§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I beg to move,That the matter of the complaint of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne concerning the conduct of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks in handing over to the Bishop of Rochester a letter he had received from his constituent the Rev. O. Fielding Clarke, M.A., B.D., be remitted to the Committee of Privileges.I desire, at the outset of this debate, to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this Motion does not invite the House to express any concluded or final opinion upon this matter one way or the other. It does not invite the House to pass any adverse or favourable comment upon the action which is the subject matter of the complaint. It does not invite the House to express a concluded opinion that a breach of Privilege has occurred. It does not invite the House even to say that questions of Privilege are involved.
It invites the House to do what it has become almost the invariable custom of the House to do whenever any question is raised which involves, or might involve, or which is claimed to involve, a breach of Privilege. I can conceive of nothing more derogatory to the prestige and authority of the House of Commons than for the House of Commons to decline to take any notice at all of a matter which is claimed to be a breach of Privilege. And where that matter arouses so much interest in the House itself and so much interest outside the House, in the country, the House would, I submit. be bringing itself into contempt if it did nothing whatever about it and refused to investigate it at all.
2492 If there were one thing which would bring the House into even greater contempt than to decline to take cognisance of complaints of this kind it would be if they were to be decided one way or the other according to the numbers belonging to the different parties in the House. Nothing could be worse than to treat such a matter as one of party conflict or party war. I hope to say nothing, in asking the House to accept this Motion, which anyone could fairly or reasonably think to be dictated or influenced in any way by party feeling one way or the other.
I should like to make one other preliminary point. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, last Thursday—I was not here, so that I can only presume that HANSARD correctly reports him—announced that his party would vote against this Motion. He indicated earlier, although I suppose that the two statements were intended to be read together, that he regarded the Motion as in some way a reflection upon Mr. Speaker in that it invited the House to deal with a question as to which Mr. Speaker ruled there was no prima facie case.
On the first of those statements, I do most sincerely and quite humbly, I hope, beg the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider what advice he will give to his supporters on this matter, and particularly on the question of fighting along party lines. No one would like to see Members on this side of the House, whenever the General Election comes, going up and down the country saying, "Please do not vote for Tory candidates because what you want is a Member of Parliament to whom you can write a letter with safety and security." It is essentially a matter for each Member of the House to consider according to his judgment and according to his own conscience, and I hope that we shall all be able, at the end of the day, to vote, if vote we must, as Members of Parliament and not as members of parties.
On the other statement, I hope it is not necessary to assure you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or to assure the House, that no sort of reflection upon Mr. Speaker is intended or implied. It is quite true —and I see no reason why I should make further comment upon it—that I should have preferred Mr. Speaker to have ruled that there was a prima facie case; but, 2493 Mr. Speaker himself made it perfectly clear that his Ruling was not—and I do not mean he used these words, but I think they are a fair way of putting it— in any sense a judicial Ruling which had the effect of removing the question beyond the competence of the House of Commons: it was a merely administrative Ruling which prevented the House from considering the matter then and there in priority to all other business.
The only effect of the Ruling was that the House still remained the only competent authority to decide whether there was a case or no case, and what it would do with it if there was one, only it must find some other time in which to do it. We all loyally accepted that Ruling, and that Ruling was honoured and implemented. The House did not deal with it in priority to all other business, and if we are now dealing with it, it is because other time has been found.
That is in no sort or sense, either expressly or by implication, directly or indirectly, any reflection at all upon Mr. Speaker, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who, last Thursday, said it was, has had time to reconsider it; and if he does take part in the debate I hope that he will acknowledge that the House not only had the duty but that the House must deal with a complaint that has been made to it, in spite of the fact that Mr. Speaker ruled it should not be dealt with last Tuesday.
What is the complaint? The complaint, stated quite shortly, is that a private citizen, feeling disturbed, anxious, worried about a question of public policy, wrote to his Member of Parliament about it, and that that Member of Parliament, without his authority and without his consent, sent the letter to his superior in his calling. We all receive a great many letters—some of us sometimes think that we receive too many—and we all have to deal with them, and we all know that, from time to time, we send many of the letters on to the Minister in charge of the Department which has reference to the matter about which our constituents write.
But in all these cases there is in the letter either an expressed request to do so, or there is obviously an implied authority to do so. If a constituent writes to a Member in order to get a grievance 2494 remedied, or information supplied, or a doubt resolved, he obviously implies that the Member shall inquire of the appropriate authority; and all those letters are, obviously, correctly dealt with in that way.
But there are other letters—letters such as this. The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers), in the personal statement which he made the other day, read out the letter which he had received, and told us—I am not using his exact words, for I do not want to delay the House with quotations, but I think that this is a fair summary of what he said to us—that he was horrified by its contents, and thought that it was written in objectionable terms and made attacks upon people—in this case attacks upon the Church—and so thought that he was entitled, without authority, to send it on. The letter was from a vicar, and he sent it on to the bishop of the diocese.
All of us heard the letter read—many of us, anyhow—and I suppose that many others of us have since read the letter in HANSARD; and indeed, it is true that it is written in most savagely ironical terms. It is obviously the letter of a deeply moved and deeply worried man. I cannot myself feel that it was written in terms too ironic, though, of course, irony tends to be misunderstood. I understand that it is a canon of modern pedagogy that one must never use irony with children; and it would appear from some of the comments made in this case that it is dangerous to use it in a letter to a politician, and even more dangerous to use it in a letter to a prelate, because it may be taken seriously and literally.
For my part, belonging, as one of my correspondents has reminded me, to a race which lost one third of its number in cold blood by deliberate massacre at the hands of the people who are now supposed, in some quarters, to be the only possible saviours of Western civilisation against those who enabled us to beat the Nazis at the time, perhaps I am less likely than others to complain of the irony of this letter.
I would say, too, that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks at no time told his constituent that he objected to the terms of the letter; at no time told him that he regarded it as an attack upon the Church; at no time told him that any 2495 resentment at all, was aroused in his mind by the terms of the letter that he had received; but, having already sent it on, for the reasons which he has told us, to the bishop, he wrote to his constituent. "Dear Mr. Fielding Clarke, Thank you very much for your letter. The best thing I can do is to send you a copy of HANSARD. Yours sincerely." I am bound to say, speaking only for myself, that I find the irony of the vicar's letter more easy to understand than the cynicism of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
He does not say "Thank you very much," but said "Thank you for your letter."
§ Mr. Silverman
I am much obliged for the correction. I accept it. I have not got it, but I take it that the hon. Member has. The hon. Member for Sevenoaks did not thank him very much—he only thanked him. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the date?"] It is 19th February, 1951, the original letter from the constituent having been written eight days before.
Even if the hon. Member is right in his assessment of the letter and I am wrong, if that letter is as bad a letter, if it is as dangerous a letter, if it is as mischievous a letter, and if it is as unjustified as he thinks, and I dare say many others may think, I would say to the House that such a letter as he thinks it was deserves even more confidential treatment than a good letter would need. What we have to preserve is the feeling of security in the minds of our constituents; that they can write anything that is in their minds to their Member of Parliament without feeling that the letter will be handed over to the boss, or handed over to the landlord, or handed over to the priest.
Let us imagine the case of a man who believes he has discovered some peculation or grave impropriety in the operation of a nationalised industry in his neighbourhood. He may not have access to definite information. He may not feel that he ought to take upon himself the responsibility of a personal investigation. He may not feel that he is entitled to make a public statement about matters which he may only suspect, but he may, nevertheless, feel that here is a matter which ought to be inquired into and turns, as he ought to feel he has the right 2496 to turn, to his Member of Parliament who himself is covered by an absolute privilege and therefore can see to it that proper investigation is made, knowing that if there is not something in it, no harm will be done, whereas if there is something in it, he has started an investigation and done his duty as a citizen.
But if that man comes to feel that not merely may his Member of Parliament betray him to the man he is accusing, or to the organisation he is impeaching; if he comes to feel that the House of Commons will not protect him in the confidential relationship we have encouraged everyone to believe holds between the constituent and the Member of Parliament, what man would dare to write such a letter to a Member of Parliament again? I think it is clear—and I invite the House to think that it is clear, whether Privilege is involved in this matter or not— that that is in the highest degree undesirable; that the prestige and authority of the House of Commons as a representative democratic institution must rest very largely upon the trust which constituents feel in the Member of Parliament they have themselves elected and that if we do that, it is at any rate a wholly undesirable thing to do. Is there anyone in the House who would defend it?
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, Northfield)
As one who sympathises a great deal with the hon. Member's argument and agrees with it, may I ask him at least in fairness to say that whatever the merits of this proposition may be, it is a moral proposition for which, as far as I am aware, there are no precedents?
§ Mr. Silverman
I think the hon. Member is perfectly right in this sense. I do not think that the general principle I have enunciated is a novel proposition. I think everyone has accepted that and everyone recognises that it is one of the foundations upon which Parliamentary representative democracy rests, and must rest. But I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there has never been any precedent for a complaint of this kind. That is one of my reasons for saying that not merely is the House right to follow its normal practice of referring matters complained of in this way for report in the first place by the Committee of Privileges, but especially where we have a case for which there is no precedent, that becomes an 2497 a fortiori argument for saying that the matter ought to be investigated by the Committee of Privileges.
It seems to me that the state of the House now and the state of the Order Paper shows that this is a matter which is greatly exercising the minds of right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on both sides. There is a clash of opinion, there is a difference of emphasis, a difference of degree, there is a feeling that perhaps there may be something wrong here, but no one knows exactly what. There is a feeling that there is some kind of principle involved, but nobody is quite sure how that principle ought to be formulated.
Nobody has any feeling, as far as I can judge, that this is a matter which is of no importance and which the House of Commons can afford to neglect, or can afford to disregard. In those circumstances, it seems to me that, without the House committing itself to any concluded or decided view, the case for asking the Committee of Privileges to investigate the thing, to consider it, to agree upon a report, if it can, and to present that report for the consideration of the House, is an overwhelming case which the House would ignore—I say it with all due respect—at its peril.
I do not want to be too long, but the other night we had some discussion about preserving the prestige and dignity of the House of Commons. This is the "Mother of Parliaments." Here it was that the idea of the government of nations by a democratic representative system was born. That system of Parliamentary democracy is under heavy attack all over the world. We are concerned to protect it and to defend it for ourselves, and to uphold it as an example to all others as and when they see the merit of it and equip themselves to apply it and to work it.
I do not complain about the give and take of party warfare in the House of Commons. I think it is very easy to take too tragic a view about Oppositions wanting to turn out Governments or Governments wishing to retain their place. I think it is possible to be exaggeratedly or cynically indignant about using the rules and procedure of the House for the Government or against the Government.
