HC Deb 04 November 1953 vol 520 cc149-50
Mr. Dryden Brook

I should like to ask your advice, Mr. Speaker, or your Ruling on a matter which I believe to be of great importance to every Member of this House, to whatever political party he or she may belong. This morning, along with other hon. Members, indeed probably every Member of this House, I received a circular letter from the Central Milk Distributive Committee. I should like to read to you the following paragraph contained in that letter: If pressure must be brought to bear in order to get fair play it should be borne in mind that Milk Distributors have access to the electorate in every household throughout the country and the trade would not hesitate to use this means if it felt that a Producers' Monopoly was likely to be restored. I am not concerned with the merits of the case on either side of this question, but I should like to draw your attention to the fact that this is not a political organisation using propaganda as a medium but is a trade organisation which, in my judgment, is using a threat in order to influence the votes of Members of this House.

It seems to me that there are two quite definite matters of importance. In the first place, this organisation draws attention to the fact that its own employees are a numerous body of people who can be influenced to vote in a certain direction. In the second place—and this is more grievous still—those employees have access to almost every home in the country, and the inference to be drawn from this paragraph seems to me to be quite simple. It is that this organisation and its employees will use that access, or will be instructed to use that access, in order to influence the votes of people if the Members of this House do not vote according to the dictates of this organisation.

I suggest that this constitutes a prima facie case of a breach of the privileges of this House, and I would ask for your Ruling on the matter.

Mr. Speaker

Will the hon. Member bring the letter to the Table?

Letter handed in.

Mr. Speaker

I have not had a long time to consider this matter, but I have given it some consideration, because I may inform the House that, in common with other hon. Members, I myself have received a copy of this letter this morning. After having consulted the precedents, I think that the only Ruling that I can give is that while the language used in this circular is thoroughly reprehensible and is, I think, calculated in the minds of most hon. Members to produce an effect opposite to that which its authors intend, yet, following Mr. Speaker Brand in a similar case, while giving my opinion and I am sure the opinion of most hon. Members on this matter, I cannot rule that it is prima facie a breach of Privilege. If the hon. Member desires to pursue the matter further, he should put down a Motion for the consideration of the House, which is, after all, the final judge on matters of Privilege.