HC Deb 03 August 1943 vol 391 cc2094-6
Mr. Austin Hopkinson

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I propose to occupy the time of the House for one moment to make an explanation with regard to the Debate which took place on Friday. I have given notice to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under Lyme (Mr. Mack), but, not knowing him personally, I cannot say whether he is actually present. The hon. Member is reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT to have used these words: It almost reminds me of the famous interjection of the hon. Member for Mossley, a name which has a curious ring in my ear. He looked round at the Labour benches and said, 'I look round on my hon. Friends and see in their evil faces the most sinister influence which might affect the status of my class for the future.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1943; cols. 1986–7, Vol. 391.] I merely wish to say that there is absolutely not one jot or tittle of truth in anything the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Mack

It is perfectly true that the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) gave me notice, though, in point of fact, the notice is only of several minutes' duration. Indeed, I have only just received the letter, which was a very peremptory one, and which said, in effect, that if I did not apologise for this statement, the hon. Member would take steps to raise the matter in the House. Whether I would have desired to apologise for the statement or not would have been contingent on other circumstances, but I feel that, perhaps, at the moment, it would be better for me, with the permission of the House and you, Sir, to have an opportunity of consulting the book from which I gleaned the information which I gave to the House. I think it would be much better for the hon. Member himself also, to give me an opportunity to vindicate the statement which I read, or, alternatively, make a satisfactory explanation to the hon. Member.

Mr. A. Bevan

On a point of Order. Are not these attempts to amend Hansard and to raise these matters, which have been developing in the last few weeks, an abuse of the Privileges of the House? There is not the slightest necessity to raise this matter. The initiative, in my submission, if any personal explanation was required, should have came from the hon. Member who is alleged to have made the remark and not from the affronted person. Nothing has been said in the language read out which is out of Order, and I submit that this is an abuse of this procedure.

Mr. Speaker

This gives me an opportunity to say that there does seem to be rather a tendency in these days for hon. Members to make personal explanations which, on the whole and usually, do not seem to be necessary or called for.

Mr. Hopkinson

With your permission, Sir, on that point, may I say that a similar false statement lost me the only election which I have ever lost, and this seems to me to have been a deliberate attempt to do the same.

Mr. Speaker

It is laid down in Erskine May that statements of this kind should be allowed only with very great reluctance because they are liable to lead to irregular debate, and that is exactly what is happening at the present time.

Mr. Neil Maclean

On a point of Order. Is it not the case that too much is being done by Members in the way of correcting their speeches before they appear in Hansard? It has always been understood, at least by me, that speeches delivered in this House were reported and that after they had appeared in Hansard, if a correction was necessary, that correction was made for the bound volume. I remember, and I am sure you, Mr. Speaker, will also remember, that an alteration made by Lord Baldwin in this House was raised in another place. It was referred to by the Speaker at that time, as something that ought not to have been done. If the Prime Minister of the country has to be corrected by the Speaker of the House for carrying on a practice of that kind, then other Members in the House at the present time should bear in mind that the speeches which they make in this House are supposed to appear in Hansard as they are made, and that corrections for the bound volume should be made after they have had Hansard placed in their hands.

Mr. Speaker

I do not see that this arises out of the previous statement. It is to be remembered that Hansard does not always hear and that corrections may be necessary, but while hon. Members are entitled to make clear what they have said, they should not alter the sense of what they have said.

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not common knowledge to you, Sir, and this House that the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) himself specialises in insulting language? If he gets a smack in the kisser, he deserves it.