentary functions.
There are two schools of thought in relation to this matter. One says that in order to win this war we must as a nation surrender a great number of our liberties and much of the freedom to which we are all accustomed, and the other believes that the fewer infringements that are made during the course of the war as regards the individual liberty of the citizen, the better for the country. I sympathise with the second view. How difficult it is to regain liberties once forfeited we know from the last war. "Dora" remained for 20 years and never disappeared. Not only that, but there are in England, there are in public life to-day, men who publicly avow their belief in regimentation, in the infringement of individual liberty and in State control. Therefore. I believe it is better to try and get through this war and win it by surrendering the fewest liberties that we possibly can. I agree entirely with my hon. and gallant Friend who laid so much emphasis on the point that the more Government infringe the liberties of the ordinary citizen, the more important it becomes to maintain the comparative immunity of Members of Parliament, and 1712 the greater is the need to safeguard Members of Parliament, because when the war is over this House, and the Members of this House, will alone be in a position to grapple with the great problem which is bound to face us, and that is the problem of the octopus growth of our bureaucracy, which is growing every day. I was not therefore altogether happy when I heard the Under-Secretary for the Home Department say the other day that a Member of Parliament would require some kind of certificate or sanction by a Government Department in order to travel to any part of the United Kingdom. I would remind hon. Members of Jonathan Swift's witty and satirical work, "The Tale of a Tub," in which there appears this sentence:Last week I saw a woman flayed," he observes, "and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse.You, Sir, will hardly believe how much it will alter Parliament for the worse if we allow greater infringements of the liberties of Members of the House than are absolutely essential for the purpose of winning the war.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
May I ask the hon. and gallant Member how he explains his present attitude, in view of the fact that he supported General Franco, who suppressed Parliamentary representation?
§ Squadron-Leader Donner
I have always upheld our own particular form of democracy in this country, constitutional monarchy, and I have always believed in it, but I have never expressed the belief that democracy in a Latin country has ever been other than corrupt and incompetent. I earnestly hope that the Home Secretary will be able to see his way to rescind his decision, because I believe it is important even in time of war to maintain the fullest liberties of the House, which is essential if Parliament after the war is to stem the encroachments of bureaucratic control.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I thought it would probably be for the convenience of the House if I addressed it on this matter, after the case had been made. I must say that some surprising things have been said. The hon. and gallant Member for Basingstoke (Squadron-Leader Donner) says that democracy is 1713 reasonably good for the English—[HON. MEMBERS: "British."]—I hope he meant the British—but is not altogether good for the French, or the Italians or the Spaniards.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am always anxious to learn from the Noble Lord how to behave myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) also made an extraordinary statement. He likened the Defence Regulations—which have been made by virtue of legislation passed through the House of Commons, and are subject always to challenge by the House and to being upset by the House in a free Debate—to the kind of administration which obtains in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. That is not very complimentary to the British way of doing things and not very complimentary to this House. To liken the Defence Regulations and the Emergency Powers Act, and the way in which they are administered, to Fascism is, I think, a thing that ought not to be said in the British House of Commons.
§ Sir I. Albery
I did not intend to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but since he now says that I have said something which ought never to have been said, I would like to remind him that we have in many ways been forced to adopt Fascist measures, even in matters of finance, economy and trade.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not think that that is exactly a helpful remark when our country is fighting for its life against Fascism, because it is Fascism. I imagine that that will be quoted in other quarters. My hon. Friend also said something which I do not really think is true. He paid me the compliment of saying that I was a capable administrator and so on—which I very much appreciate—but he went on to say that he thought I was a person of strong prejudices and took too much on myself in the administration of these Defence Regulations. I have been administering the Regulations for the last 1714 12 months. It is a great responsibility to administer many of the Defence Regulations. It is a terrible responsibility that the House has imposed upon the Home Secretary, and I can assure the House— and I think the House will accept my assurance—that I do not take that responsibility lightly. I think too that the House generally will say that I have administered the Regulations fairly. At any rate, it is the case—and I am not boasting of it or making a virtue of it—that I have released well over one-half the members of the British Union who were originally detained and interned. I do not think that is an indication of prejudice. I think it is an indication of an attempt to be fair and tolerant in the administration of these Regulations.
As for the suggestion that I take too much on myself in the administration of the Defence Regulations, that rather surprises me. Surely the House of Commons in matters which affect the liberty of British subjects under Defence Regulation 18B will expect me to take the responsibility for the detentions and releases. It is not one of those matters which the Home Secretary can properly delegate to officials. He cannot even delegate it to an Under-Secretary. These Regulations affect the liberties of the individual British citizen, and I feel that it would be the wish of the House that I, personally, should deal with all these cases. If that is taking too much on myself I have made a mistake, but I do not believe the House of Commons would wish me to do anything other.
This issue is one of many issues affecting the restrictions upon the population of the country and also, incidentally, sometimes affecting the liberties and the normal rights of Members of the House of Commons. I would like first to explain why there are restrictions at all. There are, of course, restrictions on all classes of overseas travel, for a variety of reasons with which the House is familiar.. The restrictions as to travel to Northern Ireland and Eire require to be imposed, partly for the same reasons as restrictions on travel to other places are imposed, whether foreign countries or countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It must be remembered that Ireland has to some extent to be considered as a whole. Whenever people want to travel to Ireland they have to fill up a form and to say to what part they are going. The 1715 fact has to be faced—it is a pity, but it is a fact—that if a person says he is going to Northern Ireland we cannot be sure that he will stay there. There are means of getting into Southern Ireland. I am not now talking about Members of Parliament, but about the reason for the restrictions. The border is very long and it would want an enormous amount of man-power to watch it closely, either by police or military. That would be an impracticable proposition. Indeed, it is the case, referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill), that I get two arguments from Members from Northern Ireland. One is that I should relax the Regulations with regard to the general public travelling to Ireland, and the other that I am in grave danger if I do not stiffen up the Regulations with regard to travel within Ireland itself and to Ireland. Life is a little hard when one gets pressure both ways from Members from the same part of the country. There is great anxiety among Members from Northern Ireland as to travel between Northern and Southern Ireland. There is also pressure on me to relax the Regulations as to who can go, at any rate, to Northern Ireland. It is the case that I cannot be sure when people go to Northern Ireland that they may not go to Eire over the border.
It is the case that Eire is not even like a British Dominion. A British Dominion is at war with His. Majesty's enemies, but this Dominion is a neutral State. Therefore, it is a far more serious thing in one way to let a man go to Dublin than it is to let him go to Australia or Canada or America, which is a friendly neutral country. It must be remembered that in Southern Ireland there are friends of ours, but let us not hedge the fact that there are enemies in the country as well. Moreover in Dublin, unlike the capitals of Australia or Canada or South Africa, there is a German Legation. The fact that that legation is in Dublin is a material consideration which the House must bear in mind. Therefore, I suggest that it is just as right and proper that there should be restrictions upon travel to Ireland as that there should be restrictions upon travel to any other part of the British Commonwealth, to the United States of America, or to any other friendly neutral State. Another reason is that shipping 1716 facilities are limited, and, further, if large numbers of people were allowed to go, then the examination by the Customs and the passport authorities would involve a good deal of difficulty and congestion. I want to make it clear and it is the case of course that in the applications, one written and one verbal by telephone, of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), to which I will come in a minute, he did ask for a permit to visit Ireland generally, both Northern Ireland and Eire, including Dublin.
Those are the reasons for the general restriction. In order to get permission people are asked to show, first, that it is a business journey taken in the national interest, and here it is a great advantage if some appropriate Minister or Department of State says so. Or, secondly, they may go for domestic reasons, that is on a visit to their own homes or to the homes of their parents. It is, of course, the case that there is no question at all about allowing hon. Members who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland to go. In that case it is a matter of visiting their constituents. There the case is elementary and obvious, and there should be no argument about it—unless, of course, in any particular case there were security reasons as affecting the individual.
§ Earl Winterton
The Minister has made what I can only describe as a somewhat sinister observation. He said that whilst it was an elementary right that Members should go to their constituencies in Northern Ireland, there might be reasons of a security character which would qualify that rule. I would ask him to explain quite clearly what he meant.
