HC Deb 18 November 1974 vol 881 cc901-2
Mr. Stanbrook

I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to an article in page 6 of yesterday's Sunday Telegraph referring to the projected visit to this country of certain Czechoslovak legislators and I ask you to take what you consider to be appropriate action. Brigadier Paul Ward, the Secretary of the United Kingdom Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, is reported as saying: We will deal firmly with any MPs who try to demonstrate their displeasure or boycott our guests at the Commons. If he has been correctly reported I do not know what Brigadier Ward has in mind, but the threat of some sanction against Members of Parliament doing what they are perfectly entitled to do constitutes in my opinion a clear breach of privilege. I believe that the House will want to deal firmly with any of its servants or any other persons who try to force their will upon hon. Members in this way.

Mr. Ford

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As Vice-President of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, perhaps I may assist the House. The quotation to which the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) has referred was made during a telephone conversation on 15th November to Mr. Norman Kirkham of the Sunday Telegraph. I am told that the official concerned recollects that he was asked what would happen if in the House of Commons, while the Czechs were present, there was a demonstration or an attempt to block their progress. I understand that the official replied that in the exceedingly unlikely event of this happening he imagined that those escorting them would deal firmly with such a situation. When the official spoke of "escorting" I am assured that he intended to convey that Members of Parliament solely were concerned.

Further, I am authorised to say that if the impression was given which was rather unfortunately conveyed in the article, the official concerned would wish to apologise unreservedly.

Sir John Hall

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Orping- ton (Mr. Stanbrook) whether he took the precaution of getting in touch with the official concerned and ensuring that he was correctly reported before raising a question of privilege?

Mr. Strauss

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When an hon. Member raises a question of privilege and asks for a ruling on whether the matter should be submitted to the Committee of Privileges, is it in order for a general discussion to take place in the House?

Mr. Speaker

I considered that matter. I was given warning of this and that there might be an intervention and I was advised that on a matter of privilege it was in order for any hon. Members to raise a matter with me now if they desired to do so. I should like to know whether the hon. Member for Orpington wishes to pursue the matter in view of what has been said.

Mr. Stanbrook

In view of what I deem to have been an apology on behalf of the official concerned, I am prepared to let the matter rest. It is a matter of public importance. It has been recorded, the public have read it and I believe it is important that the House should know about it. Therefore, the House should record its view of the matter.

Mr. Speaker

I am not certain where that intervention leaves me. Is the hon. Member seeking to pursue the matter?

Mr. Stanbrook

I do. I propose to tender to you, Mr. Speaker, a copy of the newspaper concerned.

Mr. Speaker

Yes. I will rule tomorrow.