HC Deb 12 December 1950 vol 482 cc951-2
Mr. Sydney Silverman

I desire to present to the House, on behalf of some 1,300,000 citizens, a petition concerning the use of atomic weapons. I understand, Sir, that it is my duty to draw the attention of the House to certain circumstances. The matter arises in this way. By two Resolutions of this House in 1669, it was provided, first: That is is the inherent right of every commoner in England to prepare and present petitions to the House of Commons in case of grievance, and the House of Commons will receive the same; secondly, That it is an undoubted right and privilege of the Commons to judge and determine, touching the nature and matter of such petitions, how far they are fit and unfit to be received. With regard to how far they are fit or unfit to be received, Erskine May has it that: A Member who has reason to believe that the signatures to a petition are genuine, is justified in presenting it, although doubts may have been raised as to their authenticity: but in such cases the attention of the House should be directed to the circumstance. It is therefore my duty to draw the attention of the Hosue to the fact that certain doubts have been expressed as to the genuineness or good faith of certain alleged sponsors or organisers or promoters of this petition. I have no concern with that because I can say to the House that I have no reason whatever to doubt and, indeed, every reason to believe, that the signatures of British citizens contained on this petition were validly attached thereto. Therefore, Sir, I think I am entitled to present the petition to the House.

The petition is to the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. It is the humble Petition of the multitude of citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland whose names are shown by signature to this Petition and to the accompanying sheets: We, your petitioners, fearful of the dangers of a third world war and of its destructive effect on mankind, and particularly on the people of Britain"—

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he does not have to read the whole petition.

Mr. Silverman

—"Wherefore we, your petitioners, humbly pray your Honourable House to urge His Majesty's Government to convene a meeting of the five great Powers to secure through the United Nations their approval for (1) the prohibition of all atomic weapons with international control and inspection; and (2) a declaration that the first Government to use atomic weapons shall be branded as a warmonger. And your petitioners, as in duty hound, all ever humbly pray.

Major Legge-Bourke

May I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising out of the remarks of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) before he mentioned the Prayer of his petitioners?

Mr. Speaker

No point of order arises from that. If the petition was presented correctly, and it was my business to see that it was—there is no point of order.

Petition to lie upon the Table.