§ Mr. Morrison
The case is a truism. I have no reason to believe that any such case will arise, but suppose there were a Member from Northern Ireland who was friendly to the Nazi cause, who was indifferent as to whether this country won or lost, who had not the slightest faith in this country winning; and suppose that I had reason to know that in going to Ireland he wished to make contact with the German Legation in Dublin. Then, I think, it would be my duty to withhold permission.
§ Mr. Morrison
I should have to be satisfied. Parliament has passed certain Regulations and under them I am responsible; and, believe me, if I were wrong, if I were either too hot in the administration of these Regulations, or too slack. it would not be long before the House of Commons called me to account. My Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has a very straight mind. He sees white and he sees black. But if he had been at the Home Office as long as I have been—and I have not been there very long—and were discharging this responsibility, he would find that life is not all white or all black, but there are greys. There are plenty of people in this country whom we keep under observation, and some upon whom we impose restrictions—scores of them. They are people against whom there is not a strong enough case to put them under detention, but against whom there is enough to cause us a little anxiety. Therefore, it is not right to ask either that every man should be allowed to do exactly what he likes or that he should be put under detention. If that were done, I should be criticised very much for put ting under detention people against whom there was not a strong enough case.
Therefore I say that, if there were a Member of Parliament for Northern Ireland of that kind—so far there is not, and there is not going to be—who wanted to go to Northern Ireland, and I knew, or believed, that he wanted to go on to the German Legation in Dublin for reasons against the national interest, I would either refuse him permission or I would arrest him. It might be the one or the other, according to the nature of the case. I believe that clears up the point satisfactorily.
I do not wish that Members of Parliament should be treated in exactly the same way as ordinary members of the public and we have not said so. But we have said that we must have regard to the principle embodied in these Regulations, in the case of Members of Parliament, as we do in the case of the public. I do not believe that the House of Commons, which is a generous body and has a great regard for the rights of constituents as well as for its own, will insist that, in regard to this kind of Regulation, Members of Parliament should be in a fundamentally different position from their own con stituents. Many restrictions which affect 1718 the general public also affect Members of Parliament. Their travel is restricted by the petrol regulations in the same way as the travel of members of the public. There are restrictions upon their movements in protected areas, military areas, restricted areas of all kinds and invasion areas. The House has been exceedingly generous about it. If it is in the national interest that certain restrictions should be imposed upon the general body of the citizens, on principle—I want to deal with the principle at the moment—I do not think the House would take the view that those restrictions ought not to apply to Members of the legislature.
§ Captain Alan Graham (Wirral)
Is not the difference between ordinary members of the public and Members of this House that the Members of this House have a greater responsibility and are, therefore, supposed to have a greater sense of responsibility, and in consequence should not greater liberty be allotted to them than to members of the ordinary public?
§ Mr. Morrison
I am coming to that point in a moment, but I would say at once that there is something in what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says. On the broad point of principle with which I am dealing at the moment, the House of Commons has not claimed, and I do not think is going to claim, that, automatic ally, restrictions which are imposed upon the general public shall not be imposed upon Members of the House of Commons. I would point out again that there are plenty of these restrictions. There are restrictions in defence areas in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There is the coastal strip, which is very extensive; no passes at all can be obtained for entry to those areas and special arrangements would have to be made. There are also protected places under Defence Regulation 12 which include Service establish- meats, such as aerodromes, naval dock yards and certain important factories. Entrance to them is only permitted if a pass is obtained from the Service authority concerned or from the factory manager. Then there are protected areas under Defence Regulation 13, the North West of Scotland, and the Orkneys and the Shetlands, and there have been also certain other areas, but they are not material. I, myself, when I went recently to a factory in Wales, Home Secretary though I be, had to sign on the 1719 dotted line and make the appropriate declaration. I did not feel that there was any humiliation in that.
§ Mr. Morrison
It may be that my hon. Friend could get in too; let him not develop an inferiority complex about that.
§ Mr. Morrison
Perhaps my hon. Friend would do the same. It would be better if he thought sometimes, instead of jumping in too quickly. It may well be that my hon. Friend could go into the same factory with exactly the same facility. If I were a bumptious sort of person I might have said to that factory management, "Why should I sign a promise that I will not do this, that and the other, in view of my position in the Government?" I did not do anything of the kind. I really suggest that there is no humiliation in a Minister of the Crown, or a Member of Parliament, submitting himself to the Regulations. Questions have been raised about this matter from more angles than one. I will quote one from the Noble Lord presently. A Question was put to the Prime Minister which, on a wide front, raised the whole issue as to whether these Regulations of various sorts should or should not apply to Members of Parliament. The OFFICIAL REPORT records that my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) asked the Prime Minister on 4th July, 1940:whether, in view of the desire of hon. Members to satisfy themselves that our defence against invasion is adequate, and that our production in arms and aircraft is being speeded up, he will afford an opportunity for hon. Members to inspect defences and the factories at an early date?My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood), on the same day, asked the Prime Minister,whether he will allow Members of Parliament to inspect the civil and military defences of their country, will facilitate such inspection and will welcome reports from them?1720 Those Questions raised the whole issue on a wide front, including I think, in principle, the issue which is before the House to-day. The Prime Minister replied:The Government would always desire to treat Members of the House with all possible consideration and courtesy, but no general right to inspect military defences, dockyards or secret munition factories has ever been claimed by the House for its individual Members, and I cannot think that any such departure should be taken at this time."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1940; col. 999. Vol. 362.]
§ Mr. Morrison
Very good; that does represent the mood and the feeling of the House of Commons, which recognises that there must always in time of war be certain restrictions which are not proper in time of peace.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not a fact that, even in peace time, Members of Parliament did not expect to walk into the places he has just indicated, at any time they liked?
§ Mr. Morrison
I believe that is so, which of course strengthens my case. The State has a right, and exercises that right, to impose restrictions upon movements to certain places. Let me say frankly to the House that neither I nor my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, when we get an application from a Member of Parliament regard it as a matter to be left to officials to handle in a crude, rough and bureaucratic way. Nothing of the kind. When we get an application from a Member of Parliament, it is of course given that very careful and special consideration which an application from a Member of the legislature ought to receive.
These cases have always gone up to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, and in any cases of difficulty they have come to me personally. I can assure the House that we are not looking for grounds for refusal. On the contrary, if there is any reasonable ground of public interest we would be very broad in our interpretation. It would be our wish to respect the rights of Members of the Legislature, and say "Yes." One would sooner say "Yes" than "No." On that principle, we have sought to administer these regulations, seeking to be helpful rather than the reverse. I can give the House every assurance and undertaking that that will 1721 continue to be done in the future. Having said that, the issue comes to the point as to whether there should be any restriction on the movements of Members of the legislature in this respect at all. I do not think we could do any more unless we went to the point that there should be no restriction on the movements of the Members of the legislature as far as Northern and Southern Ireland are concerned.
§ Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
Does not that imply your determination not to allow a permit to a Member of this House, if possible
§ Mr. Morrison
No, Sir. If that argument were sound it would mean putting a Member of Parliament in a worse position than a member of the public. That is not true. If a Member of Parliament makes anything like a case.—[Interruption.] This is the real point. My hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division is implying that I am not only treating Members no better than ordinary members of the public but that I am treating them worse. I am doing nothing of the kind, I am only asking that a Member, in making application, should give reasonable grounds why, in pursuance of his Parliamentary duties, it is to the national interest and advantage he should go. I have given the House the assurance that I will be as broad and considerate in administering that as I can because Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords are Members of the legislature and they have special right of consideration. There is only one point further to which I could go, that is to say, that no questions should be asked, that a Member of the legislature, because of his position, as a Member of the legislature, has a right to go without questions asked, and without any restrictions, to any part of Ireland. We must consider where that takes us. It takes us to the point that if there be one, or two, or three, four or five Members of the legislature who, going to those countries, did harm or mischief, or committed a grave indiscretion that would involve us in trouble—and that is not difficult in Ireland—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or America."]—and then there would be questions about it. Indeed, there have been Questions in this House about journeys abroad—not to Ireland, I admit; but the same principle applies. There have 1722 been journeys of Members of Parliament outside the country, and sometimes hon. Members have wanted to know why. I am not debating whether they were right or not in wanting to know why, but it shows that such movements are open to challenge.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes. I have given plenty of permits. My hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), for example, on nth July, 1940 [Interruption.] This illustrates that even the movements of Parliament are open to challenge. My hon. Friend the Member for Frome asked the Home Secretary on 11th July,1940:the names of Members of the House of Commons to whom exit permits have been granted within the last three months; and for what Government missions such permits were granted?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1940; col. 1335, Vol. 362.]My right hon. Friend the present Lord President of the Council gave the answer. The hon. Member then put a supplementary, which made it very clear that she was rather critical, at any rate, as to one of the permits which had been given for an hon. Member to travel outside the country. If it had been the position that a Member of Parliament had an automatic right to go, such challenges could not take place. Here is another case. My Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) wants the right to challenge the granting of exit permits to Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Morrison
This was the Question, which I dare say my Noble Friend recollects putting on 16th October, 1941. He asked the Minister of Informationthe number of persons who have proceeded, at his request or that of his predecessor, to the United States of America or Canada on a mission to present the point of view of the people of this country since July last; and whether they include any Members of this House?I entirely agree that that is a different matter; but, nevertheless, it raises the point that the Noble Lord was taking an 1723 interest in permits to go abroad, and he made specific mention of hon. Members of this House. The House does expect Ministerial responsibility. My Noble Friend put a supplementary Question:In view of the fact that a large number of self-styled missionaries have gone to the United States and Canada and have done a great deal of harm there by their interference in local affairs, will my hon. Friend consider whether any means can be taken by his Department to discourage them from announcing that they are going on missions when in fact they are only going because of their own wishes?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th October, 1941; cols. 1499–1500, Vol. 374.]
