HC Deb 22 February 1965 vol 707 cc42-4
Mr. Warbey

I wish to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a possible breach of privilege and possibly a wider contempt of Parliament of which I have given notice to you and also, because he is the editor and publisher, if not the author, of certain of the writings complained of, the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod).

A number of writings defamatory of my activities as a Member of Parliament and seeking to deter me from carrying out my duties as a Member of Parliament have appeared in the Press in the last two or three days. For the convenience of the House, I will submit in evidence extracts in writing from last Friday's issue of the Spectator and short extracts from today's issue of the Daily Telegraph.

The passage in the Spectator reads as follows: The Spectator, February 19, 1965.

  • Views of the Week
  • Warbey's Wanderings
On January 4, Mr. William Warbey, Labour M.P. for Ashfield, and his wife arrived in Hanoi the capital of North Vietnam where they were greeted at Gia-lam airport by Mr. Tran Xuan Bach, Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, and other members of that body.

Hon. Members

Speak up.

Mr. Warbey

If hon. Members desire to hear what I am reading, they know what course of action to take. The extract goes on: For the next ten days they stayed at the Thong Nhat Hotel as guests of the Front. In the course of a television programme (Dateline, February 9), Mr. Warbey himself confirmed that his hotel expenses had been paid by the Vietnam Fatherland Front. Now, the Vietnam Fatherland Front is a Communist 'front' organisation formed and financed by the Communist regime in North Vietnam, so that it is hard to understand how Mr. Warbey can reconcile his membership of the British Labour Party with his acceptance of the hospitality of such a body. His trip appears more puzzling still in view of the fact that North Vietnam is, at the present time, directing and supplying armed aggression against a friendly state, South Vietnam, and is responsible for the killing of both South Vietnamese and Americans. Moreover, North Vietnam has repeatedly expressed its wholehearted support for Indonesian aggression against a Commonwealth country, Malaysia, in a war in which British soldiers are being killed. I leave out the following two paragraphs and call attention to the next one: Mr. Warbey brought back to this country in his baggage a Vietnamese Communist propaganda film, part of which has already been shown on B.B.C. Television (Tonight, February 8). He himself has not been idle since his arrival in London, for he has published a long letter to The Times and two articles in The Guardian about Vietnam. In addition, he has appeared in three television programmes (Panorama, February 8; Dateline, February 9; and Arena, February 11) and has spoken in sound broadcasts in the B.B.C. General Overseas Service. He is among the Labour M.Ps. who tabled a motion in the House of Commons on February 10 to bring pressure on their leaders to change present British policy on Vietnam. I now quote a short extract—

Mr. Stratton Mills

On a point of Order. The hon. Gentleman has been reading from the Spectator, which is published on a Thursday evening and is generally available on Friday morning. Should it therefore—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I should not be allowing the hon. Gentleman to address me unless I had considered that point.

Mr. Warbey

The other passage which I would wish to submit in evidence is from today's issue of the Daily Telegraph, 22nd February, 1965: Privilege' Issue in B.B.C. Dispute Daily Telegraph TV and Radio Staff Mr. William Warbey, Labour M.P. for Ashfield, Nottingham, refused to comment last night on a controversy over a radio programme on Vietnam as it was 'connected with a subject which might be raised today as a matter of Parliamentary privilege.' Later, the same article states: Mr. Crozier said yesterday: 'I was not surprised when I heard that Mr. Warbey would not appear with me in view of what happened in a Dateline programme the previous night, when I asked him who had paid his hotel bill at Hanoi. He said it was the Vietnam Fatherland Front. This is a Communist organisation. Several M.Ps. have been their guest in the past. I accept the view that the programme the B.B.C. put on was not unfair, but the fact is that two experts on Vietnam were kept out because of Mr. Warbey's objections.' The passages which I complain of, by innuendo and insinuation and the false association of ideas, are likely to convey the impression, and appear intended to convey the impression, that because I have received hospitality from a foreign Government or political organisation in the course of travelling abroad to obtain information for use in Parliamentary debates I am not a witness of truth, but a bribed spokesman of a foreign organisation. There are also reflections upon my loyalty to my Parliamentary oath and the political party which promoted my election to Parliament.

The references in the Spectator article to a Motion tabled for debate in the House and in the Daily Telegraph to other Members of Parliament who have been the guests of foreign organisations in the past constitute, in my submission, a reflection on the conduct of several, and perhaps of all, Members of Parliament. If this kind of thing is persisted in it may well have the effect of deterring Members of Parliament in general from travelling abroad in search of information for use in future Parliamentary debates or from giving the House a faithful and honest account of what they have seen and heard.

I ask you to rule, Sir, that a prima facie case has been made out.

Copies of newspapers handed in.

Mr. Speaker

I will consider the hon. Gentleman's complaint and rule upon it tomorrow.