§ Report [17th June] from the Committee of Privileges considered.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)
I beg to move,That this House agrees with the Report of the Committee of Privileges, and in particular declares that it is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member's complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative Of such outside body 285 in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a Member being to his constituents and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof.I do not propose to embark upon a discussion of the whole procedings of the Committee of Privileges, but to confine my remarks to the fewest possible number, and to the question which is raised on the Order Paper, and to ask the House to accept the report of the Committee and the Motion with regard to the question of the action of hon. Members who are concerned with outside associations.
The question before the Committee of Privileges was whether certain members of the Civil Service Clerical Association were guilty of a breach of the privileges of this House in circumstances which I will very briefly summarise. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) was for many years the salaried general secretary of his union, and from May, 1943, up to his election to Parliament was the salaried Parliamentary general secretary of the Civil Service Clerical Association. These appointments were subject to an agreement which was terminable by the hon. Member, but not by the Association except under a somewhat elaborate procedure in the event of serious and wilful misconduct, of which I am sure the hon. Member would never be guilty. That statement which I have summarised is contained in paragraph 3, of the report, which I do not wish to quote.
The hon. Member said that from about the time of his re-election to Parliament in the General Election of 1945 criticism of his political activities by a section of the executive committee of his union became more marked, and suggestions were made that his employment by the union should be brought to an end. His complaint was that over a period of time there was a cumulative effect of what he called, to use his words, a sequence of events such as to bring pressure upon him to alter his conduct as a Member of this House, and to change the free expression of his views under the threat that, if he did not do so, his position as an official of the Association of which he has been a member for so long would be terminated or rendered intolerable. Your Committee state in their report the nature of the privilege involved in the present case in these words: 286It is a breach of Privilege to take or to threaten action which is not merely calculated to effect the Member's course of action in Parliament, but is of a kind against which it is absolutely necessary that Members should be protected if they are to discharge their duties as such independently and without fear of punishment or hope of reward.They conclude, to quote the report:Although in the present case the language of the agreement between Mr. Brown and the Association was unfortunate in so far as it suggested that Mr. Brown was to represent the Association in Civil Service matters involving Parliamentary action,"—they did not consider that he was—to quote the words of the Association—
§ Mr. Greenwood
As a matter of fact, it is in the agreement, in one of the appendices. They did not consider that he was, in fact, fettered in his complete freedom of action in regard to such matters, and they did not think—and that appears in the evidence—that any breach of Privilege had occurred. Your Committee point out in their report, in paragraph 16, that the executive committeeappear to have been at pains to make clear that Mr. Brown was entitled to complete freedom and independence, and it was in order that there should be no doubt that this was so and, on the other hand, to make it manifest that the Association was not involved in or concerned with Mr. Brown's views, that the Executive Committee thought the contractual relationship ought, in the interest of the Association, to be terminated.As the Association witnesses also pointed out, and as we have pointed out in the Committee's report, the agreement was remarkable in that the hon. Member could terminate it by notice, but the Association could not do so without his consent save, as I have already said, in the case of serious and wilful misconduct. One effect of this, as the witnesses of the Association pointed out, was that the threat to terminate was less serious than it would have been if the Association could have given the hon. Member notice. And, as your Committee say in their report:it would seem strange that a Member who had voluntarily entered into an agreement subject to termination by an outside body should be able, so long as he remained a Member permanently, to preclude the outside body from exercising its right to terminate on the ground that to do so would involve a question of Privilege.On the question of Privilege, I ask the House to endorse the Committee's report. 287 The report does, however, raise a general question which we think it will be the wish of the House to consider, and which is dealt with in the second part of the Motion now before the House. As to whether we should reject the report or not, I hope the House will make up its mind.
The second point is the question of agreements entered into between Members of the House and outside bodies..I refer to the case which is now before the House as one which does raise this problem in a somewhat acute form, but I raise it only for purposes of illustration. I do not, of course, propose to consider it except in relation to what the House may consider to be a fundamental point: The preservation of the complete independence and freedom of action of Members of Parliament.
The agreement may be open to criticisms in various respects, and Members are entitled to have their views about it; but, in so far as this particular agreement is concerned, it is a matter between the hon. Member for Rugby and the Association, and is not a matter for this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I should not have thought so. I am saying that the agreement which had been agreed to between the hon. Member and his Association, whatever people may think about it, is not in question in this particular case of a breach of Privilege, and that obviously must stand. As I have already pointed out, an agreement of this kind does give rise to considerations which affect the House as a whole in case of agreements between Members of this House and outside bodies in the future. We are entitled to look at this problem now that it has been raised from the point of view of the independence of Parliament, and the dignity and freedom of the House of Commons. I say again, that I am not referring to this particular agreement or condemning the parties who made it, but trying to make the point that, having been raised it is a matter of primary importance for this House to deal with this question. If one looks at the report, the agreement between the hon. Member for Rugby and the Civil Service Clerical Association was, I think, entered into in all good faith.
§ Colonel Ropner (Barkston Ash)
This is very important. Does the right hon. Gentleman contend that the entering into 288 of an agreement between an hon. Member and an outside body cannot, in itself, be a breach of Privilege?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I should not like to rule that it was a prima facie case—it would lie with Mr. Speaker. One can conceive of cases where agreements made between a Member of the House and an outside body might be regarded as a breach of Privilege of this House, but it is not for me so to rule. The question before the House tonight is whether, in the light of this particular case, any general guidance or declaration of principle should be laid down for the future. The particular provisions in the hon. Member's agreement, as Parliamentary general secretary to the Civil Service Clerical Association, to which exception has been taken, are that he:shall deal with all questions arising in the work of the Association which require Par liamentary or political action;andshall not be entitled, in his political and Parliamentary activities to purport to represent the political views of the Association (if any) and he shall only represent the Association in so far as Civil Service questions are concerned.It is further provided in the agreement that the hon. Membershall be entitled to engage in his political activities with complete freedom.In respect of his duties as Parliamentary general secretary to his Association, the hon. Member has been receiving a salary of round about £1,350 a year, the use of a motor car, an expense allowance of £250, the services of a private secretary, the use of accommodation and secretarial facilities at the Association's offices, the provision of a telephone at his home, and certain pension rights. I am not quoting this against the hon. Member at all, but as part of an argument. A distinction is drawn in the agreement between the political activities, in which he was to retain complete freedom, and his work for the Association on questions requiring—these are the terms of the agreement—"Parliamentary or political action." In his evidence before the Committee, the hon. Member argued that in fact—and I am very anxious to be scrupulously fair in this case—the freedom extended to Civil Service matters in Parliament, because of the complete identity of views between himself and the Association, of which, as he said in evidence, he was 289 "the father and the mother"—a very difficult biological problem to settle. In other words—and I want to give due weight to his argument—in his own words, he was not a "mandated delegate." He had been, as I understood his case, so associated with this organisation since its start that his authority was that of an elder statesman, rather than that of a "mother and father" at the same time. On the other hand, the Association, as I gather from the evidence, seemed to have taken a different view of the relationship. The honorary President of the Association, in answer to a question put by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), who asked whether the hon. Member for Rugby was bound to carry out the wishes of the Association in Civil Service matters, said:That was our understanding and expectation of the arrangements between us.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
It would immensely facilitate the task of those who wish to debate this fairly, if the right hon. Gentleman would make reference to the numbers when quoting questions and answers. If it is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to do that, I will not press him; but it would be of immense help to us to give the reference numbers.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I have a marked copy of the report. I am trying to keep down to the minimum the time I must occupy. The question which was put to Mr. McMillan, the President of the Association. was Question 378. I have quoted the terms of the agreement between them. As I said, when the President of the Association was asked whether a member of the Union was bound to carry out the wishes of the Association in Civil Service matters, he replied:That was our understanding and expectation of the arrangements between us.That that was so, was certainly suggested by the not inconsiderable character of the remuneration and other emoluments which the Association agreed to pay. I do not intend to go into this agreement, but would only say this: First, that there was at least room for doubt whether the agreement placed the hon. Member under any obligations to follow the Association's line when Civil Service matters, which might, incidentally, cover a very large field, came before Parliament. Secondly, I think that the House will agree that if this were the 290 effect of the agreement. it is open to objection in the terms of the Motion before the House.
This Motion seems to state a principle which—a case having arisen—it seems to be necessary to establish. I submit that it is in accordance with the views expressed by the Committee of Privileges, on page 25, paragraph 14, of their Report, when they say:It has long been recognised, however"—and I draw these words to the attention of the House—that there are Members who received financial assistance from Associations of constituents or other outside bodies, and whilst those who enter into such arrangements must of course exercise great discretion to ensure that the arrangements do not involve the assertion or the exercise of any kind of control over the freedom of the Member concerned, your Committee do not think that the making of such payments in itself involves any breach of privilege.But, as the Report goes on to say:What … the outside body is certainly not entitled to do is to use the agreement or the payment as an instrument by which it controls or seeks to control, the conduct of a Member, or to punish him for what he has done as a Member.The question before us is whether the House should now lay down a general doctrine deprecating, in the words of the Committee of Privileges, any arrangements with an outside body involvingthe assertion or the exercise of any kind of control over the freedom of the Member concerned …This House has lived through difficult days, and its honour is at stake. It would be undermining the dignity, the stature, and the power of this House if the general public were to come to believe that there were questionable relationships—I am not using that phrase in this particular case—between outside bodies and Members of this House, and I hope that in its deliberations this House will think tonight about its own future honour.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I had hoped, Mr. Speaker, in this Debate, to limit myself to a brief personal statement of not more than a few minutes' duration, but the form of the Motion before the House, and what I think must inevitably be the character of the Debate upon it, makes it necessary that I should say more than I thought at an earlier stage would suffice to meet the case.
291 I could have wishes that the matter of the Motion had come before the House tonight in a rather different form from that in which it is brought to us For there are two issues covered by the Motion. One issue is whether we agree or disagree with the majority report of the Committee of Privileges—and about that there may be, and probably will be, conflicting views, cutting right across the party line. The second issue is whether the House thinks it desirable to lay down, in the form of a Motion, some kind of guidance relating to contractual obligations between Members of the House and outside bodies. I can conceive that there will be Members who would like to vote against the first part of the Motion, but would desire to vote for the second. I can conceive that there are Members who would desire to vote against the second part, yet might desire to vote for the first. And it would have been better, I think, if I may say so with respect, if this matter could have come to us in two Motions, one dealing with whether we want to accept the report or not, and the other dealing with this wider question. Then we could have had two Debates of a self-contained character. As it is, I rather fear that in this joint Motion we shall have an overflow of one aspect of the matter to another, not to the confusion of the Debate, because the House is clear-headed in these matters, but certainly to the disadvantage of clarity and continuity of discussion.
But whatever I would have wished, the Motion comes in this form and, therefore, I must deal with it as it is on the Order Paper. I would wish to say something about both halves of the Motion. The first half accepts the majority report of the Committee, which takes the view that, in the transactions between the honorary officers of my union and myself, what transpired did not constitute a breach of Privilege. I invoked the machinery of the Committee of Privileges; I appealed to that tribunal; I made my complaint to them; they have investigated the case and have pronounced judgment upon it. In those circumstances, it would ill become me either to criticise or to question the report of the Committee. The House has, in the volume before it, all the documents that were put in; it has the minutes of evidence; it has some knowledge of me, and, in short, it possesses all the raw 292 materials for judgment. In that respect all that I can do is humbly to submit this issue to the judgment of my fellow Members of Parliament, and that I do.
It is necessary that I should say something about the circumstances which gave rise to this issue, because they bear very sharply indeed upon the second half of the Motion. When I first came to this House, in 1929, I entered it as a member of the Labour Party, and I sat as a Labour Member. I was also a trade union man, receiving financial aid from my union. In that respect, my position was analogous to that occupied by many Members of this House today, as those on all sides of the House will readily agree. In that Parliament I had no contractual arrangements with my union specifically related to my work in Parliament, either governing or related to my work in Parliament. But the circumstance that there was no contractual arrangement at all did not prevent the strongest pressure being brought to bear upon me during that Parliament. In 1931 I left the Labour Party. I did that with great reluctance and after a good deal of mental struggle, because I thought that it was right for me to do so. I may have been right or wrong. But it is still possible for a man to change his party, or even to decide to stand on his own feet and to have no party. If, indeed, there had been no changes of party during the last 30 years, the other side of the House would be less fully tenanted than it is tonight.
When I decided to leave the Labour Party in 1931, there then ensued on the part of the Executive Committee of that association, an attempt to prevent me from standing for Parliament again. That was defeated overwhelmingly by the annual conference of the union. It was laid down that I was free to stand if I wanted to and that the union was not concerned with my political line. That was not of very great consequence then, because in 1931 I lost my seat, and it was not until 1942 that I returned to this House. When I returned, I did so with a very vivid recollection of what had happened in 1931. Then, although there had been no agreement about my Parliamentary work, pressure had been exerted. This time I was determined that there should bean agreement, and that it should be an agreement which made it utterly plain that I was to be free in my political 293 life. Therefore, in the agreement which was drawn up between me and my union, paragraph 3 stipulated:Mr. W. J. Brown was to engage in his political activities with complete freedom in accordance with the decisions of the Annual Conference.I want to stress that, it I may, because, if the House is to judge the positon, it is essential that this point should be understood. The whole point, pith, and purpose of that agreement, from my point of view, was to establish my political freedom. I meant to establish it because of my experience in an earlier Parliament when there had been no agreement at all. It is not the least irony of my life—a life which has not been wholly free from ironical circumstances—that an agreement designed to establish freedom should have been by implication cited as 2n agreement to limit it!
There was another thing that both my union and I were concerned to do in 1942, and that was to make it plain that neither of us accepted responsibility for the politics of the other. They did not want to be debited with my political line and I did not want to be credited—if that word be appropriate—with their political line; and so paragraph 6 of the document laid it down that nothing in the agreement should entitle me to purport to represent the political views of the Association. I was only to represent them in relation to Civil Service matters.
Play has been made in certain quarters with these last few words: "Shall only represent them on Civil Service matters." It has been suggested that these words imply an instruction to me, and an agreement by me, to act in the capacity of a mandated delegate on Civil Service matters. That is not a just construction of those words. The whole point of paragraph 6 of the document is not to instruct me to do something; it is to instruct me not to do something—not to purport to represent the political views of the Association. But from that prohibition there is a certain area, namely, Civil Service matters, which was exempted from the prohibition. I was fort bidden to say that I represented them on political matters. I was not forbidden to say that I represented them on Civil Service matters; and again and again in the procedings in this House I have announced, in speaking in Debates touching the Civil Service, what were the 294 views of the members of my association—just as miners have stated the views of miners, shop assistants, the views of shop assistants, teachers, the views of teachers, and so on through all the categories of the industries of this country. But there is all the difference in the world between not prohibiting a man from saying that he represented the association on Civil Service matters and, on the other hand, saying that he was a mandated delegate in respect of such matters. I have not so acted as a mandated delegate while I have been in the House of Commons. That is recognised by the majority report which says:Your Committee do not consider that Mr. Brown was in fact fettered in his complete freedom of action in regard to such matters.While no differences arose between me and my union on Civil Service matters—no differences arose in that field—there were wide differences in politics, and after the re-affiliation of my union to the Trades Union Congress that gap became very wide. They represented that my independent and sometimes critical attitude was an embarrassment to them. Finally, they presented me with an ultimatum:Either you agree not to speak or vote except in accordance with Trades Union Congress and Labour Party policy, or we will take whatever steps we can to make it impossible for you to retain the Parliamentary secretaryship.In the words of the minority report, the nature of the approach to me was:Either cease your political activities, or go.I need hardly say what my reaction was to that. I said bluntly and categorically that I would give no assurance of any kind to them, or to anyone else, that would limit my political freedom in any degree whatever.