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, after his good-humoured reference to my Question, whether he still charges me, as he did in his original statement, with trying to prevent any right hon. Gentleman from going to the United States? He has no right to do so.
§ Mr. Morrison
The Noble Lord goes rather far in his recollection of what I said. I was very careful in what I said. I only said that my Noble Friend reserved the right in the House of Commons to question permission being given to people to go abroad.
§ Mr. Morrison
If it was the case that my Noble Friend was not doing that, let me put this to him. If we gave per mission to go anywhere the Department could not have answered the question. The question could not have been put because there would be no Ministerial responsibility for it at all. Let me take it a step further. I can only repeat the assurance I gave to the House. I wish to be as helpful as I can about this matter. If I said that we would give permission in respect of Members, then we would have to let any Member of the House of Lords go, because it must apply to both Houses. The House of Lords has the right to debate liberty as well as the House of Commons, and if my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston had the right to go, plenty of Noble Lords would insist and would have an equal right to go. There is one Noble Lord in whom I am in terested, who, as long as I am Home Secretary and as long as his opinions and activities are what they are, will not go to Dublin. That is the Duke of Bedford. [An HON MEMBER: "Did he not get 1724 permission?"] Not from me. That is where the House gets to, if it says that there is to be no restriction at all, and if there is no restriction it means that the Duke of Bedford, or any Member of the House of Commons or House of Lords, whatever his opinion about the war effort may be and whatever his attitude to the war may be, and Members subsequently elected to the House of Commons, would have the automatic right to go. I say that if that is so it would be dangerous, and as far as I am concerned, as Home Secretary I cannot be a party to give an automatic right to any Member of the House of Lords to go to any part of Ireland.
§ Mr. Morrison
That is really extra ordinary coming from the champions of liberty. We have got to the point where the champions of liberty maintain that, if you will not let a man go to Northern Ireland or the South of Ireland, you should lock him up.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your advice on this point? Is the right hon. Gentleman in Order in imputing wrong ful doings to a Member of the upper House when no charge has been preferred against him in any way?
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Is there any rule of this House which pre vents a Minister dragging a red-herring across the trail?
§ Mr. Morrison
I am sorry if I have wounded the susceptibilities of my hon. Friend. Evidently I ought not have done so. I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for warning me off ground which is tempting to me but not very attractive to him. I think it would be wrong if we were completely to remove the restriction. Finally, I come to the incident raised in the Debate, but as my hon. Friend who raised it rightly took the discussion wider and not too much on the personal basis, I have tried to deal with it on the wider issues involved. I come to the hon. Member for Shettleston. He made two 1725 separate applications, one written and the other verbal. In the first instance he said he wished to go to Northern and Southern Ireland, including Dublin, in his capacity as national chairman of the Independent Labour Party, not for the purpose of public meetings or public activities, but for the purposes of political observation and survey and, I think he said, in order to ascertain from various people in Ire land what they thought was the best means of defeating Nazism and Fascism. The issue for me was: Was there national advantage in the hon. Member going? That was the issue for me.
§ Mr. Morrison
I wish the hon. Member would listen; it would be helpful. As I was saying I had to ask myself not merely whether there was national disadvantage but whether there were reasonable grounds for going. That is to say whether there were reasonable public grounds for going, remembering that all these restrictions are imposed on the general public. I could not see that the hon. Member, by virtue of his position, had necessarily established the right to go. Having regard to the nature and policy of the political organisation of which he is national chairman, I am not at all sure that it would be right for me to give him permission to go, be cause it does mean that I am, so to speak, giving him some kind of recognition to go. It would be State permission and State action and I came to the conclusion that, on balance, his case was not made. These are matters upon which it is possible to have differences of opinion but that is the conclusion to which I came. But then within a few days the hon. Member came along not to argue that case but to give a totally new reason for going—a reason un related to the other reason.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes. It was a verbal application and came almose immediately after the first application had been dealt with. The hon. Member then said that he had been to see Mr. Healy in Brixton Gaol. I gave him permission, with pleasure, to make the visit. After he had seen Mr. Healy he suggested that he wanted to go to Ireland to investigate the case against him or for him with a view to getting further information to lay before me. I cannot of course give Members of 1726 this House particulars why Mr. Healy was detained
§ Mr. Morrison
In any case these proceedings are a serious matter particularly so when it is a case of a Member of one of the Legislatures of the United Kingdom. I know why Mr. Healy is there, I have seen the evidence, and Mr. Healy knows what I know. I cannot convince myself that any visit of the hon. Member for Shettleston to Ireland would affect my opinion one way or the other. The only person who can answer the case is Mr. Healy, to whom every facility has been given. But I will say that, in justice to Mr. Healy, who is detained under Regulation 18B, where the procedure is exceptional—I recognise that, and it is that which makes the task of administering the Regulation so delicate and responsible— if Mr. Healy were to write to me— as he is not afraid of doing, for he has done it once already—and say that the hon. Member for Shettleston, if he went to Ireland, could ascertain things that would be material to the case, I would reconsider the matter sympathetically. I will do that, but I think it is for Mr. Healy to say that. I have no real evidence at the moment that Mr. Healy has requested the hon. Member to go, but if he says that he would like the hon. Member to go for those reasons, I will say, in conclusion, that I will give the matter friendly and sympathetic consideration.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I want to put to my right hon. Friend a question which has perturbed many of us, and in doing so I Want to support him in the very difficult work he is doing. I want to 1727 preserve the maximum of individual liberty. If I may say so, some hon. Members who have spoken so strongly about liberty this afternoon have no hesitation in voting away liberty on other occasions. If any person detained under Regulation 18B desires a Member of Parliament to make an examination of some matter, which he himself cannot make, being in prison, will that Member of Parliament be issued with a permit to make that investigation?
§ Mr. Morrison
I can only go as far as I have gone, which I think is nearly all the way my hon. Friend wants. Certainly, any application of that kind would receive from me very sympathetic consideration. Of course, in the ordinary way, if it is not a question of going to Ireland, there is nothing to stop a Member of Parliament making such an examination. How ever, any such application would receive from me very sympathetic consideration, although I say again that there might be circumstances in which, if Mr. Healy were to ask that certain people should be allowed to go to Dublin, there might be reasons—I do not say that would necessarily be so in any case which the House has had before it—why I should say that I did not want those persons to go to Dublin. There might be good reasons of a security nature. I want to leave the door a little open in order that that point may be preserved.
I think I have covered all the ground. I am sorry to have spoken for so long, but the case is one of some difficulty, there has been some feeling in the House, and I wanted to put all my cards on the table and explain the matter freely and frankly. I can assure the House that every respect and consideration will always be given to applications by members of the Legislature, as it is right and, indeed, my duty that every consideration and respect should be shown to them. But I ask the House, out of the generosity which is its characteristic, and because of the fact that the House itself rather likes to feel that it suffers from the same difficulties as the constituents of Members, not to insist that it shall have one hundred per cent. all of those rights which, for the time being, have had to be denied to the public.