The more vigorous the controversy is in this House the better for Parliament, 2498 not the worse. By all means let us have it and stand for our view; and let us use the machinery of our Parliament to make our views prevail against one another. That is what Parliament is for. But we should have lost irretrievably the battle for Parliamentary democracy if we consented for one moment to any kind of action which undermined the confidence of the represented in those who represent them, and in the institutions by which that representation is manifested.
I, for my part, can see no greater danger to the Parliamentary institution, and no easier method of bringing it into contempt, than to allow people in the country to become convinced, synically, that there is nothing in it after all—nothing in it but place and power; nothing in it but the fight between this gang and that gang, this party or that party. If we were to lose their faith in the practice of the system, it would be in vain that we should defend Parliamentary democracy here, or uphold it elsewhere in the world.
I ask the House of Commons not to decide anything now, but not to ignore anything now; not to by-pass it; not to say that this is a mere conflict between party and party; not to rally as a party behind the particular Member because he happens to be "one of us," but instead to refer this matter, as normally we would have done, as normally we have been in the habit of doing for so long a period, without partisanship and without party warfare, judicially to our Committee of senior Members that they may consider it and come back with a report.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
I beg to second the Motion.
I should like first to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) that, in my opinion, he has presented his case in a very quiet and convincing way. If I may say so without being impudent, the House is obviously in a very good mood to consider the issues involved in this matter. In rising to second this Motion, perhaps I might say, in the first place, how much I agree with my hon. Friend in his first two submissions. There is no reflection at all, I think, upon Mr. Speaker, he having found that there was not a prima facie case to be referred to the Committee of Privileges. I think there can be no doubt about that.
2499 I agree with my hon. Friend also in regard to the attitude which was taken by the Leader of the Opposition last Thursday, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this matter. After all, this is, or may be, a matter of Privilege, and it has been found throughout the centuries that the House of Commons, even in considering election petitions at the Bar of the House, was a most unsatisfactory, unwieldy, and also non-judicial body to deal with these things. I, therefore, say that, although it is grand to see men springing to the assistance of other men—if you like, more so if they are in your party than not—although we may on these occasions admire the party esprit de corps of the party opposite in rallying to the support and assistance of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers), I still think that the House would be letting itself in for a very great deal of criticism if tonight we were foolish enough not to accede without a Division to my hon. Friend's Motion.
I should also like to put this to the House. The House of Commons is much bigger than the hon. Member for Sevenoaks, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), either political party, or all the Members of Parliament sitting here at this present moment. The pride of this House and its dignity must go on, and I feel that to run away from the position which the House of Commons adopted 48 years ago, would be a very great pity. I have been looking into the precedents, and I find that in 1902 Mr. Balfour moved a Motion dealing with new Rules of Procedure, and perhaps I might, with the permission of the House, quote one or two sentences from his speech on 30th January, 1902. That was before I was born, and the right hon. Member for Woodford, who 'was in the House at that time, is now the only representative here, of that Parliament. Mr. Balfour said:Then there is one other proposal of a miscellaneous class, and that relates to questions of privilege. Everybody who has sat through the last two or three Parliaments must have had brought home to them the extreme inconvenience of a question of privilege being suddenly, without notice, started on the House immediately after Questions, and a very important decision being taken by the House without any power of looking into precedents and of considering in cold blood the circumstances of the case. The result of that has 2500 been, not only, as I think, a considerable waste of public time, but also some decisions of which this House has, in my opinion, no very great reason to be proud. Now we appoint a Committee on Privileges at the beginning of every Session; it is the very first thing we do; we do it before the King's Speech has begun; but we never name, it never goes further, it is a purely formal proceeding which, I think, happens at the same time as that hardy annual of my right hon. Friend connected with the interference of Peers at elections. We think that Committee ought to be appointed; and we propose that, whenever any question of privilege not relating to a controversy between the two Houses—which are questions of a rather different character—is raised, it should on the Motion of a Minister of the Crown be referred, without further debate, to this Committee for report. I cannot help thinking that that would add much to the dignity of the House when placed in the very difficult circumstances in which we occasionally find ourselves.The great opponent of that was a famous namesake of mine, Mr. Gibson Bowles, whom the right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, remember. He disagreed with Mr. Balfour, who was First Lord of the Treasury at that time, which is no doubt the explanation. He said:I will come to the question of Privilege. I do not know what sort of view the First Lord takes of privilege. I think it is one of the things that bore him. Probably it bores him more than anything else. No doubt it is troublesome. When privilege is raised as it is raised now, suddenly, it does demand a certain knowledge of the rules and traditions of this House, and it also demands a certain readiness of mind and the capacity to decide at a moment in an emergency. If you have not these qualities, of course, it bores you. But the question of privilege is most important. The battle of the Constitution was largely fought by privilege. A breach of privilege is a contempt of Parliament of a very serious nature, not only because of the subject and character of it, but also because of the danger involved in it. It has always been held to be essential that a breach of privilege should be dealt with at once.It is not difficult to find exactly who voted on that occasion. There was, of course, Mr. Balfour. [Interruption.]The question was, "That the procedure be adopted as outlined in the Motion." There was also the right hon. Gentleman Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. [Interruption.]I am making an appeal to the Conservative Party not to oppose this Motion. There was Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, Mr. Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Winston Spencer Churchill, all of whom voted for it, and the late Speaker of the House of Commons voted for it. [Interruption.]Surely hon. Members can contain themselves. I did say that this was really a non-political vote.
§ Mr. Churchill
Would the hon. Gentleman who has been giving these researches into the past let us know what were the reasons that made it necessary to introduce the issue of the Speaker having to give a Ruling on whether there was a prima facie case or not? There must have been some reason.
§ Mr. Bowles
That came later. As the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne pointed out, the position was that any matter of Privilege had to be raised immediately after Questions, and then it may have happened, or it obviously could have happened that one, two, five or ten hon. Members could come along and obstruct all the Government's business that day. Therefore, I think the House then said to Mr. Speaker: "We give you the right to decide whether there is a prima facie case to go to the Committee of Privileges or a case of Privilege"; otherwise the Government's business might not be reached. The Speaker therefore was and is a safeguard against an abuse of the Privilege procedure. The priority given to alleged questions of Privilege which came immediately after Questions could be taken away, because of the Speaker's Ruling; then the Motion had to take its place when it could find time.
It is very important to remember what did happen. During the last 48 years this Committee of Privileges has been set up. The right hon. Gentleman has himself in the past made generous reference to its eminence, its importance and so on. I make this appeal—that however much hon. Members opposite may disagree with what the Government have been doing during the last five or six years, however much they may have disliked Parliament for increasing taxation and taking away some of their economic power and so on, I do not think that that has influenced them in any way to lose the great respect which they should have for this House.
Therefore, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. I do so having regard to the great respect in which he is held on all sides of the House as one of the great Parliamentarians, and because of his influence in this House, apart from the noble Lord the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton)—and the fact 2502 that if we have a new Parliament we shall have a new Father of the House—and because the right hon. Gentleman is so much older than anyone else. [Laughter.]He is older than I am in years, so I must feel that he is rather old. May I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman'. to withdraw the remark he made the other day and let us, as sensible Parliamentarians, have this matter referred to the Committee of Privileges. No one will lose any face whatever, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman when he speaks will undertake to let us decide in the sensible calm judicial atmosphere in which this debate has so far been carried: on.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
I have already made a statement setting forth1 the facts under discussion. There is-nothing that I desire to add to that statement, except to correct one misapprehension. My reply to the Vicar of Crockham Hill was only despatched after I had received a carbon copy of the letter already sent by the bishop to the vicar, which started by saying that I had referred the vicar's letter to him. I do not propose to take any part in this debate whatever, nor do I propose to exercise my vote should this Motion be pressed to a Division. In order that the House may freely discuss the matter, I propose to withdraw.
§ The hon. Member then withdrew.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
No one can complain of any violence in the temper or tone of the speeches in which this Motion has been introduced to the House. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), who seconded it, referred to my great and unique age in this House, and that was also a subject of interest on the Ministerial Front Bench a little while ago. I remember well that my father—if we are to go back into the past—called' Mr. Gladstone "An old man in a hurry." That was in the year 1885, and 16 years-later Mr. Gladstone was engaged in forming another Administration. I do-not, however, want to suggest that such a precedent will be repeated, in order not to dishearten hon. Members opposite.
I have listened to a great deal that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has said, with a great deal of sympathy for his general principles, 2503 but I am bound to say that I do not think that he dealt with the actual issue which is before us. There is this question that Mr. Speaker, on 13th March, ruled that there was no prima facie case to refer to the Committee of Privileges.
§ Mr. Churchill
He said that there was not a prima facie case. [Interruption.]I cannot be interrupted. The House has a perfect right to reverse Mr. Speaker's Ruling, but the step is a serious one, and I do not remember it happening in my time—an immense period, far longer even than that of the Father of the House. It is quite open to a Member to put down a Motion on the Order Paper such as we have tonight, but I contend that it could not be carried without implying stultification of Mr. Speaker's Ruling. I do not mean it is any censure on Mr. Speaker, but it implies a different view taken by the House from the view taken by Mr. Speaker in the very brief time accorded to him when a Motion of this kind is made. My submission to the House is that Mr. Speaker's Ruling was right. There was no prima facie case then, there is not now a prima facie case; still less is there a case, not prima facie but, as it were, to a certain extent, pre-judged by the decision of the House.
Let us look into this question of Privilege. Privilege means Parliamentary Privilege. It is a privilege which protects Parliament, its Members, its officers, its witnesses, counsel, people who appear before it or its Committees, and also petitioners. It is a Parliamentary Privilege protecting this House and those who take part in it. It does not protect or refer to the electors or the general public. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne may shake his head. He had better be careful not to shake it too much. That is a fact. Privilege is not instituted to protect the universal suffrage electorate. They can protect themselves if they get a chance. It is to protect the House and Members of Parliament.
The electorate and the general public have their rights under the ordinary law, and they have their votes—quite an important thing. The Motion by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne is based upon the assumption that the House should use its Privilege to protect a corre- 2504 spondent, who wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers), from some real or supposed injury. I say that Privilege was never instituted- or intended for such a purpose. It is to protect us and those who have to deal with us, and not to protect the vast mass of the nation outside.
The correspondence of a Member with his constituents or other persons is regulated by the existing law of libel, blackmail and that sort of thing. That is the law. The correspondence of a Member is also governed by good taste, good faith, and respect for private and confidential matters. If these aspects come before the public or the electors in any constituency it is for them to judge, and unless the conduct of some Member of the House, in the course of his Parliamentary duties, or the conduct of the Chair, or other matters directly connected with Parliamentary proceedings, are involved, no question of Privilege arises. It is no good not liking it, because I am quite certain that it is a solid, established fact, upon which this matter rests and stands.