There then followed an attempt to buy me out. A very large sum of the members' money—and the members had not been consulted about this—was proposed as a condition of bringing the agreement between us to an end. I declined to be bought out, as I had declined to be bullied in. Then the decision was taken to initiate steps to bring the Parliamentary secretaryship to an end. That decision, it seems to me, raises two issues: One touching the House; one a matter between me and my union. The matter between me and my union was whether that con- 295 tract should he brought to an end. I was perfectly prepared to do battle on that issue before the annual conference of my association, and I think I know pretty well what the result would have been. The other issue, it seems to me, concerned the House. I think that this combination of circumstances—the attempt to stop me speaking my mind, the attempt to buy me out, and the attempt to drive me out, collectively, constituted improper pressure on a Member. If that were so—and it is my understanding of the term—that constitutes a breach of the liberties of this House, and whatever view the House may take of the majority or minority report, I hope that it will not think that I was wrong in bringing that second issue to the notice of the House, and giving to the Committee of Privileges the opportunity of investigating and pronouncing on this matter.
Before I come to the second part of the Motion, there are three points on which I wish to touch which have been touched on by the right hon. Gentleman, and which if I do not get them out of the way, may introduce a certain amount of prejudice into the Debate. It has been said that my agreement with the union was unusual in that, while I was able to terminate it at my discretion, the Association could only terminate it by consent or in the event of wilful misconduct by me. If the circumstances are examined, I do not think that that provision of the agreement would be found to be at all extraordinary. This association caters for civil servants. An established civil servant is free to terminate his contract at any time, but the State is not free to dismiss an established civil servant except in the event of misconduct. I submit that there is nothing at all extraordinary about the Civil Service Association reproducing, in its agreements with their officials—and this does not apply only to me—the same kind of security of tenure as the members of the association themselves enjoy as established civil servants.
Nor is it extraordinary that I should have continued to receive emoluments from this association. It is a very common practice for trade unions to allow an officer, who is elected to this House, to continue to receive his union emoluments, in whole or in part. There is nothing uncommon about that, as hon. 296 Gentlemen opposite know. In my case, I had had up to the time that I first entered the House a long period of service —it is in all a total of about 35 years—and my union did not think it appropriate to signalise my entry into a wider field by taking away my union emoluments. That, I think, was to their credit, but certainly not to my discredit.
Finally, under this head it is suggested that I could have avoided the occasion of privilege by resigning the Parliamentary secretaryship. I certainly could. But why should I, who, by common consent, has carried out his part of the agreement faithfully, resign at the behest of the executive which had broken their part and which I regarded and still regard, as being wholly unrepresentative of the membership of the organisation? [Interruption.] I repeat that—an executive which I regarded, and still regard, as wholly unrepresentative of the membership. The test of that will come at the next conference, and although I am not overgiven to betting, I am prepared to have a wager if anyone is inclined to indulge in a little gamble on this subject.
What happened within my union—and I would ask trade union men opposite to take this point seriously because they know how serious this thing is—was to a large extent the result of penetration of the union by the Communists.
§ Mr. Brown
Many trade union leaders in this country know just how serious is that problem. If they do not, they should look at the landscape in France, which ought to teach them, because there, the Communists' control the trade union movement, and they are making life impossible for a democratic Government with which everyone in this House ought to be in sympathy. It is my view that we should resist the Communist penetration—
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
On a point of Order. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) is engaged in what for him must be a difficult personal speech. Can we not have protection for a particular Member of this House who is engaged in such a task? Is it not in accordance with the traditions of this 297 House that protection should be afforded to such a Member? I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, as the guardian of the traditions of this House to rule upon this matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member was a little hasty for I had already turned to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and said, "Order, Order." I think, as the hon. Gentleman has just said, here is a difficult case being presented by an hon. Member of this House and he is entitled to be heard. It is our custom in Parliament to hear a case of this kind quietly when it is a difficult one, and not to spoil it by interruptions.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Further to that point of Order. I listened with the utmost silence to the hon. Member making his case, but I consider it is no part of his case to play up prejudices that exist in this House by dragging me and my colleague into this question.
§ Mr. Brown
I was trying to make the point—and I think it was a fair one—that I hold certain views about the present position, and I do not think we can arrest Communist penetration by running away from it and arguing. I regret that the position arose. I did my best and the general secretary did his best to prevent it coming to a head. It was painful to me, as it must be to any trade union man to be in public conflict with the executive committee of his union. But I was satisfied that no other course would have met the requirements of the situation, and it is for this House to determine whether the evidence tendered by me, and endorsed by the Secretary of the association, or the evidence tendered on behalf of the honorary officers, bears the stamp of truth, and if so, what is the proper construction to place upon that evidence.
I turn now to the last half of the Motion which deprecates the entering into ofany contractual agreement with an outside body controlling or limiting the Member's complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament.I think I am right when I say that that arose from the minority report—page xxxi—which is part of the report prepared by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery 298 (Mr. Davies), and which asks the House to pass a Resolution against contractual agreements. The minority report says:The agreement with Mr. Brown led to difficulties because of his insistence on the clause giving him freedom in all political matters. In any new contractual agreement with a Member, the Association or any other outside body would, in their own interest, be bound to be less generous and to stipulate for a stricter control over any Member who agreed to act, in return for a salary, as their servant in the House of CommonsIt will be seen that what the minority thinks is that, after this case, if any more contracts are allowed, there will be no freedom or less freedom to a Member of the House of Commons, and they suggest that something should be done about it. Let me say straight away that I will vote most heartily for any resolution which this House can pass which will have the effect of relieving Members hereafter from the kind of pressure brought to bear upon and resisted by me. It is too much to ask me to vote for the majority report, but if it is possible to split these two things up, then any resolution which would have that effect would command my support.
But I should be less than honest if I expressed the view that this Motion really goes to the heart of our problem. There are a very large number of Members of the House who have relations with outside bodies, from which they receive financial aid of one kind or another. In some cases as in mine, the relation is the subject of a written agreement, in other cases not. In some cases, as in mine, it is proclaimed to the world; in others, the world knows nothing about it. I hazard the guess that in only a minority of cases —and probably a small minority at that —do written contractual documents exist which govern the relations of Members and outside bodies.
It follows from that that if we are to deal only with contractual relations—unless a very wide term is given to that—then we shall be dealing with the smaller and, perhaps, the less important part of the problem. Indeed, we may find ourselves doing an injustice as between one side of the House and another. The rise of the modern Labour Party would have been difficult if not impossible but for the help given by trade unions, of which mine was one, to candidates and Members of Parliament. The last thing I want to do is to make it impossible for trade unions to 299 ensure the proper representation of various sections of workpeople in this House of Commons, and I hope that whoever replies for the Government—I imagine that it will be the Lord President of the Council —will deal with the point, because already there is apprehension about it. Yesterday morning I picked up the "Teacher's World" of 9th July. I will eliminate any names, because it is not part of my purpose to import names into this matter, but this is what that journal says:The effort to establish this point of view"—That is, the point of view of the Motion—is significant for, indeed, it is an attitude which may prove to be awkward to the teachers' organisations. The National Union of Teachers has for two generations past given support to representatives in Parliament whose functions have been somewhat similar to those of Mr. W. J. Brown. If political change should result from a change of Government, a distinct possibility of a prohibition of such contracts is now foreshadowed. In that event an end.would be put to the possibility of such arrangements as have in the past afforded Parliamentary careers to Mr. So-and-so"—I will not mention names—and a number of other well-known ex-teachers. These men have had the right of free expression generally, while being restricted in matters relating to teachers and the affairs of the union, and they have usually honoured their obligations.Although the details or form of the arrangements vary, what is true of the teachers' union is true of very many trade unions. I do not think it wrong that this should be so. For this House does not exist in a social vacuum. And it is proper that outside interests should find expression here, even though they be the interests of sections of the community. Indeed, the modern Labour Party, as its older members will remember, began as the "Labour Representation Committee," a body designed to secure Parliamentary representation for a section of the community at that time—40 or 50 years ago—grossly under-represented in this House. When matters affecting particular trades and professions are under discussion here we properly look to men who know those trades and professions to tell us their views and give us the benefit of their experience. What we are entitled to deplore is that any such arrangement as that should result in the financial relationship being used to bring pressure to bear on the Member in this House. It is that 300 to which we are entitled to object, and any help which my own struggle might have from any other quarter will he heartily welcomed in that regard.
But do not let us ignore the fact that there are dozens of arrangements in different parts of the House. On the whole, the trade union contract is likely to be the most public of the lot because it appears in many ways—in the annual balance sheet, the annual report, and so on. There are many agreements existing in this House to our knowledge which have never been made public knowledge at all. There is another point which is very important from the constitutional angle. The unit of electoral representation in Britain is the constituency, but the unit of financial organisation very often is not the constituency. It is an outside body, and that body may be a trade union, it may be a trade association, it may be an industrial interest or what not, so that where a man is elected to this House as the result of support from an outside body, it is inevitable that thereafter there should be a dual relationship. He has a relationship to his division, and he has a contract or relationship with the outside body—trade union, trade association or whatever it may be—with whose financial aid he has won his seat in this place.
I do not think that that is wrong—and again I repeat, that the rise of the modern Labour Party would have been impossible without it. What is to be deplored is when the outside body, the trade union, trade association or industrial interest, uses this element of financial aid to seek the control of the Member. But I want to say this. In my view the root of the matter does not lie in the existence of written or even unwritten contractual arrangements. It lies in the fact of a financial relationship between a Member and an outside body. And when we have passed our Resolution tonight do not let it be supposed for a moment that we have dealt with the heart or the root of this problem. Financial relationships will exist tomorrow whether this Motion goes through or not, and we ought not to conclude that we can dispose of this matter merely by passing a Resolution. I think that safeguards are to be looked for in three directions. The first lies in the character of Members themselves. If a Member has financial relations with an outside body, and he is susceptible to pressure, there is 301 always the danger that pressure, negative or positive, will be used and, therefore, in my view, no Member should have such a relationship unless he makes it sunclear—as I have tried to do in this document—that he retains his complete political freedom. He had better have that in writing, too, although even that will not necessarily save him from pressure. But if he has it in writing, he is in a much better position to resist pressure when it comes, as I did.
The second point is that, in my opinion, the most dangerous and insidious arrangements are not the public arrangements proclaimed to the world, but the secret arrangements of which the House and the world know nothing. I would make it obligatory upon Members to disclose the nature of any such financial arrangements both to their constituents and to this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] At last I have united both sides of the House. In fact, I think the danger is not so much in the contract. The relationship can be all that is decent, honourable and above board, but it is necessary that it should be known, so that when a man speaks in this House the House can make the necessary discount from what he says if the House thinks he is merely echoing the voice of an outside body.
The third thing relates to this House and to the Committee of Privileges. In the nature of things it has been difficult in the past, and it will be still more difficult in the future, to bring home a charge of breach of Privilege in relation to a charge of improper pressure upon a Member. I cannot recall a case in the past where an outside body has indited a letter to a Member of this House and has said, "You must do this" or "You must not do this," and "If you do not do what we tell you, we will punish and victimise you." I cannot remember a case like that. I am certain there will not be one in the future. It is inevitable that breach of Privilege must consist in a conjunction of events—the bringing of pressure, the resistance to pressure, and then the application of the bludgeon. The fact, that it is a conjunction of events, and not one single act, does not make it less a breach of the Privileges of this House.
It was my view that that conjunction of events had arisen in the case now under notice. I am sorry that the Com- 302 mittee is divided on that issue. The majority say, "Nay," and the minority say "Yea, there was a breach" That position I will not comment upon except to express my personal, deep sorrow that the division upon that matter should appear to follow party lines. I had hoped for a unanimous verdict from the Committee, which could have been invoked by any hon. Member hereafter to whom pressure was applied, as an example of what the House would do if pressure continued to be applied. I regret that I have not succeeded in getting that verdict, but the effect of this Debate may in some measure secure the result that I hoped to achieve, and which I believe other hon. Members hope also to achieve. For that reason, I welcome the Debate here tonight.
I do not regret that in this place I have sought frankly and openly to help the men and women with whom I have been associated all my life from the age of 15, the civil servants of this country. I find no conflict between doing that and serving the interests of my constituents in Rugby. My constituents in Rugby find no conflict either. I do not regret that I resisted pressure brought to bear upon me. I do not regret that I invoked the machine of Privilege because I thought it my duty so to do, not only in my interests, but in the interests of my fellow Members. And if, after 35 years' service, my connection with the organisation which I founded and have built up over the years, is to come to a premature end—and I think the membership will have something to say about that—then, Sir, I would sooner go out on this issue, standing for political liberty, this issue of resisting "vile pressure wrongfully applied," than on any other issue of which I can think. Sir, I thank you for the opportunity of making this statement, and I thank the House for its courtesy in listening to me.
§ 7.54 P.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I beg to move, in line 1 to leave out "agrees," and to insert "disagrees."
I think I can assist and reassure the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) on one particular at least, and that is his desire that the two halves of this Motion should be separated. It was the intention, and I think it is the effect, of the Motion which stands in my name 303 and the names of three of my hon. Friends, to make it possible to vote in the way which the hon. Member desires.
I am tempted to answer, or at any rate to comment upon, the two speeches which have been made, but on the whole I think it will be quicker if I try to state what seems to me to be the main question involved, referring, perhaps, to what has been said. I shall try to do it as shortly as I can, and I think I can promise the House to be dull. I hope hon. Members will do me the honour to try to listen to me. Privilege questions almost always turn either on interpretation of great principle or upon matters of rather fine distinction, and therefore, of all questions, they are perhaps the most difficult to deal with shortly. I really believe that if the House would allow me to talk for 10 or 12 hours, going through the Report and commenting on it page by page, most hon. Members would think that I was very largely right. I am not at all sure that in the 20 minutes or so I shall take, I can make plain what I am trying to say.
First, I should like to indicate what seems to be the great question—I am putting it in the form of four questions into which I think it can be broken up—involved in this matter. It is a great question. I think it is the greatest question of Privilege which the Committee of Privileges as we know it has ever dealt with. The Committee as it is now is a very modern thing. It dates from, I think, 1909. It has not, I think, had before it a question of the nature of Privilege of this magnitude. I am very desirous to avoid unnecessary controversy but I find it necessary to say that I am the more regretful of the form in which this Debate has happened. I am not sure, but I think there has never before been a matter of Privilege of this size which has not been debated at any desired length, even de die in diem. I think it is true that the Government, by the forms of their procedure or lack of procedure, however much they may take off the Whips, have rather tended to make what was rather a regrettable split in the Committee a split beween two sides of the House. They cannot wholly get rid of the Whip effect, from the form in which the thing comes —the acceptance of the majority report, with a rider, put before us by the three leading Members of His Majesty's 304 Government, and taken in time in which the Rule is suspended for Government Motions only. I do not want to labour that point unnecessarily but it is a pity that a question of this matter of Privilege could not have been made more a House of Commons matter. I hope that we shall keep it as much a House of Commons matter as we can.
Secondly, I think I quite understand that any Select Committee, and the Committee of Privileges perhaps more than others, is properly scrupulous to limit itself to what is remitted to it, and not to go outside to other matters. I may therefore be drawing too wide what seemed to me to be the question of principle involved in the case put before the Committee of Privileges, but I hope not. This is how I should draw it: First, Is it a breach of Privilege by a Member to enter into any agreement—I agree with the hon. Member for Rugby—explicit or implicit, I hope that the Government's rider when they say "contract" does not mean something written on vellum and sealed with the seal of the corporation. Of course, it is going to be far more difficult to deal with an implied contract or agreement, but I hope that we shall all agree that the essence of the matter is there, whether the contract is explicit or implicit. Is it a breach of Privilege to enter into an agreement explicit or implicit to limit the Member's Parliamentary action?
