HC Deb 21 June 1965 vol 714 cc1200-2
Mr. Raymond Fletcher

May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a Press report which, in my submission, raises a matter of privilege? It appeared in the Sun on Saturday, 19th June, 1965. It is headed: No night sittings for me—M.P. I wish to draw your attention to the relative passage of the report. It read: A Labour M.P. who was ordered by doctors to rest after Wednesday night's marathon House of Commons sitting said yesterday: 'These all-night debates are a completely needless bore. I do not intend to take part in any more of them.' The M.R, 43-year-old Mr. Raymond Fletcher, was taken ill during the 21 hr. 38 min. sitting that ended at noon on Thursday. Doctors later told him that he must rest for an indefinite period. Certainly not in the House. Mr. Fletcher, M.P. for Ilkeston, Derbyshire said: 'In future I shall only go to the Commons during the day. All-night sittings will be out of the question'. That statement, Mr. Speaker, is totally untrue. I know the origin of it. It appeared in several other newspapers as well. It appeared in the Daily Express, The Times and the Daily Mail. The origin of this misreport is a telephone conversation I had with a Derbyshire news agency known as "Raymond's". What appears in the Sun and what I have just read out is totally untrue. I said nothing of the kind.

I am in no position, unfortunately, to do anything of the kind. The question of privilege arises, in my submission, because any hon. Member who makes a statement of that kind is guilty of arrogant conduct and is treating this House with contempt, and if one treats this House with contempt one arouses the contempt of the House against oneself.

It is on that ground that I submit that this report constitutes a prima facie case of breach of privilege.

I do not complain about the inaccuracy of the report. I am an old Press man myself and I know quite well that one can no more expect total accuracy in the newspapers than one can expect total veracity in the law courts. On many occasions, I have been the subject of inaccurate reports, but I have not worried about them as long as my name has been spelt correctly.

That, I gather, is the normal procedure. But the case I am raising now, because of my reasons for raising it, in my submission, constitutes a prima facie case of breach of privilege.

Mr. Speaker

Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to bring the newspaper to me?

Copy of newspaper handed in.

Mr. Speaker

I will give consideration to the hon. Gentleman's complaint in the light of the authorities and will rule upon it tomorrow.