It is true that the Court of Criminal Appeal, in the case of Rex v. Rule, in 1937, held that a Member of Parliament—I use this case because it is a good illustration of how the matter stands— to whom a written communication was addressed by one of his constituents, asking for his assistance in bringing to the notice of the appropriate Minister a complaint of improper conduct on the part of some public official acting in that constituency in relation to his office, had sufficient interest in the subject matter of the complaint to render the occasion of such a publication a privileged occasion. But, here, the word "Privilege" refers to privilege under the common law. It has nothing whatever to do with Parliamentary Privilege, which is the only thing with which we are concerned on this Motion. How could the Court of Criminal Appeal pronounce on a question of Parliamentary Privilege?
There is, therefore, I submit, no case, prima facie or otherwise, on this issue that is before us. It is ordinary privilege and does not come under Parliamentary Privilege at all. Nor is any ruling by any court relevant in the slightest degree to our affairs.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I quite appreciate the point the right hon. Gentleman is 2505 making, but does he remember that in the last Parliament the House of Commons, with his consent, treated as cases of Privilege those of Mr. Garry Allighan and Mr. Evelyn Walkden where the only breach of Privilege alleged was that they communicated, without authority, to a third party, information which had come to them only because they were Members of Parliament?
§ Mr. Churchill
I cannot pretend to argue the merits and details of this extremely complicated case, but what I do stand on is that Parliamentary Privilege is to protect Parliament and its Members and not to protect the general public.
For 250 years the House has conformed to the Resolution, passed in 1704, that it would not extend its privileges. It is very remarkable how strong and rigidly that principle has been carried out. There is, however, a wide right of interpretation. Now we are asked by the hon. Gentleman, not in one case only but in another case which he raised, and we may be asked in many others, greatly to widen the interpretation of Privilege and to bring the ordinary correspondence of any Member of Parliament within the ambit of Privilege. I am sure that that would be a grave and most unwise departure from our proceedings. It would appear to entitle constituents to write libellous statements to their Member, and plead immunity on the grounds that their communication was privileged in the Parliamentary sense, which overrode the ordinary sense of the common law.
Apart from this it would involve Parliament in almost endless embarrassment and work, and the raising of so-called "Privilege cases" arising out of a Member's correspondence might become a fertile cause of obstruction, and would certainly cast an undue burden not only upon the Chair but upon the Table. I cannot conceive anything that would be more inconvenient or more unworkable in practice than the fact that any issue, of anybody, at any time in this House arising from the ordinary correspondence which we have to discharge in such great volume, might be raised as a matter of Privilege, and then referred to the Committee of Privileges to decide or examine in the utmost detail. We would ruin a valuable and vitally important protection, on which the dignity, power and 2506 freedom of the House rests if we cast upon it these cataracts of irrelevant and absurd issues.
No difficulty about the correspondence of Members has been experienced in our present practice in the 50 years that I can recall. The right of a Member at his discretion to send a letter or show a letter from a constituent to any other person cannot be a matter of Privilege. If it were, we would be imposing a special and invidious responsibility and disability upon them not open to others. I must be careful how I deal with this matter. At any moment my conduct might be called in question, and I might be called before the Committee of Privileges. Someone might write a most improper or demanding letter. Is that to be within the Privilege of Parliament? If it is, it is putting a curb and a burden upon Members.
If the House accepts the view that Mr. Speaker's Ruling was correct and that there was no prima facie case, the question of the injury, if any, to the Vicar of Crockham Hill does not arise. It has gone. It was no breach of Privilege and there is no prima facie case. We are not concerned with the matter, no Parliamentary Privilege being involved. The bishop is not involved, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks, who has left the Chamber, is not involved. I would not, in ordinary circumstances, have attempted—because I do not wish to take up the time of the House unnecessarily— to discuss the local and special aspects of this case, but the circumstances are somewhat peculiar. I dwell in the diocese of the Bishop of Rochester, I am a parishioner of the Vicar of Crockham Hill and I am a constituent of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks. Therefore, it makes for me what is called, in racing parlance, a triple event.
Naturally, I know something about the local position. I should be very sorry if it were to be thought that, with all his extravagances and improprieties, as I hold them, the Vicar of Crockham Hill does not try to do his work and to make a contribution. I agree with what has been said about the dangers of irony and sarcasm, but I am certain that there are many phrases in the letter which, taken from their context, would be very injurious but which, read in the general scope of the letter, merely indicate an extravagant mood and a desire to use 2507 words and language to carry beyond the power of words and language. This led him into saying things which were very painful and which, for people less instructed than we are in this House, including the hon. Member who moved the Motion, might very well darken their counsel and cause them pain and distress.
I turn to the hon Member for Seven-oaks. I take a special interest, as his constituent, in how he conducts his correspondence. I may say that the idea that all constituents, that is to say universal suffrage constituents, should be protected from any consequences that might conceivably arise out of any letter that they write to their Members is, on any interpretation of the Privilege rule in respect of correspondence, an absurd idea. If everything that was written down were to impose a great question of Parliamentary Privilege upon us, it is quite possible that a call upon the telephone or a personal interview might result in all kinds of things. After all, we know the kind of world in which we are living, and it is very dangerous to put undue pressure upon normal actions because we might easily create abuses that otherwise would not have occurred.
One thing is important—I am not admitting the relevance of this point to the main argument—and it is that Members of Parliament should be careful, in dealing with a letter from a constituent, not to get that constituent into trouble which might cost him his livelihood, unless criminal or libellous considerations are involved. What did my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks do? He wrote to the bishop, and he sent this extraordinary document, which, evidently, was not written to be published. It has seen the light of day far beyond the hopes of its author. What did my hon. Friend do? He wrote to the bishop.
The Church of England differs from most of the important religious institutions in having no power to discipline its priests or ministers in their opinions and doctrines. Jews, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, all have the power, exerted by the authority of the religious community or toy the congregation, to discipline or change their ministers, but the Church of England has not that power. A bishop is without power to remove from his living a clergy- 2508 man of whose views or doctrines he disapproves. The highest authority in the Church has no power. That is why persons like the Dean of Canterbury can do a great deal of harm with impunity. I am not at all inflicting any sort of stigma upon the Vicar of Crockham Hill by comparing him in the slightest degree with the Dean of Canterbury.
Neither have the parishioners the right or power to relieve themselves of a priest whose character, opinions or doctrines they resent. I am not sure that it might not in the long run turn out that freedom in a healthy community will be found to be the best solution of all difficulties; but still, there is no comparison. The only way in which parishioners can express their feelings is by not attending the religious services in the church of the priest concerned. Crockham Hill church is nearly always empty. There is no doubt about that, although the vicar makes special efforts by special classes, and so forth. I am in no way impugning his character or the efforts he makes, but there is no doubt of what the action of the parishioners would be if they had the same power as is possessed by many other communities and congregations.
This bishop who was appealed to in this case has no power to do anything, except one thing. He has the right, and I think he has the duty, to wrestle spiritually with the Minister. That is the worst sanction that can be invoked in the proceedings between my hon. Friend and the bishop, who has the power to apply all the resources of reason and persuasion, moral and spiritual. Why should they not be turned on? We all have the right to wrestle spiritually with one another when the proper time comes. I may even make myself the agent, in the short time left to me, of converting the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne to a proper outlook on the way of life. Nothing was done that could possibly injure this vicar in his worldly affairs, in his office, or his pitifully small stipend.
My hon. Friend was quite right to write to the bishop and send the letter to the bishop. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I will tell the House why, because it is one of the things we might vote about tonight. My hon. Friend had a duty to his constituents, who are the parishioners of this priest and who suffer the inconvenience—some of them—through the lack of 2509 religious administration and through their dislike of his opinions, of having to go to some other church which may be much further off. Perhaps that has not occurred to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. That has not troubled him.
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks was only discharging his duty to his constituents in endeavouring to induce the bishop to use his moral and spiritual authority to remove the evil. How illogical and absurd it is for all the supporters of the Motion to work themselves into a state of indignation and fury at the alleged ill-usage of the Vicar of Crockham Hill as a correspondent writing to his Member when they have heard nothing about the suffering of hundreds of constituents—200 families are involved—who are deprived to a large extent of the religious comfort and services to which they are entitled.
I will not keep the House much longer. I could say a great deal, but I think I have made the point very clearly. But I will say one thing. We were all much impressed by the declaration of the Leader of the House the other day about his position as Leader of the House, his not being identified with any party, his responsibility to the House as a whole, and so forth. Now we have passed out of the realm of words into the realm of action, and I should like to know what he is going to do tonight. I think he should tell us.
We have heard that the Government are not putting their Whips on in the ordinary way in favour of the Motion. I should have thought that it was their duty to vote against the Motion, as we shall certainly do, but if they are going to leave it to their followers to vote exactly as they please, how are they going to vote themselves? Is the Leader of the House going to vote for something which he knows is incorrect in procedure, or is he going to vote against it? How is he going to deal with his colleagues on the subject? I do not want to add to the many complications that he has at the present time, but, at any rate, I think it is his duty to tell the House exactly how he proposes to vote upon this Motion.
As far as we are concerned, we shall not, in these circumstances, put on the party Whips. On the merits, in perfect freedom and after full consideration of 2510 the arguments, some of which I have ventured to bring before the House tonight, we shall, I think, vote against the Motion on the grounds that no case of Privilege arises and also because we think that it is the duty of the Member to act for all his constituents—not only for those who write to him—and to be guided as a general rule in so doing by the greatest good of the greatest number.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I think the whole House would agree that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was disappointing to his own supporters as well as to hon. Members on this side of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] The House will agree that many of his observations and a great many of his arguments might well have been deployed if the House were now considering a Report from the Committee of Privileges and the steps that the House should take. The right hon. Gentleman has tried to pre-judge the very issues which, if the Motion is carried, will have to be decided by the Committee of Privileges.
I will deal first with the preliminary matter raised by the right hon. Gentleman as to whether or not the Motion, if carried, will cast any reflection on Mr. Speaker or be a stultification of Mr. Speaker's Ruling. A great authority on the absolute right of the House to decide for itself all questions of Privilege is contained in a remark—for which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will have great respect—which Disraeli made as long ago as 1875, at a time before the memory of even the Leader of the Opposition. I quote it because of its great authority, and because it has never been challenged. In a debate in this House on 4th March, 1875, Mr. Disraeli said:It is well, Mr. Speaker, that the House should remember that it is in the power of the House to decide what is Privilege; and although we do always listen with respect to any opinion which may be expressed from the Chair, still that is a function which this House never must give up.I submit that it is no reflection whatever on the view expressed by Mr. Speaker for this House to decide, as I think it must decide, to refer this matter to the Committee of Privileges.