Second, the obvious converse: Is it a breach of Privilege on the part of the other party, the trade union or the limited liability company or whatever, by which the agreement may have been made? Third, if any such agreement is a breach of Privilege, then am I right in presuming—I think I must be—that any pressure brought even within the limits of the agreement is itself a breach of Privilege? That seems quite clearly to be the case. The—fourth of the questions into which the whole general question can be analysed is: If such an agreement is not breach of Privilege, or not so that it must be treated as void and non-existent, then is any attempt to put more pressure than the agreement purports to allow, a breach of Privilege? Those seem to me to be the four questions into which the general question involved in the facts, mostly agreed, partly disputed, may be divided.
305 First of all, therefore, I would invite the House—I cannot go through the thing and demonstrate exactly and minutely why—to say that these questions are not clearly, plainly and rightly answered in this Report. I do not think it could be said of any one of them that it is clearly, plainly, and rightly answered in this Report. If not, I would invite the House to agree with me that the Report should not be accepted.
I think we should all agree that the relations between a Member of Parliament arid a body or person from whom he may receive money or money's worth, or—and this I think is very important, especially in view of some of the examination—prestige and position—because the person concerned may well either on personal or political grounds attach more importance to them than even to money —the relations between that hon. Member and a body supplying him with these desirable things must always be very difficult. They seem to us—one never allows properly for the difficulties of one's grandfather—much more difficult than the old difficulties, and, I dare say, rightly. Certainly they are very different from what they were in the old days, because, in the main, of the development of trade unions and limited liability companies. I should be perfectly prepared at any time to discuss either of them particularly or generally, but at this time it is the trade union which is the matter in order. None of us would wish that any decision now taken should make those relations more difficult. As long as trade unions nominate only Socialists, I want to see them defeated at the polls, and everybody here does and properly may, but none of us wishes to see it made more difficult for trade unions to nominate candidates for Parliament.
If relations of the sort indicated must be difficult, clearly there will be borderiine cases, and those border-line cases will have to be decided one by one as they come up. Here is where I would ask for the agreement of the House, and especially the Front Bench opposite, with whom I am really trying to debate as reasonably and amiably as possible. I ask them to say that there are two extreme views in the matter. One extreme view would be that there should be no such relations, that no hon. Member should be in such relations with anyone outside. Both the 306 Report and the minority draft agree in dismissing that, and I think we dismiss that too. At the other extreme, I should have thought that the safe rule of thumb might be this—that where a Member of Parliament has an obligation to obey anyone else on a particular vote or class of votes, where his vote is involved in his receipt of money or money's worth, or prestige or position, from somebody outside and is conditional upon it, there we might have agreed that at that point the thing is intolerable and at that point a breach of Privilege arises. If the House agrees with me, the House must on this point disagree with the weakness of expression of the paragraphs—I have forgotten which—towards the end of the Report.
That the Committee was bound to consider this point can be shown by a very long string of quotations from the proceedings. I will not weary the House with them, although indeed to be honest however wearied the House might be, if I had the time, I should, because this thing cannot be discussed fully and fairly without reference to the questions in particular—[An HON. MEMBER: "We have read the Report."] I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen have read it, and read it more intelligently and analytically than I have, but perhaps hon. Gentlemen will not have picked out the particular bits to which I want them to attend for a particular point in my argument. It is not really easy to debate this fully unless one goes through the details of the evidence. I could give a very long list of questions which showed strong evidence that the hon. Member in question was regarded as bound to vote for or against, for instance, a particular Clause in a Bill. That should have brought home to the Committee the absolute necessity of dealing with the point of principle which I last mentioned. I say that the point of principle is not made clear in the Report.
I think it is impossible to doubt, in view of the questions and answers, that the question did arise whether the agreement was in itself objectionable, whatever use was made of it. A plain answer to that question was required. There is no such plain answer in the Report, and therefore the Report should be rejected. I am much stronger in that opinion of mine for this reason. It was quite plain from the proceedings of the Committee that Members of the Committee as well as witnesses be- 307 fore it took, I thought, a rather extreme view, and what seemed to me the wrong view, in this matter, and what I think the House would generally agree to be the wrong view. If the House will look at Questions 21 to 23 I think it will see that an hon. Member of this House, the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), for whom I may be permitted to express some personal affection and for whom the whole House has great respect, took it for granted that there was something anomalous about the relations between the particular hon. Member and his trade union, but that the anomaly was not in this particular hon. Member being limited by the relations but in his being less limited than was normal. Anybody who reads Questions 21 to 24 must see that is so.
If hon. Gentlemen will look at Question D96 they will see again another hon. Member, with, I believe, trade union experience, taking the view that the normal and proper relation to expect would be that a trade unionist and a Member of Parliament was limited in all his Parliamentary action and not only in some part of it. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) said:Just a minute. If you put forward that point of view, Mr. Brown, that your relationship to the Association was the same as that of any other Member to his particular Union, then does it not follow that something very different has taken place in the case of your actions …and so on—because you were not identical with them: only in matters affecting your organisation were you considered to be under their control ֵ it differentiated you from the other trade union representatives who are here?And he underlined it at Question 198:It is the same in one respect"—his position and that of other trade union M.P.s—… in representing your organisation but you have freedom in other matters which the other trades union representatives here have not got?I think it is very clear that it was the duty of the Committee of Privilege to report with extreme frankness on the matter.
§ Mr. Neil Maclean (Glasgow, Govan)
If the hon. Member reads that correctly he will find that I am not stating that 308 other hon. Members have not got that but that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) could reasonably have it.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am very sorry it I am misleading the House. I thought I had read it exactly. I think I did. I did not intend to mislead in any way. I will not go on although there are lots more—incidentally the whole complaint about its being awfully embarrassing for a union if it cannot, however much it asseverates that the hon. Member is not speaking for it politically, shake off its connection with him—the whole of that assumption which was made by practically every witness and apparently every one of the majority of the Committee has the same tendency and effect as these specific questions I am reading out. There is one more which I wished to read, Question 241, where the same point is made. I do not want to go on with it at greater length. I hope that I have made that part of the matter plain. I say that there ought to have been a plain clear statement of what is the true view on that, and there is no such plain clear statement.
The next thing to which I wish to turn is from the conclusions of the report, to which I have been referring hitherto, to the argumentative machinery by which the conclusions were arrived at. Here again I should like to go through the lot if I could, but if hon. Members will look at page XI, paragraph g (a), they will see there what are called the findings of fact. I well understand that the Attorney-General knows better than I do the difference between fact and law and between fact and anything else. That sub-paragraph says:the Executive Committee considered in good faith that the public activities of Mr. Brown … were injuriously affecting the interests of the Association…It occurred to me to find out what the interests of the Association were. If the Attorney-General looks at the objects of the Association he will see that they are to promote the interests of its members, to regulate the conditions of their employment, benefits after death, etc., and in pursuance of those objects to co-operate with other societies. None of these things were affected in the least by the things objected to against the hon. Member 309 —[Interruption.]—I am sorry. I do not think that I can give way. I did not hear any articulate interruption and I think it will be quicker if I do not give way. Incidentally, this Association had no political affiliation at that time. I think indeed it still has not. Subparagraph 9 (c) of the findings of fact seems to me to he open to question, when it is found as a fact that both parties fully recognised that the agreement must have this or that, before termination. That seems to me to be going a long way and did, I think mislead the majority into assuming in the latter part of the argument that there was an agreement which was an effective one. If one recognises as a fact that an agreement is such and such, one has taken it for granted that there is an agreement which is in some sense a valid agreement. That is one question, whether this was a valid agreement which might have been raised and settled—I think it was, so to speak, half settled by innuendo in this paragraph 9 (c). This is another reason why we ought not to accept this report.
Similarly I think that the argument in paragraph 9 (e) about the Executive Committee beingentitled to consider that, so far from objecting to the matter being referred to the annual conference …",that the hon. Member for Rugby invited action of a particular sort, by Conference, could be shown, I submit, to he inconsistent with the evidence. It cannot be said that a man has invited something if, when he is driven to the point at which this particular question has to be decided, he says "Very well, but you must do it in the constitutional way, and incidentally the way in which I shall be most likely to win," one cannot say that he was inviting the reference of that question. I think the evidence shows clearly that he was not.
This next point may be regarded by some as rather academic, but I think it has considerable long-term importance. The argument at the bottom of page XI and at the top of page XII would do great harm if adopted by this House and very great harm if adopted by this House nem. con. That is another reason why I propose to divide the House if I may. Page XI, paragraph 10—the test is:… whether the right claimed as a privilege is one which is absolutely necessary for the due execution of the powers of Parliament.310 That really is not a fair principle stated that way round. The fair way is to state if the other way round, that Privileges are something absolutely necessary for the due execution of the powers of Parliament, or, as I should prefer it, the due execution of the function of the House, there the matter is Privilege, not that anything must be Privilege if it is that. It is necessary to bear in mind another principle, that is to say, that the House cannot create Privilege; as the thing is stated it might give the impression that the House can create Privilege by simply stating that something is necessary to the power of Parliament. I say "power," because the draft changes from "powers" to "power" on the last page of the Report, I dare say inadvertently, but again with a slight shift of meaning. On the top of page XII there is a small point but one which may be of long-range importance. I refer to the second half of paragraph XI which says:It is a breach of privilege to take or threaten action which is not merely calculated to affect the Member's course of action in Parliament, but is of a kind against which it is absolutely necessary that members should be protected.I think that has a tendency to impute that a thing is not breach of Privilege in itself unless it is something against which protection is absolutely necessary. I think it did rather direct the later course of the argument in that direction. That is a mistake as must be apparent to anyone, without being learned in the matter, from the Tennant case, in which hon. Members will remember the matter was found to be trifling, such as could not affect anyone's judgment or vote in Parliament, but nevertheless it was held breach of Privilege. I think that is another minor but not inconsiderable reason for what I think is the weakness of the Conclusion's argument, and reason why I think that this Report should not be accepted.
Another question is raised off and on but never clearly settled and I think that this Report should be rejected if only because it does not settle the question, the question whether the Member is, so to speak estopped or precluded because he has entered into the original arrangement out of which have arisen the facts which are now said to be interfering with his due performance of his functions; that question was clearly raised over and over again, was not clearly stated by the Report 311 and so far as settled is, in my submission, wrongly settled by the Report. The Report infers that a man ought to be estopped, that he mustin general be taken to have accepted its possible termination as a matter which would not influence him in his parliamentary duties. …I am quoting from page XIII, paragraph 15—and that he must therefore:be taken to require no protection.…I think that a gross misunderstanding of the nature of Privilege and a gross disservice to this House, if accepted by the House. Privilege is laid down in text books over and over again, and in a recent case, as inhering in any one Member only as part of the House because it is necessary for the House. It was so held by the Committee of Privileges in the Sandys case just before the war, it was held there that it is a part of the rights of a Member's constituents. It is a part, therefore, of the rights of the House and a part of the rights of constituents. Therefore to say that a Member has put himself out of court and that privilege cannot be used to make sure that he performs his functions to the House and his constituency is wrong.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaft and Barry)
Here again, the point of the words is towards the end, which unfortunately the hon. Member did not read. The vital words are:… require no protection against the bona fide attempt by the outside body to bring the relationship to an end
§ Mr. Pickthorn
That intervention points to what I have said about the necessity to speak at length on these matters. I could deal with that if I had time enough but I think it begs the whole question. I cannot read the whole thing. What I am trying to do as fairly as I can, is to be relevant. I think I am being fair. Those seem to me reasons why we cannot agree with the report. I have not dealt with the question, partly because it has been already implicitly well stated by the two speeches we have heard, and partly because my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) who is to second the Amendment, has the masterly and particular kind of logic required, I have not dealt with the point that agreement with the Report and acceptance of 312 the Government's rider are logically incompatible. I believe that anyone who has read the Report must be extremely dubious whether those two things can both be compatible. I therefore invite the House not to agree with the Report, but to accept the rider.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think the House is indebted to the speakers for the three very able speeches to which we have listened. The question was put very clearly by the first Government speaker and we heard a speech of great ability from the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), and now we have heard a speech on this very difficult question of Privilege by the senior Burgess the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), who probably knows more about that particular subject than anyone else in this country. I believe the House has an extremely difficult task, which I am perfectly certain hon. Members in all quarters mean to discharge to the best of their ability. The only allusion I make to the sharp division of opinion on the Committee of Privileges itself is for the purpose of showing how difficult were the questions which the Committee had to consider, and to show how great is the responsibility that consequently lies on the House for them to make up their minds on the merits.
As the House will have observed, after the Committee's report was published, the first Motion that appeared on the Order Paper was in the name of my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University and myself and my two hon. Friends who are supporting the Amendment tonight. That Motion invited the House to disagree with the Committee of Privileges, and went on to assert, as an affirmative proposition, what is in fact the heart of the second part of the Government's Motion tonight. The next thing that happened was that the Government in the Motion they put on the Order Paper slightly expanded, but did not essentially alter, the meaning of the second part of our Motion and expressed agreement, instead of disagreement, with the report of the Committee of Privileges.
I believe that if I had time I could show, and I hope hon. Members by studying the report themselves will come to the 313 conclusion, that if the Amendment which my hon. Friend has moved and which I am seconding is not adopted, the Motion will contain an internal contradiction, because it is simply not true that the second part of the Motion is contained in the report of the Committee of Privileges. Indeed, it comes expressly from paragraph 25 of the draft report prepared by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) which was specifically rejected by the majority who approved of the Committee's report. Whatever the wishes of the House may be, as regards guidance for the future there will be great obscurity in discovering how much of the report of the Committee of Privileges is agreed, and how much it is implied that they disagree when they adopt the subsequent part of the Government Motion. If our Amendment is adopted to disagree with the report of the Committee of Privileges, that of course does not imply disagreeing with every word of it. It is well known that the whole of the Committee of Privileges, and, I take it, the whole House, are agreed on the very important point that this is not a case where disciplinary action need be taken against anyone. There is much with which we all agree. Disagreement with the Report will not produce the difficulties that agreement with the Report will produce.
I expect the House would think that I was guilty of an exaggeration if I said that the Amendment was a drafting or consequential Amendment, but I say in all seriousness that it is quite literally consequential on the adoption of the second part of the Government's own Motion. There are also various affirmative reasons why the House should not agree to the Report. I cannot attempt to deal with them all, but if the House will bear with me, I will mention some of them. If I may turn to a matter to which my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University has alluded, I think that paragraph 10, with its general description of the nature and extent of Privilege, although I know its derivation is, as it stands, a little liable to mislead. May I read to the House a well-known passage from a leading case on Privilege tried in the courts. It is the well-known judgment of Lord Denman C. J. in the case of Stockdale v. Hansard, and it was cited by 314 the late Lord Hewart C. J. in the last case on Privilege that came before the courts:The Commons of England are not invested with more of power and dignity by their legislative character than by that which they bear as the grand inquest of the nation. All the privileges that can be required for the energetic discharge of their duties inherent in that high trust are conceded without a murmur or a doubt.That is clear law, recognised by the courts, and repeatedly recognised in cases of Privilege. I think, therefore, that paragraph 10 is a little weak in its allusion merely to the powers of Parliament, but if one goes on to read the whole treatment of this very difficult question of contractual relations, one sees that the Committee of Privileges have really given no useful guidance for the future. They have left the matter in considerable confusion. I believe that the Government are making a bona fide attempt to diminish that confusion by the second part of their Motion, but they have not made the matter entirely clear, as they would do if they accepted our Amendment.
I say at once that I agree with the passage in the minority draft which says quite clearly that this is a matter with which it is the duty of the House to deal and on which the House must give guidance. I will not trouble to quote the passage, but hon. Members will find it in the minority draft and I could produce it if required. I agree with what I am sure must have been in the minds of many hon. Members in the Committee of Privileges, and I would assure them that I appreciate the difficulty of their task and the sincerity with which I am perfectly certain all of them endeavoured to discharge it. They must have had in mind that it was their duty not to risk extending Privilege by deciding more than was necessary. With that desire I sympathise, but when a matter comes before the Committee of Privileges it is not only necessary to take care not to decide more than is necessary; it is equally necessary to take great care to decide as much as is necessary. Otherwise, the Committee will give no guidance to outside bodies or to hon. Members for the future.