§ Mrs. Tate (Frome)
I whole-heartedly supported my right hon. Friend the Home 1728 Secretary in the very difficult arguments he has had to put forward, until I was absolutely amazed by what he said in his concluding remarks. He said first that unless it was to the national advantage, he could not allow a Member of the House to go to Northern or Southern Ireland. In that I support him, whether or not I am in agreement with the rest of the House. Then, to my absolute amazement, my right hon. Friend said that his arguments might be put on one side if someone who is in prison because he is believed to be an enemy of the country should request that a Member of Parliament might go out of the country. That is an argument so astounding and fantastic that it completely cuts away the ground from under my feet.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I am sorry that my application has raised the discussion that it has in regard to my personal position, but I am delighted that the general issue has been raised by hon. Members, as I think that the decision of the Home Secretary strikes at the fundamental constitutional rights of Members of Parliament within the democracy. When I made my original application I was not tremendously perturbed at the fact that I was not allowed to travel to Ireland, though I must admit that I thought all Members of Parliament had a right to proceed to any part of Great Britain in order to investigate anything that came to their notice and to meet people in public positions and have an exchange of opinions. I differ fundamentally from the theory that has been advanced by the Home Secretary that Members of Parliament have no greater rights than ordinary members of the British public. If the Home Secretary had been on this side of the House, I think no one would have demanded greater rights than he in going round the country seeking to find things out. I continually receive letters from constituents who are in the Armed Forces stationed at Belfast and have passed on complaints from them regarding conditions to the War Office. Now it appears from the Home Secretary's statement that I, as their Member of Parliament, would have no right to proceed to Northern Ireland to investigate whether they are being justly dealt with or not and to place before the Department my views from personal observation. I hold that a 1729 Member of Parliament can only be truly representative if ho knows what is going on in the country and is able to move around and see things for himself.
I have believed all my life, not only nationally but internationally, in moving around and trying to find out conditions in the world. When I was refused I thought it was a serious matter, and I believed that the Home Secretary's conception of democracy and my own differed fundamentally. In the time that elapsed between the turning down of the first and the making of the second application I had a letter from Cahir Healy, from Brixton Prison, and he said if I could find the time he would like to have a talk with me one of these days. I approached the Under-Secretary for per mission to go, and he wrote that there was no need to get a permit. I just had to go to the prison, and, if I had any difficulty, I had to phone the Secretary and it would be all right.
I went to the prison, met Cahir Healy and had a lengthy discussion. All the officials were very courteous when I approached them in regard to seeing him. No difficulty was raised, but Cahir Healy told me a story regarding his arrest and the inter pretation which was placed upon one of his letters which he did not agree with and which I do not think was clear. He told me that the letter had been sent 10 miles; it had been opened, copies had been taken and it had been re-posted to the address it was going to. In discussing the matter with Healy, I found that five people were associated with him in his political activities in Ireland. Two of them were in Dublin and three in Northern Ireland. I said to him, "It seems to me that if you feel that a wrong interpretation has been placed on your proposed acts, I might be able to assist." He expressed willingness that I should go and see the people in Ireland and find out from them what they were prepared to say on their honour regarding it, then place before the Home Office the results of my investigation, and ask whether there was not a case for the reconsideration of this man's position. If, on the other hand, I found that Healy or any of his associates proposed to do anything that was detrimental to the State, I told Healy that I would wash my hands entirely of him, because, while I was opposed to the war and had given public 1730 expression against it, I would not sabotage the efforts of this country or assist the enemy—because that would be alien to me. The Under-Secretary, in a letter to me, said:It is hardly necessary for me to add that if any question of undertakings arose I should have no doubt whatever that any given by you would be honoured both in the letter and in the spirit.I wanted to go for the purpose of making that investigation. I telephoned to the Home Office on the day, went to Brixton Prison and found that the Under-Secretary had gone to the Isle of Man and that the Home Secretary had gone to Glasgow to see the Lord Provost. Therefore, I could not find any of the responsible people. The secretary to whom I spoke said that he could not take it on his own responsibility. I said that I wanted the Home Office to be under no delusion that I was making this claim for a permit because I had been refused a permit on another occasion; that this was a straight forward, new application, new circum stances having arisen, and that, although it did not suit me very well to go to Ire land at that period, I was prepared to go and make the investigation.
In relation to the case that the Home Secretary made to-day, I thought he was rather unfortunate in trying to surround me with a whole set of criticisms which would give the public the view that I was likely to do something harmful to the State because of my attitude towards the war. My attitude towards this war is the same as his was towards the last war. I would only say, in passing, that my public declarations have not been as violent as the right hon. Gentleman's were. The question of another individual has been mentioned, and I might point out for the information of the House that he went to Dublin for the express purpose of meeting the German Ambassador. He was given permission by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, to go and meet the German Ambassador. I did not want to meet the German Ambassador, because I have nothing in common with such people. Therefore, I regret that the Home Secretary has brought in these other cases, and has tried to surround my application with some idea that I was likely to do some thing detrimental to the State. Nothing was further from my thoughts. I made two perfectly straight applications, and both were refused, although I think both 1731 my applications could be justified from the point of view of the national interest. Because there is one thing we have continually been challenged about, and that is our attitude towards the war. People say, "Should you not change your attitude now that Russia has come in, or because of the invasion of the Balkans?'' and so forth. We continually meet those points. We meet public men and discuss things with them, and my wish to visit Ireland was the outcome of a large amount of correspondence from that part of the world. I only wanted to meet people and discuss these problems with them, and I regard it as being important, if a Member of Parliament is to be thoroughly representative of the opinions of the people of this country and of the world, that he should be able to visit Ireland and other parts of the British Dominions in order to exchange opinions and to investigate injustices.
§ Mr. R. Morgan (Stourbridge)
May I ask whether this man who is in Brixton gaol felt that there was no other court of appeal open to him than a Member of Parliament? Is that the contention?
§ Mr. McGovern
No. What he was told in prison was that, he had a right of appeal to the Advisory Committee, but, as everybody knows, most Irishmen have an absolute objection to going before the Advisory Committee. He said that the Home Secretary of this country had gone into Northern Ireland and dragged a public man out of that country and placed him in Brixton Prison, and he also said that the Home Secretary in the Government of Northern Ireland did not propose to take any action in the matter. The man said, "If I have committed any crime, or am accused of attempting to commit a crime, then let the Northern Ireland Parliament and the authorities there deal with me. I refuse to recognise this Advisory Committee, which in my estimation should not have to deal with people like myself."
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary seems to have assumed the habit, which I rather think he has caught from the Prime Minister, of thinking that all those who address questions to Ministers are necessarily their enemies. I say, with respect and in all sincerity, that the Government have quite enough trouble on 1732 their hands without seeing enemies where they do not exist. I think a good many of the right hon. Gentleman's quips, because they were quips, which he directed against us on this side, and hon. Members on the other side, may be justified. They are the common coin of controversial currency in this House, and certainly no one objects to them—remarks like "You're another," "What about your past?" and all the rest of it. That is not the point which concerns some of us. I am entirely in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman that you have to apply restrictions in war-time, and I have supported the right hon. Gentleman, as he knows, against some of my hon. Friends opposite over Regulation 18B. I think he is fully entitled to make the point that these restrictions must in some cases apply to Members of Parliament.
But none of these things is in issue. The point upon which I feel so strongly, and I think I share this view with some of my hon. Friends behind me and a few of those below the Gangway is that—I do not know how to put it without being personally offensive to the right hon. Gentle man—this case smells of political discrimination. A large number of people have gone to Ireland. My right hon. Friend who sits below the Gangway has gone to what the right hon. Gentleman calls a neutral country. He had an interview with Mr. De Valera. It was the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). He wrote about it, and he was entitled to do so. I understand that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) went to Ireland. I am not saying that these hon. and right hon. Gentlemen had not a perfectly good reason for going there, but why drag in. as the right hon. Gentleman did, the question of the neutrality of Southern Ireland? He answered it out of his own mouth when he said that he had granted Peers and Members of this House permission to go to this neutral country. He refused to grant it to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern).
