HC Deb 24 January 1957 vol 563 cc403-5

Order read, for attendance of Mr. John Junor.

And the House being informed that Mr. Junor Was in attendance, Mr. Speaker directed him to be brought to the Bar.

The Serjeant at Arms then brought Mr. Junor to the Bar.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. John Junor, you have been summoned to appear at the Bar of this House in consequence of a Report made by a Committee of this House. That Committee was directed to inquire into the matter of an article published on 16th December, 1956, in the Sunday Express, of which you are Editor.

You did not seek, so the Committee have found, to establish the truth of the article, nor did you appear willing to admit its obvious implications. Although given every opportunity to express your regret, you made what the Committee were only able to regard as an entirely inadequate apology. Nevertheless, I have to inform you that before considering the findings of the Committee the House is willing to hear anything that you may have to say in extenuation.

Mr. John Junor

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my sincere and unreserved apologies for any imputations or reflection which I may have cast upon the honour and integrity of the Members of this House in the article which I published in the Sunday Express of 16th December. At no time did I intend to be discourteous to Parliament. My only aim was to focus attention on what I considered to be an injustice in the allocation of petrol, namely, the petrol allowances given to political parties in the constituencies. In my judgment these allowances were a proper and, indeed, an inescapable subject of comment in a free Press. That was a view which I held then and hold now, Sir, but I do regret, deeply and sincerely, that the manner in which I expressed myself should have been such as to be a contempt of this House.

I have nothing more to say. I now leave myself in the hands of this House.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Junor, I now direct you to withdraw.

Mr. Junor withdrew accordingly.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

As Leader of the House it falls upon me—I stress that, because it is a discretion which I think must be left to me on this occasion—to move what Motion I think is suitable and then to submit that Motion for the consideration of hon. Members for their approval or disapproval. I stress that because it is not a decision of the Government. It is a decision of the Leader of the House in an attempt to interpret the feelings of the House.

I therefore did not recommend any Motion to the House before Mr. Junor had been called to the Bar in response to the request of the Committee of Privileges. I do not need, on this occasion, to go over again the Second Report of the Committee of Privileges, which hon. Members will have in their possession, but they will remember that in this Report the Committee of Privileges recommended that Mr. Junor should be severely reprimanded. This, I think, was largely due, to use terms which you yourself, Mr. Speaker, have used today, to the fact that we did not feel that he had made an adequate apology for the action which he had taken.

I think it was quite right that in considering these matters those of us who have the traditions of the House at heart, and study the precedents, should have endorsed the action which you have taken, Mr. Speaker, and approved it warmly—namely, that Mr. Junor should be given an opportunity of expressing himself at the Bar of the House today. You gave him this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, and I must say that I have to take a decision now, immediately, on the impact made upon me both by Mr. Junor's words and by his demeanour.

It seems to me that, under the circumstances, it is the following Motion that I should move, That this House doth agree with the Committee of Privileges in their opinion that Mr. John Junor has been guilty of a serious contempt of this House, but, in view of the apology made to this House by him, this House will proceed no further in the matter. That is a Motion which I have moved after reflection. I had to consider, before I heard Mr. Junor, what other courses would be open to the House, and I must confess that had the apology been couched in different terms, or had the demeanour been different from what we have all observed, it would have been my duty, I think, then to have proceeded to move a different Motion, which I would accordingly have submitted to the House.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, the less I say the better. The dignity of this House is maintained and sustained by a generous regard for an apology properly given. That we always find in our private regard for hon. Members who have occasion to make apologies or to make excuses when they have transgressed in any way from the traditions or dignity of this House. I think that the traditions of this House would best be upheld by supporting the Motion which I have just moved.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

I rise only to say that I support the Motion moved by the Leader of the House, and that I fully concur in everything that he has said.

Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)

As the Member responsible for bringing the attention of this honourable House to these matters, Mr. Speaker, I can only say that I am fully in agreement with the Motion that has been moved.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

I should like to ask the Leader of the House whether he understood that the apology made just now by Mr. Junor includes a withdrawal of any implication whatever against hon. Members of this House?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. I understand that. I certainly did not go into the administrative questions of petrol rationing, including the references made by Mr. Junor to the political parties, because I regard that as an administrative matter which should be raised on another occasion, and which does not involve a contempt of this House. It is quite open for any hon. Member of this House to raise that with the Government, with the Minister responsible, but I do regard the contempt as having been purged by the apology.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House doth agree with the Committee of Privileges in their opinion that Mr. John Junor has been guilty of a serious contempt of this House, hut, in view of the apology made to this House by him, this House will proceed no further in the matter.

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