I will give two or three examples of what I call lack of direction. If hon. Members will turn to paragraph 13, page xii, they will find that the final sentence of the first sub-paragraph is: 315Equally it might be a breach of privilege for an outside body to use the fact that a Member had entered into an agreement with it or was receiving payments from it as a means of exerting pressure upon that Member to follow a particular course of conduct in his capacity as a Member.To say that it "might be" a breach of Privilege, unless it is followed by some fairly clear guidance in some other paragraph, is not really giving that guidance to outside bodies to which they are entitled. Throughout paragraph 14, there are allusions to payments to Members and arrangements with Members. The whole effect of that paragraph is not only a very weak final result, but it makes the Committee of Privileges say something very much weaker on the subject of Parliamentary Privilege than has already been said in decisions of the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords in extremely important cases. It would be regrettable if we put Parliamentary Privilege lower than it has already been put by the courts on this particular topic.
I am very anxious not to weary the House, but I would remind them of what I think they will admit is one very important case which will be familiar to some of the trade union Members though, as its main result has so long been reversed by Statute, they may not have looked at it lately. It contains matters of very great importance and usefulness to all hon Members in whatever part of the House they sit. I refer to the decision of the Court of Appeal and to certain speeches in the House of Lords in the Osborne case. The immediate matter that came up for decision in that case was whether trade unions could collect and administer funds for political purposes and to secure Parliamentary representation. It was decided, as the House will remember, that that was ultra vires the powers of trade unions as those powers existed under the then existing Acts. In so far as the decision depended on that point, it was reversed, as is mentioned in the course of this report of the Committee of Privileges, by the Trade Union Act, 1913, which expressly provides for the pursuit by trade unions of political objects and specifically enables them inter alia to spend money "on the maintenance of any person who is a Member of Parliament."
But there was another point of very great importance decided in that case 316 which, in my submission, is not only still law, but which I believe every hon. Member, in no matter what part of the House he sits, desires should still be the law. That other part was a matter that came out quite clearly in the judgments of Lords Justice Fletcher Moulton and Farwell in the Court of Appeal and in the speech of Lord Shaw of Dunfermline in the House of Lords. In a nutshell, what these judgments said was that any contract which fettered the full freedom of a Member of Parliament was void and unenforceable as contrary to public policy.
In so saying, they were, of course, adopting as a matter of law not only the very well known quotation, with which I shall not weary the House, of Burke in his address to the electors of Bristol, but also some very well known statements by some of our greatest lawyers. I will give two quotations. The Lord President who is to reply will be glad to see how closely the terms of the second part of the Government Motion were in fact anticipated by Blackstone and others some centuries ago. The Blackstone quotation is this:Every Member, though chosen by one particular district, when elected and returned, serves for the whole realm. For the end of his coming thither is not particular, but general; not barely to advantage his constituents, but the common wealth.The other is the statement of Coke in the Institutes:And it is to be observed, though one be chosen for one particular county or borough, yet when he is returned and sits in Parliament he serveth for the whole realm.The only other quotation which I will make on this part of my case comes from the judgment of Lord Justice Fletcher Moulton and is a passage which I believe states the law on these agreements, as I believe the vast majority of hon. Members of this House, no matter where they sit, desire that it shall be and shall remain:The reason why such an agreement would be contrary to public policy is that the position of a representative is that of a man who has accepted a trust towards the public, and that any contract, whether for valuable consideration or otherwise, which binds him to exercise that trust in any other way than as on each occasion he conscientiously feels to be best in the public interest is illegal and void. This deep-seated principle of law is the basis of the illegality at common law of bribery at Parliamentary elections, for the power of voting for a representative is also a trust towards the public. Now to my mind it can 317 make no difference whether such a contract be that B shall vote as A tells him or as any body of third persons may decide. Every such agreement is tainted with the vice of the trustee binding himself contractually for valuable consideration that he will exercise a trust in the specified manner to he decided by considerations other than his own conscientious judgment at the time as to what is best in the interests of those for whom he is trustee.Then follow these words, which are important:And it is no answer to say that before or at the election he openly avowed his intention to be thus contractually fettered. The majority who electing him may be willing to permit it, but they cannot waive the rights in this respect of the minority.My hon. Friend the senior Burgess has mentioned paragraph 15 of the Committee s report. I really defy anybody to read that passage without realising that the Committee was treating the individual merits of the hon. Member making the complaint as a relevant consideration. I am sure that the correct view is that most clearly stated in the memorandum of the Clerk of the House that Privilege belongs to the House as a whole, and that the merits or demerits of the hon. Member raising it are wholly irrelevant. I am very glad that the right hon. and learned Attorney-General agrees with that view, because I would suggest that there is a slight trip-up in Question 294. This is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said to the hon. Member for Rugby:I was only just anxious to make quite sure whether you were asking the Committee to take any penal action of any kind against the secretary or anybody at Newcastle.That seems to me to be a complete misrepresentation of what the hon. Member for Rugby was trying to do. He was not asking for penal action against anybody, but was putting a case for the consideration of the Committee of Privileges, and anything that follows about his wishes for penal action has no relevance whatever to the case—
The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shaweross)
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me, may I say that we were considering, and we were only entitled to consider, the remit to us by the House? We were not entitled to lay down general principles of the law of Privilege, desirable as it may be that such principles should be laid down. We were asked to consider whether any improper pressure was brought to bear on the hon. Member for Rugby. We would very much have liked to codify the law 318 of Privilege, and this Debate will no doubt be very useful. That particular question was directed to whether the hon. Member felt that any pressure had been brought to bear upon him in that particular instance.
§ Mr. Strauss
I appreciate the distinction between the two questions which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just raised. I do not take the view that the Committee was so limited as he suggests, but, in any event, whether it was or not, this House is not limited at the present moment. On the other point—I want to be fair to the right hon. and learned Gentleman—I think his question equally shows a misapprehension, if devoted to the limited purpose to which he says it was. It is not simply saying, "Do you feel you were under any pressure?", which might have been relevant, but "Are you asking for penal action against somebody else?" I believe that question shows a certain misapprehension of what, I think, is the true view the Committee should have taken, and which, on the whole, I believe they take.
I must deal with the possible breaches of Privilege in the present case. I am only going to deal with two, but they are both, of course, of great importance. I believe they were dealt with in both of the two opening speeches, and, indeed, by my hon. Friend. The first question is, Is the contract in this case itself objectionable? I do not believe that it was possible rightly to avoid an answer to that question. It is not possible to find in this report a paragraph which clearly shows how the Committee wished that question to be answered. There is the paragraph which was read out by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate, stating why, in this particular case, they thought that the agreement, though not happily worded, need not be treated as a breach. But then there is also that puzzling finding of fact in paragraph 9 (c):That both the Executive Committee and Mr. Brown fully recognised that the agreement between Mr. Brown and the Association could only be terminated with Mr. Brown's free consent.It is quite clear and obvious that, if that is accepted, all who follow after us will think that this House has clearly stated that that particular contract was a legal and enforceable contract. I think that 319 is of the utmost importance, and I am sure that the right hon. and learned Attorney-General will not differ from my view. If the correct construction of the contract is that it fetters the hon. Member in any way in the discharge of any part of his duties in this House, then that agreement is void by the common law of England. Therefore, to state as a finding of fact something that will be universally interpreted as showing that this contract was a good and enforceable contract is. I think, regrettable.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
For the sake of clarity, would the hon. and learned Member say whether he is here referring to the original contract? Surely, he would not contend that that was not enforceable?
§ Mr. Strauss
I am referring to what we all agree was the contract—the addendum, which is to be found set out on page IV.
§ Mr. Callaghan
But it is important to make that clear, because paragraph 9 (c) recognises that the agreement could only be terminated with the free consent of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Brown). A possible interpretation could be that we were referring to the original contract.
§ Mr. Strauss
Very properly, of course, the Committee are considering the contractual relationship between the parties; they are referring to the original contract as modified by the addendum.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne) rose—
§ Mr. Strauss
I would willingly yield to the hon. Gentleman, but I hope it will be realised that, if I do, it will involve my being more lengthy than I should otherwise be.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and learned Gentleman has said that that particular passage begs the question as to whether the second agreement fettered the hon. Member or not. If that second agreement had fettered the hon. Member, then that agreement itself would have been a breach of Privilege, although not one which was referred by the Order of this House on this occasion to the Committee of Privileges.
§ Mr. Strauss
Part of what the non Member says is correct, of course. The main point of my observation was that the contract if it fettered the hon. Member was unenforceable, as being contrary to public policy, under the common law of England, and I agree with the hon. Member that then it is itself a breach of Privilege. I do not agree that it was possible for the Committee of Privileges to avoid dealing with that question, and, in fact, they have not avoided dealing with it. All they have done is to deal with it in contradictory passages, and that is the point I am making. In justice to the hon. Member for Rugby let me say that I am convinced that this was not intended to be a breach of Privilege by either of the contracting parties; nor, in fact, did any difference ever arise between the executive and the hon. Member on Civil Service matters. Nevertheless, I think it is arguable on the construction of the contract, and on some of the answers given in examination and cross-examination, that the hon. Member was fettered, and I do not think it would offend against any cause which the Government have at heart if they got rid of these ambiguities and had the clear statement of the latter half of their Motion. All these difficulties will arise, and we cannot avoid them, if they insist on our recording agreement with the Report of the Committee. I may say in passing, that Lord Shaw of Dunfermline made it quite clear that the fact that no differences would in fact arise would not be in any way decisive in deciding whether the contract was, in fact, such as to offend against public policy.
The other point of possible breach of Privilege is that which the Committee itself has endeavoured to decide, and that is the question of pressure. Was pressure exercised against the hon. Member for Rugby or not? Let me say at once, because I want to be absolutely fair, that certainly that was a matter as to which there was a certain amount of possibly conflicting evidence, and any Member of the House who has carefully studied the report is fully entitled to make up his own mind on that question of fact. I would only draw the attention of the House to a few facts and answers to questions which made me come to the conclusion that pressure was brought to bear on the hon. Member. First of all nobody will doubt that the hon. Member himself thought that pressure was 321 being brought to bear on him. I would refer to Question 318 on page 28 as giving the view of the hon. Member himself. Clearly, Mr. White completely supported him on that point and thought that pressure was brought to bear on the hon. Member. I will give the House the reference to a few questions which are decisive on this point. They are Questions 470, 537, 577 and 596. I do not know how many other Members wish to speak, and that is why I do not propose to give the details of those questions. These questions and others will leave the House in no doubt that the other witness who had the greatest knowledge of the facts also thought that pressure was being brought to bear. What did the executive of the union itself think? There are some interesting answers to questions given by the union representative himself. They are alluded to in some of the proceedings. In answer to a question by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery, Question 409:That would be because his political views did not tally with those held by the Executive?the answer was:Were not in conformity with the general policy of the organisation.There are several questions in that part of the Report dealing with the matter.
There are two other matters which I think throw a little light on the attitude of the executive. They are found in Questions 350 and 351. The question was raised why it was not sufficient to make it clear by public announcement that the hon. Member was not representing the Association at all in his ordinary political activities; and they made it clear that that was not good enough. Another question I cite for hon. Members so that they can make up their own minds what weight they should attach to it. That is Question 387. That was the question as to what was the attitude of the executive to the possible question of privilege. It was:Did not Mr. Brown, on various occasions, point out to you that if you did certain things it would be a breach of Parliamentary Privilege?The answer—in reply to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid)—was:Yes. It never occurred to us as an Executive as being a question which required us to examine our position. References were made to Privilege but our attitude to it was that of noting the observation but not regarding 322 it as being of sufficient weight to cause us to examine our position.
§ The Attorney-General
Surely, the hon. and learned Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House? I hope he will read the next three questions?
§ The Attorney-General
It is always very dangerous, when one is examining the evidence of a witness, to isolate any particular question and answer. Judges have again and again—
§ The Attorney-General
The hon. and learned Gentleman was kind enough to give way, and I am making a quite fair point. I am sure he would wish to be fair to the House about it. Judges have said again and again that one must look at the whole evidence and get a general impression from that. The hon. and learned Gentleman has read one question. There are three other questions vitally relevant to the point he is making.
§ Mr. Strauss
I yielded to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I will always yield to a Member of the House. Hon. Members cannot say I do not yield. The only thing I resented about the last intervention was the suggestion that I was not going to read the questions. Of course I will read them. The only reason I have not read out more is, that I thought the more convenient thing would be to indicate them, and then, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought fit to do so, he could instruct his right hon. Friend in the matter when he replied. I do hope there is not going to be anything—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I am perfectly willing to get on. I will read the following question:In your dealings with Mr. Brown, after the question of Privilege was raised by him or by anybody else, were you anxious that you should in no way commit a breach of Privilege?—Yes. We became very concerned then with the whole question of Privilege.That, of course, was at a later date. The next questions were:Did you get any legal advice?—Yes. Your lawyers told you, I suppose, what a breach of Privilege would be?—They told us what a breach of Privilege would be.323 That happened after the matter had been raised in Parliament. I can quite understand that they then treated the matter seriously. I am not asking hon. Members to adopt my conclusions as their own. I ask them to read Question 387, and the answer, to see if they do not think the Executive came to the conclusion that this question of Privilege was not important. I am sure that they did not think it would be raised, and that led them to the conclusion, of course, that the question whether or not they brought pressure to bear on the hon. Member was unimportant. I suggest to the House that it was important.
I have mentioned Mr. White's views, and I have mentioned the views of the executive of the union. Let me now come to the view of the Committee of Privileges itself in their report. In the findings of fact in paragraph 9 (b) the report says:the Committee did not intend to bring any pressure on Mr. Brown to change his views.Then in paragraph 9 (f) the report says that the executive committeeintended so to conduct themselves as to avoid any violation of such privileges.That is not a finding that there was no pressure; that is a finding that there was no guilty intention. The Committee of Privileges have said again and again: "First, we have to find the facts." On the facts I have given I suggest that hon. Members will come to the conclusion that pressure was, in fact, brought to bear on the hon. Member for Rugby.
I now wish to deal with two points which hon. Members opposite, who may have agreed with me in part so far, may find difficult. They may ask: If this agreement was itself objectionable, was it not very meritorious to terminate it, by whatever means? I think the answer to that is quite clear, whichever way this question of pressure is decided. I say that on the other points I have raised hon. Members ought to agree to our Amendment, because there are sufficient objections to this report, whichever way they decide the simple question of fact about pressure. But in deciding this question of fact, do not let hon. Members think that it is decided for them by the supposition that because the agreement may have been either unenforceable as contrary to public policy or a breach of 324 privilege, therefore they were entitled to use any method whatsoever to terminate it. Even under this Motion, if it is adopted tonight, there will still be borderline contracts in relation to which it will be, or may be, difficult to say whether they are breaches of Privilege or not. They may be tested in court, or by the Committee of Privileges, but that does not justify pressure being brought to bear on an hon. Member to influence his conduct in the House. The very fact that the contract itself is vague does not mean that any method of pressure can be used to bring that contract to an end.
There is one other matter which I must bring to the attention of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am sorry to have been so long, but I have been forced to be longer than I intended by interruptions from hon. Members opposite. I think the House will do me the honour of saying that I have been relevant on an extremely difficult matter. If hon. Members desire to see how important this is, let them turn to paragraph 9 (a) of the report of the Committee of Privileges, where they will find as a finding of fact that, notwithstanding all the denials,it was not always realised by the public that his appointment as Parliamentary General Secretary left him with complete freedom in political matters (other than Civil Service matters) so that his views by no means accurately represented the views of the Association.Now think what it means. It means that the outside public can really believe that an hon. Member of this House might have an agreement which threatened his independence and limited the views that he could advance, and make them not his own views but the views of some outside body. The fact that it can be found by the Committee of Privileges that that belief was widespread makes it, in my submission, overwhelmingly important—
§ The Attorney-General
I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Member again, but he really is making a false point. The Committee of Privileges found no such thing. The Committee of Privileges found that the executive committee of the Civil Service Clerical Association thought that, not that the Committee of Privileges thought it.