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I do not follow my Noble Friend's point. He is rather arguing that I have not allowed the hon. Member for Shettleston to go because of some feeling or prejudice against him, as he is a critic of the Government, presumably. My Noble Friend used the term "politcal discrimination." I am 1733 not conscious of it. As to the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), I can only conclude that he was permitted to go because he is so well known as a steady and loyal supporter of the Government.
§ Earl Winterton
We are really getting back to the old debating conditions of 1910—"Jolly good point to make against the Opposition," and so on. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon an admirable Parliamentary point which has nothing to do with the point at issue, and will not be greatly admired outside this House. No one suggests that the right hon. Member for Devonport is in the same position as the hon. Member for Shettleston. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the right hon. Member for Devonport receives the Government whip and sup ports the Government, although he some time? is a critic of the Government. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Shettleston is one of a small band in this House. Personally, I respect the hon. Members as individuals more than I can say, but I think it is true to say that I differ from their views as much as one man can differ from others. The hon. Member is a bitter opponent of our war effort, but I think he is justified in saying that he is not a bitter opponent of the country's action in the war, in the sense that he has never done anything to hinder this country in its war operations. He is in a vastly different position from many people in the last war, and even from the right hon. Gentleman himself. If you stand on the charge that this hon. Member should not be allowed to so to Ireland because he is a dangerous person, you are getting peril ously near to political discrimination.
The short answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that if this hon. Member, the Duke of Bedford or anybody else, is a dangerous person, the right hon. Gentle man has ample powers of arrest. The feeling which many of us in all parts of the House have is that we are approaching, if we are not already upon it, the broad, straight road that leads to a form of political discrimination under which it is for a Minister to say whether or not it is in the national interest. [HON. MEM BERS: "Hear, hear."] I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to note those cheers —for a particular Member of Parliament to go to a particular part of the United Kingdom for a purpose that he claims to 1734 be in the national interest. That discrimination I will never support. I do not want to drag the Prime Minister into this controversy, but I would remind him that in all the days of the Irish fighting no Chief Secretary for Ireland ever dared to stand at that Box or elsewhere and say that, as Chief Secretary for Ireland, or as Home Secretary, he claimed to say that, in the case of this or that individual, it was or was not in the national interest that he should do this thing. You can, of course, make a general rule and say that no Mem ber shall go to Ireland unless that Member satisfies a general condition by receiving a permit, but Mr. Dillon, Mr. Healy, Mr. Redmond and Mr. Swift McNeill were not prevented from going to Ireland as individuals.
The right hon. Gentleman has pro pounded a completely new doctrine. There is no pretence about it. [Interruption.] It may be, as the Minister says, a new situation. Then we ought to have a full-dress Debate in the House in which we could be told, from the mouth of the Prime Minister, that it is in the public interest that Member of Parliament "A" should be treated on a dfferent basis from Member of Parliament "B." I need not warn the Government or the House what use could be made of that if, after the war, we had an extremist Government either of the Right or of the Left. They would use the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman and, indulging in the same good-humoured quips as he does, say that after all conditions remained much the same, we were still in a state of grave anxiety. The then Home Secretary might say that he would prevent the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing from going to Glasgow because there was a strike in Glasgow, and he did not want him to go there. Or it might !x: a Government of the Right, which might prevent my hon. Friend who sits behind me from going to some other part of the country. They would be the judges as to whether or not it would be in the national interest, and would say, "This is the dictum of the Home Secretary."
§ Mr. H. Morrison
If the Noble Lord will forgive me, I am not arguing that I am the person, and that I am jolly well going to be the person, to settle this. This is a duty imposed upon me by the House of Commons. It is imposed upon me personally, as Secretary of State, and I can- 1735 not avoid it. Therefore, it is a little un just, if I may say so, for my Noble Friend to put me in the dock for carrying out the duties which Parliament has imposed upon me.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not want to detain the House, for there are others who wish to speak. I will therefore conclude by saying this: If it is my right hon. Friend's contention that it is the Regulations—by which, as he says, he is bound—which impose upon him the duty of deciding whether or not it is in the national interest that a particular Member of Parliament should not go to a particular part of the country when other Members of Parliament can go there quite freely, if that is the effect of the Regulations, then I would say quite frankly to the Prime Minister that the sooner we alter the Regulations the better.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a moment, and had it not been for the important point brought up by my Noble Friend I should not have risen. The whole Debate is crystallised in what he said. What has emerged, quite apart from the individual case as to whether the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) should or should not investigate Mr. Cahir Healy's affairs in Northern Ireland, is that the Home Secretary has laid it down that he is to be the person who shall decide what a Member of this House shall or shall not do in the pursuance of his Parliamentary duties as he sees them. The House realises and accepts the fact that the Home Secretary is charged with a most difficult task. He has to preserve the national security, and if a Member of Parliament or anybody else does anything for which he should be locked up, the House of Commons would be the first body to agree with that course being taken.
My view, which is perfectly well known to hon. Members of this House, is that no Member of this House should be locked up under Regulation 18B without this House being told why. I will not depart from that view, for I believe it to be in the interests of Parliamentary government. and freedom that that view should prevail. I say that you may take a Member of this House, charge him under Regulation 18B, arrest him and lock him 1736 up, but that you should not have the power—it is not right that you should have the power, either under this Home Secretary or any Home Secretary, or under any other Minister—to silence the voice of a Member of this House without telling his fellow Members upon what grounds that voice is being silenced. It goes much further than that; it is silencing the voice of everybody in his constituency.
It is idle to suggest that a Member of Parliament is on exactly the same footing as one of his constituents. Of course he is not. He has not only duties to per form, but he must have certain Privileges to enable him to carry out those duties. At the present time—and I beg the House to consider this—it is possible for the Home Secretary to arrest a Member of this House and for the House never to know why he has been arrested. A pro test might be made by another Member of this House, but now that the Government have complete control of the Press and the B.B.C., now that they have the possibility of going into Secret Session whenever they wish, there need be no record, if the Government decide that no record shall remain, in the OFFICIAL REPORT of any protest made by any Member of this House regarding the arrest of a fellow Member or anyone else. In addition to that, it is possible for the Government so to arrange matters that nothing shall get out to the Press outside. I say that that is very dangerous to allow that state of affairs to continue. I know that the Prime Minister is the first person to wish to see the Privileges, rights and liberties of Members of this House maintained, but what we have done and are doing is to make it possible for Members to be silenced in pursuance of their Parliamentary duties. That cannot be right. I do not know why the hon. Member for Shettleston wished to go to Northern or Southern Ireland. I am not greatly concerned, but I am greatly concerned that the Home Secretary arrogates to himself the right to decide [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend says it is not true.
§ The Prime Minister
I really must state that the Home Secretary does not arrogate to himself the right. These duties have been placed upon him by the House. The House may be right or wrong, the House may change its mind, the House is all 1737 powerful, but to say that the Home Secretary has arrogated this to himself is most unfair.
§ Sir A. Southby
If I may say so, I think that there is a misunderstanding which the right hon. Gentleman will perhaps allow me to put right. The Home Secretary has not arrogated to himself any duties under Regulation 18B. These have been imposed on him by the House. If I understood him aright when he was speaking, what he did arrogate to himself, what he did say in his speech, was that he had decided whether what the hon. Member for Shettleston was going to do was in the public interest or not. That is what I understood him to say. If I am wrong, I am prepared to withdraw that. He was to decide whether it was in the national interest that the hon. Member for Shettleston should do something he wanted to do. That is not a question of security.
§ The Prime Minister
That is part of the discretionary functions which the House has laid upon the Home Secretary.
§ Sir A. Southby
I think there is some misunderstanding. If the hon. Member for Shettleston does something which is against the interests of the State, the Home Secretary has a duty—not only a right, but a duty—to lock him up. What I understood the Home Secretary to say was that when the hon. Member for Shettleston made an application to do something which he considered was part of his Parliamentary duty, he, the Home Secretary, had decided that he was not going to allow him to do it, not because it was against security, but because it was something which the Home Secretary did not consider to be in the public interest. He considered that the Chairman of the I.L.P. should not go to Northern Ireland to discuss political matters.
§ Mr. Mander
Did not the Home Secretary say that in carrying out his duty he was prepared to believe the word of Mr. Cahir Healy, detained in prison, but is not prepared to believe the word of the hon. Member for Shettleston, his colleague in the House?
