§ Mr. Driberg
On a point of order. I am much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me this opportunity of drawing your attention to a Question which has been put down, for answer by the Attorney-General tomorrow, by the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith), whom I have, of course, notified of my intention to raise the matter with you. The Question is No. 90 on page 107 of the Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day.
652 [MR. DUDLEY SMITH: TO ask the Attorney-General if he will bring to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions the obscene libel published in the eighth paragraph of the article by Mr. Wayland Young in the issue of The Guardian newspaper of 4th November.]
This Question alleges an obscene libel in an article in The Guardian newspaper by Mr. Wayland Young. I am not concerned with the merits of the Question, but only to seek your guidance on whether it is or is not in order—for this reason: I have always understood, and have in the past been advised by the Table, that Questions reflecting adversely on Members of Parliament are out of order. If this is so, it presumably applies to Members of both Houses.
The gentleman referred to in this Question is a Member of another place, having succeeded a few months ago to the peerage of his father, Lord Kennet—although, as a professional writer, he naturally continues to use the name by which he is known to readers of his articles in such reputable periodicals as The Guardian and Encounter. I think that I have said enough, Mr. Speaker, to explain the point I am raising, and I should be grateful for your Ruling.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice that he wanted to raise this matter so that I could look at the authorities. It is, of course, quite true that Questions about, or reflections upon, Members of Parliament as such are not out of order in relation only to Members of this House; they would be out of order in respect of Members of the other House, also. There is, however, this distinction. There must be hon. Members present who remember some slightly critical observations being made about newspaper owners at one time who happened to be peers of the realm. I find that on that occasion, which was 28th July, 1949, my then predecessor said—I am reading not all the passage, but the gist of it—It depends upon the capacity in which the name is mentioned. For instance, I have ruled before in connection with some of these newspaper proprietors that as newspaper proprietors their names can be mentioned. They must not be attacked as Members of another place or in reference to their duties there. It is hard to lay down an exact Ruling. I think the rule is that one must not attack Members in their capacity as Members of 653 another place. If they have another capacity, then they can be mentioned in connection with that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 28th July, 1949: Vol. 467, c. 2668.]In this instance, the noble Lord was so much in another capacity as to be making use of his professional pseudonym. I cannot rule the question out of order.
§ Mr. Driberg
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that your last words, if I may say so, were unconsidered. It is not a pseudonym, of course it is his own name. It is his family name, and it is still his own name. Secondly, the precedent which you have cited arose, presumably, in the debate on the Royal Commission on the Press. I would submit that in that debate there was no reflection on any noble Lord mentioned in the debate at all comparable with the allegation of obscene libel contained in this Question, which is a very serious allegation indeed to make against a Member of another place. I submit, therefore, Sir, that that is not precisely a precedent for what is being raised here.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged. I regret using the word "pseudonym". All I mean is that it is his ordinary writing name as a professional journalist for this purpose, and that in no sense makes him writing as a Member of another place. That is the point there.
The nature of the allegation, I agree, is serious, but that is not for me. That is for the hon. Member who tables the Question. I cannot think that there is a 654 rule of the House which, in courtesy to the other place, debars criticism here of the activity of a Member of the other place not in that capacity. I do not believe that that is the practice of this House, and I cannot rule the Question out of order.
§ Mr. Driberg
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to pursue it, but it is a very important point of principle relating to the order of the Houses of Parliament. From what you yourself said in your original reply, Sir, I take it that you will agree that the same rules apply to each House, whether the Member is a Member of this House or of another place. It might, I think, be argued that, a fortiori, a Member of another place must all the more not, as it were, be slandered in a Question since he cannot be here to reply or to challenge a Question when it is asked.
I respectfully put to you, Sir, that I have myself on one occasion, when I was a very new Member of the House, sought to put down a Question drawing attention to a speech made in the country by a noble Lady, at that time a Member of this House, which seemed to me to be an instance of seditious libel. That Question was, no doubt quite properly, refused by the Table.
§ Mr. Speaker
I should want to look at that. I only desire to give the hon. Member and the House the kind of principle I desire to go on. Applying it to this case, clearly I cannot say that the Question is out of order.