§ Mr. Strauss
And, of course, the Committee of Privileges found their views so reasonable that they were entitled to seek 325 to bring this agreement to an end. It they had found the idea wholly unreasonable they would not have had the least hesitation in saying so.
§ Mr. Strauss
If hon. Members look at the answers given by Mr. MacMillan in numbers 373 and 401, they will find that it is made quite clear, according to the evidence, that there was this widespread view that a Member of Parliament might he fettered. I say that it is overwhelmingly in the interests of every quarter of this House, and of the survival of our Parliamentary democracy, that it should be made absolutely clear, by a Resolution of this House, that no such view must be entertained in future. I cannot urge the House too strongly, if it is agreed that this is the case, to adopt a Resolution to free the matter from ambiguity. Unless we differ from the Committee of Privileges but adopt the rest of the Government's Motion, utter confusion will be brought to bear; because if we declare in the first part that we approve the Report of the Committee, the last passage entirely contradicts it. So great is the importance to Members of the House and to our Constitution, that I hope the Government, at this late hour, may decide that there is no reason at all why they should not accept this Amendment. If this Amendment were adopted, a perfectly clear Resolution would be passed. It is perfectly true that other evils of a different kind may arise in future, but one matter at least will have been made clear if this course is adopted.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
This has started to resolve itself into a lawyer's Debate. I am not a distinguished lawyer, nor am I a distinguished constitutional historian, but, as a layman, I hope that I can indicate what my approach is to the matter, from the point of view of common sense, and I trust that I shall be able to do so in somewhat less time than was occupied by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss). The circumstances we have to take into account tonight are those which affect most Members of the House when they enter their Parliamentary work.
It is clear that these circumstances have changed considerably during the 326 last 100 years. Most Members come from a profession, an occupation, or an employment. They are not gentlemen of leisure, beholden to no one before they get here, except to their country seats, and beholden to no one when they leave; they are people who come from a job, and to the extent that they have come from a job, it does influence them in their approach to their work here. It matters not whether or not there is a financial relationship between the job that a Member of Parliament was doing before he came here. What is of importance is that he is bringing to the House of Commons a varied experience, knowledge and a cumulative weight of information about what he has done, which he is bound to use in the course of his work as a Member of Parliament, and it would be denying the House of Commons something that is of value, if he did not use that information and knowledge which he has acquired.
Now, when he comes here this is the question: Should he give up his work altogether, renounce his contracts, and enter upon a monastic political life? We have it on the authority of the Lord President of the Council that it is desirable that Members of this House should have other occupations, that they should keep themselves in touch and in line with the main stream of industry, business, trade union work, or whatever it may be. That is the view which is commonly held here, although we all take the view that a Minister's first duty must be to this House. I draw the distinction, at the start, between the Member who comes here from a job which he has done before he became a Member, and continues to do that job once he has entered the House, in a modified form may be, and the Member, who having got here, sells the position he has to an organisation in return for financial or pecuniary reward.
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) looks down his nose; it is a difficult thing to do. I am not stating anything that is offensive to any Member. All I am saying is that I draw a clear distinction between the Member who has had a job before he got here, and carries it on, and the Member who, once he has got here, sells himself to an organisation, which is something we should all deplore. Inevitably, there is bound to 327 be influence exerted on a Member, particularly if he has been an employee of an organisation or company, because he is only here for a short time perhaps. We all know the fortunes of Elections. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Members opposite cheer that remark, and I can only say that they certainly should know. I like controversy as a rule, but perhaps on this occasion I should try to steer clear. I will do my best. Inevitably, such a man coming from a job, maybe returning to a job, will have remembrances of the past and expectations of the future, and to that extent he cannot resist the influence that his thoughts of the past and future will have upon him. But it is wholly undesirable that such a man should enter into a contract with his old employers, and maybe his new employers, when he leaves, to represent them in what they require politically in this House. In other words, there must be no contract, explicit or implicit, between him and his old employers or any other person. That puts anybody who enters into an agreement into a dilemma if he is outside this House. He either buys a pig in a poke, because the agreement cannot be enforced, or lays himself open to the charge that he is creating a breach of Privilege if an endeavour is made to bring such an agreement to an end once it has been entered into.
The hon. and learned Member for the English Universities got himself rather tied up. If an agreement is undesirable when it is entered into, then undesirable consequences are bound to flow from it. As I understood the hon. and learned Member, who quoted a judgment from someone very old and very dead, he said that any contract is unenforceable if it binds a Member. I agree. It must follow from that that the contract into which the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) entered not only was unenforceable, but was probably a breach of Privilege. If that is his view, it is quite clear that if one starts off by having something that is undesirable as this was, and may be a breach of Privilege, then any actions that flow from it are themselves almost certainly bound to be a breach of Privilege. As a layman, I should have thought that an attempt to bring an agreement to a conclusion if the original agreement in itself was a breach of Privilege was no 328 more and no less venal than the original action.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not listen to me when I was dealing with that particular argument. I said that the legal effect of the agreement was a matter for argument, but I also said that if on its true construction the agreement did fetter the hon. Member then it was absolutely void and unenforceable and probably a breach of Privilege as well. I went on to add that the agreement might not be enforceable or might even be a breach of Privilege, but even those two grounds did not justify any pressure being brought to bear.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I only followed out the the point that has been made on both sides, and I still adhere to the view that if one makes an agreement that is in itself a breach of Privilege—nd I take it from the minority report, which the hon. and learned Member originally supported, that he thought this was a breach of Privilege—
The hon. and learned Member shakes his head. I take it that anything that follows from it must of itself be objectionable and undesirable. The case of the hon. Member for Rugby does raise the possibility of pressure. One is a positive form of pressure, and the other is a negative form. The positive form of pressure is the conversation that took place between the hon. Member for Rugby and certain officers of the Civil Service Clerical Association as to whether he would not modify his point of view. I think that I would make up my mind that pressure had been exerted on the hon. Member for Rugby. That would be my conclusion on these facts. The second type of pressure is the negative type, as to whether, if one threatens to bring an agreement to an end, one did not in fact by that very action bring a more subtle form of pressure to bear on the man with whom one was in contract, and, to that extent, compel him to change his mind. I would say that also was true, but I do not draw from it the conclusions drawn earlier in this Debate.
As I see it, the Civil Service Clerical Association must be entitled to decide 329 who is best to represent it in the fields in which it desires representation. It seems to me that they desired representation, they sought representation, and they got representation. Indeed, if we take paragraph 10 dealing with the statement of Mr. McMillan, the President of the Civil Service Clerical Association, on page 82, he said quite clearly:While Mr. Brown owes no duty to the Association for his political views on matters other than Civil Service matters, it is submitted that …That can only mean, it one reverses the sentence, that whilst he owed them no duty for his political views he certainly owed them a duty for his Civil Service views, and my opinion is that the association must be free at any point of time to decide that that form of duty which they claim that the hon. Member for Rugby owed to them could be brought to an end. I go on from that to say that it is of vital importance for any trade union to be in a position to say as, indeed, Mr. McMillan said in the course of his evidence:We thought it more desirable to exercise our pressure through the medium of the T.U.C. than we did through the medium of a seat in the House of Commons.That seems to be a very sensible line for a trade union to take, or an arguable line, at least, for them to take. What we have to remember in this case is that when the hon. Member for Rugby became their Parliamentary general secretary the organisation was not affiliated to the T.U.C. and could not be affiliated to the T.U.C. It was not until they became affiliated that this issue could and did arise. I take the view that in a case of this kind where a contract has been concluded it should be open to the association to say, "Because of the change in circumstances we think our representation as an organisation can be better served through the medium of the T.U.C. than through the medium of the hon. Member for Rugby."
We next come to the point as to whether the speeches of the hon. Member for Rugby which were the subject of the pressure—whether proper or improper—were devoted to matters which were purely political, and on that subject there can be only one answer. It is that his speeches of which the association complained were matters which vitally affected the interests of the association. 330 To illustrate that I would turn to Questions 344 to 346 in the Report in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) asked Mr. McMillan certain specific: questions as to what caused embarrassment to the organisation. There were two minor matters and then we come to Question 344.The third matter"—that is, their embarrassment—his votes and speeches on the Trades Disputes Act, 1946—was that a matter which caused difficulty and embarrassment?The answer was, "Definitely, yes.'
Question 345:The fourth, his statements on splinter and breakaway Unions?Answer, "Yes."
And Question 346:And the fifth, his general dissent from opinions expressed by the T.U.C.Answer, "Yes."
It is clear that the speeches to which the Civil Service Clerical Association took exception were speeches which vitally concerned their interests as an organisation. There can be no other deduction drawn from those answers and here, of course, we get into the dilemma that the agreement was theoretically impossible to carry out, because it is quite impossible to say where a purely trade union Civil Service interest merges into a political interest. One cannot draw a clear line of distinction between the two.
By way of illustration let me just go across the Channel to France for a moment where the Civil Service have been on the point of striking. Suppose the hon. Member for Rugby were a member of that Assembly. Would it have been his duty to his association to have prosecuted their wage claims to the point of unbalancing the French budget, with all the possible consequences, or should he not have said, "This is a political matter and on this I am bound to vote as a politician without reference to the interests of the Civil Service." One can multiply those interests indefinitely, because they flow and that is why I say that the overlap between political and Civil Service issues automatically made it impossible to carry out this agreement. The second reason which automatically made it impossible to carry out this agreement was the fact that views which were repugnant 331 to the organisation which was employing the hon. Member for Rugby, if expressed sufficiently strongly and freely on matters other than Civil Service matters, were bound in the course of time to affect the relationships between the two people in contact on the purely Civil Service matters. But in point of fact that theoretically impossible situation was evolved because of the personality of the hon. Member for Rugby, and Mr. McMillan told the Committee of Privileges that they knew the hon. Member nearly as well as the Civil Service Clerical Association. What he meant was, of course, that it is impossible to bend the hon. Member's line even if one wanted to; he is a law unto himself and he always has been in the Civil Service trade union movement, and no amount of pressure, if applied, could possibly make him change. That was recognised, and in consequence the agreement was made and was carried out although theoretically and logically it was not possible.
I think that one or two points emerge. We should have a clear expression from the House tonight—and I hope that the Lord President of the Council will give us some guidance—as to whether contracts and agreement of this kind should or should not continue, and whether those that are in existence—I refer to the explicit contracts—should be overhauled or not. In my view they should be, but I think the House should express its view and, as I have said, I hope that we shall have some guidance from the Lord President of the Council as to the views of the Government. As the hon. Member for Rugby said this is, in the last resort, the test of a man's character. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) said last weekend, every Member must be his own Committee of Privileges on an issue of this kind, and we cannot possibly attempt to define all the situations and all the nuances which might apply in these cases. But what we can and must do is to re-define Privilege as we move on.
Privilege today clearly cannot be the same as the Privilege that existed in the days of the pocket borough. What then was the situation? To whom did the Member owe his allegiance before 1832? What was the pressure which might have been brought to bear upon him at that time? We have now reached a stage 332 where the Labour movement has grown up. In the days when the original pioneers of the Labour party came to this House as the old L.R.C. with no payment of any sort, the only way in which their entry could be gained and by which they could be supported was by this method. It was the way in which we secured a foothold and in which we have climbed up. But that is not the situation today. There is now adequate payment for Members—on a very modest standard of living indeed, but, nevertheless, it exists.
I do not rule out the payment of sums of money to a Member either in recognition of past services or because an organisation desires to continue to pay him in expectation of his eventual return. That is a matter for the hon. Member. What I do say is that there should be no contract in existence at all that binds the Member to serve any organisation. It is that principle upon which we ought to decide, and it is for that reason that I think we must support the Motion which appears on the Order Paper in the name of the Government. I would have preferred it to have been divided into two for the sake of the consciences of some hon. Members opposite, though, fortunately, I can support the Government on both issues.
I do not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman the junior Member for the Combined English Universities who said that confusion would be confounded if we did not support his Amendment. What will be the situation if we say we disagree with the majority Report? Surely, it will be that we are saying that the organisation may not bring this contract to an end. It is inherent in the whole of my case that the organisation must be at liberty to do so if they so desire, and if it can be carried through in accordance with the terms of the agreement as originally set down. For these and many other reasons, I agree with the Government and disagree with the point of view put by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, and I trust that the Debate this evening will be a means of preserving and widening the integrity of all hon. Members of this House in their first and main service to their constituents.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
I would limit what I have to say to that part of the report on which all are agreed. 333 We are all agreed about such parts as relate to the contract entered into by the hon. Member with the Civil Service Clerical Association. I understand that we are all agreed that the hon Member was to be free to express his own political views on matters outside those concerning the Civil Service Clerical Association. It would appear to be a simple matter for the Committee of Privileges to come to a simple conclusion on that matter. They would have come to that conclusion the more easily if they had heeded the very clear memorandum submitted to the Committee by the learned Clerk of the House. He drew their attention to two possible courses of action. He pointed out that there was a possibility of Privilege inhering in the Member concerned, or alternatively, that the Privilege was the Privilege of the House of Commons. According to the view taken of the nature of the Privilege, different conclusions would follow.
Nowhere in the Report do I find any discussion of those alternatives or any views as to whether the Privilege inheres in the Member himself or whether it inheres in the House, although the learned Clerk had submitted that such matter was relevant for the Committee to decide. If the Committee had decided that Privilege inhered in the House itself, I imagine that they would have expressed the opinion not merely upon the part of the contract in which the Member was free to express his own opinions but upon that part of the contract in which the hon. Member was bound to the Civil Service Clerical Association. I have listened to the instances which have been given by the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), to those which have been given by the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and those by the hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. H. Strauss). The instances they gave were all in the same category as that part of the contract in which the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Brown) was bound to the Civil Service Clerical Association, and not to the other part, upon which part there has been no decision and no discussion.
§ Mr. Morris
If it is not in doubt, it can only be not in doubt because it is said that the hon. Member for Rugby is in 334 agreement with the Civil Service Clerical Association.
§ The Attorney-General
I am very sorry, but the hon. and learned Member may have misunderstood what I said. I said that it was not in doubt whether the Privilege was the Privilege of the House or of a particular Member. There is no doubt about that.
§ Mr. Morris
If the Attorney-General says that, I must point out that the learned Clerk of the House submitted, with great authority, in his memorandum, that it was a point for the Committee to discuss. If it is not in doubt, and if the Clerk of the House, with his great authority suggests to the Committee of Privileges that there were two courses open to them, it is not for me or for the Attorney-General—
§ Mr. Morris
The memorandum of the Clerk of the House raised the whole issue of Privilege. If that question had been determined by the Committee of Privileges, then the position of the hon. Member for Rugby could have been easily disposed of. Not only was the issue which the hon. Member has raised that issue which was raised by the evidence before the Committee—
§ Mr. Morris
I would like neither the Motion nor the Amendment to be carried, hut that the matter should be referred hack to the Committee of Privileges for them to consider the nature of the Privilege. The hon. Member for South Cardiff has raised a serious issue. He says that times are changing and that we should consider what the nature of Privilege is in these days. Could there have been a clearer case which raises this issue than the case of the hon. Member for Rugby, not only on the case raised, but the particular part to which he was bound? That issue having been raised, is not the Committee of Privileges the proper body to discuss this and come to a conclusion on it? The Attorney-General, in an intervention to the hon. and learned Member for the English Universities said that it had not been considered because 335 it was not part of the Committee's duties. It was made clear from the report that they could not come to a true conclusion without first considering the nature of the Privilege.