§ Sir A. Southby
This is a misunderstanding, and I shall be the first person to withdraw what I have said if the Prime Minister thinks it should not have been 1738 said. The fact does remain that Regulation I8B was passed at a time of great crisis. As applied to Members of this House, it may go so far as to prevent them from having the freedom which they should have to carry out their Parliamentary functions. The Prime Minister has said that he felt that Parliament should be a great part of our war effort. I agree. So it should. It is as much a part of the war effort of this country as any one of the Services, and has, perhaps, greater responsibilities upon it, but it cannot function as a free Parliament unless its Members are unfettered. I am certain of that. I do hope that another opportunity may arise when the Government will perhaps allow this House to consider whether the time has not come for some amendment of Regulation I8B, for this is not the time to discuss it. There is no doubt that not only in this House, but in the country there is a feeling, rightly or wrongly, that Regulation I8B, as passed by the House, should, to some extent, be amended in the interests of the House and the State.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member is suggesting something which would require legislation, which is not in order on a Motion for the Adjournment.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I have been in the House during all these discussions which have taken place over Regulation I8B, and this is the first time I have ventured to intervene. I intervene because it is desirable, in the interests of fairness, that this Debate should be put into perspective. References have been made to this war and the last war. Every hon. Member must agree that in this war we are faced with a new situation, a new kind of tactic, a new kind of technique, against which the Government, the House of Commons, and the nation have to provide some defence. In this war the enemy has deliberately sought to raise within each country a fifth column to defeat it. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not new."] I am not going into history to discuss that; but in our life-time, at any rate, it is a new situation. The important thing is that it has succeeded, it has played a big part in bringing about the defeat of nations. Which of us has not read the appeal made by Stalin to the people of Moscow? That appeal contained a warning that in Moscow the fifth 1739 columnists would be dealt with on the spot.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
Is not the hon. Member aware that the Prime Minister himself said not long ago that that sort of thing was non-existent in this country?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I think we should be making a very great mistake indeed to think that such a situation might not arise at some future time. Because of that, the House decided to make some provision to deal with the situation, and passed Regulation 18B, which has caused so much dissension, and so many Debates in this House. The primary responsibility for carrying out that Regulation is placed on the Home Secretary. He has accepted the responsibility. Tributes have been paid before to-day to the manner in which my right hon. Friend has operated Regulation I8B—on the whole, to the general satisfaction of the House. We are all anxious to preserve the utmost possible freedom for everyone in this country. My special concern, like that of many of my colleagues, is to preserve the rights and the freedom of our own people, the workers. I have gone to the workers, and have said that there are some freedoms which, in war, we must give up, in order to secure the greater freedom which we shall lose if Nazism wins. We are anxious to preserve our freedom; at the same time we are anxious to guard against the danger of the Executive becoming all-powerful and of legitimate criticism being prevented. Someone has to be responsible. Under Regulation I8B, it is the Home Secretary. It has been objected to-day that the Home Secretary —in the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby)— arrogates to himself the right to decide. Suppose the House resolves that it is not the Home Secretary who shall decide; who is then to decide? Who is to operate a Regulation of this kind? Surely it is in the interests of the House, the people and the country that a Minister of the Crown shall be definitely responsible for operating Regulations of this kind. Would you give it to an outside body?
§ Sir A. Southby
I think it is quite right that a Minister of the Crown should be responsible for working this very necessary Regulation. I only believe, in relation to the arrest of a Member of this 1740 House that the cause of that arrest should be told to the House and the Member should be given an opportunity of answering the charge brought against him.
§ Mr. Griffiths
My hon. and gallant Friend does not dispute my point. My view is that, from the beginning, it would have been infinitely better to have had a Minister of the Crown who could be criticised responsible to the House of Commons rather than to hand the responsibility over to any outside body. I believe that that is desirable. We are all anxious to preserve the rights and liberties of Members of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman has to take responsibility for men who are detained under Regulation 18B. I do not think that any of us here envy him his job. Somebody has to do this job. I take the view, generally, of public life that, if I ask anyone to do a job, it is my duty to be loyal, unless I find he has abused his responsibility. I trust my right hon. Friend to operate this Regulation. He is not a type of man who has exercised narrow political prejudices. I am satisfied that there are reasons why he cannot state to the House why these men are being detained. Supposing a Member of Parliament hears that someone has been detained under Regulation I8B is he to have the right to go on a thorough investigation in all cases, or should he not claim the right? Does my right hon. Friend place any limitation upon the movements and investigations of Members of Parliament? If he can have an opportunity before the Debate closes to clear up a point about which we are perturbed, I feel that the House will be satisfied. In fighting for our lives, we have the right to endeavour to preserve the maximum liberties for the people of this country.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I do not want to prolong the Debate, but I am not satisfied with the Home Secretary's answer on this business. First of all, I feel—"annoyed" is not the right word; I do not know what is the right word—that we deserve something better from Parliament than the aspersions which have been cast both on the Independent Labour Party and upon my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). Considering our views, I think that our conduct as Members of this House has been on a fairly high level. I do not think we are entitled to be treated 1741 as Cinderellas on this matter of 18B cases. I want to assure the House that on this business I have not been actuated by any other consideration than my belief in the necessity of individual political freedom.
I have raised on the Floor of the House the individual cases of the hon. and gallant Member for Peebles and Southern (Captain Ramsay) and other Fascists with whom I have not the faintest sympathy, Scottish Home Rulers and Mr. Cahir Healy, whose difficulties arise because of his interest in Irish politics. In the course of the Debate about the continuation of Regulation 18B, I said that the worst feature—that there may be no charge, only imprisonment indefinitely—is to some extent modified by the fact that cases can be raised in this House, but I do not want to raise questions without precise knowledge and information. I was able to go into the case of the Scottish Nationalists who were imprisoned by investigating the people on the spot, finding out what they had been up to, making up my own mind whether they had stepped over the borderline or seeing whether they had been engaged in legitimate political activities in time of war. The Home Secretary was not primarily responsible, although he had to take the responsibility. Once the case was put fairly and squarely from a politician's point of view, and not the policeman's point of view, every one of the persons concerned was liberated. I believe that the same kind of injustice is being done in the case of Mr. Healy as was done in the case of the Scottish Nationalists. I have a great respect for the police, but politics is not their line of business. When a political crime is involved a political person can see and understand things which a policeman cannot.
§ Mr. Leslie Boyce (Gloucester)
The hon. Gentleman said that he successfully investigated those cases in Scotland. Can he tell the House why Mr. Healy did not write to the Member for Northern Ireland who represents him in this House?
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not know why Mr. Healy did not write to his Member of Parliament, but I imagine that his Member was one of the two Members who do not take their seats in this House. But Mr. Healy never asked me to raise his difficulties in the House. I raised the matter originally, and my hon. Friend followed it 1742 up, because it was a matter of political interest. If I had had to get a mandate —and I do not think I need one—I could have got thousands of Scottish Irishmen in the west of Scotland in my constituency to give me a mandate. Anything we have done we have done on our own, out of the abstract desire to see fair play and justice. We do not have to be chased into every job we do; sometimes we do a job because we think it is right. In the Scottish cases, I was able to make investigations on the spot. Why cannot it be done in the Irish cases? An Ulster Member could come over to investigate cases in my Division. He could come to the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow and mess around in contact with my principal political opponents. There is nothing to prevent an Ulster Member from coming into my Division and creating all sorts of trouble about me, or even disturbing the position of the Lord Provost of the City of Glasgow. But I cannot go over to Northern Ireland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston said that there is no one who would have resented a restriction of this sort more than the Home Secretary if, as a Private Member, he had not been allowed to go about freely on political visits. I know of one man who would have resented it still more and have made more noise about it, and that is the man sitting next to the Home Secretary on the Front Bench, the Prime Minister. I used to envy the right hon. Gentleman in the good old days when he was a free man, a great Member of the House, and a great defender of its liberties. I envied the way in which, on the India Bill, he had far more knowledge of the circumstances of the matters he was debating than the India Office themselves. So it was in the matter of armaments and the Services. He knew more about the different things than the Service Ministers. When he was a Private Member, I congratulated him on his secret service. How he got his information, I do not know, but he got it, and used it effectively, in quite a number of cases in ways that even I agreed were to the advantage of the nation, and whether or not I agreed that it was to the advantage of the nation, I always agreed that his ability to come to the House with expert, precise knowledge on various topics was of value to the House. Now he says, "It was all right for Churchill and Morrison, when in Opposi- 1743 tion or when they were critics, to wander about the country collecting information as they pleased, even in war-time, when they were criticising very severely the policy of the Government that was then in power—that was good enough for Churchill and for Morrison. "I could have excused them if they had added, "But it is not good enough for Maxton and McGovern." They do not think of us. We happen to be Cinderellas in the political world at the moment; we must just accept the fact of an inferior status. If they denied it to the Maxtons and the McGoverns, they could get greater support from the House for that point of view. But they do not do that; they come to the House and say that the rights and privileges which they required when they were independent Members of the House, and which they felt necessary to the proper doing of their job, will not be allowed now to any other Member of the House.