There is another reason. Tonight the House is in possession of a great deal more evidence on this subject than was 2511 in the possession of Mr. Speaker when he gave his original Ruling that he could not say there was not a prima facie case and also when he decided on Tuesday of last week that in his opinion there was no prima facie case. I ask the House to mark that since Mr. Speaker gave his Ruling, we have had the advantage of a personal statement made in the House by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers), the most significant fact of which is the curious inconsistency between the letters written by him at the time and the personal statement now made by the hon. Member. The subject, which is of great concern, not only to hon. Members, to the Press and to the public, resolves itself into the simple question: what has been the effect on the relations between Members of Parliament and their constituents of the revelation that in this instance the Member of Parliament for Sevenoaks sent on to the bishop a letter which he had received from the Vicar of Crockham Hill, and what was the motive for sending it on?
Members of the public are in the habit of writing to Members of Parliament on all kinds of subjects, and they do so in the belief that they write in confidence, and that there is no risk of their confidence being betrayed. They believe that they can do so in complete confidence; that the letters which Members of Parliament receive from their constituents will be given the same kind of secrecy and confidence as that given to a client writing to a solicitor or a patient communicating with his doctor. A constituent writing to a Member of Parliament does not expect that the letter received by his Member will then be used to his disadvantage. If it became the custom for Members of Parliament to use letters of constituents to the disadvantage and to the disinterest of their constituents, then the whole freedom with which the public at present write to their Members of Parliament would, to the great disadvantage of this House, be destroyed and lost.
It is for that reason that if this matter became general, if the House ignored what happened in this instance, Members of this House, and this House itself, would be obstructed in the discharge of their duties; and anything which tends to obstruct Members of this House in the 2512 discharge of their Parliamentary duties is a proper subject for investigation by the Committee of Privileges. Therefore, if this episode passes unchallenged and unnoticed by the Committee of Privileges, it will destroy the existing state of affairs in which Members of this House are able to discharge their Parliamentary duties. I suggest that this is the reason why people are disturbed, the reason which has led to the tabling of this Motion.
The other aspect to which I invite the attention of hon. Members who disagree with what I have so far said is this. If there is doubt as to the extent of this matter of privilege, and whether some limitation should be imposed on the principle enunciated by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson, and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), that is a proper subject for inquiry by the Committee of Privileges. The other day, we sent to the Committee of Privileges the case on the B.B.C., which is under discussion. The Leader of the House pointed out that one of the advantages of the House not debating these matters at length but referring them to the Committee of Privileges is that the House and the public then have the advantage of obtaining a quiet, judicial, authoritative pronouncement upon any new matters of principle. In the same way I venture to say that it is just because there is no specific precedent for this case that it is essential that the Committee of Privileges should inquire into the whole field and say what is the principle and what limitations, if any, there are on it.
§ Air Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that there have been cases of men serving in the Forces having written to hon. Members and of that having reacted against them in some form or other? [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Does the hon. Member realise that only this morning I received a letter from a man serving in the R.A.F. who said that he had sought the permission of his commanding officer before writing? There are cases where it does react against the individuals.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I appreciate what the hon. and gallant Member has said, but that kind of argument is essentially the kind of argument which the Committee of Privileges ought to examine.
2513 Where I think the Leader of the Opposition was inclined to mislead the House—I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has gone—was in suggesting to the House that the hon. Member for Seven-oaks could not possibly have injured his constituent by sending on this letter to the bishop. That is the reverse of the truth. It is, in the first place, obvious that the letter from the hon. Member for Sevenoaks was intended to see if anything could be done to injure the vicar. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The letter was clear. I do not wish that there should be any misunderstanding about this. The gravamen of the charge against the hon. Member is that, although in his explanation to this House he said that he sent that letter on to the bishop because there were matters of Church doctrine involved, what in reality he did, as is clear from his own letter, was to ask the Bishop of Rochester to consider what could be done.
I hope that we shall hear, in a moment—I think it is time it was read—the letter which the Bishop of Rochester wrote. It was, in fact, a letter asking the vicar to resign. That is why I say that not only was the action of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks——
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Member has referred to the letter from the Bishop of Rochester. Will he now read it?
§ Mr. Fletcher
This is the letter written by the Bishop of Rochester to Mr. Fielding Clarke as the result of the Bishop of Rochester having heard from the hon. Member for Sevenoaks. It is dated 19th February, and so that there shall be no doubt I will read the whole of it——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I shall allow this letter to be read but it cannot be commented on.
§ "MY DEAR FIELDING CLARKE,
§ Mr. John Rodgers, the Member of Parliament for Sevenoaks, has sent me the letter you wrote to him on the 11th of this month. I read it with dismay, and indignation. It was so incoherent and venomous that I could not but wonder whether you were not working up to another breakdown. An impending breakdown seems the only explanation that you wrote at all (as there seemed no real 2514 reason to do so), as also for the contents of the letter which were utterly inconsistent as coming from an Englishman; a Christian; and a priest of the Church.
§ You conjoin anti-Communist feeling with race prejudice in a quite inexplicable way. You cannot believe that everyone who objects to the utterances of the Red Dean advocates holding negroes down in slavery; or, for that matter, that every Russian is a champion of human rights. It is understandable that, as you have married a Russian wife, therefore you as well as she are quite prepared to see Russian armies swarm over the Continent, and bring this country under Soviet dominion. You, therefore, may not wish this country to be armed against possible Soviet aggression. But you must be out of your senses to suppose that those of us in England who happen not to be Russians, or have Russian relations, do not feel very differently.
§ I cannot express to you the indignation and horror with which I read how you spoke of the Lists of the Fallen in our churches, linking them with the names of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels, and desiring that they should be removed by Act of Parliament. You can imagine my burning resentment, as I lost two brothers in World War I, and had two sons fighting in World War 2; and my feelings towards your sentiments and expressions must be those of every family in the country who mourn their dead.
§ I must ask you in all seriousness whether in writing such a letter to a Member of Parliament, which must express your mind and conviction, you ought not to resign your living. Feeling as you do, and being what you are, can you possibly serve as a priest in a Church you abominate, receiving its emoluments, and ministering to a flock who cannot possibly hope to obtain from you the guidance and comfort which they need in difficult and anxious days?
§ I think, my dear Fielding Clarke, that it is this tension between your personal convictions and your duty as a Church of England clergyman, which occasions the pathological aberrations of your letter. It read to me like the bursting of an abscess. You probably obtained some relief in writing it. It is, however, distressing to be the Member of Parliament at whom you squirt your poison; and it shows the poison in your system.
§ Believe me.
§ Yours sincerely.
§ (Signed) CHRISTOPHER ROFFEN.
§ In deference to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I make no comment on that letter. Having read that letter and now that the House knows what was the result to this constituent of the action of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks, I suggest that, in view of the injury that was done him, it disposes of the argument of the Leader of the Opposition that there was nothing which the Bishop of Rochester could do to 2515 injure in any way the Vicar of Crockham Hill. Having read that letter, I ask the House in all seriousness to take the view that the confidence of the public and the freedom with which they can write to their Members of Parliament will be destroyed, or at any rate very seriously injured, unless this matter is coolly and calmly examined by the Committee of Privileges.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh O'Neill (Antrim, North)
I am very glad indeed to know that this matter is not to be dealt with on a party vote and that the party Whips are not to be put on. I understand that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who moved the Motion, bases his contention that this is a question of Privilege on the words in Erskine May, which say that any act or omission which obstructs or impedes any Member or Officer of the House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency directly or indirectly to produce certain results, is a breach of Privilege.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
That is the same thing. Any ordinary person reading those words would think that it meant something more definite than what we have before us now. For instance, if somebody were to lock an hon. Member in a room and prevent his coming to the House to vote, that would be an external act which would clearly be a breach of Privilege. But I do not see how, on these words on which the hon. Member relies, that would apply to the present case.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The way in which I put it is that if the feeling of confidence and security were removed, constituents would not write to hon. Members about just those matters which it is most important for hon. Members to hear about, and that in that way we should all be impeded in the proper discharge of our functions.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I agree that a state of confidence should exist between an hon. Member and his constituents; but I cannot agree that letters between constituents and their Members must, in every case, 2516 be sacrosanct. To establish such a doctrine would be going much too far.
In my view—and in this I do not agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)—the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers) acted wrongly in sending the letter to the bishop without letting his constituent know that he intended to do so. That, it seems to me, was an error of judgment, and not in any sense a breach of Parliamentary Privilege. The Leader of the Opposition has clearly shown, from his long experience, what Parliamentary Privilege is as opposed to legal privilege. I cannot see that any breach of Parliamentary Privilege took place in this case, although, in my view, there was an error of judgment. Mr. Speaker's first Ruling in this matter was that he was doubtful about it.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
He could not say whether there was a prima facie case. He said he would not say that there was not a prima facie case. In other words, he was doubtful about it. I am sorry that he gave that Ruling, because it has been the almost invariable practice for Mr. Speaker himself to decide whether or not a case is a prima facie case to go before the Committee of Privileges. I think that Mr. Speaker ought to do that on every occasion. He ought to make up his mind on it one way or the other and, when he does so, his decision should be final, subject to the right of any hon. Member to put down a Motion disagreeing with Mr. Speaker's Ruling, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has done.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if such a Motion is put down, as it has been put down this evening, ipso facto it must amount to a Motion of censure on Mr. Speaker. It is said by the hon. Member and others that this Motion is no reflection on the Chair. I cannot agree. Mr. Speaker ruled definitely, the last time this matter came up, that there was no prima facie case to go before the Committee of Privileges. The hon. Member's Motion will seek to upset that, and, consequently, it disagrees with Mr. Speaker's Ruling, and I do not see how we can do that without implying censure upon Mr. Speaker's Ruling. Surely an intolerable situation would arise if Mr. Speaker's Ruling on this or any other 2517 matter could be challenged with impunity by any hon. Member without any serious results. It simply would not work, and would be bound to lead to a complete breakdown of the authority of the Chair.
There are two other points which I should like to make. In the debate the other day, Mr. Speaker was asked, I think by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, to give his reasons for his Ruling that this was not a prima facie case, and he replied that Mr. Speaker never did give his reasons. If that is the practice, I think that the sooner it is changed the better. In my view, this trouble would never have arisen if it had been possible for Mr. Speaker to decide at once whether or not there was a prima facie case and to give reasoned arguments for that decision. Reasoned arguments are given by the Speaker in other cases in which he gives Rulings on important matters, and I cannot see why he should not give reasoned arguments in a case like this.