That being so, I would like to have the matter referred back to the Committee to consider this very fundamental problem. If they consider that problem, I think their findings on the position of the hon. Member for Rugby will have a very different conclusion. If one looks at the conclusions, they are found to be contradictory. The first one in paragraph 9 on page XI of the Report says:…the Executive Committee considered in good faith that the public activities of Mr. Brown …It does not matter whether the Committee considered in good faith or not. Their good faith is quite irrelevant. If anybody brings any pressure to bear on a Member of Parliament acting in good faith, it is pressure, and if it is pressure it does not matter whether it is legitimate. That is an irelevant consideration. That runs through the whole of that paragraph because the Committee had at no time clear opinion of what they meant by Privilege—whether the Privilege was the Privilege of the House or the Privilege of the hon. Member. In those circumstances the House can serve its own ends and dignity and the position of hon. Members in a much more clearly defined and authoritative way if, instead of coming to a conclusion upon a necessarily sketchy Debate such as this, when everyone has to compress his words into a few minutes, they refer this back to the Committee of Privileges and ask them to come to a decision on the main issue.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Proctor (Eccles)
The question we are considering has three aspects. I put them in the order of what I consider should be their priority. The first is, the rights, privileges and liberties of the ordinary citizens of this country. The second is, the rights, privileges and liberties of hon. Members of this House. I put this second because I feel that our liberties are only designed to preserve the liberties of the ordinary citizen. Third, I put the rights and privileges of the organisations which form part of our public life—the trade unions, the Co-operative 336 parties, the political parties, Tories, Liberals and Communists, for that matter. All these rights come under consideration this evening.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr, Proctor) does not give way, the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) cannot put a question to him.
§ Mr. Drayson
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. As the hon. Member is speaking to this Motion, would he agree to tell the House whether he has in fact—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Drayson
But should the hon. Member not inform the House whether he has any connection with a trade union?
§ Mr. Proctor
I say that the rights of the trade unions, the rights of all the political parties, must be preserved, and the right of a trade union, or any other body, to conduct political agitation, to sponsor a candidate, to pay the expenses of that candidate, is something which has grown up by custom in this country, and should not be interfered with. If we interfere with it, we interfere with the whole political organisation of the country, and I cannot see how we can differentiate between a political party and anything which operates in a Division on one side or the other, if we limit the rights of organisations to conduct political agitation and pay for it in the manner in which that has been done up to the present time. The only way in which a person without private wealth can come to the House is by being sponsored by an organisation and as a representative of his fellow workers in that organisation. It is important that that right should be preserved.
337 I concede that it is the duty of any Member of Parliament not to pledge himself to act here as a delegate who is instructed on any matter by an outside organisation. As far as it is within my knowledge, no trade union in this country other than in the instance brought before the House, claims that right—certainly not my own trade union.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
Is the hon. Member saying that no trade union in this country specifies that one of their delegates shall vote a particular way on special legislation—one whom they assist to come into this House—[An HON. MEMBER: "As a representative."]—I am sorry, I should have said sponsor. Is the hon. Member saying that they do not require him to vote a particular way? I can give the hon. Member examples.
§ Mr. Proctor
The hon. Member may have instances, but I have no knowledge of such cases, and my organisation, the National Union of Railwaymen, have never made that claim. If anyone else has any other knowledge it is their duty to speak on this matter. But I wish it to be clearly laid down that it is not a principle on which trade union membership in this House is based. I am glad this matter was brought up in question and answer, because, from the evidence, it appeared as though it were suggested that the other trade union Members in this House were less free than the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown). That point was cleared up and, therefore, I will not take up time in dealing with it.
I wish to turn to the question of how the whole question of privilege arises. The hon. Member for Rugby complains that his political liberty is in danger, and he refers the matter to the Committee of Privileges and produces an agreement and a personal note about that agreement. In the opinion of the hon. Member for Rugby that agreement binds him for a percentage of his Parliamentary time. I cannot see, looking at the strict wording of the agreement, whether it does so or does not. I venture the opinion for what it is worth that it does not bind him, but that he was absolutely free. But the hon. Member for Rugby cannot claim anything upon that point, because I would refer to page 72, where is printed 338 a letter by him, which commences "Dear Len," and he uses these significant words:…I bound myself to do my best to implement, in the House of Commons, the policy of the Association on Civil Service issues.One cannot claim that one is free and independent on political issues and make a statement like that in a letter to the general secretary of a trade union. Therefore, I say that the hon. Member for Rugby puts himself absolutely out of court in this claim to the Committee of Privileges, because he says "My political liberty is in danger." But from whom is it in danger? "From those to whom I have surrendered, we will say, one per cent. of it? What is the consideration upon which I have surrendered one per cent. of it? It is £1,350 a year, it is £250 a year expenses, it is a motor car, it is the use of a secretary and a suite of offices as well. "When any Member comes to the Committee of Privileges and says, "My political freedom is in danger from that organisation." I submit that he has no case—
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I hate to interrupt the hon. Member, but I would respectfully venture to suggest that Privilege, or breach of it, was not determined by whether my salary was £300, £3,000 or £300,000. Is not the hon. Member aware that what that salary represented was a continuation of my earlier emoluments, and nothing more?
§ Mr. Proctor
I say that the question of the hon. Member's political liberty, being endangered, cannot logically be put forward by someone who admits that he has surrendered a percentage of it. That is the point I am making.
Let us consider the actions of the association in this matter. I believe that they genuinely felt that a separation of the members and their Parliamentary general secretary of this matter would be in the interests of the union. Their proposals were that he should be paid the whole of his salary for the full period of his contract. Is that improper pressure? Their proposals were that he should still have the use of the motor car, with £500 with which to look after it for that period of time. Their proposals were that his secretary should be compensated for that period, and the proposals were also that he should continue to have the use 339 of the offices. If that is improper pressure then I do not say but that other hon. Members of the House would care to have the same pressure exerted on them.
The one part of this whole question which worries me is not the pressure upon the hon. Member for Rugby, but the pressure which the hon. Member for Rugby put on his executive committee. I looked through the evidence, and I see that the hon. Member for Rugby had an interview with you, Mr. Speaker, and I see that he communicated a letter to the executive committee in which he indicated that if matters went any further, a grave breach of Privilege would be committed. I am very concerned as to whether that was not improper pressure by a Member of Parliament upon his comrades with whom he was discussing this matter.
I promised to take up only a few minutes. I should have liked to develop this very much further. On this issue I feel that a tribute should be paid to the trade union representatives on that executive. They resisted all pressure and all advice, and tonight we are considering a report which says that there was no breach of Privilege. The calmness with which they dealt with the whole of this matter is a credit to trade unionists. The respect which they expressed for the rights and privileges of this House does credit to British trade unionism. I say that we should support the Government Motion, but I want to have a clear understanding that this does not mean an interference with the established rights of trade unions or any other bodies to continue their political work.
I consider that this Report says one vital thing. No hon. Member of this House shall be under a contractual obligation to carry out the instructions of an outside body. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are you?"] I am not. I say that no hon. Member of this House should be under a contractual obligation of this nature and I would say at once that if that was the price of my remaining here I would go. I hold the position of a Member of Parliament much higher than that. All that this report says is that there shall be no contractual arrangement. Let us take this clear case. The Civil Service Clerical Association should not, by resolution, be able to in- 340 struct the hon. Member for Rugby what to do in this House. He should be entirely free. That is all that this report says, and on that interpretation I support the Motion.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
This Debate is purely a private affair and there is nothing attached to it as between the Government and the Opposition Front Benches. Therefore, I only intervene for a very short time because it is the common custom at some stage in the proceedings for some senior Member of at least one of the parties to express a view. Unfortunately, time is such that the years have gone by and I am one of those today. I merely speak, if I may do so in the presence of the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), as one of the older Members. I would like to say that we are having a most interesting and extremely important Debate—make no mistake about that. I am rather sorry, as were my two hon. Friends behind me, that the House is being put into the position of really having to decide two issues at once. It has to decide the approval or disapproval of a report, which is one thing. Secondly, it has to decide the approval or disapproval of a Motion which would give not exactly a code of conduct, but an indication of the lines on which hon. Members of this House should act in this very difficult field.
If my hon. Friends take the matter to a Division, I will certainly vote with them to disagree with the Report, but at this stage, and after all that has been said, the House would not wish me to explain exactly why. I merely make the biter dictum that I have read all of the evidence through twice and I hope others have done the same to try to make it clear to myself what the dispute was in this matter. I have come to the conclusion that on the whole the Committee's Report does not quite fit the story which was unfolded before them. In parentheses I would like to say that the Committee of Privileges is a Committee of this House whose Members are good enough on our behalf to take the evidence and come to their own conclusions.
But it is incumbent upon every hon. Member himself to decide a matter of this kind. We have to settle it, and in a case like this, where, happily or unhappily, 341 most of us know all the personnel of the drama, each of us is able to make up his own mind about the printed word in a way which in other cases would have been somewhat difficult to do. For myself, if there is a Division, and I have to decide whether I think the report of the majority of the Committee of Privileges was right or not, I would say "No," and would, therefore, go into the Lobby with my hon. Friends.
If I might, with respect, make one criticism of the Report, it would be to say that I am sorry that they did not look, behind the allegation of improper pressure having been brought, into the question whether or not the agreement was itself a breach of Privilege. In the memorandum which the Clerk of the House made, that issue was raised, and in the evidence and the questions asked on the first day, the door was opened, and I thought that perhaps the Committee would walk through it. Possibly, they thought it was outside the terms which they had received at the end of March from this House. If so, I am not at all sure that they would not have been better advised to have come back at that stage and have said to the House, "We find that there is a contract." After all, we have had it in the evidence and from the Clerk of the House, for the first time, that any such contract had been seen. Until then, there might never have been a contract, or there may have been a hundred contracts. I do not know, but this is the first time that a contract has ever appeared as such, and I should have thought that was sufficient for the Committee to have said then that there was a different situation, in view of the terms of the document, and should have come back and asked for the view of the House wheher there was a prima facie case or not, but they did not do that, and I merely express regret for my own part that that matter was not further investigated.
Where are we now? We have on the Order Paper this Motion, which is largely taken from certain words in the minority report which my hon. and learned Friend has drafted. We can all see that, in this vast field of agreements between hon. Members and outside people, there are extremes which all of us may recognise, the one, possibly as proper, and the other as improper. Obviously, any suggestion about the making of financial payments 342 for an hon. Member to act in a particular way on a particular issue is quite outside anything to be considered proper, and I do not know that it has ever been made. At the other extreme, there are a number of societies and institutions, without any political interests at all, but whose matters sometimes come up for consideration in legislation, whether it is Georgian houses, steel traps for catching rabbits, the preservation of rural England or hikers, and so on. We have had all this sort of thing, which comes to us from somebody outside, who sends literature to hon. Members and expresses the hope that they will be interested when this matter is discussed, without any kind of political pressure, and we all recognise this sort of action as completely harmless.
Then, there is the middle portion, in which for the first time, we now find that there is a contract. I am not quite sure what the term "contractual" agreement means as used in the words of the Motion and I hope the Lord President will tell us more about it. I hope it will not be thought impertinent on my part to suggest that.
I just want to say this. There is this large field of very great difficulty. Speaking entirely for myself, I do not see how we can possibly lay down any kind of code. An hon. Member said just now that he thought it ought to be referred back to the Committee of Privileges in order that the Committee should try to define what Privilege was. I think that is quite impossible and, with all respect, I would not approve of anything of the sort. This is tradition handed down, and it is either broadened or narrowed according to the cases which come before it. One cannot lay down a code here, but I think that we must all of us, having recognised that there are extremes at both ends, assume that every hon. Member of this House is an honourable person. That is an underlying assumption that we must all make about each other, and we must also assume that not only are we honourable men and women, but that we are honest, and also sensible men and women.
We are Members of a very great Parliament, and we pride ourselves—and that is inherent in the Motion which we are invited to pass tonight—that we cannot be, and will not be, delegates of any outside body. That, of course, has been pointed out and is laid down in the 343 great dictum of Burke. I wonder how, in the intervening years, that dictum has worked out. There must have been great pressure in the time of pocket boroughs, but that is past history. We are now in a very different age, but it is vital, to my mind, that we should all assume that no one here is a delegate. If anybody feels that they have been acting in such a way, let them search their consciences and see whether they ought to change the conditions or arrangements under which they work here.
It is up to everybody's conscience to decide whether his actions are right. I am not imputing anything; I hope hon. Members realise that, because we do not know the situation in which others find themselves, although I must say that certain things have been mentioned during this Debate as being common knowledge which I had not thought were common knowledge. However, be that as it may, I think that we should all trust each other to do the right thing in these difficult circumstances, and we should certainly not let it go out from this House tonight that there is a large body of Members here who are under contract to outside bodies for the work they do in this House.
This Parliament has a great place in the world, which has been enhanced by our actions in this House and the other House before it was destroyed during the war. Therefore, because of this unfortunate case, let it not be made to appear in any kind of way that agreements of this kind were common, or that there are some existing today. If there are, then appeal to my brother Members to look into their own cases, should there be any, and to remember the words which the right hon. Gentleman used in his speech in opening this Debate—"the honour of the House as a whole is at stake.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that this Debate has been full of interest, and that new Members will all agree that they have learned a great deal as the result of the speeches made today about the ethics that are expected of hon. Members of this House. In view of all that has been said, and the many aspects which this Debate has covered, I only wish, in the few minutes I propose to take up, to 344 refer to one passage of the report of the Committee of Privileges, because it seems to me it would not be right to pass it over unnoticed. I refer to the last three paragraphs of the report of the Committee entitled:Incident of a Letter affectingMr. Speaker.As hon. Members will realise, these particular paragraphs were common both to the majority and the minority Reports. I refer to the matter for the reason that, as I read the evidence given, it seemed to me that not the least serious of the charges which might have been heard against the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) was the use he had made to his executive committee of a conversation he had with you, Mr. Speaker. As has been said by previous speakers, the hon. Member for Rugby has apparently, over a long period, sought to bring a certain amount of pressure to bear on the executive committee by suggesting that the course of conduct which they were pursuing might have amounted to a breach of Privilege. We are all jealous of Parliamentary Privileges, but their existence should impose on us the duty never, without the greatest circumspection, to attempt to deflect third parties or outsiders from the course they are pursuing by the suggestion that they would be committing a breach of Privilege.
I think the House should bear in mind that not only did the hon. Member for Rugby on a number of occasions appear to deflect the executive committee from the course they were pursuing, by suggesting that Privilege was involved, but he also went to the length of having an interview with you, Mr. Speaker, and I think the gravity lies in the fact that he very seriously distorted the effect of the interview or, to use your own words in the evidence that you were good enough to give before the Committee, made "a big overstatement." So great, not only in this House but throughout the country, is the respect which is given to any word, ruling or dictum of yours, that I feel the House should recognise an overwhelming duty to be most scrupulously careful when repeating any private conversation with you, as occurred on this occasion—true it was repeated with your authority—to see that any such conversation is accurate and is not used, by overstatement or by distorting any remark of yours, to a 345 Member's advantage with a view to influencing the course of conduct which a third party may be proposing to take. I thought it right to refer to this matter because it seems to me that the report of the Committee of Privileges is hardly strong enough in the language that it uses in reference to this subject.
