HC Deb 21 February 1951 vol 484 cc1264-6

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

5. Mr. FITZROY MACLEAN,—TO ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reply he has received from the Chinese Communist Government to his protest against the ill-treatment and expulsion of His Majesty's Consul-General at Tihwa.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

On a point of order. Before this Question is answered, Sir, might I ask whether, in the case of a Government with which we are in diplomatic relations, it is in order to introduce the word, "Communist," or any other word of the kind, between the words, "Chinese" and "Government." If, in fact, that is in order, would it be equally in order to refer, on the Order Paper, to the "Yugoslav Communist Government," the "Spanish Fascist Government" or the "American Capitalist Government"?

Mr. Speaker

I have always understood that the various Governments were Conservative, Liberal, Communist or something else. One surely is entitled to refer to them as such. This is not a point of order as far as I am concerned.

Mr. Silverman

Has it not always been held, Sir, that in relation to Governments with which we maintain diplomatic relations any kind of adverse comment or reflection of that kind is out of order? Questions which make reflections of that kind are normally refused at the Table. I think that you will appreciate the substance of my point, Mr. Speaker, when I say that, if it once were to be allowed in this case, it could be allowed in a wide variety of other circumstances which would be embarrassing to everybody.

Mr. Speaker

I understand that the hon. Member objects to this Question. He says that the word "Communist" must be offensive, but that is not necessarily so. We have had members of that party in this House and, because they belonged to that party, we have always referred to them as Communist Members, and it was not offensive in any way.

Mr. Silverman

I have not made my point quite clear. I am not suggesting that in everybody's eyes the word "Communist" is offensive, though it certainly is in the eyes of some people. What I am suggesting is that, if one uses a comment of this kind in a Question, which can be variously interpreted in various quarters by various people, then the door is open to a wide variety of such Questions, which may constantly cause embarrassment in the House. It is sufficient, if an hon. Member wants to ask a Question about a Government, to talk about the "Chinese Government" or the "Albanian Government" or any other Government. Once one is permitted to put in an adjectival reference of this kind, the rules which the House has always observed begin to be placed in jeopardy.

Mr. Speaker

I have no time to answer that submission. The hon. Member has now wasted five minutes of the time of the House. Mr. Maclean.

Mr. Ernest Davies

The answer to the Question of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. F. Maclean) is "None. Sir."

Mr. Maclean

If the Government are to maintain relations with the Chinese Communists, will they at least take steps to ensure that His Majesty's diplomatic and consular representatives are treated with the respect they deserve?

Mr. Davies

That was the purpose of the two protests that we have made.

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