The last point I would like to make is this. In recent days and weeks, this House has seen too many cases of Privilege brought before it. I am not referring to this one, but in two cases, one raised on each side of the House quite recently, it would have been better, in my view, if they had not been raised at all. We ought to be very careful here not to confuse Privilege with the perfectly legitimate right of our constituents or of any subject to criticise Members of Parliament or the conduct of Members of Parliament. We are here to be criticised and to be shot at, and I think there is a danger if Privilege is to be invoked in any way in an attempt to stifle that criticism.
Privilege of Parliament is a great Parliamentary conception. It has grown up through the centuries, and it should be carefully guarded and sparingly used. Let us be sure that we do not abuse it. I am glad that the party Whips are not to be put on this evening, and I hope that the result of this debate, when the vote is taken, if it is taken, will be to uphold the authority of the Chair.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
The House has had some time to consider this Motion, and I think that perhaps I can now offer a few observations, although I am going 2518 to say straight away that Privilege is a matter for the House itself and is not. in my view, a matter on which the Government should give any advice or guidance to hon. Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or the Opposition."] I want to emphasise again that I am not a party Leader or even the deputy leader of a party. Leaders of parties are perfectly entitled to give advice to their followers, especially when they are not embarrassed by the position of being also the head of the Government, because then it might be implied that there is an official view with regard to this sort of thing.
May I say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) that as my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) moved the Motion, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) seconded it, I assumed, in accordance with the ordinary procedure of the House, that the next speaker would come from the other side. The right hon. Gentleman rather suggested at one stage of his speech that I ought to have intervened before him.
§ Mr. Churchill indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Ede
I am glad to note that is not his opinion, because the other day a somewhat similar episode occurred. I got up to ask the House to pass to the next business; I gave way to the right hon. Gentleman, and then he asked why I had not done it. I try to act in accordance with the best traditions of the House, and I would not like the House to think that I hesitated to come in this evening after two speeches had been delivered from this side of the House, because, whatever line a Member is going to take, we try, as a rule, to alternate speeches between one side and the other.
I am sure everyone of us enjoyed the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman. I know that the family tradition is not strong in arithmetic, and I am bound to say—[Interruption.] After all, the right hon. Gentleman has had his little jokes, and I am quite sure—I know him too well for that—that he does not resent something being said in reply. But the last Government formed by Mr. Gladstone was formed in 1892, which is not 16 years after 1885.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am sorry about putting on an extra 10 years, but it was to reinforce the assurance I was endeavouring to give to my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Ede
I said that he laboured for seven years for each of two successive wives.
The right hon. Gentleman is, as he pointed out to us, in a peculiar personal position in this matter, inasmuch as he is a parishioner in the parish in which this matter has arisen, and I gather, though he did not say so, that the fact that the church is nearly empty is not a result of his own personal observation. It seemed to me that he gave an exposition of the position of the bishop and the priest, and, as I understand it, of the parishioner and the priest in the Church of England which I believe to be quite accurate, although I speak merely as a Nonconformist. There is only one thing—I rather imagine that a communication made about a priest to a bishop might possibly influence the priest's chance of preferment. I think it might do, because I understand that there are some livings which are in the gift of a bishop.
The issue that has been raised by the right hon. Gentleman was, first, as to the relationship of this Motion to the authority of the Chair, and that has just been taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim, North (Sir H. O'Neill), in the quite balanced speech he has delivered to us. There is an hon. Gentleman—I am not quite sure how one alludes to him because he is a gentleman who was elected at the last election for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Healy), who has not yet taken his seat. Therefore, I do not think I am entitled to allude to him by name. He was also returned in 1924 and at that time he was an inhabitant of one of His Majesty's gaols in Northern Ireland. His 2520 position was raised by an hon. Member whom a few of us now can recall, Mr. Pringle, who was a very great hand at raising the kind of difficulties that now seem to be the special prerogative of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman); and he was as much a thorn in the side of the Leader of the House as my hon. Friend.
Mr. Speaker Whitley was then in the Chair. I speak of him with the greatest respect for he was the first Speaker under whom I sat here and I think his conduct of the proceedings of the House is worthy of consideration in this matter. This subject was suddenly raised and Mar. Pringle was supported, in submitting the matter to the House, as a matter of Privilege by no less an authority than Sir John Simon, as he then was. Mr. Speaker, on 15th January, 1924, asked that he might be allowed to consider the matter for a day and said he would give his decision on the following day. Perhaps I had better read Mr. Speaker's Ruling on that occasion. It is quite short. It is:MR. SPEAKER: With regard to the matter raised yesterday, I have considered with care all the points submitted to me by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle), and the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), and by other Members.The point which I have to decide is, fortunately, a much narrower one than might be thought from the submissions made. It is only this: Is there a prima facie case of Privilege instantly arising which calls for the setting aside of the business of the day that it may be dealt with immediately? On that point, my reply must be in the negative.Then he went on:It remains open to the hon. Member to table a Motion, and to bring it before the House at the proper time. Then it will be for the House to decide whether or not there is a case for a Committee.That is the Ruling of a Speaker for whom I am quite sure, every one of us who sat under him had the utmost respect. He concluded his observations by saying:In giving this decision, I base myself not only on my own decision given in November, 1922, but also on that of my predecessor (Mr. Speaker Lowther), given in a similar case on the 17th and 21st May, 1917. The reference is OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 93, cols. 1783, 1923 and 1963.There can be no doubt that it has been the Ruling of successive Speakers that this way of dealing with the matter is one that is open to the House.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
It is a little difficult always to deal with these new pieces of learning—although I make no complaint of that—if one has not seen them before. If I heard the right hon. Gentleman aright, Mr. Speaker Whitley was careful to say that the only point that he was deciding was whether there was a question which must be dealt with on that day. That was quite different from the decision given by Mr. Speaker the other day. Also there was no doubt on that earlier occasion that there was a matter of Privilege of some sort. A Member of Parliament being imprisoned is a prima facie matter of Privilege.
§ Mr. Ede
Mr. Speaker ruled that a Member of Parliament being imprisoned was not a prima facie case. The hon. Gentleman has asked me a question about the actual Ruling. Mr. Speaker Whitley said that the point he had to decide wasa much narrower one, than might be thought from the submissions made. It is only this: Is there a prima facie case of Privilege instantly arising which calls for the setting aside of the business of the day that it may be dealt with immediately?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th January, 1924; Vol. 169, c. 126.]
§ Mr. Ede
I had thought from what I said the other day that that is exactly the position which, in our view, has arisen here. It would have been open for any hon. Member in the three cases that we have recently had, not to go to Mr. Speaker at all, but to put on the Order Paper a Motion that such and such a matter shall be referred to the Committee of Privileges. But it is desirable—I do not think this will be challenged—that if a serious matter of Privilege is raised, it should be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. I am bound to say that in any of these three cases, if the hon. Members had felt sure that if they had put their Motions on the Order Paper they would have got time for the consideration of those Motions, I do not think it would have mattered very much whether they went to Mr. Speaker or not. The advantage of going to Mr. Speaker in that way is that if he will allow one to raise the matter, it can be brought before the House immediately, it has precedence over the Orders of the day and has to be taken at the end of Questions. That is the great advantage of securing from Mr. 2522 Speaker a Ruling that there is a prima facie case.
§ Mr. Churchill
Is it not also a precedent—I do not say a universal precedent, but a good precedent—that on Mr. Speaker ruling that there is a prima facie case, the Leader of the House himself immediately moves that the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges?
§ Mr. Ede
Curiously enough, that is a point that rather worried me. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, I am very much worried in my present position, and I thank him for the sympathy he has extended to me. I am told that the proper procedure is the one that has been followed—that the Member who makes the submission, if he is granted a prima facie case, then moves that the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges. I took great trouble to ensure that in any action I took I should be following the accepted routine of the House. What has happened on each of the three occasions on which this matter has recently been before us, is that the hon. Member who submitted the case has moved that it be remitted to the Committee of Privileges.
There have been occasions when the House has decided forthwith that it would not refer it. There have been cases when there has been some short discussion. There may have been cases in the past when there has been a long discussion. At any rate, it is a debatable Motion and hon. Members will recollect that in the last Parliament, in the case to which I alluded the other day, when the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn) drew attention to something in the "Daily Worker," my right hon. Friend who was then Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House said, in effect, "I do not think there is much in this," and suggested that the matter should be turned down out of hand; but the House took a different view and referred the matter to the Committee of Privileges.
Let there be no doubt, then, of the position as Mr. Disraeli gave it in the statement which was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher)—a statement made on 4th March, 1875:It is well, Mr. Speaker, that the House should remember that it is in the power of 2523 the House to decide what is privileged, and although we do always listen with respect to any opinion which may be expressed from the Chair, still that is a function which this House never must give up."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1875; Vol. 222, c. 1192.]That is why I am bound to say that I regret the action of the Leader of the Opposition in saying"we"—and by that I suppose he means the whole of his party—"shall certainly vote one way"; although I understand that he does not intend to put on the Whips. At any rate, his advice to his party, as a party, is to vote in a particular way.
§ Mr. Ede
That does not make it any less an expression of view from the leader of a party to his followers as to the way in which they should vote on this -question. Because I think this is a matter on which each Member of Parliament should vote in accordance with his own conscience, with no pressure at all from his party Leader or his party Whip, I personally regret the action which the right hon. Gentleman has taken. I have no doubt that he has done it in what he thinks is the best interest of the House.
§ Mr. Churchill
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to sit down without telling us how he himself is going to resolve this problem.
§ Mr. Ede
When one thinks of the length of time which the right hon. Gentleman took, it is quite unfair for him to suggest that I am going to evade anything. It is usual, I know, when any of my right hon. Friends is about to sit down, for half a dozen hon. Members to jump up and say, "Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down …"But I do not intend to evade anything.
§ Mr. Ede
I hope the House will agree with me when I say that this evening the matter was raised by two of my hon. Friends in speeches which were worthy of the occasion. Whether the House agrees with it or not, I think they put their point of view with moderation and with considerable power. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne started by emphasising that he was not raising the issue in a party spirit, and he de- 2524 scribed the letter which was the original cause of this trouble as having been written in savagely ironical terms. Irony is of course, a very dangerous form of speech to employ. There was the classic case of Daniel Defoe who wrote, "The Shortest Way with the Dissenters" in such ironic terms that the High Church party thought it was worth adopting. When they found that they had been fooled they put him in the pillory, to the great delight of the citizens of London who rallied round the pillory to ensure that no indignities were inflicted on him—and that is, of course, the classic example of the use of this form of speech and literature in matters bordering on the theological and ecclesiastical.