I do not propose to detain the House by referring to the evidence which you were good enough to give, Mr. Speaker, but I do think it is important to allude to the letter of 21st March by the hon. Member for Rugby, which was subsequently read to the executive committee:I must tell you that the Speaker was kind enough to receive me this morning on the question of the possible breach,and then, omitting unnecessary words:I informed him fully of the position, and he stated that unquestionably a grave breach of Privilege would be involved if matters went any furtherFortunately, we know as a result of the evidence given, that those words were not warranted. I think it is unfortunate that they were used. I am glad the matter was referred to by the Committee, and I feel that all Members of this House will agree with the in the opinion that any hon. Member who is fortunate enough at any time to have the benefit of your guidance and counsel on a matter affecting our Parliamentary conduct in Debate, should be most scrupulous when repeating it elsewhere to a third party in not departing from it by one iota, or exaggerating any word of advice which you have been good enough to give.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)
It is not my intention as a junior Member of the House to detain it very long on a matter on which Members senior to me have spoken with so much competence. But I was struck by an interjection made by the Attorney-General in the course of the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss). I do not think I represent the right hon. and learned Gentleman unfairly when I say to him, that he told us that, although the Committee would have been glad, had they been asked to do so to embark on the whole question of Privilege, the terms of their remit were confined to investigating the particular complaints made about the conduct of this trade union. Upon that 346 I looked at the report, and I found words to which I must trouble hon. Members to turn at the very beginning:Complaint being made by Mr. Byers, Member for the County of Dorset (North Division), of certain actions by the Executive Committee of the Civil Service Clerical Association, which he submitted were calculated improperly to influence Mr. William Brown, Member for the County of Warwick (Rugby Division), in the exercise of his Parliamentary duties, and constituted a breach of the Privileges of this House.Ordered, "That the matter of the Complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges.How could the Committee of Privileges, with any conception of their duty, consider that complaint if they had not a clear idea of what was and what was not a breach of Privilege?
If they embarked upon their duties under the misapprehension under which the Attorney-General apparently laboured as to the terms and ambit of their remit, one cannot be surprised that they came to the conclusion which, I am bound to say on reading the evidence, appears to me to be entirely contrary to the weight of evidence given. This is an attempt to exonerate the trade union and maintain some appearance of generality, and they have to set out a series of what I can only call conflicting duties of people having contact with Members of this House.
I wish to speak with great moderation, but, as we have been reminded by one hon. Member, the ultimate decision upon this grave matter rests with the Members of the House. The Committee do their work, and it is for us to pronounce upon it. I am very sorry to say that, when I perused the report in full, I discovered that at every stage the great forensic abilities of the Attorney-General appeared to me to be directed to a cross-examination calculated to discredit the complainant and to exonerate the respondents. I am free to admit that my judgment may be wrong. I would only ask hon. Members who are eager to criticise me thoroughly to re-peruse the whole report, and to devote themselves particularly to those items which are the cross-examination by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. For that reason I find myself unable to agree with the report, and I am further of the opinion that it does not hang together with the last portion of the Motion.
347 I have only to make one remark by way of a cautionary note. One must feel great sympathy with an hon. Member in his desire that the proper privileges of trade unions with regard to remunerating their members who are Members of this House should not be withdrawn or abridged. Indeed, it is one of the difficulties of this discussion that the right to maintain members is expressly given to them by Statute, by the Act of 1913. But I must point out in all seriousness that if this Motion is carried, whether amended or not, some hon. Members of this House will have to examine themselves and their contracts—and I use the word advisedly—with great care. I have been scanning Dod over the weekend, and I find that some 30 hon. Members are given as being officials of trade unions. We had the evidence of, I think, Sir Gilbert Campion that he had never seen a written contract before, and that this was the only one of which the terms had come to light.
I should like those hon. Members who may be affected to consider the exact wording of the Motion, which is disjunctive. It says:it is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member's complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament;A contractual relationship does not mean a deed, a bond, indentures or documents. It means a contract, which can be expressed or implied by conduct. In future, if a trade union member came to me and said: "I have always voted as my trade union wished, and never dreamed of thwarting their wishes, but I gave a vote the other day at which they rather looked down their noses. Do you think I am all right?" I should be bound to advise him: "No, you are all wrong. There is a course of dealing which has clearly established a contractual relationship of the kind hit at, by a Resolution of the House of 15th July, 1947."
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)
As has been said, this Motion falls into two quite distinct parts. First, approval of the report of the Committee of Privileges; and second, the question of the general principle. I was rather 348 astonished by the speeches of the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), and of the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), in which they invited the House to reject the Report of the Committee of Privileges, largely upon the ground that the report was inconsistent with the second part of the Motion. The second part of the Motion is perfectly consistent with the Report. What the Report does is to make a finding on a specific matter which was referred to them. The matter which was referred to them was whether or not pressure had been brought to bear upon the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), which constituted a breach of Privilege. The findings of the Report are in paragraph 9 to paragraph 20. The vital answer to the matters submitted to them appears in paragraph 20, and the conclusions from paragraph 9 to paragraph 19 are merely matters leading up to the decision upon the matter referred to them.
The vital paragraph, paragraph 20, is what would be rejected if this House refused to adopt the report. That paragraph finds:that the Executive Committee were entitled to bring the question of the termination of the agreement before the Annual Conference of the Association, that they had in effect been invited by Mr. Brown so to do, and that their action in proposing so to do was not calculated to, and did not, in fact, affect Mr. Brown in the discharge of his Parliamentary duties.That is the vital point in answer to what was referred to the Committee by this House—in other words, that there was no breach of Privilege. The vital difference between the majority report and the minority report, is that the minority report found that there had been a breach of Privilege. That is why I have no hestitation, despite the rather ornate arguments which have been presented to the House, in coming down, as a matter of common sense, in favour of the finding that has been made by the majority report, namely, that there is no breach of Privilege.
There are two matters bearing on this, to which I should like briefly to refer. They are matters which have influenced my mind in reading this report, and perhaps they have had some weight with other hon. Members. On page 45 of the report, in answer to Question 533, Mr. White, who was certainly a witness 349 favourable to the hon. Member for Rugby—
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
He was favourable to him on this issue, which is the only issue with which we are concerned at the moment. The answer given was that:there was no pressure put upon him after he made it quite clear at the November meeting that he would not change his views. Thereafter all the activities were directed to getting an arrangement whereby he got out of the Association.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
That was in November, 1946, and the complaint of the hon. Member for Rugby was not until March, 1947. It is in complete keeping with the majority report decision—that what they were concerned about was to get an amicable arrangement whereby an agreement, which they conceived to be a valid agreement and would not be disposed of except by mutual agreement. What brought it to a head was a decision of the executive committee, in accordance with the invitation of the hon. Member for Rugby to refer the matter to the general conference. Here I should like to refer to a matter which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher), namely, your own evidence, Mr. Speaker. I have been puzzled by what transpired on that occasion.
What puzzles me about this is the reference to the Newcastle resolution, and I still do not know what the explanation is. I took the precaution of informing the hon. Member for Rugby that I wished to raise this, and that I would give him an opportunity to explain it. This is what happened. I will quote from Question 653.Did not Mr. Brown tell you that the Executive Committee had told the Newcastle Branch that their resolution was out of order and could not be accepted?—No, I knew nothing about that.The significance of this is that the matter was brought to you, Mr. Speaker, upon the footing that the Newcastle resolution was to be referred to the conference, but by this time the executive committee had already turned down the Newcastle branch resolution; yet that was a matter upon which you, Mr. Speaker, were asked to give some indication of whether there would be a breach of Privilege or not. It 350 was not on the question of whether the holding of a conference or the termination of an agreement—if put to the conference—would be a breach of Privilege or not. That was not the matter upon which you, Sir, were consulted. You were consulted on the question of a Newcastle branch resolution which had already been completely disposed of. I am quite sure that there is some explanation of this, but to me it is a matter which stands out of this report and I very much regret that the hon. Member for Rugby is not here to give an explanation of what actually happened.
Personally, I have had no hesitation in coming to the decision that the majority conclusion in paragraph 20 is completely correct. If I may make just one brief reference to the general question, it is to say that the vital matter on the general issue is that financial arrangements should not be used as a method of bringing pressure. I am afraid that here I am in disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), but it seems to me to be quite irrelevant whether this method of bringing financial pressure should result from some continuation of an arrangement existing before the man concerned became a Member of Parliament or otherwise. What really matters is the exercise of pressure. In the same way, I agree with the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) that is is not the Privilege of a Member but is inherent in the House itself. That is why I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) in saying that the hon. Member for Rugby was put out of court by reason of his own conduct. Nothing would put him out of court because this was a matter of privilege which affects Parliament itself. So far as financial pressure is concerned, as hon. Members have said, each Member is to a large extent his own Committee of Privileges in a matter of this kind. It must be left largely to the honour of Members of Parliament, but when there is a contract which itself imposes an obligation upon the Member that he must act in conformity with the conditions which that contract imposes, then there is automatically something which the House can get hold of and recognise. If I may say so with respect, the Government have rightly fixed upon that test as something easily recognisable, saying 351 that in that case there is certainly financial pressure which would involve a breach of Privilege.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
As the House has assumed, the Government put down the Motion on the Order Paper for the purpose of assisting the House, and my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio and I are intervening in order to give the House advice which we think it proper and fair to give. Having said that, I want to make it abundantly clear not only that the Government Whips are off, but that my hon. Friends are absolutely free to vote in any way they think right on this matter. I myself cannot help being Lord President of the Council for the time being, but I like to feel that I am speaking more as the hon. Member for East Lewisham than as the Lord President of the Council or as a Member of the Government because this is essentially a House of Commons matter, and the opinion of the House of Commons on a subject of this sort is, if I may say so with great respect to His Majesty's Ministers more important than the opinions of His Majesty's Government.
We have had a good discussion—good tempered—and I think that it has been judicial and objective in tone throughout. I particularly liked the spirit of the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who is a considerable Parliamentarian, and, I thought, reflected the highest feelings and traditions of the House of Commons. We had an able and impressive defence of his position by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), although, as I shall say in the course of my observations, I do not agree with a number of things that he said. He would have preferred, as would some other hon. Members, that the Motion should have been divided into two parts, but, as the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) pointed out, to a great extent the moving of his Amendment gives the House an opportunity of voting on whether or not it agrees with the report of the Committee, and, on the second part, although not altogether by itself,. there is an opportunity to vote on the substance of the Motion.
352 The more I listened to the Debate, the less I thought there was between us as to the satisfactory character or otherwise of the Committee's report. There is, it is true, a point as to whether the Association was guilty of a breach of Privilege. With great respect, I do not think that the case has been argued very strongly to show that the Association was guilty of such a breach. I rather thought, from the point of view expressed by the critics of the report, that they attached greater importance to the criticism that, whilst the Report sets out the facts and so on, it does not set out a conclusion on the merits of the agreement itself. The answer has been that that issue was not specifically referred to the Committee, and I find that a reasonable answer. Still, I see the point of the critics, and I do not say that there is nothing in what they have said. They have a point, which I understand; but even if the criticism—that the Report does not lead to the statement or the adumbration of a positive conclusion—be fair, we have an opportunity of putting it right tonight by carrying the Motion, which will fill in the conclusion that the critics thought ought to have been in the Report of the Committee. When the difference between us is so fine—and it really is fine—I think that it would be a pity for us to have a Division, and if there could be a unanimous House of Commons on this matter of Privilege, which certainly is not a party issue—and whatever party voting occurs is somewhat by accident—if we could get a unanimous decision of the House, I think that it would be a good thing and help towards laying down the principles of the law of Privilege as we go along.
The hon. Member for Rugby, to whom we listened with very great interest, gave us his political history very accurately, and he traced the beginnings of what he alleges to be hostility from the time he left the Labour Party in 1931. Because of that experience, he thought in 1942 that it would be wise that there should be an agreement for the purpose, from his point of view, of protecting his political liberty and his Parliamentary freedom. I follow that argument; but, of course, the real issue before the House, vis-à-vis the agreement, is not that part of the agreement which undoubtedly—and quite properly, at any rate, from his point of view—accords to the hon. Member complete freedom of action on general 353 political issues. That is not the issue before the House. The issue before the House is the other part of the agreement, which requires him to act in Parliament on behalf of the Civil Service Clerical Association. The hon. Member says that paragraph 6 of the agreement, on page. 59, says what he is not to do. That is to say, that he is not entitled, in his Parliamentary activities, to presume and purport to speak in political matters on behalf of the Association; and that is clear. But I think that, at the same time, the hon. Member ought to have referred to paragraph 4, which is more material and relevant to the issue before the House. Paragraph 4 of the same agreement says:The said William John Brown shall deal with all questions arising in the work of the Association which require Parliamentary or political action and shall advise the Association from time to time on such matters.The said William John Brown shall further confer and consult with the Association on all problems requiring his assistance, and advise thereon if and when so required by the Association.And indeed, the addendum must be read as a whole, and in certain respects it must be read in conjunction with the original agreement itself. The real point which arises on this paragraph 4 is the question, does it, or does it not, impair the freedom of Parliamentary action of the hon. Member? Does it fetter his judgment, does it impair his liberty to speak and vote in a certain way on Civil Service matters; that is to say, matters with which the Civil Service Clerical Association has to do? In the first place, the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) quoted from the letter which the hon. Member for Rugby sent to Mr. White, in which I thought there was pretty strong evidence, from what my hon. Friend read, that in fact his liberty had gone, within those limits—only within those limits—of Civil Service questions which are before the House.
My right hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General made a great effort in the Committee, to extract from the hon. Member what his interpretation of that part of the agreement was, and it runs over a considerable amount of typographical area; and repeatedly the hon. Member for Rugby gave an answer to the effect "I have nothing to add to what is in my memorandum;" or, quite frequently "Nobody ever dreamed that the Association 354 and I could take a different view." That is a very happy state of affairs. I wish I could have said that of bodies with which I have been associated. And secondly, he said: "No one ever believed there would be a difference of view," and finally: "There never has been a difference of view." I am not disposed to dispute that evidence that there never has been a difference of view. That is no doubt one of the matters which influenced the Committee to declare that in its judgment there had been no breach from the point of view of Privilege. This went on for quite a time. But there was the question, for example, by the learned Attorney-General on page 17. I refer to Question 199—If the Association had said: 'The line you have taken in the Debate on Equal Pay for civil servants' or 'In regard to the question of the right of civil servants' organisations to affiliate to the T.U.C. is not the line which the Association takes, will you therefore agree to terminate the agreement between us' you would have said, would you not: 'That is a breach of Parliamentary Privilege'To that, the hon Member for Rugby replied:With respect, that is the third time that you have put that to me.Then on the same page, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) came in, and said:I should like an answer. I think you ought to give an answer to that. It is on the Civil Service side of it. It is nothing to do with general affairs.The hon. Member for Rugby replied:The answer is that that is a hypothetic at situation which did not in fact arise and to which I have given no consideration.The learned Attorney-General followed by asking:Would you consider it now and answer it? If you prefer not to I will leave it and pass on to something else.Indeed it was not answered.
§ Mr. Morrison
Well, I was not there, so I am not in a position to say anything about that. There was, however, another question by the right hon. Member for Woodford, and to this one, I think he got an answer. I will not be dead certain, but I have read the report very carefully, and I think that this was the only time that there was an answer on this very 355 point when put to the hon. Member for Rugby—[Interruption.] No, I do not want to be funny about this. Let us look at Question 133, on page 12. It says:I quite see that. But I am not on that point yet. That is another aspect of it altogether. What I want to know is this: supposing in the discharge of your duties as representing them on Civil Service matters, a quite definite and prolonged cause of dissatisfaction arose on their side with the views on Civil Service matters that you were expressing, had they no remedy?The answer was:We did not envisage that situation, and we did not provide for it in any document that I can recall, but plainly, if over a long period of time on Civil Service matters, we found ourselves at loggerheads, one of two things would have happened. I should either have said: 'This arrangement cannot continue,' or they would have come to me and said the same thing.It seems to me that it is inherent in the answer that the hon. Gentleman, by signing the agreement, had signed away his complete freedom of action on Civil Service matters. I personally think that, so tar as I know, the law of Privilege has not hitherto laid down whether that would be a breach or not. That is what we are doing tonight, in principle, in this Motion. If, hereafter, people make arrangements of this sort, binding on an hon. Member of this House, I think hon. Members and organisations concerned should be very careful and would do well to reflect upon them. If this agreement continues after tonight, I should have thought the hon. Member for Rugby, and the Association would think twice about it. I should have thought it would be a matter for consideration whether a prima facie case would not arise for consideration by the Committee of Privileges. But it would be for you, Sir, and not for me to decide about it.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? Would he extend that to other than contractual agreements? Does he not agree that it is quite possible for an agreement to be arrived at, which is not a contractual agreement?
