HC Deb 15 July 1952 vol 503 cc1977-8
48. Mr. Langford-Holt

asked the Prime Minister if Her Majesty's Government will move in both Houses of Parliament for the establishment of a tribunal to inquire into a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the behaviour and conduct of the Dean of Canterbury in furthering and disseminating the propaganda of persons engaged in hostilities with British troops and in claiming that he had proof of the truth of such propaganda.

The Prime Minister

The establishment of such a tribunal would, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, invest the activities of the Dean of Canterbury with an importance they do not possess.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that, while no one would seek to prevent the Dean from, as a private individual, expressing views which he has a legal right to hold, it is a cause of dismay to millions of people living behind the Iron Curtain to believe, as they do, that he speaks on behalf of the Church of England in this country, and that there lies the danger?

The Prime Minister

We all see those difficulties, but there are other difficulties in taking special action. The difficulties of setting up a tribunal upon an individual in these circumstances for exercising or abusing the right of free speech, which we are all resolved to defend, would be almost endless. We really must keep a sense of proportion and not add to the harm that has already been done.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Would my right hon. Friend consider sending this pathetic figure to a psychiatrist?

Mr. Driberg

Does the Prime Minister further realise that the logical consequence of the pressure to which he is being subjected from the benches behind him would be a demand from the Church of England for disestablishment?

The Prime Minister

I think we might easily all get into depths beyond any that we wish to dabble in today by going further in this matter. Free speech carries with it the evil of all foolish, unpleasant and venomous things that are said, but on the whole we would rather lump them than do away with it.