I agree with what the right hon. Member for Antrim, North, said with regard to the next stage of the proceedings. I am bound to say this: that had I received such a letter and, being a member of the Church of England, had thought it my duty to approach one of the high authorities of the Church on the matter, I think I should first have written to the gentleman concerned to say what a shock this letter had caused me—and I accept the view of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers) that the receipt of this letter did shock his sense of the proprieties—and, before I sent it on, I should have asked whether he would have any objection to that course.
I do occasionally receive the kind of letter from constituents or from friends in which they hint they would like some approach to be made in some quarter. Sometimes I am not at all sure that an approach, if made, might not land them into some difficulties; and in those cases I invariably write back and say, "Do you know the risk you are running by asking me to submit this case to somebody who may, quite possibly, take some action that is inimical to you?" I think that that is quite a reasonable line to take, and had I received the vicar's letter, and, as a member of the Church of England, felt it was my duty to take some action with the bishop or any other high authority, I think I should have followed that line.
I am quite certain that if a member of my own denomination wrote to me, before I sent his letter on to the General Assembly, I should certainly ask him whether I had his permission to do so. That is a matter of personal conduct 2525 on which hon. Members may very well take different views; but I was rather relieved to find that so great an authority on matters such as this as the right hon. Member for Antrim, North, took the same view of it as I did. He said that he regarded it as an error of judgment. I do not think I need add any more to that.
The right hon. Member for Antrim, North, said that he thought that Mr. Speaker should give reasons. My own view is that when an occupant of the chair or Mr. Speaker begins to give reasons for the Rulings that he gives, we are nearly at the end of orderly debate. I have had some experience of chairmanship. I was once asked, when I was in the chair at the county council, if I realised that I had ruled the Lord Lieutenant out of order. My answer was, "While I am in the chair I decide what are points of order, and my ruling applies to every member of the council, Lord Lieutenant or not."
§ Mr. Ede
There was great doubt about it. I know I differ on that from very distinguished authority, but my own view is that in any case where Mr. Speaker's Ruling is to be challenged, it should not be by a series of arguments with a view to trying to get from Mr. Speaker the reasons for the Ruling which he has given, because once we degenerate into that I believe that our end as a debating Chamber has come.
I just want to say this. There is no doubt that the great growth of the electorate, and the much wider range of intimate concerns which the electorate find themselves compelled to ask Members of Parliament to deal with, have created a situation which really ought to be investigated. As I said earlier, we all get letters, some written by very illiterate people who are trying to do their utmost, and who are often under great physical and mental strain in putting their ideas on paper. In endeavouring to make a clean breast of affairs those people may very often disclose something which, if carried to certain quarters, might get them into serious trouble.
I think it would be a good thing if we could consider the modern relationship of a Member of Parliament with his constituents so that we could have some guidance on this matter, and I should 2526 have thought myself that the Committee of Privileges was probably the best body to give such advice. I agree with a remark made by the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn), that this is not truly a case of Privilege but a case of contempt, if there is any case at all; and that, after all, is also a matter that is dealt with by the Committee of Privileges.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me what advice I was going to tender and what I was going to do myself. The advice I tender to the House is this: that every Member should consider this case on its merits as it appeals to him, and then, irrespective of anything that may have been said by any authority, no matter how exalted, he should cast his vote in accordance with his own conscience. As for myself, after great consideration—and this is not to influence the vote of anyone—I intend to cast my vote for the Motion that my hon. Friend has placed on the Order Paper.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
I do not think that any hon. Member in any quarter of the House can have any complaint about the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman addressed himself to this subject or gave his advice. They will all agree, I think, with the advice, that this matter should be approached and considered as a matter of conscience, even though the result of applying the advice may be different from that which the right hon. Gentleman finds for himself. The only reason why I am troubling the House tonight is that I think that this question raises a most important problem from the point of view of the working of the House, the prestige of the House and the position of Members of Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman was quite correct—and no one will disagree with him—in saying that today the question of correspondence has become one which not only involves hard work but which raises constant and repeated difficulties. I am in the sort of intermediate grade of importance; I get, I think, 300 letters a week. Hon. Members know exactly what that means. Some get more and some get less. They know the great practical difficulty of dealing with them, because in many cases, as the right hon. Gentleman said, points are put forward which require the 2527 greatest consideration in order to know what is the proper course to help the constituent.
Without exhaustively characterising the letters, I think there are three classes which everyone will agree are important. One is the correspondent who calls for administrative action which he wants the Member to secure; the second is the correspondent who has a deeply-rooted grievance; and the third is the correspondent who wants to impress the Member with his own view on a great public question as opposed to a private question. The last two classes, as I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree, vary from the tragic to the completely eccentric. That is the problem with which a Member of Parliament has to deal today; and what I am most anxious should go out from this debate is that hon. Members, irrespective of party, are not only conscious of that problem but are definitely doing their utmost to try to grapple with it every day and for long periods of every day.
Do not let us by this debate give the impression, which would be quite fallacious and untrue, that we in this House as a body view our correspondence from our constituents as anything but a heavy duty which we are proud to perform but at the same time have great difficulty in performing. Let them see that that is the way we approach it. If everyone agrees, as I think they will, with that approach, I want then to consider the position of the Member.
I do not think that anyone on mature consideration would disagree with what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said about the Privilege of Parliament. As the Leader of the House was inclined to indicate, contempt is only another facet of the same matter. Privilege is given for one purpose and one purpose only—that the Members of Parliament individually and collectively and Parliament as a whole shall be able to function freely, efficiently and properly. That is the sole purpose of Privilege.
The point that I want to make is that if Members of Parliament are to be able to deal freely and effectively with this great problem, they must have a wide field of discretion as to how they are to 2528 deal with letters and correspondence. I put it to hon. Members that a wide field of discretion means that we must be free to take a course of which other people disapprove. That is the only meaning of discretion and therefore we must not let down our own standards. Each one of us can adopt his own standards and make them as high as he likes, but the only thing that can bring us within the reach of either Privilege or contempt is when someone has done something, not of which hon. Members disapprove as governing their own affairs, but something which is so bad—and this is the text—that it brings the whole body of the House into disrepute. If we are to adopt another approach, it means that every time our own view and our own standard is transgressed or differed from, then we are going to have a breach with someone who has taken a different view.
May I take an example from what happened recently. An hon. Member opposite—and I entirely agree with what he did—got one of those petitions which have been flying about, the British Peace Committee Declaration, and it was signed by a number of his constituents with a top signatory. The hon. Member wrote, I understand, contemporaneously to the top signatory and sent a copy to his local paper. The top signatory said he had seen the letter first in the local paper, and he complained because after it had appeared in the local paper, somebody quite unconnected with the hon. Member happened to break his window with a stone. What I am putting to the House is—and I am not mentioning this without having discussed it with the hon. Member in question—that the hon. Member not only wrote to a constituent but he gave publicity to what he wrote. There, I believe, he was quite right.
The hon. Member, in good faith and with complete honesty in facing a problem of what was the correct thing to do with the British Peace Committee's Declaration, felt that he had to declare his views on it and his opposition to it in the public Press as well as to one of the signatories. That is the sort of issue which is going to crop up and which we have to consider. That is why I am asking hon. Members to consider it from the point of view of the independence and freedom of action of the Member of Parliament.
2529 I only want to say one word about the position of the Chair, and I hope it will not be considered controversial. Any Member of this House is entitled to put down a Motion, as has been done in this case, and take his chance to get time for it in the ordinary way, but the Chair has always to consider two points—whether it is in good time, and secondly, whether there is a prima facie case. An application to the Chair may be in good time, but may fail on the second ground that there is no prima facie case. That is a very convenient method—I have deliberately pitched my words low because I want to take hon. Members with me—of dealing with this problem.. I have tried to explain how it may arise from different points of view.
The convenient way is that the Chair should say: "I do not think it has the beginnings of a question of Privilege." When the Chair has said that—because that is what saying" There is no prima facie case"means—then that is the view of the Chair. We are a democratic assembly. By all means let us upset the view of the Chair. Fortunately, in our history, it is a remarkable thing how seldom that necessity has arisen in the last 150 years. It is a remarkable feature of our Parliamentary life. It is a very serious matter if, when the Chair says: "I cannot see the beginnings of a case but you have put me in this position; I have experience of innumerable cases brought to me, some serious, some frivolous and some betwixt and between; I have given my best attention but, in my view, there is no beginning of a case," we are to take the view that that should be a matter of disputation and even of a resolution. We might find it most inconvenient for our procedure. It would certainly mean a case of the utmost gravity before it could be done. I hope that the House will accept it from me that I am trying to approach this matter from the House of Commons angle, that is what I am interested in.
With regard to the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers), I simply want to say that I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the dangers of irony but I go a little further. I hope, as I value his opinion, that he will agree with me that there are certain things to which our people do not like to have irony, and 2530 especially cheap irony, applied to. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) says that cheap irony is the other fellow's. I do not think it is. Irony becomes cheap if it is applied to matters which the great majority of our fellow citizens hold sacred and dear. If we apply irony to war memorials, the dead and that sort of thing, we get into the area of cheap irony.
Also, when we are dealing with the working of the Church, whether it is our own Church or anyone else's, when people are appointed to high and responsible positions, and anybody uses cheap and nasty language about them and suggests that they are subject to the pressure of politicians—in this case the vicar does not distinguish between the two Front Benches, but that does not matter—that is the sort of thing I mean. If I may put it colloquially to the House, it means that you have gone over the limit and have gone into the field of cheap irony. What I want hon. Members to consider is whether we cannot have a really honest reaction to that, especially the second thing, the reaction of feeling, "Well, I feel that has gone outside the usual sand which comes up to us from the arena and it is something about which I ought to get the advice of someone in that line."
My last point—I promised the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) that I would not take more than one moment of his time—is about Privilege generally. I believe it is a sign of a healthy House of Commons and of strength and power that it does not worry too much about its privileges, either individually or collectively. One of the best things Parliament ever did—again I think I take the right hon. Gentleman with me—was when, 250 years ago, both Houses agreed that they would not extend their privileges because they felt that they had got to the position where they had established their freedom and power by asserting the privileges that were necessary and they were not going further and making that power corrupt by asserting privileges which were too great. When a House of Commons or any Parliamentary assembly begins to get self-conscious about its powers and its privileges, I begin to wonder—I hope the House will not think I am breaking my own rule and becoming cynical—whether it has not begun to decline. That is one of the signs.