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not want to go too deeply into matters which are more fitting for discussion by lawyers than by me. But I think it may be a little difficult for one to have an agreement which is not a contractual agreement. Indeed, the point was put to me by somebody—I forget 356 whom; perhaps it was the right hon. Gentleman—as to why this word "contractual" was put in.
§ Mr. Morrison
Would the hon. Gentleman mind waiting a moment? I am already answering a question put to me. I thought the word ought to go in. I felt happier at thinking it would be inserted—in connection with this particular agreement, for there was a written agreement; there was a contract. I thought for the purpose of describing the issue to the House it would be better to have the word "contractual" in. I took the advice of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, and will tell the House quite frankly the answer he gave me. He said: "I do not see any objection to its being in, but if you ask me what difference it makes, I do not think it makes any difference." As I felt a bit happier at having it in, and he said it made no difference, I thought we would let it stand.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am awfully sorry to interrupt, but I did wait until the end of a very long paragraph; and, therefore, I have now myself got slightly muddled. But I think this is a point on which the House really cannot afford to be muddled, and there may be others who are slightly muddled. I think the right hon. Gentleman, on the last question he was quoting, went so far as to say that it was evidence, if not proof, that there was a breach of Privilege. I just want to be quite sure that that is what he said; because if it is what he said, I do hope he will take his desire for unanimity to the point of what, after all, was the original Motion in the matter—that is for disagreeing with the report.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think the hon. Gentleman has got things slightly wrong. With great respect, I think he has misunderstood what I said about this answer—I think it is on Question 133—that I thought that it established the point that when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby signed the agreement, he had, to that extent, signed away his complete freedom of Parliamentary action within the sphere of Parliamentary action. Somebody else then said that that was a breach of Privilege, and at that point I was careful not to commit myself, because it would not be for me, on my own volition, to 357 say so. It has not hitherto beet decided. If it is to be decided, either it must be decided by this House, or it must be decided by the Committee of Privileges on consideration. But I am content that this Motion should be carried tonight—which, I think, in principle, does declare that such agreements are undesirable and to be avoided.
The hon. Gentleman then did indicate that he had been subjected to pressure, and it has so been asserted. The first reference he made to that pressure was after 1931, and then he referred to the fact that there were troublesome—no doubt, small in numbers—Communist elements in the Association. The hon. Member will accept from me a word of sympathy about that, because I have had my battles with the Communists from time to time, and with ferocity, but if I may say so, it is a bit of a red herring to bring into this discussion. After all, Mr. L. C. White was called to the Committee at the request of the hon. Gentleman and Mr. White is one of the directors of the "Daily Worker." He gave evidence on behalf of the hon. Gentleman, and if I were to ask myself what were the politics of Mr. White I should say he is either an actual, secret or open member of the Communist Party, or a follower or an associate or a "crypto" or a fellow-traveller of Communists or what hon. Members will. I do not know that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby will contradict me on that point, but the hon. Member had better be careful of trying to have it both ways. He blames much of this on Communist troubles, and then he calls Mr. White to give evidence.
The next point is, did the Association and did the executive committee commit a breach? It must be remembered that if there was an executive committee of about 25 members, it is a little difficult to control the tongue of each one of them, but someone might argue whether or not that was a breach of Privilege. I would not like to be sure that not one of these members of the executive has ever said anything which might not be so interpreted. Having read the evidence I really do not see that it is shown that the executive in its corporate capacity, or the individual members of the executive, were guilty of a breach of Privilege.
What was the trouble? First of all they disagreed with the hon. Gentleman 358 the Member for Rugby. On certain political matters they disagreed strongly with him. We must be very careful, even in the case where there is a contract existing, if somebody says, "I do not agree with Bill Brown"—or whoever it might be—"because I think he is following the wrong line." This is a free country and we can criticise a Member of Parliament and so ought to be careful about bringing that into a breach of Privilege. If they said, of course, to the hon. Gentleman—"If you do not change your political line we will do you out of your job and not only that, but we will do you out of the money you get for the job. In that way we will punish you financially for not pursuing the political line that is our policy"—that is another matter, but there is no evidence that that happened.
There was evidence that there was inconvenience to the Association especially at the time they rejoined the Trade Union Congress. There was a feeling on that because their nominee, Mr. White, did not get on to the Trade Union Congress. I am not grumbling that Mr. White did not get on. There was some apprehension, however, that the activities of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby in various industrial organisations outside, with which we are not concerned tonight, acted to prejudice the candidature of Mr. White for the General Council. There was talk behind the scenes and it is perfectly true.that there was criticism of the hon. Gentleman, and I know that some of it might be strong criticism. However strong that criticism of him was, it was no stronger than has been used about me in outside quarters and organisations with which I have had to live, with happiness on the whole, from time to time. That seems to me to be perfectly legitimate.
It is true that they proceeded to discuss ways and means whereby that agreement with the hon. Gentleman could be brought to an end, and they certainly thought that they were in a jam as to how to bring it to an end. I am bound to say that the Civil Service Association executive were a little bit innocent in these business matters. They were in great difficulties and they sought friendly ways of trying to persuade the hon. Gentleman to bring this agreement to an end. Perhaps some of the discussions were not so friendly as they might have been, but, on the whole, the attempts made to 359 terminate the agreement were friendly, and were on a basis of very full and ample compensation to the hon. Gentleman, which he himself accepted as not being unreasonable.
They came to a point when he said to them—as he was entitled to say—"I am not taking this from the executive committee." He seems to have been as frank with the executive committee as they were with him. He said, "If this contract has to be brought to an end, it has to be brought to an end by those with whom it was originally arranged, namely, the Association's annual conference and when it goes there, it must be carried by the necessary majority." He added that if that were freely done, he would not regard the terms of compensation as being unreasonable. It was the hon. Gentleman who said that he did not take this termination of the contract from the executive but only from the conference, whereupon the executive proceeded to draft a motion for that conference covering the negotiations, in which I gather they had reached an amicable agreement, with a view to terminating the contract with the hon. Gentleman.
It was at that point when they were going to the conference with the concurrence of the hon. Gentleman that the next move took place. I do not say that the hon. Gentleman was going to the conference because he wanted to go, but as distinct from settling the matter with the executive. It was at that point that the hon. Gentleman raised the question of Privilege, when the Speaker gave a Ruling of a prima facie case, and the whole machinery here went into motion. With great respect I cannot see that the Association in that case, especially as they were paying most generous compensation, under which the hon. Gentleman would not have been worse off, were being punitive and trying to punish him or coerce him in his freedom of judgment or in his conduct in the House of Commons. With great respect to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have put their case very well—and I do not question their sincerity in the least—I think the Committee was right in coming to the conclusion that the Association, the executive committee and the officers did not commit a breach of Privilege. That is the view which I take.
360 the hon. Member for Cambridge University put a number of points to me and I have dealt with a good many of them. I do not think he expects me to cover all of them, and he will forgive me if I have not dealt with some of them, though I think I have with the bulk of them. Here perhaps it would be better if I referred to the arguments which sometimes came from the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) and sometimes from others, on the various points which have arisen. It was asserted by the hon. Member for the English Universities that there had been pressure and coercion, threats of punishment implied, on the part of the executive against the hon. Member for Rugby. I have covered the general history of the matter as I see it and with the greatest good will, and with a wish to be agreeable as far as one can, I really cannot see it. The question has been raised about the trade unions, about the National Union of Teachers. I would only say that as far as I know, there is no other agreement of this kind—and I have had a good deal to do with the Labour Party, trade union relationships, and selection of candidates, and I have had a little to do now and again with the discipline of the Labour Party. As we have gone on, we have progressively relaxed the discipline, and the cause of freedom has marched on. Therefore, I know a good deal about these arrangements of hon. Friends of mine and the trade unions, and I agree with the hon. Member for Eccles, for as far as I know I have never heard of an agreement like this. In fact, I do not know of any agreement which affected the Parliamentary action of trade union members of the House. I cannot speak about the National Union of Teachers, which is not affiliated to the Labour Party, and I would not know, but I would be surprised, if it were so in that case.
What would my answer be if this point were put to me—it is a perfectly fair question—namely: Suppose you found a trade union affiliated to the Labour Party which had an agreement with its M.Ps. similar to the agreement which the hon. Gentleman had with the Civil Service Clerical Association? My answer in that case would be the same, and I would advise the trade union and the Member concerned to get out of it as quickly as they could. And I would always say to hon. Members of 361 this House that the first duty of Members of this House is to their constituents and the nation, and it is wrong that they should be fettered in their judgment by any outside interest. Therefore, if a case did arise in which a trade union was in that situation, I would say exactly what I would say about this agreement in which the hon. Member was involved. I do not think there is such a case, but if it were so, that is the view I would take. I thought that the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) was on a fair point. I do think that it was not exactly a good use of the consultation which took place with you, Sir, and was calculated to have a coercive effect upon the Association.
I have not dealt with every point that has been raised, but in conclusion I would
§ say that this has been a very good discussion. The House of Commons is usually at its best in discussing these matters of the rights of Parliament and of Privilege. There is not really very much difference between us. I appreciate the hon. Member's point, but in so far as it may be thought that there was a gap in the Committee's Report, the Motion fills the gap. I do not like the idea of dividing even with the Whips off. It may work out, more or less, on party lines. I would not like it. I would ask hon. Gentlemen not to press it to a Division, and to allow the Government Motion to be carried.
§ Question put, "That the word 'agrees,' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 275; Noes, 114.363
|Division No. 309.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Deer, G.||Hoy, J.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Diamond, J.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Dobbie, W.||Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dodds, N. N.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Dumpleton, C. W.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Durbin, E. F. M.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A|
|Awbery, S. S.||Dye, S.||Janner, B.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Jay, D P. T|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Edelman, M.||Jeger, G (Winchester)|
|Baird, J.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Jeger, Dr S W (St Pancras, S. E.)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Edwards, W. J. (Whilechapel)||John, W.|
|Barton, C.||Fairhurst, F.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)|
|Battley, J. R.||Farthing, W. J.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Field, Capt. W. J.||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Benson, G.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Keenan, W.|
|Beswick, F.||Foot, M. M.||Kendall, W. D|
|Bevan, Rt Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Forman, J. C.||King, E. M.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Foster, W. (Wigan)||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr E|
|Binns, J.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Kirkwaod, D|
|Blenkinsop, A||Gaitskell, H. T. N.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gallacher, W.||Lavers, S.|
|Boardman, H.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Gibbins, J.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Gibson, C. W.||Leonard, W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pi, Exch'ge)||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Levy, B W.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Goodrich, H. E.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Lindgren, G. S|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Lipson, D. L|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Lipton, Lt.-Col M|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Grenfell, D R.||Logan, D. G|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Grey, C. F.||Longden, F.|
|Buchanan, G.||Grierson, E.||Lyne, A. W.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||McAdam, W.|
|Callaghan, James||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||McGhee, H G.|
|Carmiohael, James||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||McGovern, J.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Mack, J. D.|
|Champion, A. J.||Gunter, R. J.||McKay, J (Wallsend)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Guy, W. H.||Mackay, R. W. G (Hull, N W.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||McKinlay, A S|
|Cobb, F. A.||Hall, W G.||Maclean, N. (Govan)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R.||McLeavy, F.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hannan, W (Maryhill)||Macpherson, T (Romford)|
|Collins, V. J.||Hardy, E A.||Mainwaring, W H.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Harris, H Wilson||Mallalieu, J. P. W|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Harrison, J.||Mann, Mrs. J|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.)||Hastings, Dr Somerville||Manning, Mrs. L (Epping)|
|Cove, W. G.||Henderson, A (Kingswinford)||Marquand, H. A.|
|Grossman, R. H S.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Medland, H. M|
|Daggar, G.||Herbison, Miss M||Mellish, R. J|
|Daines, P.||Hobson, C. R.||Middleton, Mrs. L|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Holman, P.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras S. W.)||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Millington, Wing-Comdr E R|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Richards, R.||Tiffany, S.|
|Moody, A. S.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Timmons, J.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Morley, R.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Tolley, L.|
|Morris, P (Swansea, W.)||Royle, C.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Morrison, Rt Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Sargood, R.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Mort, D. L||Scollan, T.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Moyle, A.||Scott-Elliot, W||Usborne, Henry|
|Murray, J. O.||Segal, Dr. S.||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Nally, W.||Sharp, Granville||Viant, S. P.|
|Neal, H.(Claycross)||Shawcross, C N. (Widnes)||Walkden, E.|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H (St. Helens)||Walker, G. H|
|Nicholls, H. R (Stratford)||Shurmer, P.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Watkins, T E.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Watson, W. M.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Simmons, C J||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Weitzman, D|
|Paget, R. T.||Skinnard, F W.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wantworth)||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Walls, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Smith, H. N (Nottingham, S.)||West, D. G.|
|Palmer, A M. F.||Smith, S H (Hull, S. W.)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Wilcock, Group-Capt C. A. B.|
|Parker, J.||Sotley, L. J||Wilkes, L.|
|Parkin. B. T.||Sorensen, R. W||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Palon, J. (Norw[...])||Soskice, Maj. Sir F||Willey, F T (Sunderland)|
|Pearson, A.||Sparks, J. A||Willey, O G. (Cleveland)|
|Peart, T. F.||Stamford, W||Williams, D.,J. (Neath)|
|Piratin, P.||Steele, T.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Williams, Rt. Hon T (Don Valley)|
|Popplewell, E.||Stross, Dr. B||Williams, W R. (Heston)|
|Porter E. (Warrington)||Stubbs, A. E.||Williamson, T|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Swingler, S.||Willis, E.|
|Price, M. Philips||Sylvester, G. O.||Woods, G. S|
|Pritt, D. N.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wyatt, W.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Vales, V. F.|
|Pryde, D. J.||Thomas, D E (Aberdare)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Randall, H. E.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Ranger, J.||Thomas, I. O (Wrekin)|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rhodes, H.||Thurtle, Ernest||Mr. Kinley and Mr. Hale.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Gage, C||Maude, J. C.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Mellor, Sir J|
|Baldwin, A. E||Grimston, R. V.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Barlow, Sir P||Hannon, Sir P (Moseley)||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hare, Hon J. H (Woodbridge)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Beechman, N. A||Harvey, Air-Comdre A. V||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P|
|Bernett, Sir P||Head. Brig A. H||Nutting, Anthony|
|Birch, Nigel||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Orr-Ewing, I. L|
|Bossom, A. C.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Osborne, C.|
|Bowen, R.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bower, N.||Hope, Lord J.||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D|
|Boyd Carpenter, J. A.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J G||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Brown, W J. (Rugby)||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Jarvis, Sir J||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Jennings, R||Reed, Sir S (Aylesbury)|
|Challen, C||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Channon, H.||Keeling, E. H.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Clifton-Browne, Lt.-Col. G.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Conant, Maj R. J. E.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Langford-Holt, J.||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Shephard, S (Newark)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Studholme, H G.|
|Delargy, H J.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Maclay, Hon. J S.||Touche, G. C.|
|Dravson. G B.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Vane, W M F.|
|Orewe, C.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Elliot Rt. Hon. Walter||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E L.||Marlowe, A. A H||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fraser, H. C. P (Stone)||Marples, A. E.|
|Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale)||Marsden, Capt. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Mr. Pickthorn and Mr. Henry Strauss.|
Question put, and agreed to.
That this House agrees with the Report of the Committee of Privileges, and in particular declares that it is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member's complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a Member being to his constituents and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof.