§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of drawing attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the refusal of Her Majesty's Government, on the eve of the Summit Conference, to give an assurance that the Royal Air Force will not undertake aerial reconnaissance involving the violation of Soviet territory.
I submit that this is an urgent matter, Sir, because we are on the eve of the Summit Conference. It is quite true that tomorrow the House is to debate foreign policy on what I believe are wider issues, but I submit that this present matter is more urgent than the business that is likely to come before the House this afternoon. Although hon. Members on both sides regard the Betting and Gaming Bill as of supreme importance, I believe that this issue is more important than that Bill; and that the right to live is more important than the right to bet.
I submit that this is a matter of definite urgent public importance because the dramatic incident that has been reported has caused various other Governments to take immediate action, and today's Press reports that the Governments of Norway, Japan and Pakistan are urging on the United States the immediate necessity of abandoning these reconnaissance flights which involve so much danger to the world.
In my submission, it is certainly of definite public importance to everyone in this country when, in these days, events move at catastrophic speed, and, as General de Gaulle recently told us in Westminster Hall, we might be faced with instantaneous destruction. For those reasons, Mr. Speaker, I submit that I am justified in asking leave to move the Adjournment of the House.
§ Copy of Motion handed in.423
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of drawing attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the refusal of Her Majesty's Government, on the eve of the Summit Conference, to give an assurance that the Royal Air Force will not undertake aerial reconnaissance involving the violation of Soviet territory.
It is not in my power, in accordance with precedent, to accede to the hon. Member's request. I find a parallel instance on 9th May, 1956. The position here is that the Minister refused to answer a Question on the grounds of public interest and, in the circumstances, as I say, I am not in a position to accede to the hon. Gentleman's request.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I respectfully draw your attention to the fact that what my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is alleging— no doubt as a result of what has taken place here—is that the Government are refusing at this time to give an undertaking not to do something which would be a breach of international law, namely, violation of the territory of a friendly Power. The question is not a hypothetical one, because we know that in recent days such an incident has happened on the initiative of a country with which we are in close alliance. Therefore, the matter is not a hypothetical one.
The Summit Conference is about to take place, and the consequences of such a breach of international law might be of the gravest imaginable importance to the people of this country. With great respect, is not the refusal of the Government to undertake not to commit such a breach of international law a matter of the most urgent public importance within the meaning of the Standing Order?
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I wish to submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Secretary of State for Air said that on the ground of 424 security it was contrary to the public interest to discuss in this House this matter of photographic reconnaisance over Soviet territory, but the fact is that it is being discussed now everywhere else. The Press is full of speculation about it, including speculation about the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government for the policy in regard to aerial espionage over Soviet territory. It is being discussed in the Soviet Union and in the United States and it has a considerable bearing upon the relations between Governments. I should like to ask you, therefore, now that we in this House and everybody else are discussing the matter, how we are to compel Her Majesty's Government to make a statement in answer to the questions which are being raised by citizens—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That is quite a different point. I thought that the hon. Member wanted to say something about my Ruling.
As to the observations of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), I am obliged to him for making them, but they relate only to matters that I have already thought about. I adhere to my Ruling. I am sorry, but I must ask the House to accept it.
With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), whether Her Majesty's Government can be compelled to do something, I do not know, but what he can do is to discuss it presumably tomorrow afternoon, should he have the good fortune to catch the eye of the Chair.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
With all respect to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, there was no Summit Conference in 1956. I should like to know how that Ruling to which you referred squares with the Summit Conference and how your Ruling has been arrived at.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not prepared to argue about it. I do not think that it helps. The ground on which I have decided, although in my view sufficient and apt, is by no means the only one. The hon. Gentleman is in the same position with regard to tomorrow as are other hon. Members.