HC Deb 08 March 1948 vol 448 cc801-2
Mr. Bowles

I desire to draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker, and to that of the House a report in last Saturday's "Daily Mail," which I wish to submit to you and to ask whether or not it constitutes prima facie a breach of Privilege. It reflects, in effect, upon almost every Member of this House, and, in effect, says that 29 Members of Parliament are traitors and secret agents of a future enemy—[Laughter.] If Members opposite think that that is funny I do not understand them.

With great respect, I submit that it is much more serious to suggest that Members of Parliament would give away secrets learned here in Secret Session than to suggest that members of a party might, under the influence of either drink or of money, give away the secrets of a party meeting. I will read the quotation, which is very short. It is entitled: Our Secrets For Soviet and is further titled: Author Doubts M.Ps. By Daily Mail Reporter. The text is as follows: B.B.C. listeners last night heard Mr. Colm Brogan, author and editor, speaking in the 'Friday Forum,' suggest that secret sessions of Parliament were useless, as 'secret agents of a potential enemy' would be present. 'I know that any defence information would be given to the Russians,' he told me afterwards. 'The secret supporters of the Communist Party are the danger, not the open ones. I don't think Willie Gallacher would do it, for instance. But I understand there are 29 of these secret supporters in the House'. May I have your Ruling upon that, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member has raised a matter which I have not had very much time to study, as I only heard of it just before I came into the Chair. Perhaps the hon. Member will now bring the newspaper to the Table.

Copy of newspaper delivered in.

The CLERK (SII- GILBERT CAMPION) read the passage complained of.

Mr. Speaker

Although I have some doubt about the matter, because I do not like to be too sensitive about criticism, there is, I think, a charge perhaps against 29 Members who, apparently, are nameless, and it may be the wish of the House that that should be cleared up. I therefore declare that a prima facie case has been made out.

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

In the circumstances, and in view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, it is necessary for me to move: That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges.

Question put, and agreed to.