§ Mr. Tom Smith
I desire to bring to your notice, Mr. Speaker, and to seek your guidance with regard to a letter addressed to me at the House of Commons which I received last week. The letter is from the National Marketing Company, 339, Wellington Road North, Heaton Chapel, Stockport—
§ Mr. Speaker
I think it would be better if the hon. Member simply stated that he had received the letter and handed it in to be read by the Clerk.
§ The CLERK (Sir GILBERT CAMPION) read the letter complained of as followeth:
§ "THE NATIONAL MARKETING COMPANY,
§ Directors: Metcalfe, J. B. Reid.
§ Secretary: J. B. McKinnon.
§ 339, Wellington Road North,
§ Heaton Chapel, Stockport, Cheshire.
§ 20th July, 1943.
§ Tom Smith, Esq., M.P.,
§ House of Commons,
§ DEAR SIR,
§ We are to be prosecuted by the Board of Trade at Stockport Police Court on Tuesday, 27th inst., at II a.m., for acquiring Fuel Economisers without licence from the B.O.T. From the enclosed I think you will agree this is a matter which ought to be raised in the House.
§ Would you care to do this? If so, I suggest that unless the prosecution is withdrawn in the meantime, you can secure first-hand evidence by attending the trial on the 27th.
§ In such event it would be only right for us to stand your expenses in full. This we are quite willing to do and as an earnest of our good faith enclose cheque for £5 herewith.
§ We will arrange accommodation for you for Monday night if you desire and will let us know.
§ If the prosecution is withdrawn or you decide not to attend, you can always, of course, return the cheque, but if the necessity arises it is hoped you will attend and secure first-hand evidence of this scandal.
§ Thanking you in anticipation,
§ Yours sincerely,
§ H. METCALFE."1589
§ Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew
On a point of Order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that your guidance is being asked regarding a matter of Privilege in this case. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) stated that he received this letter last week. Erskine May makes it quite clear that a matter of Privilege should be raised without delay, and the Manual of Procedure makes it clearer still, because it says "at the earliest opportunity." I submit that this matter ought to have been raised yesterday and that it is now out of Order.
§ Mr. Speaker
I can answer that point at once. I was informed of this case yesterday, but I wanted time to consider it. Moreover, I understand that the case referred to was due to come before the court yesterday, and it seemed inadvisable that the matter should be raised here, in case anything might be said to prejudice the issue involved. Therefore, I am responsible for the question not having been raised yesterday. I rule that to-day is the earliest opportunity.
§ Captain Cunningham-Reid
It may interest the House to know that I also received a similar letter and a similar cheque. There is only one difference between my case and that of the hon. Member, and that is that he still has the cheque, and I sent mine back on the day after.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Several Members received these letters. Why bother raising it in the House of Commons?
§ Mr. Speaker
This letter was brought to my notice yesterday, and as the hon. Member said that he had received with the letter a cheque, as I believe other hon. Members have, I felt it was a matter which might be of great importance and that if I were to give a Ruling that there was not a prima facie case for consideration by the Committee of Privileges, I should be depriving the House of Commons of the opportunity of coming to its own decision on this matter. Therefore, as I think it is important for the House to decide, I rule that a prima facie case has been established.
§ Mr. Tom Smith
I beg to move:That the matter of the Complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
§ Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
It has been stated by several Members that they have received cheques. It seems to me to be becoming a regular business. If two or three Members can say that £5 cheques have been inserted, we might as well not come to this House at all. [Interruption.] If there is a question of £5 cheques, I would like an inquiry with regard to the others who have made the same statement.
§ question put, and agreed to.