The position now is this. If I want to get facts and figures to enable me to make a case against the Board of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, or the Ministry of Food, and if, in order to get the necessary facts to arm myself with arguments for a debate in the House, I require to visit Northern Ireland, I have to go to the Home Secretary and ask for a permit, and he says, "If you will get the Ministry concerned to O.K. it, it will be all right." So I have to go to the Food Minister, for instance, and say, "Look here, Woolton, I propose to go to Ulster to get a case against you concerning fat stock prices so that I can come to the House and hammer you; will you please O.K. my desire to go to Northern Ireland so that the Home Secretary will be able to let me go?" Is that a possible position? It is simply nonsense. Then one gets the extreme case of having to go to the Home Secretary and say, "Please give me a permit to go to Northern Ireland, because I have a suspicion that there is a case against you, and if I can bring it up in the House, I shall be able to knock spots off you. Please give me a permit to go to Ireland to collect information to enable me to make a fool of you in public debates". He says: "No, I have considered this from all points of view, and I am satisfied that it is not in the national interest." 1744 I believe he means that. He, as Home Secretary, regards the retention of his position as absolutely the last word in the national interest I am sure that his retention in his present position is not regarded by the majority of Members as being absolutely essential for the continuance of the national life. As a matter of fact, let the right hon. Gentleman face the fact clearly that nearly every individual Member of the House knows at least one man who is better qualified for his particular job.
Therefore, I say to the Home Secretary that the statement he has made to-day is not satisfactory. Members of Parliament have responsibilities different from and greater than those of members of the general public. Every man has a right to the necessary facilities to do his job efficiently. A miner has rights which I have not and do not want. An airman, a soldier, a Pressman have rights. Every type of worker needs certain facilities to do his job. A Member of Parliament needs certain facilities to do his job and is as much entitled to get them as any other member of the public. Under the Home Secretary's statement we are not getting them now. I do not believe there has been much interference in the past. When I have asked the Home Secretary, or his predecessor, or the Under-Secretary, for special facilities to investigate matters, they have given me everything I have asked for. I have not asked for much. I have been very moderate. I have weighed up the national interest before I have asked for things. I have asked myself, Is this a reasonable thing to ask or is it not? If it is unreasonable, I do not ask for it, and I assume that every Member carries on his work in that way and does not ask for irrational things. They have given me the things I have asked for. I would not have grumbled even at the refusal of this permit to my hon. Friend if I thought it was not right, but I could not accept the general principles which have been laid down, first by the Undersecretary in reply to my Question, and in the course of this Debate by the Home Secretary, as being a satisfactory statement of our position as Members. I do not want to make it a matter of public controversy, but I hope the Home Secretary will on his own initiative get in contact with representatives of the House, 1745 men representing different angles of approach, and put this thing on a basis which is both satisfactory from the point of view of the national well-being and in keeping with the democratic rights of Members of the House.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
May I bring this discussion to a close? There was a suggestion to-day when the Rule was suspended that it would finish at about this time.
§ Mr. Maxton
I regret that owing to the fact that the Scottish train was three hours late in arriving to-day, no one of the three of us was present and heard of that tacit arrangement. Otherwise, I should not have intervened. This is my first intimation.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not complaining, because I think that the whole character of the Debate has been upon a high level and has been of value and importance. I do not think there are such very great differences between us. Certainly I must say, as I have been referred to in the Debate, that there is no part of the powers conferred on His Majesty's Government in this time of trial that I view with greater repugnance than these powers of exceptional process against the liberty of the subject without the ordinary safeguards which are inherent in British life. Those high-sounding familiar phrases like "Habeas Corpus," "petitioner's right," "charges made which are known to the law," and "trial by jury"—all these are part of what we are fighting to preserve. We all care about them and understand them, and we are determined that they shall not be in-roaded upon by anything except the need of self-preservation which arises in time of war.
I recognise that this legislation and the Regulations which are based upon it were passed at a moment of great danger. It is possible that if in this lull—and it is only a lull—the matter were considered, the House would be in a different temper. I must say that I should feel very proud and happy if I could come down to the House, even while the war was going on, and say, "Our position is now so good and solid, we now see the path before us so firm and clear, that even in time of war we can of our own free will give back these special powers." Unhappily that is not the case at present. The time may 1746 come, but not at present. In the meanwhile, I cannot conceive how Parliament can better keep control of the exercise of these abnormal powers than by insisting upon their being exercised in the discretion of a Minister present in the House and accountable to the House. The Minister has been made accountable to the House. He has come down to-day and has explained in the greatest detail his use of the powers in a particular case. I should think it was a most objectionable thing to have this discretionary power conferred upon him, but it must be a discretionary power, and there must be a choosing between this and that. The House has given the power, and I am bound to say that the manner in which ' my right hon. Friend has explained the whole position has given the House the feeling, first, of the submissiveness of the Executive to the Parliamentary institutions, and, second, of the care with which these powers are exercised.
For my part, I hope that the day may come as speedily as possible, even before the end of the war, when we may be able to relieve ourselves of these exceptional powers, or some of them. In the meanwhile, I feel that we are entitled to ask from the House a general measure of support for the Minister charged with executing them. There can be no question of going behind the powers of the House. The powers of the House are over-riding and inalienable and everything that is done is done on the responsibility of the House, be it right or be it wrong. The House has power to wreck that action provided, of course, that it is confident that it is representing the country in the course which it is taking. Therefore, I hope the Debate may come to an end with a feeling that it has in no way derogated from the authority and freedom of Parliamentary institutions. I particularly resent the suggestion that we are adopting the methods of Fascist States. We are not. Why, Sir, we are the servants of the House. It may be true that the House will support their servants, but if they do not the powers in their hands are without effect, and while that fact is established it is absolutely improper, as well as unhelpful, to place us upon the level of totalitarian Governments which have no corrective legislature, no law but their own wills and the enforcement of their own particular doctrines in any way they choose.
§ Sir I. Albery
Will the Prime Minister forgive me for interrupting for one minute? If the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to read to-morrow what I said he will find that I deliberately said there were two main differences, one of which was that we intended to maintain Parliamentary institutions.
§ The Prime Minister
I am glad that there are those differences because I think that my hon. Friend will find that his reference to using Fascist methods will be a large part of what will survive of his oration. I find that while I have been making an appeal to the House I have been drawn myself into prolonging the Debate, and I hope that will not be found any reason for not following the suggestion I have made.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
Before the right hon. Gentleman finishes will he please have a look at the language used by the Home Secretary in his interpretation of the powers that the House has given to him? Those powers are supposed to be used by the Home Secretary in order to restrict the liberty of the subject if he thinks that liberty is going to be used against the public interest, but the Home Secretary put an entirely reverse interpretation upon his duties and said that he had to be satisfied that the liberty was going to be exercised in the interests of the State. That is a different matter. One is a negative test and the other a positive. The right hon. Gentleman will see that there is some substance in this point. I am convinced that the House as a whole believes that in this particular instance the Home Secretary unnecessarily used his power. That is the whole point at issue. He has not shown to-day that the exercise of the right of a Member of Parliament to go to Northern Ireland would have been prejudicial to the public interest. In not one sentence uttered by the Home Secretary has he proved that point. All he has said is that he has the right to interfere with a Member of Parliament in the same way as with any other member of the public. What he has not established is that this particular member of the public was going to use his liberty to prejudice the interests of the State. That is the issue.