2531 I would from that point or view, having tried to consider the problem fairly, ask hon. Gentlemen, wherever they sit, not to make this a matter of Privilege or to carry the Motion, but to place on record our views and our humble but sincere determination that the feeling of the House of Commons—it is far more than Privilege—which really makes things well, will not be lessened in our time.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
It is neither an easy nor a pleasant task to wind up the debate tonight. I should like to begin by making two observations. First, I am personally sorry that the case before us tonight should involve the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers). I had the pleasure and privilege of working with him in the same Ministry at the beginning of the war, and I believe that the first time that I met him was when we were comrades together in the Home Guard.
I have a high opinion of the hon. Gentleman's personality and ability and I am sorry that this case should involve him, but I want to assure the House that we who have put down the Motion are not in any way making imputations against his honour or integrity; we are only bringing into question his judgment; and we are asking the House to decide whether it would not be wise that an impartial body like the Committee of Privilege should look into the matter and consider whether it could lay down certain rules for the guidance of hon. Gentlemen who may be placed in a similar position.
The second observation I want to make is this. I believe that the House has tonight acquitted itself according to the best traditions of the House of Commons. In contrast with some recent debates, we have had a quiet, moderate and restrained discussion, but if there is one regret that I have left at the end of it it is that the Leader of the Opposition did not feel able to get up and say that he was prepared to give his supporters an entirely free vote on this issue.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I meant to repeat what was said by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but I did not do so because I was anxious not to take any more of the hon. Member's time. 2532 There is no question that there will be a free vote by hon. Members on this side of the House tonight. I intended to emphasise that. When I appealed to hon. Gentlemen to vote according to their consciences, I was appealing to the whole House, and I want to make that perfectly clear.
§ Mr. Greenwood
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is speaking for his party, nobody is happier than I am to accept his assurance, but I certainly understood the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, to say," 'We' will vote. "At all events, I am happy to have the assurance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because I thought that the Leader of the Liberal Party laid down the principle for occasions of this kind when he said on Monday night that the House of Commons was greater than any party in it. This is essentially a House of Commons matter, and I am happy that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House are to have complete freedom of conscience on this occasion.
I had thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) had made it abundantly clear at the beginning of this debate that we were not in any way attacking the authority of the Chair in putting down this Motion. That is a view which has had the support of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and yet, in spite of my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend, speaker after speaker on the other side of the House has come back to the point that this is either an attack on the Chair, or that it is a very serious step to take, or that it is, in fact, interfering with a practice which is for the general convenience of the House. The only attack which has been made on the Chair in recent days has been that made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) on Thursday night. There is certainly no possibility of hon. or right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House making reflections on the impartiality of the Chair in exercising its functions.
Indeed, the Motion we have put down was interpreted by the noble Lord the Father of the House when he pointed out, 2533 on 15th March, according to column 1790 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, that this Motion was not a Vote of Censure on Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the House agreed on that occasion. We have based our attitude on the Ruling which is given in page 356 of the 14th Edition of Erskine May, describing Mr. Speaker's functions on occasions of this kind. It is quite clear, as hon. Members and my right hon. Friend have pointed out, that the only effect of Mr. Speaker's Ruling was to deny my hon. Friend's Motion priority on that occasion.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
What I intended to say on that occasion—I do not think I made it clear—was that this Motion is not in the category of a Vote of Censure in the technical sense of the word, in which case, of course, by the custom of the House, immediate time would have had to be given for it. I made no comment, and as a Member of the Committee of Privileges I propose to make no comment as to whether this Motion implies a reflection upon Mr. Speaker, which is a different point.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am happy to have the noble Lord's comment. His contribution the other day was not completely clear, but I will not press him further on that because of his quasi-judicial capacity.
Mr. Speaker having ruled that there was no prima facie breach of Privilege, we must remember that it was then open to the Leader of the House, in view of the feeling widely expressed among hon. Members, to say that although Mr. Speaker was not able to direct that the Motion should have priority, he was nevertheless prepared to make time available for a discussion of this matter because of the gravity of the issues which had been raised. I think that that was a perfectly proper course for the right hon. Gentleman to take. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has commented, throughout his speech, on the gravity of the issues which have been raised on this occasion. It is because we on this side of the House feel that the Rules are obscure on this point that it would be desirable to refer them to a Committee of senior Members of this House in order that we might have their guidance upon them.
2534 My own feeling is, and I say this in fairness to the hon. Member for Seven-oaks that I should have thought it would have been vastly preferable for him that these allegations, which have been made by some hon. Members of the House, should be threshed out by a Committee representing all parties of the House, m order that any criticism of him might be completely wiped off the record, if no ground for criticism existed.
I was sorry that the Leader of the Opposition, who, I regret, is no longer in his place, should have made these allegations against the Vicar of Crockham Hill. I have a good deal of information about the Vicar of Crockham Hill with which I shall not weary the House. I would only say that the Vicar of Crockham Hill had a very distinguished record in the First World War and that when I asked one of my clergymen friends who knows him well what his view of the Vicar of Crockham Hill was, he described him as "one of the godliest men I have ever been privileged to know." Perhaps, as the Leader of the Opposition is not a member of the congregation which the Vicar of Crockham Hill gathers round him, he is not in a position to judge of the character of the vicar himself.
If I may come to the correspondence which is the subject of discussion, I think that every hon. Member will agree that the letter which the Vicar of Crockham Hill sent to the hon. Member for Seven-oaks was a hysterical letter. The tone of irony with which it was written was, I think, as reprehensible as the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby obviously thinks it to be. I personally deprecate both the tone and the content of the letter. The whole implication of the letter is an aspersion upon what the vicar believes to be the failure of the Church of England to apply Christian principles to present-day problems and the hon. Member for Sevenoaks told the House in his personal statement the other day that, and these are his words:I felt that I should consult with someone in the Church before replying, since matters of Church doctrine seemed to be involved."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1951, Vol. 485, c. 1321.]I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that matters of Church doctrine were not involved in the letter.
§ Mr. Fort (Clitheroe)
May I draw the attention of the hon. Member to the fourth paragraph of the vicar's letter, in column 1320 in which, writing to my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. John Rodgers), he said:Of course, a few paragraphs of that curious document, the Report of the Lambeth Conference …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 1320.]I should certainly have thought that to any layman that was a reference obscure enough to require elucidation by someone experienced in ecclesiastical affairs.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I do not agree. They are not points of theological doctrine, but quite unjustified allegations against the behaviour of the Church of England in conditions as they are at the present time.
The point I want to emphasise is that even if there had been a question of theological doctrine involved, it is no part of the duty of a Member of Parliament to set himself up as a guardian of the Church's conscience in matters of this kind. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] It would be a most curious situation if, when a citizen of this country became elected to Parliament, he automatically became the guardian of the Church's conscience and if hon. Members who were either Jewish, Nonconformist, or Roman Catholic had to satisfy themselves that all the clergy in their constituency were complying with every letter of the 39 Articles of the Church of England. That would be a heavy task to place on hon. Members of this House, heavier, indeed, than the task to which the Leader of the Opposition referred.
The next letter was to the Bishop of Rochester and it is interesting to note that it was said, in regard to that letter, that the hon. Member was influenced by the fact that he was writing to a Peer Spiritual, a member of another place. I do not know whether he was suggesting that the position would have been any different if he were writing to the Bishop of Croydon or one of the other bishops of the Church of England who is not a Member of the House of Lords. It is a pity we have not had an opportunity of elucidating that point. The significant passage of the letter to the bishop is that he said—and here his wording is more close to the facts of the situation than the interpretations which the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) placed on it— 2536 that the vicar's letter attacked the Church and then he added:Is there anything we can do about this,?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 1321.]I will not touch upon the letter which the hon. Member for Sevenoaks wrote to the Vicar of Crockham Hill, except to say that although he had reported the vicar to the bishop, he did not see fit to inform the vicar of that fact.
§ Mr. Angus Maude (Ealing, South)
I think that in fairness the hon. Member should emphasise the fact that that letter was not written by my hon. Friend to his constituent until after the letter from the bishop was in his hands, to the knowledge of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Greenwood
On that, I would only comment how much better it would have been if the hon. Gentleman had informed the vicar before writing the letter to the bishop, because this raises a number of interesting considerations about the position of the clergy of the Church of England. When the hon. Member for Sevenoaks came to explain his conduct in the House on 13th March, he emphasised that the relationship between bishop and vicar was not one of employer and employee. In the case of vicars that is, generally speaking, true. There is no relationship of that kind, although, as the Leader of the House pointed out, a number of bishops have livings in their gift, and it is for them to decide whether or not they will appoint a clergyman to one of those livings. There are, of course, livings which are not endowed, and there it would be possible for a bishop to make it extremely difficult for funds to be made available to an errant vicar out of diocesan finances.
But the real point about the clergy is that all clergy of the Church of England are not beneficed clergy. There are a large number of clergy who are clergymen of the Church of England who have no livings upon which they depend. They are dependent for their livelihood upon employment by a vicar or upon the bishop of the diocese giving them a licence enabling them to carry on their holy calling in that diocese. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks weighed up this question very carefully and decided that as it was a vicar it did not matter, but if it had 2537 been a curate it would have been possible for disciplinary action immediately to have been taken against the curate in question.
When the hon. Gentleman made his personal explanation in the House he said there was no possible question of victimisation in the case of clergymen.
§ Mr. Blackburn
On a point of order. Is it not somewhat improper, in view of the fact that the hon. Gentleman concerned has withdrawn from the House and cannot protect himself, for it to be suggested that he has made a personal explanation to excuse his own conduct, when he has not done that at all?
§ Mr. Greenwood
During the discussion tonight other hon. Members have repeated substantially the case which the hon. Member for Sevenoaks made about the impossibility of victimisation. It is possible for a clergyman of the Church of England to be victimised if he is not beneficed.
§ Mr. Greenwood
We are discussing the general desirability of hon. Members sending to bishops letters from clergymen in their constituencies, and it is upon the general issue that we want to have the guidance of the Committee of Privileges. Hon. Members may recall that about a year ago there was a debate in another place in which Lord Vansittart made an attack upon a clergyman of the Church of England, the Rev. Gilbert Cope.
§ Mr. Blackburn
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to refer to a debate which took place in another place in which Lord Vansittart took part, and to make adverse comments in relation to that debate?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that it is in order, because I understand that the debate was not in this Session of Parliament.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If, in fact, it was in this Session of Parliament, then the hon. Member should not refer to it.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Perhaps I may put it in this way. Because of information conveyed to his bishop about the political views of the Rev. Gilbert Cope, the Bishop of Worcester revoked his licence to minister in the diocese of Worcester, but the House will be pleased to learn that the Bishop of Birmingham gave it back again. It does not follow that there will always be a liberal-minded bishop who is prepared to appoint clergy holding views different from his own.
