HL Deb 02 July 1936 vol 101 cc480-2

My Lords, I beg your indulgence before the adjournment is moved to submit a question of which private notice has been given, and which arises from a statement made in another place by a Minister of the Crown. In doing so, I will carefully observe the practice that there shall be no reference to speeches in another House, except in so far as they are statements of a responsible Minister of the Crown. The question must be raised now because the statement prejudices a deputation which has submitted a certain request for the free pardon of Joseph Orlando Smith to the predecessor of the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, to which an answer has not yet been given. I am quite certain the statements made, which are prejudicial, have been made unintentionally. The present Secretary of State for the Colonies has only recently assumed office, and his predecessor, a few days before relinquishing office, assured me he had not yet decided upon the deputation of which I had the honour of being a member together with the noble Lord, Lord Snell, who leads the Opposition in this House.

The deputation asked for a free pardon. The statement which I ask the Government whether they are prepared to reconsider is reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the House of Commons. With reference to Joseph Orlando Smith Mr. Ormsby-Gore said that "his sentence was wiped out immediately." I ask whether His Majesty's Government are prepared to reconsider that statement, because the sentence was not wiped out immediately, and the deputation are now asking for a free pardon. The remainder of the term of imprisonment was wiped out, but the fine was not wiped out and the costs were not dealt with, nor was the blackening of character by being in a position to be periodically pilloried in the anti-English Press as a spy, merely because he, had given useful information to the British Secret Service. So far from the sentence having been wiped out, quite recently in Malta he has again been insulted in the Press as a spy, and although he has asked the authorities to put in motion the anti-libel law, and has asked the Maltese police to protect him, they have refused to take action.

I also wish to ask the Government if they are prepared to reconsider the fact that in the very same speech in which the prejudicial statement was made we are told by the same Secretary of State that the Labour members ill the Maltese Parliament are among the most useful members of that Assembly. Joseph Orlando Smith was the Secretary of that Party. Joseph Orlando Smith made that Party pro-British, a matter of the greatest importance, considering the importance of the dockyard to-day. He is now the elected President of the Malta Trade Union Council. And what does Mr. Ormsby-Gore say in this same speech? He tells us that although he is going to abolish the Senate of Malta he is not going to abolish the Trade Union Council; he is going to allow the Trade Union Council to remain. He said: What I want to make clear to the honourable Member is that this does not mean that the Trade Union Council in Malta ceases to exist or ceases to be effective—


On a point of order, I should like to ask whether it is not entirely unusual in asking a question of which private notice has been given to make a speech of considerable length on it.


My Lords, I beg permission to deal with the point of order by saying I will say no more, but I think that what I have said is useful and interesting to your Lordships, and may be helpful to the Secretary of State. And, as I am not allowed to say any more, may I ask that the question be postponed and be put on the Paper in another form? I think I was bound to say something at once in order not to be cut out. I think I have done enough for that, and, with the indulgence of the House, I will put the question on the Notice Paper in the usual way, so that it may not be barred by its being said that I let it pass.


My Lords, if I may contribute a word on the point of order, it is of course entirely out of order in this House to get up and make a speech with regard to a matter on which there is no Motion and no Question on the Order Paper, but any noble Lord is entitled as of right to put down a Question, and by putting down a Question he can make a speech by the customary practice of this House. If he wishes to make two speeches, then he moves for Papers. If he wishes to make only one speech, then he puts down a Question and says what he wants to say. But it is necessary, in order to make a speech at all, to take one or other of those two courses.


My Lords, I hope it is in order for me just to say this, that I hope the fact that the noble Lord has not been able to deal with this case to-night will not mean that there is not a case to put and that His Majesty's Government will not consider it seriously whenever the opportunity arises.


My Lords, in view of what the noble Lord has said, I do not think there is any object in my delaying the House this evening. But quite obviously if the noble Lord puts this Question down in the ordinary way the Government will attempt to give the most satisfactory answer possible.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past seven o'clock.