HC Deb 20 November 1947 vol 444 cc1467-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into all the circumstances relating to or associated with the disclosure of Budget information by Mr. Dalton, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, on Wednesday 12th November: That Mr. Alexander Anderson, Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, Mr. Donovan, Major Sir Thomas Dugdale, Mr. Hale, Mr. Hicks, Mr. Lawson, Mr. Manningham-Buller, Mr. Mitchison, Mr. Hopkin Morris, Mr. Peake, Mr. Oliver Poole, Mr. Proctor, Mr. Sydney Silverman and Mr. Maurice Webb be Members of the Committee: That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records: That Five be the Quorum."—[Mr. Whiteley.]

10.13 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

I do not think it possible for this Motion to be passed without comment, and without the proposal being made that it should be rejected. I consider as shameful the way this matter has been treated, and the attitude which has been adopted in regard to a mistake made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). The Prime Minister said the other day that there is nothing to reveal and nothing to conceal. If that is the case, and I am certain it is the case, what is the necessity for this Motion? Everyone knows the character of the mistake which was made. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman, when he spoke to the journalist concerned, was quite certain in his own mind that it was impossible for the matter to reach the streets before he made his speech. That was the mistake. He made a frank and manly statement in this House in regard to his mistake, and it was accepted by the House and by the Leader of the Opposition. It was a shock to all of us to discover that the matter had taken such a course, but I consider it is very undesirable to carry it still further. I am definitely of the opinion that the right hon. Gentleman should not have given up his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer for the mistake he made. I want to put on record my very strong objections to this Motion.

10.15 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I hope the House will pass this Motion. There have been negotiations as to its exact form, and I think that if it is passed in this form it will enable the matter to be closed on a satisfactory basis when the report has been considered by the House. It is the wish of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) that this inquiry should take place. I did hear one day recently, when this matter was again raised in the House, that there were certain rumours in circulation. I have not heard them myself, but I know rumours can be very easily circulated in this House, because only a day or two ago I was stopped by three Members in the Lobby who inquired if I knew the exact hour at which one of my hon. colleagues in the Government had expired. The rumour ran on both sides of the House, and testimonials were given to him which I am quite sure he will be able to use on some occasion—

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

Was it true?

Mr. Ede

Oh, no, it was much exaggerated. I think that if the Committee is appointed it should be appointed under terms of reference which will not preclude it from considering any matter that may arise in the course of its inquiries. It is desirable that this matter should be so dealt with as to remove, at the earliest possible moment, any fear that the statements that have been made have not fully met the situation. I hope that the House will feel that we owe it to a colleague—whom, I am quite sure, apart from party politics, we all regard with affection and esteem—that he should be able at the earliest date, to say, that the whole circumstances have been inquired into and his colleagues in the House have reached a decision which will enable them to regard the incident as closed.