The Prime Minister, who is so experienced, may produce a series of seductive generalities, but he must not seduce us from the issue at stake. That issue is, Did 1748 the Home Secretary exercise these powers in a judicial and reasonable manner? I would say to my hon. Friends around me that it is not enough that we should have a Labour Home Secretary, not nearly enough. It is not enough for him to draw these red herrings about the Duke of Bedford and others across the trail. I am not satisfied that the administration of the Home Secretary is impartial. He used the most prejudiced language with reference to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). He said he was not satisfied entirely that persons holding the views of the Independent Labour Party should enjoy these privileges. If the Home Secretary will read his language tomorrow he will realise that it was language which should not come from a person holding dispassionate and unprejudiced views.
§ Mr. Bevan
And it is our responsibility to find out whether he has discharged his responsibility correctly. That is our responsibility, which we are discharging now. I am saying as a Member of the House that the Home Secretary has not discharged his responsibility dispassionately. He has showed political prejudice in these matters. He ought to show that the chairman of the Independent Labour Party, on entering any part of Ireland, was going to perform actions, or could reasonably be expected to perform actions, prejudicial to the interests and safety of the Realm, and not to prove that it was in the interests of the hon. Member's point of view that he should go to Northern Ireland. In this matter the House ought to face the definite issue.
I have one other point to present which is exceedingly important. These Regulations were rushed through the House at a time of great difficulty, and were never properly examined. It is absurd to suggest that in war-time Members of Parliament should not have more privileges than members of the general public. If hon. Members apply that doctrine, what does it mean? There are Members who, by accident or by a variety of political causes, are Ministers, because they are 1749 Members of the House in the first place, and for no other reason at all. They must first be Members here, before they can sit there. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I am sorry; they can do so. The position therefore is that, although hon. Members sit over there, that does not make them any more responsible persons. Their responsibility arises from membership of the House. If, having got there, they say that they have the power, of which they must be the sole judges, what is the position? The Prime Minister wrongly stated the position. He said that we can call Ministers to account. In war-time we cannot, because we have not access to the evidence upon which Ministers act. We cannot therefore call Ministers to account
§ Miss Eleanor Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Does not the hon. Member realise that the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has evidence is the strength of the Minister's case, and of his claim that a Member of Parliament elected in 1935 is not necessarily a loyal citizen? Does the hon. Gentleman say that there is no middle stage between being loyal and sufficiently free from suspicion to be allowed to go to Ireland, on the one hand, and, on the other, being known to be so disloyal as to be justifiably shut up? Is it not true that there may be suspicions justifying restriction of movement and not justifying the shutting-up of a person?
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson
On a point of Order. Did I understand the hon. Member who interrupted to suggest to my hon. Friend that he should go out for a drink? Am I in Order in asking him to repeat that interruption?
§ Mr. Bevan
If, therefore, no one can know what charge was made against an hon. Member of this House except the 1750 Home Secretary, what then is the position? That neither the general public nor Members of Parliament have a right to question him, so that there exists no civic authority of any sort in Great Britain in such circumstances able to call the Executive to account. That is a very serious position.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he has taken up the position that he has had power conferred upon him by the House of Commons of being the judge in his own cause, because he puts persons into incarceration and no one knows the evidence. From that point on there is no control over the Executive. I agree that in times of peace it is undesirable for Members of the House of Commons to have more privileges than the rest of the nation, apart from those conferred by tradition, but in time of war the only way in which we can keep the Executive under control is for the House of Commons itself to have access to all the information to which it is able to get access. I therefore suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should examine what he has said in to-day's Debate, that he should interpret his powers more wisely, more reasonably and more generously, or otherwise he will have a series of difficulties of this sort in the House. I hope that in future, when we apply to him for permission to go anywhere we like in the United Kingdom, we shall not have to convince him that it is right for us to do so but rather that it will be for him to convince the House that it is wrong for us to go.
§ Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
I do not wish to say that I agree with most of the speeches made here today, because I do not. The point of view that has been expressed to-day could be put forward on many other occasions that might arise, in connection with pacifists on some occasions, and warmongers on other occasions. I do not know where I am at the present moment in regard to the position that we in the House of Commons take up. I am pleased to-day to commend one of my hon. Friends for the remarkable manner in which he paid testimony to what he thought were the rights and Privileges of a Member of this House. I am not con- 1751 cerned with the question of the Independent Labour Party, nor with the outrage to the dignity of the House. I am surprised when I hear mention made of Ireland. I think my association with Irish Members, going back 50 odd years in the Parliamentary party and in my official capacity in Liverpool for 40 odd years, has given me some idea of the intricacies and delicacies of the position. I would remind the Prime Minister that in dealing with Arthur Griffiths and Michael Collins he had two worthy men to deal with, and it is quite possible, in such a delicate situation, that without being able to give a reason to the Prime Minister or to the Home Secretary, a loyal citizen of this country might be able to do quite a useful service when tried and trusted friends across the Irish Sea have failed. We in England have our own decisions to look after, but that does not do away with the right and Privilege of the House of Commons, and the right of those who are loyal to this country, to see that those rights and Privileges which were fought for and obtained are not taken away.
I know the Home Secretary has a difficult job to do, but it would appear to me that if I had a case like this to decide, I would first think of the general principle of whether I was destroying the right of the ordinary Member of the House. If the man who applied was considered to be suspect, I would have no delicacy about the matter. I would tell him straight away. "No, you are suspect." What I am concerned about is that if I wanted to go to Ireland and asked for a permit, I would expect the right as a Britisher, and one loyal to this country, to be allowed to go, and I want to know why any Member of this British House of Commons who is not suspect should not be allowed to go. If he is suspect, he ought to be put away. I would go so far as to put him away if he were suspect and reconsider the case afterwards. If that is not the way in which we deal with these things through the forms of British justice there ought to be the right for the innocent man, the man who wishes to do his duty to the State, and whose family are doing so, to go if he makes application. I am convinced that if I made an application and wanted to go to Dublin, I could say some 1752 straight things there. If I went to Northern Ireland, I could say some straight things there. Some of the things I would say would be injudicious, and I might be detained in Northern Ireland or Dublin. But that does not get away from the case I am putting. I do debate this point, that in the House of Commons you are not automatons. What Privileges have we got? You get your salary to come here, and if you belong to a party, you do as you are told. I am here only as the representative of my constituents.
I think it is very serious that a Member of this House cannot go about his Parliamentary duties or to visit a person in distress. I know Cahir Healy well. The letter I had was not from Cahir Healy. Had it come from him, I should have attempted to go. It came from another person incarcerated with him. It said, "I am in Brixton gaol, and I wish you were here." I did not see the joke, but my wife thought it a very funny thing to say. The Home Secretary, who knows the position, might have had a chat with my hon. Friend to see whether the difficulties could have been got over. I do not think that the House of Commons should spend three hours, especially when there is a war on, discussing whether the hon. Member should be allowed to go to Ireland or not. It should have been discussed in the Home Secretary's office. Reasons should have been given to show that he was not a fit and proper person to go, that he should have been locked up. Other hon. Members have been locked up, and few reasons have been given. But I was surprised to hear to-day that a Member of another House was free, when he should have been locked up. I should have liked to hear that he had been locked up. Following that, I should like steps to be taken to lock up the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) as not being a fit and proper person to be free. If he is a fit and proper person to be free, I should like a permit given to him to go to Ireland.
§ Captain Alan Graham (Wirral)
Is there at this time, in spite of Regulations such as 18B, a position for Members of either House of the Legislature in between loyal subjects of the Crown and traitors? It seems to me that responsibility is the basis of our whole democratic system. Ministers of the Crown have a dual responsibility: that to the Sovereign, typified by 1753 their action when they kiss hands on receiving their seals of office, and that to this House. Similarly, Members of Parliament have a responsibility to the Sovereign, since they take the Oath at that Box, and also to their constituents. From that, it seems to me that no Minister has any right to assume that any Member of Parliament is disloyal. It must be assumed that he is loyal. Otherwise, he should be pursued as a traitor. If he is not disloyal in law, I cannot see what justification any Minister has for denying 1754 him the privilege of travelling about the country. To me, it seems definitely unjustifiable, unless the law in these extraordinary times prove it to the contrary, that the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) should have been treated in this fashion. I think the House would benefit very much from a definite statement from the Law Officers of the Crown on that point.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.