HL Deb 12 December 1944 vol 134 cc241-3

My Lords, my attention has been drawn by Hansard and the Press to the tact that on the last occasion your Lordships met—that is to say on Thursday of last week—the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, a Privy Councillor and a Parliamentarian if he will allow me to say so of very considerable experience in another place, had the effrontery to come down to this House and lecture your Lordships on procedure in your Lordships' House. Of course the noble Lord is a comparatively new recruit to this Assembly and it is possible that he is unaware of certain customs and usages in this Chamber, one of which is that when one noble Lord proposes to come down and discuss adversely a matter raised by another noble Lord it follows that the usages of ordinary polite society will be observed and he gives notice of his intention to do so. Now, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—arid I thank him for it—was good enough to elicit last Thursday, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara had omitted to give me any notice of his intention; otherwise of course I should have been here not only out of courtesy to your Lordships but also to deal with some of the more absurd propositions put forward by the noble Lord in his protest—which has been given, I see, considerable publicity, and I trust that a like publicity will be given to such humble observations as I now propose to address very briefly to your Lordships.

Lord Brahazon of Tara suggests first of all that I am not entitled to answers to certain questions which I put to His Majesty's Government. I do not propose at this stage to ask your Lordships to prejudge that. The matter will be dealt with when the proper time comes. He goes on to imply that the person about whom I asked these questions, General Critchley, is a public servant. Well, if he is a public servant clearly I am entitled to my answers. If he is not a public servant then he is the paid servant of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and since their activities are carried on really under the aegis of the Secretary of State and at the expense of the taxpayers, equally I am entitled to my answers. When this matter is debated I really do not very much care so long as it is debated. If the Government are particularly anxious to wait for the return of this itinerant swashbuckler from Sweden, where he is at the moment, that is quite agreeable to me, and if other travellers have to return from Chicago or elsewhere before the matter is debated, again I do not care.

The noble Lord, Lord Brahazon, is very sensitive apparently about precedent. He talked about precedent and tradition and demanded that the noble Lord, Viscount Cranborne, Leader of the House, should remove this Motion from the Order Paper. Precisely what Lord Brabazon imagined he was going to achieve by this impudent and insolent intervention of course I do not know. That is a matter entirely for him, but as far as I am concerned I can tell him what he has achieved. He has achieved this. He has spurred me on and sustained me in a manner that I certainly had not looked for. I can now promise Lord Brabazon of Tara and anyone else who may be interested that I intend to probe into the activities of his crony General Critchley and all his associates ruthlessly, relentlessly, and with the utmost diligence. The sooner His Majesty's Government realize that this is a matter of great public importance linked up as it is with civil aviation the better. Great public interest is taken in the matter and I do not propose to be deterred or put off for one moment by anything that may be said either by Lord Brabazon of Tara or anyone else. There are times, my Lords, when the carrying out of a moral duty becomes a positive pleasure and as far as I am concerned this will be one of them. I am very grateful to your Lordships for the indulgence you have granted me in allowing me to make this statement in answer to one made last week in my absence.


My Lords, may I make a few remarks upon the very extraordinary speech that has just been made? First of all, although my name has been brought into it, I did not have notice from the noble Lord that he was going to raise this matter this afternoon. When Lord Samuel asked me whether I had given notice to the noble Lord that I was raising the particular question the other day I said, no, because I did not think it concerned Lord Morris particularly. It had nothing to do with his Motion. It was a question of procedure in this House. It is more or less our tradition that if anybody puts down a Motion of censure it should be taken immediately or, if not, removed from the Paper. I had no desire, I assure noble Lords, that this Motion should not be taken, in fact I am looking forward to its being taken as soon as possible. The point I raised was that a Motion of censure by anybody should not remain sine die on our Papers; and if the House will recollect the Leader of the House said it was perhaps a new point to him, that he fully saw the justice of it and was going to refer it to the Committee on Procedure. If Lord Morris thinks that I have been in any way discourteous by not giving him notice of what I said the other day, I certainly apologize to him, but I still think that the matter I raised was a question purely of procedure and had nothing to do with the merits or demerits of the case which the noble Lord is going to raise. I leave it at that.

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