§ 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- 902 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?