HC Deb 18 December 1946 vol 431 cc1967-8
Mr. Kirkwood

I wish to bring to the attention of the House, Mr. Speaker, and seek your guidance upon a telegram I received last night and which I believe brings into question the Privileges of hon. Members of this House. I therefore think it my duty to take this, the earliest opportunity, of raising the matter.

Hon. Members

What is it?

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Member will bring the telegram to the Table.

Telegram handed in and read as follows: D. Kirkwood, M.P., House of Commons, London Directors, staff mechanics and drivers unanimously regret Transport Bill all support in future will be denied you if you vote in favour—George Davie and Sons Ltd. Roman Bridge Duntocher.

Mr. Hector Hughes

I also, Mr. Speaker, desire to bring to your attention three telegrams which, in my respectful submission, amount to a breach of Privilege of the House. May I, with respect, refer you to page 122 of Erskine May, where there are two Rulings, both of which in my submission, refer to the telegrams which, with permission, I shall read to the House.

The first Ruling is that an attempt to influence Members in their conduct by threats is also a breach of privilege and, under that Ruling, there is a case given. It is, briefly: sending a letter to hon. Members setting out … questions referring to proposed legislation … and intimating that if the writer does not hear from such Members, he will be justified in letting their constituents know that they had no objection to the particular kind of thing involved. The second Ruling is on the same page and goes a little further: Conduct not amounting to a direct"—

Mr. Speaker

I do not think the hon. and learned Member is right in trying to teach me my own business.

Mr. Hughes

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker, I was citing it for your convenience. May I hand in the telegrams?

Telegrams handed in, and read as follow: Hector Hughes, House of Commons, Westminster. Unless you support public inquiry for transport nationalisation my support will be withdrawn.—John R. Ross and Son, 31/55, Princes, Street, Aberdeen. The right hon. Hector Hughes, Member for North Aberdeen, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London. Strongly resent annexation of business built up after years of work. No further support if you proceed with strangulating Transport Bill.—Elrick and Hutcheon, 3/7, Pittodrie Lane, Aberdeen. Hughes, M.P., House of Commons, London —Cannot continue support if you encourage Transport Bill.—A. King, 2, Rose-hill Avenue, Aberdeen.

Mr. Gallacher

Before you give your decision on this, Mr. Speaker, might I be allowed to inform the House that this intimidatory campaign has not been organised by the Communist Party?

Mr. Speaker

It appears to me that I have four telegrams to deal with. I will take the last three first. I really think there is no prima facie case of any kind in regard to the last three. Anybody, surely, can write to his Member and say, "Look here, if you vote for this, I will not support you at the next Election." That is not intimidation. The hon Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), I think was quite right in bringing his telegram to the notice of the House. That was a more serious one, because it was a collective one, and there was a kind of intimidatory threat in it. But, even there, I do not think there was a prima facie case, because it was not quite definite enough. I would reinforce the warning that this House does not like collective intimidatory messages Members are free to vote as their consciences think best. I know that in times of great controversy rash telegrams may be sent, but I think we are more dignified if we ignore them.

Sir William Darling

On a point of Order—I seek your guidance—would it be my duty to bring before the House a number of telegrams I have received in which political supporters of the Government now recant their former political allegiance?

Mr. Speaker

That, I think, has nothing to do with the House.

Mr. Medland

We will believe that when the party opposite win a by-election.