I think that the Leader of the Opposition was right when he said that this is not only a question concerning the Church of England. If we are to make a precedent of this case, it will be open for Members of Parliament to report Nonconformist ministers to their Church officials and Catholic priests to their bishops, and it may well be that, in those circumstances, action may be possible against the clergymen in question.
The Leader of the Opposition was quite wrong in supposing that what we want to do is to extend the privilege of Parliament to correspondence between constituents and their Members. We do not want to do anything of the sort. Nor do we want, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby said, to extend the privileges of Parliament in any way. What we are saying is that, if constituents write to their Members of Parliament believing that their confidence will be respected, and a Member of Parliament sends on the letter to a third party, that is the kind of action which is calculated to bring Parliament into contempt, which would be a lamentable state of affairs.
If we are to turn down this Motion tonight, I believe that the rot will set in. Already, the "East Anglian Daily Times" of 19th March had this comment, referring to this question of correspondence between constituents and their Members of Parliament. The "East Anglian Daily Times," said this:It is almost the duty of a Member to publish the letters of any critic on matters of policy, and his replies.I think it will be a sorry day if the point of view of the "East Anglian Daily Times" should become the accepted view of the House, and when members of the public feel that no longer will they be privileged to write to their own Members 2539 of Parliament, believing that their confidence would be respected.
In conclusion, may I say that we who support this Motion are the first to admit the regrettable nature of a case of this kind. Nevertheless, it does raise extremely important points, and we believe that it should go to the Committee of Privileges. I believe that, if it did, there would be no action taken against the hon. Member for Sevenoaks, but I believe that it would be regarded as the irresponsible act of, perhaps, an inexperienced Member. As a result of the deliberations of that Committee, hon. Members of this House in future would have the benefit of guidance
§ from the Committee of Privileges in their handling of constituency correspondence, and we should also have a ruling as to the extent to which Members of another place can interfere in the relationship between citizens and their Members of Parliament.
That the matter of the complaint of the honourable Member for Nelson and Colne concerning the conduct of the honourable Member for Sevenoaks in handing over to the Bishop of Rochester a letter he had received from his constituent the Rev. O. Fielding Clarke, M.A., B.D., be remitted to the Committee of Privileges.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 255; Noes, 284.2543
|Division No. 64.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W Bromwich)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Adams, H. R.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Albu, A. H||Edelman, M.||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S W.)||Jenkins, R. H.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Ewart, R.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Baird, J.||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon A. J.||Field, Capt. W. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Bartley, P.||Finch, H. J.||Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Keenan, W.|
|Benson, G.||Foltick, M.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Beswick, F.||Foot, M. M.||Kinley, J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon A (Ebbw Vale)||Forman, J. C.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Bing, G. H C||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Blenkinsop, A||Freeman, John (Watford)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N)|
|Boardman, H||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Lewis, John (Bolton, W.)|
|Booth, A.||Ganrley, Mrs. C S||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Bottomley, A. G||Gibson, C. W.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Bowden H. W.||Gilzean, A.||Longden, Fred (Small Heath)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Glanville, James (Consett)||McAllister, G|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Brockway, A. F||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Grenfell, D R.||McInnes, J.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Grey, C. F.||Mack, J. D.|
|Broughton, Dr. A D. D||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon James (Llanelly)||McLeavy, F.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Burke, W. A.||Gunter, R. J.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Burton, Miss E.||Hale, Joseph (Rochdale)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hall, Rt Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Manuel, A. C.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hamilton, W W||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hannan, W.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hardman, D R||Mellish, R. J.|
|Collick, P.||Hardy, E. A||Messer, F.|
|Collindridge, F||Hargreaves, A||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Cook. T. F.||Harrison, J.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Cooper, Geoffrey (Middlesbrough, W.)||Hastings, S.||Moeran, E. W|
|Cove, W. G.||Hayman, F. H.||Monslow, W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon Arthur (Tipton)||Moody, A. S.|
|Crosland, C. A R||Herbtson, Miss M.||Morgan, Dr. H. B|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morley, R.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A||Hobson, C. R.||Mort, D. L.|
|Daines, P.||Holman, P.||Moyle, A.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Mulley, F. W|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Houghton, D.||Mulvey, A.|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Hoy, J.||Murray, J. D.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hubbard, T.||Nally, W.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|de Freitas, G.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.|
|Deer, G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Orbach, M.|
|Donnelly, D.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Padley, W. E.|
|Paget, R. T.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)||Simmons, C J||Webb, Rt. Hon. M (Bradtord. C.)|
|Paring, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Slater, J||Weitzman, D.|
|Pannell, T. C.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S)||Wells Percy (Faversham)|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Snow, J W||West, D. G.|
|Parker, J.||Sorensen, R. W||Wheatley Rt. Hon. J. (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Paton, J.||Soskice, Rt Hon Sir Frank||White, Mrs. Eirene (E Flint)|
|Pearson, A,||Sparks, J. A||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N E,|
|Pearl, T. F.||Steele, T||Whiteley, Rt Hon W|
|Poole, C.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Wigg, G|
|Popplewell, E||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Wilcock, Group Capt C A B|
|Porter, G.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Wilkins, W. A|
|Proctor, W. T-||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland)|
|Pryde, D J||Stross, Dr. Barnett||Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Sylvester, G. O.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Rankin, J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Rees, Mrs D||Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Reeves, J||Thomas, David (Aberdare)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'lly)|
|Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Williams, W T (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Thomas, Iorworth (Rhondda, W)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Rhodes, H.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Thorneycroft. Harry (Clayton)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Robertson, J J (Berwick)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G||Wise, F. J.|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St Pancras, N)||Turner-Samuels, M.||Wyatt, W. L|
|Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Ungoed-Thomas, A. L||Yates, V. F.|
|Royle, C.||Usborne, H.||Younger, Hon. K.|
|Shackleton, E A A||Vernon, W. F.|
|Shawcross, Rt Hon. Sir Hartley||Vianl, S P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Shurmer, P. L. E.||Wallace, H. W||Mr. Sydney Silverman and|
|Mr. Anthony Greenwood.|
|Aitken, W. T||Craddock, G. B. (Speltherne)||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.|
|Alport, C. J M||Cranborne, Viscount||Heald, Lionel -|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H F. C.||Heath, Edward|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Crouch, R. F.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Crowder. Capt. John (Finchley)||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon R. (Blackburn, W.)||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythonshawe)|
|Astor, Hon. M. L||Cundiff, F. W.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Baker, P. A. D||Cuthbert, W. N.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J M||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh. S.)||Hollis, M. C.|
|Baldwin, A. E||Davidson, Viscountess||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)|
|Banks, Col. C||Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Hope, Lord John|
|Baxter, A B||de Chair, Somerset||Hopkinson, H. L. D'A|
|Bell, R. M.||Deedes, W. F.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Digby, S. W.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Gosport)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Donner, P. W||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Bevins, J. R (Liverpool, Toxteth)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N,.)|
|Birch, Nigel||Drayson, G. B.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. Robert (Southport)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Drewe, C.||Hudson, W. R. A (Hull, N.)|
|Black, C. W.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir Thomas (Richmond)||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Dunglass, Lord||Hurd, A. R.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D, C. (Wells)||Duthie, W. S.||Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N)|
|Boothby, R.||Dye, S.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)|
|Bossom, A. C||Eccles, D. M.||Hutchison, Colonel James|
|Bower, Norman||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H M|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E||Hylton-Foster, H. B.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Erroll, F. J||Jeffreys, General Sir George|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Jennings, R|
|Braine, B. R.||Fisher, Nigel||Johnson, Major Howard (Kemptown)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cmdr. Gurney||Fletcher, Walter (Bury)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Fort, R||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Foster, [...]hn||Kaberry, D.|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Fraser, Hon Hugh (Stone)||Keeling, E. H.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Fraser, Sir I. (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Kenyon, C.|
|Bullock, Capt M.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir David Maxwell||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Gage, C. H.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H|
|Burden, Squadron Leader F. A||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Lambert, Hon. G|
|Butcher, H. W.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Lancaster, Col. C. G|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Granville, Edgar (Eye)||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Channon, H.||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A H.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Grimond, J||Lennox-Boyd. A T.|
|Clarke Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lindsay, Martin|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Grimston, Robert (Westbury)||Linstead, H. N.|
|Colegate, A.||Harden, J. R. E.||Llewellyn, D.|
|Conant, Mai. R. J. E.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (King's Norton)|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert (Ilford, S)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Cooper, John (Deptford)||Harris, Reader (Heslon)||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Harvey, Air-Codre. A. V (Macclesfield)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda (Peckham)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)|
|Corbett, Lt.-Col. Uvedale (Ludlow)||Hay, John||Low, A. R. W.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Pickthorn, K.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Pitman, I. J.||Summers, G. S.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Powell, J. Enoch||Sutcliffe, H.|
|McAdden, S J.||Prescott, S.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|McCallum, Major D.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, [...])|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Teeling, W.|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||Teevan, T. L.|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Profumo, J. D.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|McKibbin, A.||Raikes, H. V.||Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton)|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Rayner, Brig. R||Thompson, Lt.-Cmdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Maclay, Hon. John||Redmayne, M.||Thorneycroft, Peter (Monmouth)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Remnant, Hon. P.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C N|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Renton, D. L. M||Thorp, Brig. R. A. F.|
|Macpherson, Major Niall (Dumfries)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Tilney, John|
|Maitland, Cmdr. J. W.||Roberts, Major Peter (Heeley)||Touche, G. C.|
|Manningham-Bu[...]ler, R. E.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Robson-Brown, W.||Turton, R. H.|
|Marples, A. E.||Roper, Sir Harold||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Ropner, Col. L.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)||Ross, Sir Ronald (Londonderry)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Maude, John (Exeter)||Russell, R. S.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Maudling R.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Mellor, Sir John||Scott, Donald||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Shepherd, William||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col., Sir Thomas||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. [...]|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Watkinson, H.|
|Mott-Radctyffe, C. E||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Webbe, Sir Harold|
|Nabarro, G.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)|
|Nicholson, G.||Snadden, W. McN.||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Soames, Capt. C||Williams, Charles (Torquay)|
|Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Spearman, A. C M||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Nutting, Anthony||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)||Wills, G.|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard (N. Fylde)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Odey, G. W.||Stevens, G. P.||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||York, C.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Osborne, C.||Storey, S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Mr. Iain MacLeod and|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Mr. Angus Maude.|